Dragon’s Dogma may be set in a world full of slightly overpowered mobs, fetch quests and cliche, but it is also a world where fortune favours the nosey.
I was sad to have missed out on Dragon’s Dogma the first time round, but it means I get to do this with fresh eyes and that’s a good thing. Dark Arisen comprises of all the first game and a whole new area of instant death called Bitterblack Isle. In the interests of experiencing the focal point of the release I ventured forth to Bitterblack way to early and lasted long enough to see a few of the magnificent caverns before getting whipped. The lesson learnt is to enjoy the majority of the original game, get to a substantial level and then go wandering over the waves. So here we go.
Looking at Dragon’s Dogma as a whole is a fun thing, its a third person RPG that falls neatly between the Oblivion/Skyrim type world and the cartoony fun of Kingdoms of Amalur. The gameplay feels great, although it takes a little time to get used to the swing and energy of combat, this is no hack and slash adventure. Too much hacking will leave your character breathless and vulnerable to slashing.
The opening sequence offers much to like, the graphics are suitably splendid, especially when the HD pack has been installed and lighting the darkness via a swinging torch at your belt is certainly atmospheric.
You end up with a party of NPC’s otherwise known Pawns, warriors of legend that are ready to step up and assist you. This can certainly add to your repertoire and being able to mix up the class of Pawns allows you to field a squad of ass kicking adventurers fit for any occasion. The first real encounter I had with pawns in the training level presented us with a bus-sized Chimera to deal with, an oversized lion body with serpent heads and it was a tough scrap. However thanks to being able to scamper around the beast, climb onto it when the opportunity presented and support the Pawns when they got stuck in, it was fun, not like a boss fight at all. The Pawns, however badly named, are available for hire and this is where it gets interesting. You can pick some up for free in your game, which is fair enough, you can also recruit Pawns from your friends list and give them experience to take back to your friends or you can hire Pawns from Live or PSN users. the latter will cost you gold, but you get the pick of Pawns that are often way ahead of you in levels and able to deliver more impact in combat. They are also more lively than standard NPC support characters, I soon gave up collecting minor items from every container when I realised they were doing it for me and ransacking their inventory was as easy as my own.
Hmmm, inventory, often the breaking point for a loot game, in this case it can be a little unwieldy, too many button presses and often making an incorrect selection by rushing. It does its job, but it does not feel natural and quick to flick through, this is a problem for me when I have to delve into my bag for a potion or explosive arrow in a rush.
Although I do have shortcomings around the inventory system, the range of objects that can be utilised and interacted with is exhausting, there is rewarding depth once you start to plumb the alchemy of ingredients or weaponizing flasks of oil.
Dragon’s Dogma has also given me more than a few of those beautiful and serene moments that take me right back to Oblivion at the start of this generation. Moments where taking a second look at a sunset or panoramic vista can leave you seriously impressed. The game has a meaty campaign which will take seasoned adventurers on an extensive journey and my eventual trip back to Bitterblack Isle will just be the icing on the cake.