Dragon’s Dogma is a game that I personally enjoyed a lot back when it first released in 2012. It was punishingly hard, and had an excellent combat system that made the challenge all the more enticing and rewarding. It later got an updated release, in the form of Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, with added content, an easy mode and some quality of life changes, which made the game an even more compelling package. And now, the game finally comes to consoles with updated visuals, while containing all the content from the Dark Arisen release.
You start off in a prologue area, with an overpowered character, and get familiarized with some of the game’s combat and mechanics. This bit does a fair job as a tutorial, but there’s still a lot to learn. Later, after a few story events, you get to a character creation screen, and can build some really wacky looking characters. I tried my best to make a decent looking one, but I’ve been failing at that since back in 2012. Maybe I should be less generous with the bust size bar. Anyways, soon after, you are set forth into the world to explore, fight and take down monsters. The story is not the strongest part of Dragon’s Dogma, but the game sure does try. And there are a few good moments here, it’s just too inconsistent to make any real sense of.
The combat is downright fantastic. It’s a mix of God of War, Shadow of the Colossus and Kingdoms of Amalur’s combat, only faster and with way more options and control over what you can do. You can pick one of three classes – Mage, Fighter and Rogue. All three play significantly differently. I tried all three, and enjoyed playing as Mage the most, specially since I could maintain distance and deal damage. There’s a vast array of spells and abilities at your disposal, and you keep upgrading them and unlocking more as you make progress. One of the big aspects of the combat is the ability to target specific spots on bigger enemies, and some of them are real big. You can also climb them in order to reach weak spots, much like in Shadow of the Colossus. The game’s combat is so incredibly fun, and many of them are long fights against numerous tough enemies.
You can target and cut off body parts of enemies, lure them into tighter zones or water to restrict their movement, and use various other tactics to turn the fight to your advantage. Honestly, this is easily one of the best combat systems in any third person RPG you will ever play. You also have vocations within your class which again change up the way you approach combat. There’s a lot to learn here, and you will need to pay attention in the character menus to understand what works best for you.
You also take a party of ‘pawns’ with you, one of them with you create, and two picked from an online pool. This allows you to bring pawns created by other players, and they bring their combat experience with them. Your pawn can also assist other players, and return to you with new experience. It’s a great system, and has fair depth to it, which is really useful in combat. The pawns are also of different classes, and you need to decide the right members for your party. Having someone who can heal in times of need is absolutely essential, and so are powerful fighters. The only issue is how they behave outside of combat – the dialogue is rather shallow, and they tend to pick up a ton of trash in the environment.
Dragon’s Dogma looks good, especially up close. While distant areas might look plain and bland, your vicinity is richly detailed, and the lighting is fantastic. Dungeons are dark and gloomy, and at times your lantern will be the only source of light. Some of the regions are also beautifully designed, ranging from claustrophobic dark corridors to massive open fortresses. There are some really memorable encounters here, and the sense of spectacle is immensely impressive.
There’s an easy mode included in the Dark Arisen version of the game, which is still a fair challenge, but nowhere near as punishing as it otherwise would be. Also, the fast travel system has been vastly improved from the base game, though it still is not as easy as most modern open world games. The menus are also a bit clumsy to navigate, and can feel frustrating at times. But when you’re shooting down griffins from the sky, climbing it as it tries to fly off again, and bashing it till it falls back down, it’s pretty easy to look past all of the game’s problems.
And then there’s Bitterblack Isle. This is a very long and insanely tough dungeon with levels that get increasingly difficult as you keep pushing further in. However, it has some of the best loot and gear you can find in the game, and the rewards are well worth the challenge. And the whole place is a sight to behold.
Dragon’s Dogma is a fantastic game, and one that I would recommend everyone to try. The beginning area does a good job of presenting the game’s combat, and if you stick with it, the game only gets better. There’s a ton of content that more than justifies the price, and despite the weak/weird story, the combat is so very good.