Developer – Capcom
Publisher – Capcom
Platforms – PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Dragon’s Dogma is an open world action RPG developed by Capcom. The story details the plight of the country Gransys upon the arrival of the fabled Dragon. You play the game as the equally fabled Arisen, the one who is fated to combat the Dragon. The game arbitrarily opens in what seems to be a hellish nightmare as you use a character who has yet to be named. Whether you succeed or are killed in this level seems to have no effect as you continue to create your custom character regardless.
The game joins your newly created character just as the Dragon pays a visit to their village and immediately begins to wreak havoc and claim lives. You take control of your character just as they grab a sword and prepare to do battle with the enormous beast. Needless to say, you lose and your heart gets devoured by the demonic creature. You wake up in your home under the care of a relative and from here your adventure begins.
Dragon’s Dogma’s approach to combat is governed by a system known as Vocations which are essentially classes for combat. There are three main vocations with the remaining six being alterations or mixes of the original three. Each vocation has its advantages and perks but the choice of which to choose is ultimately left up to the player’s own gameplay preferences.
If you like wielding powerful magic and dislike being relegated to support status but also do not want to partake in melee combat then an arcane proficient sorcerer may be the choice for you. If you enjoy balanced combat, gleefully engaging in both ranged and close quarters combat then you may be best suited for either an assassin or a strider. One should not agonize over these choices too much as one can change their vocation as often as they want as long as they have enough of the experience gained currency to do so. The level cap to the game is at 200 and Capcom, in their mercy, has allowed players to change their character’s combat experience as they see fit as they strive toward that goal.
The spirit of games like Devil May Cry and Street Fighter are easily felt as you hack your way through the lush pastures and remote mountaintops. All combat is heavily centered on the left and right index bumpers (L1/LB, R1/RB) which govern your secondary and primary weapons respectively and ultimately determine which special move you will execute. All melee combatants have move sets that focus on combos and juggling and ones that focus on big, fantastic attacks that stun your opponent or leave them as a corpse. Choosing which ones to implement and/or how to mix them depends on the kind of character you want to play as. The left and right index bumpers used in coordination with the right thumb buttons initiate your character’s special moves which can either be linked together in succession or linked via core moves, which are abilities your character has access to based on both their vocation and the weapon they are holding. Special moves drain your stamina bar which, once emptied, will leave your character unable to move for a short period. However, that short period of immobility can easily lead to your death. Luckily, core moves do not drain your stamina bar, because of this it is wise to use core moves as a means to bridge the gap between special moves rather than using special move after special move.
Magic users behave in a similar fashion.
Magic runs on the stamina bar as well, (instead of magicka or mana) every spell has a price and naturally the more powerful spells attach a bigger price. So if you continuously use the larger, more powerful spells you will find yourself keeled over and immobilized; seeing as how wizards are not able to equip armor, being immobilized means almost certain death.
Weaponry and armor may be purchased and upgraded as well. Almost everything can be upgraded a total of three times, each time a specific ingredient being required in order to facilitate the weapon or armor transformation. Some ingredients may be found lying around but the more powerful weapons require rare or difficult to attain items. For example, I came across a weapon that needed a Cyclops’ tusk in order to upgrade. The only way to attain this is by dislodging the tusk from one during a fight, which is something that must be done very deliberately. You don’t need to break away a tusk to defeat a Cyclops and you cannot pick one up from its corpse if you didn’t dislodge it during battle.
Naturally, weapons and armor can only be wielded by the Vocation that it belongs to. Heavy armor cannot be worn by Mages or Striders just like a bow cannot be wielded by a Fighter. Since Vocations can be switched at will and every Vocation has exclusive equipment, your player will quickly find themselves swamped with temporarily obsolete equipment; luckily you are provided with camps and checkpoints that will allow you to store your wares with them free of charge.
Many times these places are inns.
Inns are establishments where you can rest and gain health, upgrade your characters abilities or change your Vocations. They become indispensable when you undertake long journeys and are running low on health or high on attained equipment (increasing your characters encumbrance). Another reason why inns and resting spots are invaluable is the fact that traveling at night is often ill-advised.
Unlike other open world games, in which traveling at night is identical to traveling during the day, Dragon’s Dogma adds an exciting twist. The enemies you encounter at night are more revolting and more dangerous than their daytime counterparts, because of this it is best to wake up nice and early and hit the road at the break of dawn in order to minimize your chances of getting caught as the sun goes down.
The final portion of Dragon’s Dogma which sets it apart from the rest is something known as the Pawn System. Near the beginning of the game you create a character who is essentially your sidekick; you set their appearance and Vocation and provide them with weapons and upgrades as you see fit. This character interacts with other players online via The Rift; from here your pawn will be provided as a support pawn for other players around the world. So your party is comprised of 3 pawns; the first pawn is your own known as the Main Pawn, the other two (known as Support Pawns) are other players’ Main Pawns that you receive through The Rift. You cannot change their weapons or Vocations as that has already been established by the players who created them.
These pawns interact with the world and will often drop hints on where to go or how to defeat a character if the player that created them has done the mission or activity within their own game. Creating a balance within your party by choosing the right Pawns is essential to finding success within Dragon’s Dogma as the enemies you fight are specifically designed to find cracks within your party’s structure.
Too many fighters and not enough mages? You will come across enemies that are impervious to physical attacks.
An exclusively magic based party? You will find enemies that will silence you, rendering you unable to cast spells.
The amount of time and thought that went into the development of this epic masterpiece is something that blows my mind. Having been a player of roleplaying games and fighters for many years, there are certain strategies that I am familiar with that will allow me take advantage of certain things; basically cheating.
These exploits, as they are called, do not exist.
No endless chain combos or infinite money hacks due to glitches to be found.
As I observe how much this game did right and compare it to how little it did wrong I find myself wondering why this game isn’t getting more press. It is on its way to becoming a rapid cult classic within some circles but is being overlooked by the mainstream.
I don’t think I will ever understand why that is. Whatever the reason, I recommend any gamer to try this game out; it’s very unlikely that you will regret it.