Release Date: May 22, 2012
Platform: PS3 / X360
There’s a lot to say about Dragon’s Dogma, so I’m going to try to fit all the important details that I think the reader should know if they are thinking about whether or not to buy it. I can honestly say right off the bat that Dragon’s Dogma is not for everyone, and you’d be hard pressed to find somebody who didn’t have problems with something in the game. But I happened to come out of the game feeling satisfied, more than I had even expected.
My first impressions with the game upon playing it weren’t the best, the character creator is very rigid but somewhat acceptable, and the facial animations of the characters are quite terrible. It’s also pretty difficult to make a character that doesn’t look ugly. I spent hours tweaking my character in the demo version of the game and I still found problems with it that I wish I could have changed in the full game.
Overall, characters look slightly uncanny in Dragon’s Dogma, specifically the custom ones, such as yourself and any pawns that you will find. It also doesn’t help that the game isn’t helped in the visual department by being on the PS3 and Xbox 360. During cutscenes there are frequent closeups on the faces of characters, including yours, as if to show off the pitiful textures on all the armor pieces and clothes which the characters wear.
The textures in the game suffer from the sheer scale of the world in general, and despite necessary drops in fidelity in that regard, the game still suffers framerate issues and screen tearing. Whichever one of those things is more prominent depends wholly on the console which the game is running on.
That said, the lighting and weather effects in the game are quite satisfactory, and the extreme darkness at night and in underground areas is really cool. Walking through a mountain pass without a lantern or torch only to run into an ogre that you didn’t see is not fun, much less having to fight it in the dark, which is even more difficult than normal.
Speaking of which, many boss fights take place inside of dungeons, and the dungeons themselves are incredibly well-made. No two dungeons in this game are the same, however they are very linear so don’t expect a classic dungeon-crawling experience. That being said, it’s still hard not to appreciate the hand-crafted nature of the world in this game. The dungeons flow nicely, and the rooms at the end of the dungeons with bosses and treasure chests in them are very standard, but refreshingly so.
There’s a proper level of gravity to approaching a boss, the rooms you fight them in are often huge, sometimes even literal arenas, and the feeling that you get when you approach a giant monster in an environment like that is an emotion that I can scarce put into words, but it feels invigorating.
What’s more, the music that plays whilst taking on any boss in the game is a huge complement to the game, it’s like the toppings on a pizza. It just adds much more flavor for the tasteful individual to enjoy. After finishing this game, I would often find these boss themes stuck in my head, as if they were catchy, and they are in a way (but not at all like pop music, mind you).
The boss fights in general are incredible, the AI is excellent, and the intensity and tension of the battles can be something which is rarely experienced in other games. Even the common cyclops doesn’t easily get boring because of how involved you as the player feel while fighting it.
The combat mechanics themselves are very fluid and never feel clunky. The way that the controls are implemented into the game is also quite unique, and they work really well for mapping out many different skills on a controller with only a few buttons.
You might think that the fact that controls being displayed in the bottom right corner of the screen by default is a little silly or completely unnecessary. If you try to play without it, though, then you might regret it because it is actually quite ideal for the way this game plays. In fact, I’d say it’s an incredibly convenient feature, not too different from a skill bar in a typical MMO, only much more compact.
It is true that the classes (or “vocations” as the game calls them) in Dragon’s Dogma are not very deep, and that’s important to note. The game is more oriented towards the prospect of adventure, action, and collecting rare equipment than it is about getting lots of neat skills for your class. The fact that you can change vocation nearly on a whim, however, certainly helps to counteract this negative prospect, and you can find yourself changing play style rapidly if you so desire.
The world in Dragon’s Dogma is absolutely massive, and you are relatively free to explore all the locations, granted that you are powerful enough to face the threats that await you, which you can’t be sure of until you try. Despite this free roaming prospect, the world is nothing like what you would see in say Skyrim, it is more of a collection of hallways rather than a vast slate of mountains and valleys.
The result of this type of world, coupled with the fact that the quests in the game essentially require you to backtrack to the same locations you’ve already been multiple times, can result in a very grating experience. You end up watching your character run forward for long periods of time, often being interrupted by the same fodder enemies that respawn in exactly the same locations as before. All the while, your pawns say things that you heard them say the last time you were at each location.
If you don’t have the patience for that, or can’t get used to it, then you probably will not enjoy this game. It is without a doubt the most negative prospect of the experience in my opinion, especially the fact that the pawns simply won’t shut it. I had to play through the game with only my main pawn to help ease my suffering (which frankly, made the game a lot easier to digest for me).
Now let’s entertain the game’s story for a moment. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, you play as the chosen one who has to prevent the apocalypse by slaying a dragon that threatens humanity, or at least that’s the general premise throughout most of the game. Once you get to the final bosses themselves, you find that there’s more to the story than you originally thought, in addition to plot twists, and the true lesson to be learned eventually sprouts forth.
In the end, I think that’s the ultimate payoff from Dragon’s Dogma. Over time, you start to feel really invested in your adventure, which is only reinforced by the narrative of the story. Thus, the final result is a very enjoyable experience despite the many flaws which appear at the surface level, and the gameplay is simply riveting. This is definitely a gameplay-focused title, and the gameplay is great. You might not find it to be so impressive at first, but if you can stick with it to the end, you’ll see just how good it gets.
- Superb combat mechanics
- Exciting boss fights that don’t get old
- The story is unexpectedly decent
- Unique and varied dungeons
- Memorable soundtrack
- Pawns don’t stop talking, and repeat the same things every time you revisit a location
- Traveling from A to B can be a chore due to the world and enemy spawns
- Character customization is not quite up to par
- Classes have shallow skill pools
- Constant framerate/screen tearing issues