As a big-time RPG gamer, I have very high standards for what I consider a good RPG experience to be. I don’t believe in picking up a game that isn’t simply worth the time investment. If it’s gonna take hundreds of hours, it better be able to justify.
Dragon’s Dogma on of those games that justifies the time investment ten-fold, and is a first-class gaming experience that I couldn’t get enough of.
Dragon’s Dogma Review
The three starter classes, or vocations are they’re know in-game – Warrior, Strider and Mage – may appear at first glance to be a generic RPG set up. This isn’t the case. Like, at all. The three basic vocations are only a stepping stone to the advanced variants you can switch to later on in the game. What makes the class system even more intricate, however, is that many of the advanced vocations are hybrid classes.
Want to use magic and a bow? You can! Instead of pressing a button to fire off a special bow attack, you could cast spells on the bow itself. This applies to every class. The warrior-mage hybrids are fantastic. Who wouldn’t love being able to use a staff and a shield? After all, mages always get picked on and singled out by enemies. In Dragon’s Dogma, you can totally respond to a group of enemies that charge me by casting a spell on your shield, so that if anyone is foolish enough to try and hit you, they end up face-to-face with a shield fireball. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
There is an attention to detail present in Dragon’s Dogma unlike anything I’ve ever seen. When I first started, I played as a Strider. I had a bow, but it felt more like an elastic band attached to a twig. It was fun to play, sure, but lacked a certain thump you’d expect with bowsligning. After I upgraded and became a Ranger, though, my bow doubled in size and let out a thunderous boom whenever I fired a shot. It’s the perfect fit for the would-be RPG-archers.
Then when you tire of the class, you can mix it up and change vocation to Mystic Archer. Instead of a fully-functioning bow, now comes the option of a bow frame that can conjure magic arrows out of the air.
Three similar classes, all of which feel completely different to play because of the way in which they handle. The little touches like the sound of the drawstring demonstrates just how much love and care Capcom has devoted to making something that feels enjoyable to play. It’s an experience that is present in everything Dragon’s Dogma does. From unique and worthwhile classes to the way enemies don’t just disappear when killed.
When a big enemy dies, it goes through the sped-up stages of decomposition. Every time you drop a Cyclops, you can’t help standing next to its corpse, watching as its skin disintegrates, showing the layers of flesh before it slowly melts away until only a skeleton remains. Honestly, the decomposition of a festering corpse is quite beautiful.
Another way in which Dragon’s Dogma defines itself is through the Pawn system. Pawns are so far removed from the sycophantic lackey seen in most RPGs. You know, the ones that follow you around occasionally saying something inane before getting stuck in a doorway. The whole ideology that went into creating the concept of pawns can only be described as unique.
During the opening moments, you are tasked with designing a Pawn to aid you in your travels. You design your own metaphorical right hand. From the get-go, if you’ve spent more than five minutes making a secondary character, you already care about them more than you would if they were a character who has been thrust upon you.
Pawns act as not only a combat partner, but as a guide. With no glowing breadcrumb trail to follow from point-to-pont, you might get lost. With a pawn by your side, the chances decrease. Your Pawn will often give you advice like “We’re on the right road” or “Turn left here.” They may even point out useful treasure, which is always a plus in my book.
One of the weirdly-brilliant aspects of pawns is that while I sleep, my pawn doesn’t. As I recharge, my Pawn goes off into someone else’s game, helps another master on quests and brings me back experience points to spend on skills, loot, and best of all, knowledge. I’ve found myself on a quest that is new to me, but as my Pawn has already completed the quest, they can offer me advice on how to proceed.
Think about it, your Pawn knows what to do because they’ve played a part of the game you haven’t. Not only is this unsettling that a character of my creation plays the game without me, but it’s also ingenious. The whole pawn system is a very bold and awe-inspiring concept that sets Dragon’s Dogma apart from other open-world RPGs.
The World in Which
The world of Gransys is home to a wonderful sense of exploration. When you’re out and about in-between questing, you can’t help but wonder what lies over the horizon. More often than not, the urge to explore kicks in. Some of my fondest memories come from travel and seeing what mythological creature the game wants to send my way. Fighting a chimera, griffin or a roc offers a delightfully tough and satisfying boss battle for those in need of a break from the main story.
The difficulty is another point that deserves high praise. There is no easy, medium, or hard. In place is a world that evolves around how you decide to play. If you want a Dark Souls difficulty, don’t buy health potions and go it solo. It’s nightmarishly hard but hugely rewarding. Or if you’re after something that doesn’t want to make you cry, grab your Pawn and two companion Pawns from other players and you’re good to go.
One of the greatest moments is when you realise the world is not your enemy, it’s your friend. I recall being low on health having faced two trolls back-to-back. I was out of health poultices and miles away from anywhere to restock, so in a bid to cheat death, I stopped and looked around for some form of help. Before me stood an apple tree, holding shining red rubies to replenish my health. So with a bow in hand, I shot down four individual apples for me and my party so we could sit around stuffing our faces until we were safe to move on.
It doesn’t just stop at helpful farmsteads. I was attacked by what felt like forty direwolves. At around level 20, they would’ve ripped me to shreds so I needed a quick exit. I couldn’t face them head-on, so I waited for them to get knocked down, ran over, and hoisted one of them onto my shoulder like an evil wolf-giving Santa. Then I proceed to sneakily run over to the cliff face and send my wolf sailing over the edge. The best part being that I still get the XP for the kill.
This tactic may make me sound a little pathetic, but this tactic is a legitimate way of winning. I’m a Souls player, everything’s fair in love and heartache. Then there are tricks like how Trolls will always get excited when a female is present. So instead of fighting, try positioning a female near a cliff and watch as the bounding monster takes a dive head-first to its demise.
The world itself is a weapon, a weapon that the best of us will always find a way to use to our advantage.
Dragon’s Dogma and it’s expansion Dark Arisen are sprawling epics that at no point felt like a then-new-IP. There are no glaring mistakes or rushed features. Every aspect, from the hard-hitting, fast-paced combat, to Pawns and how they behave, to a real sense of wonder, has been given thought and careful consideration to make sure it’s the best it can be.
Dragon’s Dogma is not only the best RPGs I’ve played, but one of the best games I’ve played. The biggest compliment I can give it’s a game I will always think about. If you’re after an RPG that sets itself apart from the competition, without compromising itself, then you’re in for a one-hundred-hour treat.