Tuesday, 30 December 2014 21:26

Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen (PS3, XBOX 360, 2012)

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Overview

On an unnamed world in the island duchy of Gransys, you live in the small fishing village of Cassardis, tending to your nets and looking fondly at your childhood friend, Quina. When, as is usual for these stories, something happens. In this case, the great dragon attacks, and does what dragons do...kill and destroy. Fearing for your village, you take up a weapon and charge the beast. You know full well you have no chance, but maybe you can buy time for others to get away, especially Quina. Strangely enough, you manage to actually scratch the creature, drawing it's curiosity as it pins you under its claws. For your heroism, you earn a new reward...agony, as it tears your heart out and devours it in front of you. Strangely though, you do not die. It informs you that you are now an Arisen, and if you want your heart back...you're going to have to gain much greater power, track him down, and kill him. You've heard of this occurring before; you're certainly not the first or the only one. Still that puts you in a very odd position, and thus it is the start of your journey. You quickly learn that the Arisens never journey alone as these creatures called Pawns are drawn to you and are driven to help you. Good luck!

Review

Dragon's Dogma is an Action-RPG in the vein of Skyrim, Dragon Age, and games like that, released by Capcom in 2012. Shortly after the expansion Dark Arisen was released, and if you're going to get the game, be sure you get the version with that as you'll want to play through at least a bit of the Bitterblack Island. The game play, as stated before, is almost identical to the likes of Skyrim, Dragon Age, Neverwinter Nights...well, you get the idea. As in those, you have the main quest you're generally on; in this case find and kill the dragon (or so you think that's what you're supposed to do), but you have an entire open world to explore and quest in. In this it's almost a perfect fusion of Dragon Age and Skyrim in that while you are driven to completing the main quest (and the game ends when you do for the most part), you have a far more lax approach to it that you find in games that are a little too open, of which Skyrim is definitely guilty of. If anything it gives me the impression of Fallout 3 with its game play and freedom. Actually, yeah, that's a pretty good comparison as, even with the main quest and expansions, you're just pretty much free to do whatever with that looming main quest in the background. As with most of these games, you'll have to choose between a mage type, thief type, and warrior type. Unlike most of these games, rather than being locked into one profession, you're going to wind up trying them all at one point. Conceivably you can master them all if you play long enough, and if you want to really take on the Bitterblack Island you're going to need all the power you can get. As with these games, and very odd for most jRPG types, you can mold your character to be what you want, male or female, ugly or pretty...whatever you want. Another interesting thing is the Pawn system. These are your NPC party members, like you'd have in any other RPG, but there are some differences. Your primary pawn is one you personally create and shape however you wish. Embarrasing to say, I made Sabre from Fate Stay/Night before I'd realized it (and you're goddamn right I kept her). Your other two you get from that strange dimension that the Pawns come from, and here is where it gets unique. There's no multiplayer in Dragon's Dogma, but there are things that can be shared between the mulitverse's arisen (they make this an actual plot and story point). You can share out your pawn and other players can borrow them for their own use. When they are returned to you, you may find them carrying a decent gift should they have done their job right (well, theoretically...more on that later). You may wonder why others don't just keep your pawn, and the answer is, only you can level your pawn. So whatever other companions you have, you'll often have to change them out. It should be noted that even if your pawn is being hired by another player, they'll still be able to quest with you. The AI for the pawn is something interesting as well. Theoretically it tries to mimic your style of play, and can even 'learn' things about quests and locations while in the service of another player and will relay this to you.


The land itself is VAST, and that's not counting places like the Bitterblack Islands. If you want just straight eyecandy, this particular game has arguably better than Skyrim and the first two Dragon Ages. In fact, all the graphics and game play are arguably better done. Shit just moves better and looks better in this game. The in game cut scenes using the in game engine actually look DAMN good. Seriously, even the recent Dragon Age Inquisition should be taking notes on this. No one looks like they're mumbling; motion is smooth, and the models decently made. One thing those on the other side of the pond have never skimped on is character models. These look great; with nary a collision problem to be seen. And Hell, concerning aesthetics, there are girls that actually look fucking GOOD! This is a huge problem for the modelers over here; their girls either look butch, ugly, or like fetish fuel. It's not like they don't have the tools to make good looking women, it's like they're either gay men or girls who have no idea what it is your typical male would find attractive. Even better, with the character creation system, you don't have to settle for a guy who'd look better in a dress than most girls. I created a fourty-five year old bald man who looked like he'd spent his life hauling freight by hand. So they avoid the problem I see over on that side of the pond as well.


Concerning the sound quality, the music is fairly good. While nothing super extraordinary, I will say the soundtrack is worth picking up if you can get it. It all fits the scenes and the story damn well. Voice acting is actually pretty decent for something that isn't nearly as character driven as something like Dragon Age. You'll pick out a few of the usual suspects and a few you've never heard of before. Hilarious to note, your character is a voiceless hero, so if you could imagine Link in a situation like this, you'd be about right.


You can set the challenge as you see fit, however, the overall challenge of the game can be said to be a mixed bag. One of the biggest problems I had was that I was just walking along, minding my own business, killing noisy little goblins, when all the sudden: BAM! CHIMERA!!! Oh, was that your spleen? Sorry, dude. You were being a little too effective and we had to knock you down a peg. Honestly, in this case, it's a lot like Xenoblade. You REALLY have to watch where you're going or you could be quickly overwhelmed or run into something like that really quickly. Also, Dragons. Avoid them until after...well, you'll know when you can start fighting them.


Now, fun and interesting as all this sounds, Dragon's Dogma has problems. This is a great yet DEEPLY DEEPLY flawed game. The game has an autosave feature, as most games do now adays, but what it doesn't have is the ability to have multiple manual saves. That's right, if you fuck up or simply want to experiment, you can't. This is unconscionable for a game this complex; its very nature encourages experimentation. To punish the player for trying is pure douchebaggery, but it doesn't stop there. There is no functional fast travel feature. Oh, it's got one, but the method used requires way points you set up and very rare and/or expensive crystals. For a land of this magnitude, treading all over the place on foot (you don't even get a mount) like this is pure mind numbing frustration. Every single game since the 8-bit era has had a way to do this; that this game does not is insanity personified. Another problem is the town map. There's no way to find entrances to buildings and shops or find people with quests until you're right on top of them. Literally, right on top of them. Oh, and don't accidentally hit your attack button in town...they do the Ultima douchebaggery then and arrest you. Speaking of guards, and as a bit of a spoiler, this game has a point that after you've completed a serious milestone in your quest...the castle guards turn on you. Shit, you've just done something that none of them could have done even collectively, but now they're coming at you and moving with speed and power of such there's no way that they could have been threatened by what you just put down. It's that old, "The fuck were you guys at?" in most games where the world is on the line. There's also a lot that's unclear about where to go, what to do, or what you can do. Sometimes when you try to go off reservation during a story moment you're stopped, but other times when you do, it opens up a new set of options. The game is never quite clear on when or how you can do that. And without the ability to experiment...well, you get the idea. Then there's the quests. Nothing about them, in and of themselves, per se, but there's times within the game that if you move beyond that point, all the quests you're currently in are canceled. Yeah, just canceled. No reason. Just canceled and treated as failed. It doesn't make sense by the story or game play. This is super-dickery at its finest. And the Pawn system? Sounds great, but you find out when you dismiss your pawns just how flawed it is. I mean, unless you know the guy who this pawn belongs to, are you ever going to part with some epic loot? Fuck no! You're going to give them berries or something. Finally, there's the whole significant other thing. If you're not careful, and don't gauge yourself right, you can raise the affinity of the wrong NPC, and the game will then assign that NPC as your love interest. Seriously, just talking to them enough can raise their affinity. Escort missions are treated as dates, so keep that in mind. At this point, you may have to attack them. I almost think this was the makers trolling the gamers, because the amount of shit you can get into with this one is absolutely hilarious as long as it doesn't happen to you...which it inevitably does.

Conclusion

It's a fun game, but truly, it's also a frustrating one. This game could have been a masterpiece of its genre. It had all the pieces, but failed to put them together as well as it had the potential to be assembled. There's just so much that was either left out or done that makes no sense; it's like they failed to beta test it, or just didn't listen to the beta testers in anything but dealing with whatever programming bugs came up (of which I didn't run into any). This is not to say the game isn't worth playing, but there's some deeply frustrating gotchas you have to watch out for. Be mindful of this, and you'll have a relatively fun time. Otherwise, these things will drive you to the point of simply giving up on the game, and to be honest, I blame no one who makes a decision like that about the game. They tried to make their own version of a western style RPG, and for the most part, I think they succeeded. They just need to get a few more practical play testers in and LISTEN to them, because what happened here...there's no excuse for it.

Additional Info

  • Title: Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Composer: Tadayoshi Makino
  • Platform: PS3, XBOX 360
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Engine: MT Framework
  • Writing: Very Good (+3)
  • Pacing: TOASTY! (+4)
  • Graphics: Groovy (+5)
  • Controls: Groovy (+5)
  • Voice Acting: TOASTY! (+4)
  • Soundtrack: Very Good (+3)
  • Replay Value: Good (+2)
Last modified on Tuesday, 30 December 2014 23:39

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