Dragon’s Dogma review

So this is quite a new thing for me, but I thought I might start documenting my opinions on different video games in a kind of review. Not really a particularly professional review with a rating system, but pointing out the good and the bad.

First up, is the game I’ve most recently finished- Dragon’s Dogma, created by Capcom.
So, first of all, it’s marketed as an Open World RPG game, for xBox 360 and PS3, with a fantasy setting. So this is pretty much right up my street. It’s fancy graphics and the fact you can climb up your enemies made me pre-order this faster than you could utter the title.

The premise is fairly simple- your heart has been stolen by a dragon, making you the Arisen- a warrior of legend destined to defeat the dragon. So you set out from your fishing village to do just that. It’s a rather unbelievable concept, considering just how important the heart is, but it can be looked over. After setting out into the world, you meet your companion- a personalised emotionless mercenary from a world beyond your own. They say emotionless though, however the pawns within this game do seem to have an appreciation of natural beauty, as well as being very protective of the Arisen- right down to shouting out different variants of “No!”, and “Open your eyes!” upon your death. The way they say it just makes you feel so terrible for letting your Arisen die.
Anyway, as well as your main pawn, you can hire two additional pawns (Either ones that Capcom have made, or other players have created) to help you on your journey.

The gameplay employs 3 different vocations- Fighter, Strider and Mage. The good old basic swordsman, dagger/ bowman and mage combination. On top of that, you can upgrade your (or your pawns) vocation to a more advanced version- Warrior, Ranger or Sorcerer at the cost of defensive skills. Your Arisen can also have hybrid vocations- Mystick Knight (Fighter/ Mage), Assassin (Fighter/ Strider) and Magick Archer (Strider/ Mage). They’re simple, but theres a lot there to experiment with. That saying though, I spent nearly all the game playing as a Magick Archer because I just loved how the vocation played.

Dragon’s Dogma also has the online Pawn Community, where you can search out the Pawns of other players to hire in the game. The way this works is by taking in game screenshots, and via twitter or facebook you can upload to the official community and show off your pawn to everyone. First of all, a brilliant idea- though not for the pawn sharing. Being able to take screenshots of a console game was a brilliant idea, especially for a very high-res game like this. In one month, I’ve obtained nearly 100 screenshots of this game. From random artsy landscape shots, to epic battle shots, and general “hey look what I defeated!” shots.

Heres one of my favourites- taken on the dragon boss battle.
Of course, the main point of the feature is to show off your pawn to the community. The problem is, since the camera has to be the one that follows your Arisen in the game (And you can’t change the angle on the photo screen), its actually very difficult to catch your pawn doing anything but standing around. You mostly end up with some very cool shots of your Arisen.

The gameplay itself is very smooth, everything works well, and theres very rarely any signs of bugs. The most I had seen was a couple of bandits glitching out on a spot before being able to run again, or animation errors with enemies  that had been pinned to the wall. One of the Ranger moves is to use an arrow to pin an enemy to the wall, where their animation is of them wriggling, but if the enemy died while pinned they’d continue to wriggle.

The boss battles themselves? Brilliant. The final story boss saw you racing down corridors, climbing broken bridges, firing crossbows and  climbing the dragon’s back while it was in flight in order to get the dragon to land in the arena to fight it. It was unlike any other lesser dragon battle in the game, and was entirely memorable. The whole boss battle just screamed of “Why couldn’t Alduin be like this?”. If the entity of Grigori could put up this much of a fight, why was the World Eater a simple dragon fight? In terms of power in their worlds, the two dragons are actually on par- they’re both forces of destruction that signal the world’s end.
Grigori wasn’t the only good boss fight either. There was the Griffin that tried to stop you going across the runway, or destroyed the path beneath your feet before you could fight it. And the fact you had to bait it in another area of the map to even activate the fight anyway. The Cockatrice battle in Gran Soren, where you had to protect the trophies. Capcom thought well about how to make a boss battle just that little more interesting.
Not to mention the aspect of climbing on your enemies. You could hack at a chimera’s legs and hope to eventually beat it, or you could climb upon it and defeat it head by head. An armoured Cyclops causing you troubles? Just climb onto it’s back and attack where it has no armour whatsoever. Theres something amazingly satisfying about scaling your enemies and taking out their weakest spots while they can barely do anything to hurt you (except drain your stamina). But still, not all enemies enjoy being scaled. Scale any kind of dragon, or a cockatrice, and they’ll flail giving you barely any chance to attack and draining your stamina significantly. Each major enemy behaves differently and you need to learn their weaknesses (unless a pawn you’ve hired already knows them)
The only issue with the enemies in the game? They’re samey. Most of the stronger enemies are just recolours of the weaker enemies. The variety, before post-game, is as followed (Though I’ve probably missed some): Goblin, Hobgoblin, Wolf, Direwolf, Harpy, Snow Harpy, Saurian, Sulfur Saurian, Bandit, Phantom, Phantasm, Undead, Stout Undead, Skeleton Knight, Skeleton Mage, Cyclops, Armoured Cyclops, Chimera, Griffin, Ogre, Cockatrice, Drake. It seems like a lot, but when you walk around the map a million times, fighting off the same hoards of enemies… it gets tiring. They become boring, you learn where abouts in the world each enemy spawn point is, even the boss fights lose a little something. Even post-game doesn’t bring in many enemies- Succubi are, essentially, harpies. Hellhounds are, essentially, wolves. Geo Saurians and Saurian Sages are the same old Saurians. The only real new enemies, at this point, are boss enemies in the Everfall and the Gargoyles. That being said, these enemies are significantly stronger to the point where every journey suddenly becomes much much more difficult.

Now then, moving onto the cons.
Where is the open world aspect of this game?
Oh we have a large map to explore, but when you consider Gransys is apparently a whole country… it doesn’t seem like it at all. Gransys has Gran Soren, the capital, and Cassardis, your fishing village. That is all there is in terms of settlements. Now, perhaps I’m spoiled by Skyrim’s 300 odd locations but… there really isn’t all that much in Gransys. There isn’t a lot to go out and explore for. You mainly end up sticking to the roads to go to the same 5 corners.  It does avoid the boredom of “yet another draugr ruin”, but thats because there isn’t a lot of places to go at all. It just gives you the boredom of the same old roads.
I kind of attribute this down to the fact the game discourages fast travel, by making it based on the Ferrystone and Portcrystal items. Ferrystones have to be brought for 20k gold and transport you to any portcrystal in the world- the game provides a non moveable one in Gran Soren. The first portcrystal you come across is in your first playthrough after you beat the Griffin for the main questline. Until New Game +, I’ve yet to hear mention of a second one. And even then, you have to buy them for 200k gold. Since fast travel is so discouraged, journeys become very long if you have to go too far. And night in this game is pitch black without a lantern- so unwise to travel through.
But it still doesn’t excuse a pitifully small map. If they gave you twice as many rest spots (in much better locations), they could have expanded the map twice as much. Or adding in a few small villages would have done the trick (And made Gransys a much more believable country).
And another issue with game size- wheres the quests? Theres a handful of side quests, a main questline and notice board quests.
And thats it. That isn’t actually a lot at all. Again, probably spoilt by Skyrim, but it has 5 factions you can join (technically, 6, but you can only join either Imperials or Stormcloaks) each with their own storyline. So 6 (playable by one character) storylines in total. The side quest storylines in Dragon’s Dogma are only a few quests long and all relate to the love interests (which I will be mentioning in detail shortly). There is potential for a lot more here, it just isn’t fully explored.

Now then, my last complaints…. are all very feminist things. Now before you go and close the tab on me for being one of those “raging feminazis”, I’d like to remind you feminism is gender equality not female superiority. That being said, here’s what I mean.
Dragon’s Dogma takes a male default for your character. And I don’t just mean “the slider is set to male to begin with”. I mean- if you play as a female character, the game will constantly throw male pronouns at you. From what I’ve heard (since I actually played as a male character) you aren’t referred to as “she” once. None of the speech have been dubbed with the female pronouns in mind.
And the main love interests, with quest lines attached to them? Female. In fact, most of the main male love interests within the game are the shopkeepers! And that doesn’t sound as appealing as a 2 quest storyline for the duke’s wife Aelinore, or the flirty Madeline, childhood friend Quina or witch Selene. The romance is also quite rushed, and the method for picking the final love interest is very strange. Even the item thats supposed to guarantee your love interest doesn’t guarantee it in all cases! It isn’t a good system for something so important to the storyline. And, well, if you wanted to play a gay(/homoromantic) male or a straight(/heteromantic) female, you’re kinda screwed (or not, as the case may be). You definitely couldn’t play as an aromantic character, though thats nothing surprising.

Even with its flaws though, the game is still very solid and a great joy to play. The gameplay itself is pretty much perfect, with very few points of improvement I can think of. The real issue is that it feels like it hasn’t reached its full potential. However I am greatly looking forward to any other games created on the same engine, and am pleased to find out that Capcom have already confirmed a sequel of it.


1 Response to “Dragon’s Dogma review”

  1. 1 Nosgoth1979
    July 13, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Yeah I definitely agree with you. With a little more polish this game could have been a masterpiece. As is, it’s still a lot of fun. I almost skipped it too. Seeing the previews I’d thought this was just going to be another generic fantasy RPG, but a coworker at Dish kept insisting that it was better than Skyrim, so I threw it in my Blockbuster @Home queue. Now I’m not sure I’d say it is better than Skyrim but it’s a lot of fun and the combat elements are great. I’m just glad I don’t rent games from those pay by the day kiosks anymore; this is the kind of game that would cost a fortune.

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The professional portfolio of Jodie Ford, a student games developer/ artist from London.
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