Game Review: Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen (PC)

Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen

Background

Dragon’s Dogma is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated games of the previous generation, as the game attempts to mix elements of Dark Souls, Monster Hunter and The Elder Scrolls into a new IP (intellectual property) from Capcom. The game that I played on the PlayStation 3 so many years ago was a fun and bizarre adventure, with the usage of the pawn system and the ability to climb monsters and strike at weak points. When the chance to play a possibly improved and polished version of this game for PC came, I was more than happy to play the review copy. As such, I can say with joy that this game feels better than the initial PS3 port of the game. The issue of long loading screens and jagged movements has been resolved and improved to the point that it no longer feels like a chore to resolve item management. However, minor issues get annoying after a while – slightly dated graphics and the fact that your pawns still constantly say the most random of things with their non-stop chatter in particular.

Story

The lore of the game is complex but pretty much boils down to one issue: the issue of fate. The game argues that your job as the ‘arisen’ is to take back your heart that was stolen by a dragon – not the Skyrim kind of dragon that dies after a few hits but the Desolation of Smaug kind. This is an event that regularly occurs in the game’s lore so when you eventually meet that big firebreathing lizard (after your first encounter where he literally steals your heart), you are given choices and options. Capcom do an amazing game post-dragon first since they seem to take a large inspiration from the manga Berserk, which similarly deals with issues of fate and giant creatures that need slaying (sadly I think the Berserk armour easter egg has not been ported into the PC port of the game). It is hard to discuss the Dragon’s Dogma lore without going too deep into spoilers and the story is what kept me going: the idea of finding out what was out there, finding new enemies to fight and fearing the day and night cycle.

Mechanics

The mechanics in the game are interesting developments in the RPG (role playing game) genre as a whole, as you have a new and interesting take on the class system in which you can change class rather easily to better suit the pawns and your play style (called vocation in game). For example, if you wanted to play less like a berserker and more into range you can do that. There are also different sub classes that mix two classes into a one, so you could be a mystic knight (a classic paladin) who has the ability to use heavy weapons and armour but with a few spells in your back pocket should you need them. My favourite was having an advance vocation and becoming a warrior with two handed tanks aimed and designed to cut away the most amount of health to large enemies. Plus, playing Forces (a berserk soundtrack) while running around as the warrior class felt snug like a shoe.

The other major mechanic is the beast fighting element in which you are able to climb up on creatures, such as Hydras and Griffons, and attack them while they try to throw you off. This may sound like nothing new, but in the heat of the moment with the music score blaring and your pawns all trying to help with range weapons and your character holding on by the tips of their fingers hoping they don’t get thrown off: it truly is one of the best moment to experience. Something that I think games like The Elder Scrolls Skyrim fail to achieve is the idea of how big and grand an enemy is: in Dragon’s Dogma you feel and fear the presence of these grand creatures whereas in games such as Skyrim you just hit them in the ankle a few times with a heavy weapon and poof they’re dead.

The next major element, which I have mentioned several times already, is the pawn system. This is perhaps one of the most interesting elements of the Dragon’s Dogma systems as a pawn is a NPC (non playable character) that you create early in the game to help be a support role for whatever class you pick. However, you also get two additional pawns from other players if your game is connected online or from the developers if your game is offline. This then allows them to learn about new enemies and dangers as well how to fight them allowing other players to hear advice from the monsters you fought when they return to their owners. This can also work for your pawn as well and sometimes you can receive gifts and items.

The last major mechanic I woud like to mention is the day and night cycle, as often in RPG games the day and night cycle has no major importance to the game. However, in Dragon’s Dogma you get to see why this is a Capcom game when it’s night time as the game becomes less of an Arthurian legend and more like Dark Souls where every kind of ghost, undead or anything that poses a challenge can appear. I remember when I got lost and ended up going to one of the hardest areas in the game due to being lost at night, leading me to having to run away with little more than a cloth on my back and a rusted sword.

Sound Design

The sound design, and most notably the soundtrack, is amazingly well done, as it helps create immersion and the feeling of grandness that the art style of this game shows. A new feature introduced in Dark Arisen, Bitterblack Isle, reflects this as the music becomes darker and more gothic, with each encounter feeling like a boss battle struggle. The final boss music for the Bitterblack Isle is a wondrous and beautiful song that is fitting for the struggle you have to encounter and makes you feel sorry for the final boss (not when he is trying to turn you into a paste).

Conclusion

The only major flaws I can suggest is that the pawn systems seem to be an idea that could be tweaked with a few minor changes. For one, I wish there was an option to stop recycled dialogue from occurring since hearing the same thing over and over again tends to get tiresome. Lastly, it would be an interesting idea to include more multiplayer – it would be interesting to see the different ways players could team up to take down bosses with experienced players giving advice on enemies and locations to newcomers to the franchise. As such I would give this game an 8 out of 10 due to the fact that Capcom have a great job porting this game onto the PC and I look forward to new places to explore and new enemies to fight in future works within this franchise.

Score

8 out of 10

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