Should you take up the sword and slay Dragon’s Dogma?

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You can scale monsters and every battle feels like an epic fight for your life!

What do you get when you mix Demon Souls, Monster Hunter, and Skyrim?   A masterpiece, that’s what.  Dragon’s Dogma by Capcom is one of the best sword an sorcery hack and slashes I’ve played, and it’s not hard to see why.  The game is directed by Hideaki Itsuno, the mind behind Devil May Cry 2 -4, Rival Schools, and Capcom Vs SNK 2 and was the game he wanted to make ever since he was a child.  The game’s producer, Hiroyuki Kobayashi, worked on every major Resident Evil release and Killer 7, and it also includes the work of Makoto Ikehara, the designer of the Breath of Fire series.

There's a lot of very small references to the developer's previous work.   The Strider is named after Strider Hiryu an his attack animations reflect this.  Several sword techniques are lifted right out of Devil May Cry as well!
There’s a lot of very small references to the developer’s previous work. The Strider is named after Strider Hiryu an his attack animations reflect this. Several sword techniques are lifted right out of Devil May Cry as well!

With this star studded cast of gaming greats they were guaranteed to make a hit, and all of their specialties come through in Dragon’s Dogma.  The controls are amazing an fluid, it feels like you are playing a more down to earth version of Devil May Cry in a fully fleshed out version of the Breath of Fire world. Every hit feels like it has impact, and you have complete control over your character. It’s kind of a strange feeling after playing open world RPGs like Skyrim, but you just don’t know how sluggish and weightless you feel in other games until you play something that just nails it like Dragon’s Dogma does.

The character and monster design is great, and they all look, sound, and act like realistic.  The monsters all remind me of what creatures looked like in my 2nd edition Dungeon and Dragon’s manuals now come completely to life. In fact that’s what the whole game feels like.  The best part is that you can scale all of the larger beasts in the game.  By using the grab command you can burn stamina to work your way on monsters such as chimera and eventually dragons hit them where it hurts the most.

You can scale monsters and every battle feels like an epic fight for your life!
You can scale monsters and every battle feels like an epic fight for your life!

Killing monster’s isn’t all about mashing buttons on their glowing weak spots ether.   Sure there’s some of that, but you have to think and use your party to bring down larger creatures and survive.  Once, I was doing an escort mission and had just been waylaid by a large pack of wolves and thieves controlling a cyclops.  I barely survived that battle intact, sticking close to my charge, focusing on the humans and wolves while my pawns distracted the cyclops, eventually taking it down.  Night fell, and I was out of all of my curative items, made from the foraged foliage found along the way, and I was almost to my destination when I was surprised by a chimera out of the darkness.  I thought I was completely screwed, so I went all out dumping straight onto the top of the lion head’s mane, and to my surprise my mage knocked it over rolling me along with it and I ended up clinging to the bottom of his chin.  I then proceeded to slice at his throat with my sword and quickly dispatched him, saving everyone.

It was such an epic fight that I had to grab a screenshot of it, which the game has a handy function for!
It was such an epic fight that I had to grab a screenshot of the aftermath, which the game has a handy function for!

This is one of the greatest aspects of the game, you actually do what is described during a tabletop Dungeon and Dragon’s game in combat, which is an amazing feeling.  We are used to games where you just swing a sword limply until the enemy drops to the floor without so much as flinching and it feels so disconnected from the action.  There’s none of that in Dragon’s Dogma, and it’s awesome.  Player skill is a huge factor like in Demon’s Souls, and even if you aren’t a high level, with a lot of perseverance and quick timing you can take down some really tough creatures.  On the flip side, power leveling won’t get you very far and you will be required to have at least some skill, and as you progress the world becomes populated with even more powerful monsters alongside you so don’t expect the difficulty to ever let up.  It isn’t quite as hard as Demon Souls, but that’s mostly due to the inclusion of Pawns.

Pawns are the NPCs that fill the rest of your party.  You get to make one that’s your very own, and you can freely change out his class and equipment just like your character.  The other two are picked up from the rift or are found walking around the game world, and with a few exceptions are made up of other player’s Pawns.  Their AI is guided by how you play around your main Pawn, and the other Pawns are influenced by their master’s play style.  You can also gift them items to take back to their master’s game worlds, and sometimes equip them as you see fit, but be warned that these equipment is lost to you and sent back with them once they ether die or you send them back to the rift.  The system works really well, and you get really attached to both your main Pawn and those you pick up from the rift.  It’s also fun to swap them around with friends, as you don’t have to pay rift crystals for any pawn owned by someone you are friends with.

Your Pawns are ever by your side, and the AI is great.  This is the one game where I actually look forward to escort mission!  What dark magic did they use to craft such AI?
Your Pawns are ever by your side, and the AI is great. This is the one game where I actually look forward to escort mission! What dark magic did they use to craft such AI?

The game isn’t perfect, and while the Pawn system is cool what the game is truly missing is co-op multiplayer.  It’s great to send your friends each other’s pawns, but more than anything I’d like to just join up with them and take down griffins and dragons.  The other glaring issue is that while the story isn’t bad, it doesn’t have nearly as much depth as games like Skyrim.  It get’s kind of strange and meta at times towards the end, and it does have a fair amount of detail if you go looking for it, but plot isn’t something they focused on.  In the end your goal is to go forth and slay the dragon, and there’s not a more classic tale than that. It’s strange because you’d think this would be a huge issue with this being an open world RPG, but not really. The story is all of the close calls and tough battles you have along the way, a story you call your own, and honestly a lot of plot might actually get in the way of this.

You owe it to yourself to go forth and take the call to adventure.  If you are a Playstation Plus member the game is free right now, so there’s no excuse to go and grab the game.  Even if you’re not, or you own a 360 instead, this game is more than worth the price tag.  The expansion, Dark Arisen, is also a fun dungeon crawl with its story and its full epic monsters and difficult battles.  It adds some new abilities and some new characters, and the Playstation Plus deal comes with it all in one package.

Now go forth Arisen, and choose your destiny!

Go forth and reclaim your very heart!
Go forth and reclaim your very heart!

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