Death. The fist meets TV outcome that once had video games in its grasp. More recently of course, death hasn’t been such a big deal, no longer do gamers have to worry about three precious lives and a handful of continues. I mean in today’s age it’s all about regenerating health bars and such, making things, at least appear easy. You may be wondering why I’ve started this review with a chat about death. Well, because you will have to get used to it in Dragon’s Dogma, you will die, a lot.
So here is Dragon’s Dogma, Capcom’s latest game that is trying to muscle in on Skyrim’s patch. A brave move indeed for a first timer, which blends eastern and western game play into the action RPG mix.
At first glance Dragon’s Dogma is another action RPG, just like Skyrim, but scratch a little deeper and you will find a game with such lofty ideas that it could change gaming forever!
Those are strong words I hear you shout! Ok, granted we still have the staple RPG diet of towns, villages, inns that serve mead and women who love beards. We also have third person combat; a character class system and a setting you could easily find in any fantasy novel or film; but Dragon’s Dogma has the Pawn system. Which is something special indeed.
Every generation a dragon appears and goes to town on the land of Gransys. At the same time a hero arises faced with the task of slaying the dragon. So that would be you then. Once the hero is chosen, the race of people known as the Pawns stir to life with only one mission and that is to serve the hero, who is, funnily enough called Arisen.
The really clever part of the Pawn system is that there are near infinite amounts, they are the ones the game randomly generates, then there are those you can download from the net, and there are those you can borrow from your pals, the list is endless. You can even share them on Facebook, or so Capcom says, I couldn’t get this function to work however. (this function may not be working because the game hasn’t launched yet)
The beauty of this system is that you can create your party tailored to your needs. For example, say you need a strong warrior, head to the nearest rift stone, and select the warrior that best suits your needs. Beware though; Pawns don’t level up as you do, so you’ll need to adjust your party accordingly depending on the challenges ahead. It is a daunting prospect at first, but soon enough, you get into it and turns out to be a wonderful system.
Pawns are not just run of the mill characters either, when they talk in game, it’s not just sound bites from a library, they can help out with guides to defeating foes, or talk to you about your current quest and help you when you are lost. It’s actually worthwhile listening to them. They also learn as they go. So if you fight a particular monster, the Pawn will lean a new technique that can be used to defeat it.
Which is just as well as the combat is frequent and often hard. The great thing about the Pawn system is that you, as the player, don’t have to wade into combat to make sure the job gets done. The Pawns are more than capable of handling themselves, leaving you, if your chosen profession is an expert at ranged weapons to find a spot and help out with your bow and arrow, or cast spells to heal your party. It works well and stops the game from wandering into the realms of a hack and slash brawler.
As with Skyrim and other games of its ilk, the combat is in real time, and unless you equip yourself correctly, or hire the right kind of Pawn for your party, you will die. It’s as simple as that. Not that the combat is a burden. Not at all, it feels weighty, satisfying as you land every blow, and once you start to level up the combat gets more tactical. But at first your weak statuses and low levels make combat difficult, especially because Capcom throw lots at you right from the start.
The other great thing about Dragons’s Dogma is that main quest doesn’t take precedence; the game allows you to explore the world at your own leisure, with main quest progression happening in the background or sometimes by chance with a random encounter. It does bring with it a great sense of adventure as you and your band of merry men explore the vast world.
For those of you that have been brought up on the complex systems of Skyrim, may find Dragon’s Dogma a little bit lite in comparisons. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still heavy going with more menus than a restaurant, but it feels easier and more accessible. Which in my case, a gamer who can easily get lost in stats and leveling up processes, found it easy going and a joy to use.
The game isn’t without its flaws. Dragon’s Dogma does give you some basic commands to dish out to your Pawns, but they don’t always listen, especially when you are trying to flee from an overpowering foe, they tend to stay and fight, getting themselves killed meaning you have to go back and revive them, which can become a pain, especially if you want to avoid that game over screen. With that that in mind, the game is in serious need of a ‘wait’ command. Sometimes you want to just do something and not have to worry about your Pawns, but alas they follow you everywhere and generally end up dying. It’s frustrating to say the least.
Despite the brilliance of the Pawn system, the ability to chop and change your party at will kind of loses the sense of camaraderie RPGs are famous for. In other games, you get to know your characters and want to level them up and so fourth. So by the time you’re halfway thorough the game, you have a party you know like the back of your hand. But in Dragon’s Dogma If you have a particular mission that requires a certain skill you can simply dump the spare baggage and choose a different Pawn. This is just my personal preference to adventuring and by knows means a deal breaker for an otherwise excellent system.
The graphics are a little on the ropey side too, they look good don’t get me wrong, it’s just they have a muddy plastic look to them, reminiscent of some graphics from early games of this generation. But given the game is so vast this can be forgiven, and you still get beautiful vistas so that’s all good.
The map can also be a source of frustration; it only displays the places you have already visited. So early on the map is essentially blank making it hard to navigate to your next destination. Things are made worse by the lack of a fast travel system so adventuring, as fun as it is, can be a long laborious slog.
Overall Dragons’s Dogma is a gem of a game. It’s hard, very hard, but put in the time, choose your decisions and Pawns wisely, and that blasted game over screen will soon be a thing of the past. The scope of the Pawn system is remarkable and really adds something new to the genre. It is an exciting prospect to think how this can develop. Sure, it’s a clichéd as hell, but like any anything, if it does something well, and different, it’s worth sticking with it.
Capcom have really surprised me with this game, taking on the likes of Skyrim at it’s own game was a brave move. But by mixing in a little bit of eastern magic, they have pulled it off with some style.