celes 26 Jan

When Dragon’s Dogma first came out on the consoles, I skipped it entirely. I’m not really sure why, but it was probably my dwindling faith in Capcom in combination with a $60 pricetag. Though most of their games aren’t the highest quality, Capcom makes titles that can be delightfully quirky at times. Even if I don’t love ALL their work, I appreciate the effort they’re putting into bringing a lot of their games to the PC.

Dragon’s Dogma is a hack and slash action rpg set in an open fantasy world. That’s the kind of thing that’s right up my alley, but Dragon’s Dogma has some ugly textures, dated character models, a super convoluted menu system, and a story that isn’t just bad, it’s Capcom bad. Characters have no arc. The voice acting is OK, but at times they seem to be speaking just gibberish. Most of the music from the soundtrack is pretty generic fantasy stuff, but then there are other songs that are so out of place you have to wonder if they were cut from another game.

I put over 50 hours into the game so far. I’ve completed the main story and I’m ready to talk about my experience.

I love Dragon’s Dogma.

I know I’m probably more lenient on games with swords and shields and magic and dragons and big open worlds and gigantic castles. But I really do love this game and I’m sad that I have to put it down to work on other videos for this channel.

You play as a nobody from a fishing village, and when a dragon starts some trouble, you’re the only one brave… or stupid enough to pick up a sword. The dragon promptly eats your heart and you become an “Arisen.” You go on a warpath to basically get your heart back from the dragon. The rest of the story is meaningless.

I hate to be dismissive about it, but every other story encounter in the game has absolutely no bearing on anything. The game forces these weird half-stories upon you that either start or stop in the middle and gives no closure on most of them. Dragon’s Dogma tries to make you believe that you should somehow care about these lifeless characters.

And you shouldn’t care about them. I don’t. But, lifeless characters aside, that had little to no bearing on how much I liked this game.

After you have your heart poked out you can summon pawns to your traveling party. You can customize your primary pawn to look however you’d like. That pawn levels up just like you do, and you can pick its class, equip it, and so on. The other two pawns that join your party are selected from sort of a spirit pool. They aren’t human, but they look human. Their level and class are static. While your primary pawn can be resurrected, these two secondary pawns can die permanently or they can be switched out for higher level pawns. They’re sort of like genies who are summoned and have to obey the commands of the Arisen.

You can play as one of several fantasy archetypes (mage, fighter, rogue), or a specialized hybrid class. Each class has its own skills that can be unlocked using experience points. With enough experience points, you can dabble in multiple classes, so your playthrough of Dragon’s Dogma isn’t stuck to just one type of action.

Interestingly, playing through Dragon’s Dogma just once isn’t really enough (and yup, you guessed it, there’s a new game plus mode). There is an incredible amount of things to do after the credits role. Since the credits only mark the end of the flimsy story, I didn’t feel the urge to stop playing because there was so much of what I loved left in the game.

The exploration, the combat, and the loot.

The arcade combat is super fun. While the human faces look weird, the monsters in Dragon’s Dogma look great. You can select which special moves you attach to your character and you slap away at huge hordes of enemies both big and small. At its core, the combat is easy to pick up, but still rewarding. At times, I was reminded of another Capcom classic: Knights of the Round. Since the game is level-based, you can wander into areas filled with baddies that will clean the floor with you. Enemies drop cash, some healing items and other odds and ends that can be used to upgrade your weapons and armor in town.  

The big monsters are fun to fight. You can climb on all the larger enemies, but it’s not always a great idea to do so. The key is to find a weak spot and exploit it as best you can. The boss fights are fun and never resort to cheesy quicktime events. However, the tediously long final fight with the dragon did bore me at times.

Exploration leads to new quests, treasure chests and better equipment. At first, slogging around the world was a little daunting. The distance between two points can get overwhelming. Once you you collect the rare port crystals, you can position them at key places around the map and use it as a fast travel system. So, fast travel does exist in the game, but you have to earn it. I really liked that touch instead of instantly being able to teleport wherever I wanted in the world.

The dungeons and enemy areas are laid out very well, especially in the post-game content. You can purchase and carry a lantern which is mandatory for exploring at night and when you go underground.  It’s not “sort of dark” like some other game’s night sequences. It’s dark. And the lighting makes the experience very dynamic. The lantern has a finite amount of oil so if you’re not careful (like I was) you can run out and really have a tough time with it.

The Dark Arisen content of Dragon’s Dogma is fantastic. It’s a giant labyrinth teeming with beefed up monsters and super bosses to fight. Trying to tackle it before finishing the game is theoretically possible but unlikely. It’s fast paced and will put you and your little band to the test. It focuses in on what the game does well. Explore. Get new gear. Fight. Die. Level up. Get new gear. Try again. It’s like Diablo, Oblivion, and Knights of the Round got together and had a digital love child, but with tons of menu and story problems.

I’d say if you’re a board and sword geek like me, this one is definitely worth checking out. And now that it’s on PC, it only costs $30 for the whole package. The menu system will drive you nuts,  but 50+ entertainment hours for $30? That’s a steal. It runs well and I didn’t have any problems with crashing or stuttering. If you know you’re going to get hung up on poor story telling, then you should probably skip Dragon’s Dogma. You don’t have any real story choices and honestly, it’s all just a super flimsy excuse to go kill stuff.

But if you want cool enemies to fight while you put on some fancy armor and blast powerful magic and dig around the dark and forgotten places of a fantasy world, level up, find new loot, and do it all over again? Oh yeah. This one is far from perfect and I’d almost consider it a guilty pleasure game, but I’m keeping it installed for those spare moments when I can play a little bit more.

Tested on: PC

Developer: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom

Platforms: Windows, PS3, X360

Relaunch Date: January 15, 2016

Copy purchased with personal funds