Dragon’s Dogma is Capcom’s most expensive and ambitious project ever. It’s a sprawling role-playing game that gives you enough freedom to create your unique own adventures, and doesn’t hold your hand in easing you into its gameplay mechanics. It’s pretty conflicting, too, in the way it’s designed, which not only shows Capcom’s strengths, but also their inexperience in tackling this genre. Although, they have to be commended for creating something that is clearly out of their comfort zone.
The game isn’t that accessible for newcomers and has a high learning curve. You journey begins after you create a character with the plethora of cosmetic customization features available to you. Having your heart stolen by a Dragon who attacks your village isn’t something that can be termed as a pleasant experience. The basic premise of the game here is to obviously get your heart back, but it’s not that simple. The story is quite convoluted and the ending will leave you dazzled and confused, but also satisfied.
It takes a while to get used to the gameplay mechanics as the quest markers aren’t that generous and the game depends on you to use your intelligence to find the things you want. Surely being treated like an adult is something most gamers desire? However, this perceived freedom also brings a lot of issues that Capcom could have easily tackled well. The game is quite unpredictable in a sense that you really don’t know what to expect while exploring. It’s also something that makes me appreciate the game that much more, but that experience could have been enhanced even further if Capcom’s design team brainstormed together to reduce player annoyance.
There are a lot of unique classes at your disposal: Mage, Warrior, Ranger and so on, and these classes can be switched mid-game to a something even more potent class, so the game doesn’t necessarily bind you to something. Fed up of the bandits killing your Mage repeatedly? You can switch to something like Warrior after level 10, and give them a taste of their own medicine. But it’s preferred that you stick to one class and level it up, as all the classes have a lot of powerful skills that are also visually stunning to look at.
The big reason why the game looks splendid at night (there is a day-night cycle), is because the lighting in the game really shines. Whenever you use any skill or even equip something simple like a lantern, you will get completely immersed into the game world, purely because of how good everything looks. It’s almost romantic. The game is created using the MT Framework engine – which is Capcom’s top tier in-house engine. However, a bunch of technical issues are prevalent which can be blamed on the aging console hardware. The PS3 version runs smoothly even during large battles, but it’s somewhat inconsistent.
There’s also a Pawn system in the game – which is Capcom’s way of telling you to hire a bunch of companions to assist you in your journey. What is interesting is that, not only can you share your Pawns online for other players to use, but when someone uses your pawn, you earn Rift Crystals, which in turn enables you to hire high-leveled pawns. This is one of the main reasons why the game has an in-depth customization feature to beautify your main pawn to make him/her attractive. You can hire three Pawns – two of them belonging to other players who won’t return after they die.
The entire game is based on balance, and on how you create your party. For example, having a party of all Mages could prove detrimental while facing a group of Bandits or Goblins adept at melee. It’s about careful planning. My party had a Mage and two Warriors, which gave me a good balance between melee and ranged attacks. There’s also an inventory system which enables you to store and combine items to create something unique and new. Various vendors are littered over Gransys – the name of the land – and there are a plethora of varied locations including a fort, abandoned tower, misty forests and so on.
There’s one thing I feel Capcom could have handled better, though, is the fast travel system. You can transport to areas which has a Port Crystal using Ferrystones, and in your first playthrough, you get access to only one port crystal, and the other one is located in the City of Gran Soren – which is your main base in the game. The end result? Lots and lots of backtracking. Even for menial tasks like escort missions, you will be trekking the same areas again, and combined with limited stamina, it’s something that will surely get on your nerves.
Of course, Gransys is a hostile place filled with all sorts of vile creatures – from a lowly Goblin to a Drake itself. This enemy variety which lets you fight things like: Chimera, Griffon, Harpies, Wyvern, Cyclops, Ogres and the likes, is something that can be termed as your fantasy coming to life in glorious high definition. The game gives a good sense of ‘growth’ as you level up and pummel enemies that were annihilating you when you were incapable of beating them early on in the game. This is something that I demand from every RPG; enemy scaling sucks the joy out of such games, and this is something Capcom acknowledges as well.
There’s a lot of content here in Dragon’s Dogma, and after having beaten the game and going through the bizarre ending, I couldn’t help but create a new game with the cleared save file that lets you keep all your weapons and equipment. I think that’s a testament to how addictive this game actually is, however, being a fan of RPGs makes me ignore some of the issues that is prevalent in this game, which clearly a casual player would not. Most people would lose their way at the start of the game itself as they come to grips with Dragon’s Dogma’s mechanics.
It’s fair to say that the game grows on you, but also requires you to be patient and give it time to blossom. Capcom has created something that a lot of veteran RPG lovers would admire, but having played games like Skyrim, Fallout 3, Fable 2 and the likes, the shortcomings of this game are quite apparent. However, the combat mechanics are undoubtedly one of the most satisfying and well implemented ones I’ve seen to date in an RPG after the Souls’ games.
When Dragon’s Dogma is at its high, it gives you an experience like no other RPG before it, but when you come face to face with its shortcomings, you’d wish the game was designed better. I’d recommend it purely on the fact that there’s too many good things about it, but what it doesn’t execute well is something you cannot take lightly.
This game was reviewed on the PS3.