Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Capcom is hoping gamers aren’t yet tired of dragons and medieval fantasy settings, because they are out now with Dragon's Dogma for the PS3 and Xbox 360, an action RPG epic that twists up the formula with some familiar but welcome gameplay additions.
After a prologue and lengthy but satisfyingly detailed character customization process you are thrust into a visually bleak kingdom filled with both mundane and magical creatures on a quest to slay a fire-breathing winged lizard that lies at the heart of the story. As a member of a chosen class of heroes called The Arisen you select one of three starting classes: warrior, mage or an archer/rogue called a Strider (hybrid classes like those seen in Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning come into play later). Although Dragon's Dogma is a single player game, it has an innovative turn on how you choose your adventuring party that draws upon the all the other real-world people around the world playing the game.In a Pokemon-like twist, the game's world exists in parallel to a kind of limbo where “The Pawn Legion” dwells. Pawns are creatures that resemble humans but lack the will to act independently outside the presence of an Arisen, which makes them ideal candidates to be AI-controlled party members. Each player can custom build their own most trusted companion: a key Pawn to complement them on their mission, and then temporarily borrow the key Pawns of any two other Dragon's Dogma players to fill out their team of four. Both lent and borrowed Pawns gain a degree of experience fighting certain foes, gain insights about quests, even those you haven't done yet yourself, as well as earn you loot. This entertaining system can even cause gamers to neglect their player characters in lieu of creating a 'marketable' sidekick Pawn and have them regularly staying overnight at inns to see if their Pawn was chosen and what they may bring back with them.
In practice the system works pretty well, swapping out half your team to fit the combat situation you are currently facing (i.e. trading ranged attackers for a pair of melee tankers) can help you overcome some of the trickier battles. Unfortunately the difficulty of fights have as much to do with the combat system as the stats of your opponents. Combat is a hack/slash affair that plays like a simplified version of what was seen in the original Dragon Age, but without the ability to lock onto foes or issue specific commands to your teammates. To say that combat can get a bit disorganized is an understatement, and though your Pawns each have a simulated combat personality based on their 'owners' choices in a limited dialog scene, the only commands you can issue in battle is an ambiguous “go,” a cry for help and a seemingly overlapping command to “come.”Frustration, especially in the early going, will be common, but set-piece and 'miniboss' battles against huge opponents like chimera and giants are enhanced by the ability of the player characters to grasp and climb their enemies. On smaller foes this can immobilize them, leaving them open to a killing blow, but one can also clamber up the side of a creature to deliver a critical strike at a sensitive spot, and when you can pull this off, it's very satisfying.
On the technical end, the game plays well, the presence of some light platforming is actually a welcome addition, being able to clamor up cliffs and rocks gives the world a more 'real' feel. As mentioned previously, the game is visually very drab and washed out, and the poor pallet of colors hurts the game right down to the item menus, which are particularly hard to read and sort out. Uncharacteristically on the other hand, the soundtrack shows a lot of the setting's typical fare of operatic riffs and even some toe tapping J-rock.
Dragon's Dogma is going to satisfy gaming's seemingly unquenchable thirst for lore-rich medieval fantasy worlds with an experience that's perfect for gamers with the itch to show off their creativity in a way that is more brutal than a Minecraft construct or modded Portal 2 test chamber. How Capcom supports their effort with promised DLC and social media ties will go a long way to ultimately decide if it will break out of a very crowded pack.