Dragon’s Dogma Review

Developer: Capcom / Publisher: Capcom / Played on: Xbox 360 / MSRP: $59.99 / ESRB: Mature [Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes, Violence]

In a post-Demon’s Souls world, hearing about interesting western-style RPGs coming out of Japan isn’t as surprising as it might have been in the past. But if you had told me that one of my favorite RPGs in recent memory would come from Capcom, I probably would have dismissed you. It’s really easy to be cynical about the long time publisher’s iterative fighting game releases and Resident Evil sequels. And sure, at first glance, Dragon’s Dogma seems like a totally serviceable open-world RPG; there’s magic and swords and a whole land of quests to complete. But you may be surprised to learn that it successfully abandons many widely accepted design conventions. Up front, it does little to communicate why but if you’re willing to embrace the game’s lack of conceits, there’s an immensely engrossing adventure to be found.

Story

There’s very little reason to invest much emotion into Dragon’s Dogma’s forgettable main story but, like many other open-world RPGs, it’s a good excuse to push you out the front door. Your uneventful, fishing village life gets rudely interrupted when a large dragon, quite literally, steals your heart. You survive the encounter, shortly afterwards learn you are a chosen one known as an “Arisen” and gain the ability to command a legion of inter-dimensional sellswords known as pawns. As it turns out, these pawns prove quite useful in your appointed task of removing monsters, bandits, and other such undesirables from the land of Gransys. Side quests and main quests alike will occasionally touch upon the political intrigue and courtroom goings-on of the capital city of Gran Soren but this is generally nothing more than a short distraction from your quest to take revenge on that asshole dragon.

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Gameplay

The AI-controlled pawns that make up your party on this journey are the crux of Dragon’s Dogma’s unorthodox, asynchronous cooperative component. You’re free to define your four party members with any combination of the game’s nine classes. Along with being effective combat partners, these pawns are quite the chatty bunch, constantly relaying quest tips, enemy weaknesses, and story tidbits that they’ve picked up while questing with you. When connected online, other players will have the ability to recruit your pawns (using a separate “Rift” currency) with their newly gained quest knowledge and all. Up front the moment-to-moment impact of this system will seem pretty minimal but don’t underestimate having a knowledgeable pawn by your side. In fact, the biggest compliment I can give Dragon’s Dogma’s pawn system is that it’s useful. All the direction the Pawns provide ends up being pretty necessary.

You see, Dragon’s Dogma forgoes a lot of conventional design ideas to benefit its ambitious structure. For one, I didn’t acquire the ability to fast travel until about 30 hours into the game. And even then it’s severely limited. Additionally, Dragon’s Dogma gives no indication of how difficult a specific quest will be. I often found myself, especially toward the beginning of the game, way over my head with enemies I had no business fighting. And some quests are just ambiguous enough to leave you scratching your head about what to do next.

On paper, this all might sound like someone forgot to finish the design document before development on the game started but the more time I spent with Dragon’s Dogma, the more I realized just how deliberate these omissions are. By requiring patience and exploration to progress, the game will break you of the overly systematic habits that emerge in most players of open world RPGs. You’re really forced to enjoy and take in the world here. The best parts of Dragon’s Dogma don’t come earning XP and gear by successfully making it from point A to point B but rather from experiencing everything in between. The refusal to hand-feed you is jarring but the result is an experience that’s almost always rewarding.

For example, epic, fifteen minute-long encounters with dickish Cyclopes are not uncommon. The way these encounters catch you off guard when they seemingly randomly erupt in the open world injects a level of excitement and unpredictability into your long treks across Grandsys. And it’s all enhanced by Dragon’s Dogma’s substantive combat. There’s nothing particularly deep about its systems but experimenting with the game’s myriad of cool spells and satisfying combat maneuvers keeps it from ever becoming mundane. And just about all of your possible spells can be important given the proper situation. Your rain of holy arrows will work great against the undead but you’ll need a powerful fire spell for taking down griffins. And the ability to change your class, or vocation as the game calls it, at any time allows you to fully explore the potential of the combat system in one play through.

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Presentation

Even while writing this review, I struggle to find a visual point of comparison for Dragon’s Dogma. It’s setting isn’t entirely original, but just enough “Japan” made its way into the art style that it’s hard to call Dragon’s Dogma cliché, Tolkien-fantasy.

While Dragon’s Dogma is surprisingly a smooth ride, it does fall victim to the many technical issues that befall other open-world RPGs of a similar scope. Across the game, lighting is flat and if you spend a little too much time staring at the world, there are plenty of ugly, low-res textures to be found. However, spell effects are the exception here and always look rather slick. Strange audio glitches involving dialog are frequent and fighting with the game’s one slot save system can be pain given how infrequently it auto-saves. And I can’t, for the life of me, figure why there are two separate inventory interfaces, one for your equipment and one for your other items.

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Bottom Line

It may not be saying much but Dragon’s Dogma is the ballsiest, most ambitious thing Capcom has attempted in years. Not in any genre-redefining ways, mind you, but some substantial tweaks to a familiar formula breathe an often-lost sense of wonder into the game. Some of its more unforgiving mechanics may test your patience but if you can find it in you to leave your baggage at the door, Dragon’s Dogma will deliver an exciting level of freedom.

8.5/10

  1. sounds like i might like it, thanks for the review~!

  2. If I didn’t purchase Skyrim, I would buy the sh*t out of this game. Unfortunately, I have to continue staring at dragon’s flying backwards until the end of time… Or until I remember were I threw the Elders Scroll…

  3. No PC version so FUCK YOU CRAPCOM

  4. I used to hate capcom games and used to add the extra “r” in the company name.

    But this could be capcoms first decent game.

    …And lol @ PC fanboys, go cry on your overated PC trash with crap fiddly controlls.
    PCs are the poor persons substitute.

    • I almost took your post seriously, but then,
      “PCs are the poor persons substitute.”

      LOL

    • pc is a poor person console? i got dragon’s dogma for 360 and do’t care that it didn’t come out on pc, but r u retarded?

      ya my 3000$ custom built comp is definitly much less costly than ur 200$ xbox with 1/100 of the graphics capability, and pc has bad controls? how bout u learn how not to b shit at gaming.

  5. @Aath

    Don’t want a whole console war, but that opinion is poorly educated and totally unreasonable.

  6. I agree with that aath guy.
    the fact is PCs are indeed crap for playing games (except RTS games)

    Heres a list to prove it, enjoy :)

    why PCs suck;

    * over rated games that are crap.

    * over rated graphics that are crap (depending on machine)

    * awefull controlls

    * too many buttons

    theres more but the list is long enough.

  7. … Well i take back PCs being cheap… There quite overpriced, you could get 5 ps3s for the cost of a average PC.

    But theres too many buttons that make it fiddly.

  8. /me trolls the start of a console war.

    MUWAHAHAHA im evil!

  9. Western Rpgs always play best on PC imho. Skyrim’s a good example of that, along with witcher 2, and others. Also about the controls, they’re better than consoles can’t argue against it. You can use the Xbox 360 controller or ps3 controller or even the wii controller on PC if you want.

  10. So your saying PC controlls are better because you can use a ps3 or xbox controller?
    LOL.
    *epic facepalm*

  11. Aath and PunyNinja are so retarded its fucking hilarious. Please PLEASE continue talking about something you have no experience with. I LOVE IT.

  12. Cool, you just gave me permission to troll.
    A license to troll.

    PCs are laggy and ancient, their a obsolete relic thats no longer needed (like a typewriter)

    why play games on a glorified typewriter?

    • Maybe that’s what your PC is, but the most of us have PC’s WAY more powerful than any PS3 or 360.

      In fact, I’m sure I have more Processing power alone than the power of 3 PS3′s.

      The people who hate PC’s either:

      A) Have a crap PC

      B) Are shit at using a PC (Therefore incompetent at life)

      C) Are little kids who can’t afford a good PC but still knowing they are superior.

  13. lol at people that think keyboards are complicated. Your gonna have a hard life if you cant learn that.

  14. Come on guys- this isn’t IGN’s site. No need for immature fanboy-ness here! Take that shit back to IGN por favor!

    Machinima is laid back and badass. Don’t ruin this site too…

  15. Whats machinima?

    And keyboards are just souless pointless and uninspired, they werent made for gaming.

    If your gonna game on a PC then at least use a dedicated gaming controller.

  16. Thanks for a good review.

  17. Got it now.
    Its a good game.
    Sorta reminds me of cornwall with that nice coast line with the big cliffs and ruins.

    The pawns are dumb though, i lost 7 of them so far, they fall off cliffs and always end up suiciding.

    “mind the waters edge” warns my pawn.
    Next minute its “huh, i have fallen”

    and my pawns dead and unretreavable in the sea below. Along with my equipment i made him carry. Leaving me to fight with 2 other dumb pawns who run into the strongest enemy and die.

  18. I have to say ive clocked up around 80 hours on this since last friday when it was released and im loving it, just started progressing a bit of the story after doing sidequests and fighting cyclops and chimeras, its totally immense

  19. @aath …. I think there is something wrong with you in general. I play on ps3, but still i can see the potential and everything in pc gaming. Yeah i don’t like the keyboard but you can still use other controllers. And as far as your pawns…. You must be doing something wrong. I have never had a pawn take a dive or run straight into the over powered enemies. Learn how to play

  20. I bought it the first day it came out, and ive been playing it ever since, in my opinion its better than skyrim. the random fights with the chimera’s and the cyclopses i love, but if u dont have a strong group u wont last long.

  21. @aath Dude are you jealous? PC’s are bad? How the hell do you think most of your damn games are made for your crap console? Where did the first video game come from? I mean are you serious? Your obviously saying your trolling,but i think your being for real! You should ask your mommy and daddy for a real powerful gaming rig for christmas! I mean PC games allow you to change controls to whatever control scheme you’d like,macros, custom buttons,etc. You really have no idea what your ranting about do you? I hate these console wars! I have a 360 and this game(I love it),but dude come on. PC’s are bad because of better control schemes and better graphics and frame-rates? Take a step back and look at what your saying!Seriously dude get some sense!

  22. LOL.

    /me stirs the hate of console wars.

    Nintendo 64 is more powerfull than your 3k custom PC,

    Muwahahaha *smokebomb* /me vanishes

  23. Hmmm….

    World of warcraft is a gay game made for sad losers who never come out of their house, LOL.

  24. Yeah, go go oscilloscope :]

    so now i shall use you pc fanboy logic by saying that pcs are a pile of steaming shit and that oscilloscopes are better because they came before pcs, HA HA eat your own fanboy logic and go cry to your mums like the sad grown nerds you are :P

  25. …oh and to shoot down everything else you all said, i have a gaming pc (not too expensive, moderate price) and a ps3 and i had a xbox 360 until i threw it out coz of the red rings. My mate has a wii which ive been on with him quite a bit. So i have been on every platform, even the handhelds.

    The only thing i can say pcs are best at are RTS games and stuff like civilisation and a ton of MMOs. Some good unique games but its best to have a gaming pad instead of a keyboard. And the ps3 seems more graphical, while the pc sacrifices graphics to give you extra features.

  26. yes,i’m trully a pc gamer,coz pc can do anything.It can mod your game.I’m very dissapointed when it not come for PC. And i think Japanese developer should take a learn from The Witche & Skyrim

  27. Pc and ps3′s are both equal… In the amount of sucking they both do, where as 360′s are the form of god in console form. Also you can only get halo on 360 ;j

  28. Since this has turned into a platform war, I will say that I prefer the Xbox to all others simply because I can’t afford PC gaming (don’t have a good computer.) I like the Xbox for its superior online play, great social connection, and nice selection of games. It gives players all of the essentials, and it also has the best controllers. Xbox, as seen above, is the BEST!

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