Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Review: Dragon's Dogma

It’s a rare thing indeed for a completely new IP to see the light of day - and particularly one so ambitious - but Capcom has taken no prisoners with the arrival of Dragon's Dogma.

For those of us feeling somewhat deflated now we’ve scoured every inch of Skyrim, had our fill of Fus Ro Dah-ing and heard countless tales of arrows to the knee, Dragon’s Dogma proves a welcome addition to the rapidly populating catalogue of RPGs for our consoles.

Capcom has high hopes for its new franchise and Dragon’s Dogma certainly offers plenty of potential for expansion and follow ups. Brought to us by the guys behind Resident Evil 4 and Devil May Cry 4, it combines the facets of games such as Skyrim and the thoroughly unforgiving Dead Souls. Dragon’s Dogma is huge, engrossing and tough - albeit a little rough around the edges.

Signposting and handholding is not part of its remit here and you’ll find yourself wandering the vast environments not knowing precisely where you’re headed most of the time… or what’s waiting round the corner. But it’s that sense of freedom that makes Dragon’s Dogma so magical and appealing.

The plot goes something like this: the titular dragon unexpectedly attacks your sleepy seaside hometown of Cassardis and things don’t end well. While many of your peers scarper, fearing for their lives, you grab a blade and do your best to down the beast. It doesn't end well and the winged one emerges victorious, skewering and then swallowing your heart in the process. Oddly, you don't die but awake some time later to become one of the "Arisen". Rather than just counting your blessings and getting on with life as best you can without a heart, our protagonist takes it upon him or herself to track down that pesky dragon and retrieve it!  Cue plenty of exploration and combat as your roam the vast realm, coming across all kinds of fantastical creatures along the way.

Within minutes of leaving the menu screen you get a good idea of the kind of adventures you’ll be enjoying during your playthrough. You’re certainly thrown in at the deep end, and before long you'll have seen off the mystical Griffin, downed an Ogre and dispatched a huge three-headed Hydra. By this time you'll have spent some time on the comprehensive character customisation screen, adapting your appearance, physical attributes and skills. Do you fancy being a warrior, strider or a mage? Chiselled chin or stumpy legs – it’s entirely up to you. Capcom proudly states that every decision has an effect on gameplay too, so careful thought is required even at the start of the game.

Soon after, you’ll also have assembled a group of like-minded warriors to assist you in your various quests. Three companions will assist you in your escapades, one permanently and two others who can be switched. It’s a clever mechanic, primarily because these sidekicks – or pawns – are borrowed from other players through an online portal called the Rift. What this means in practise is these hired pawns may already have passed through the part of the game you’re playing – and will therefore have the required skills or be able to offer advice to pass through safely. In turn, your pawns will also be borrowed and benefit from learning news skills and abilities in someone else’s game.

That’s not to say they’re the brightest people in the world… pawns are notoriously annoying. It’s their inane chatter that starts to grate after a while, all the constant repetition and pointless comments. What’s more, their “helpful” dialogue pops up onscreen, which is very distracting and eats into your already crammed display. This can be turned off but it’s irritating nonetheless. On the plus side, they are handy to have in a battle and do their bit to assist you in combat.

And the combat is hugely satisfying... especially as you can leap onto even the biggest of enemies to see them off. Grab an ogre's leg to slow his movement or scale a Hydra's neck to get some head shots in. It's well animated and adds another tactical element to each confrontation. Inspired.

Sure, there are flaws, such as the occasionally irksome camera angles, slightly ropey textures and the backtracking mentioned in the review above. Nevertheless, Capcom has set the groundwork for a fantastic franchise in Dragon’s Dogma – one that it will no doubt aim to capitalise on and develop for some time to come. All in all, it’s highly recommended for RPG lovers as well as newbies to the genre who are willing to invest the time. And who doesn’t like slaying Goblins and Cyclops?

Reviewed on Xbox 360
  • This review was first published on Gamingbolt.com. Check out more news, reviews and articles after the jump.