Dragon’s Dogma Review

May 22, 2012Written by Alex Osborn

Dragon’s Dogma caters to a very specific type of gamer. If you don’t consider yourself a fan of fantasy role-playing games or action-heavy dungeon crawlers, stop reading this review right now and focus your attention elsewhere, as this is definitely not a game for you. Those of you that do however find yourself in this camp of hardcore RPG fans will be pleased to know that Capcom has created an experience that was designed specifically with you in mind.

A number of critics have described Dragon’s Dogma as a sort of hybrid experience that blends elements of Dark Souls and Skyrim, a comparison that is undeniably spot on. Capcom has crafted a vast, expansive world for gamers to explore while at the same time interjecting a challenging (and often times punishingly brutal) action-heavy experience. If you consider yourself a fan of the sadistic, old-school style gameplay that From Software has recently revitalized, then you’ll feel right a home with Dragon’s Dogma, a characteristic that is great for some, and incredibly off-putting for others.

Some of the talent behind both Resident Evil 4 and Devil May Cry 4 was brought on to develop the action-packed gameplay of Dragon’s Dogma and it certainly shows. The fast and fluid combat is definitely the the best thing that this game has going for it. While not quite as smooth as 38 Studios’ Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, the combat of Dragon’s Dogma is responsive, tight and rewarding. At the start of the game there are three basic classes to choose from: Fighter, Mage and Strider. These can eventually be changed as you gain experience, allowing to to try out a completely new discipline or progress your class further to one of the more advanced classes, which include the Warrior, the Sorcerer and the Ranger. Those who like to mix-and-match can elect to choose one of the three hybrid classes that blend various elements of the primary three. As such, it goes without saying that there is plenty of customization here to keep role-players entertained for quite some time.

In an effort to give the player a sense that they are not alone in the sweeping world of Gransys, a handful of AI companions – dubbed “Pawns” – accompany the hero on his/her quest. At the outset of the game, you will be able to customize one Pawn (appearance, class, etc.) to your liking. That character will then serve as your sidekick throughout the game. In addition, you’ll be able to select other Pawns to join you on your quest, which are interestingly enough crafted by other players. Capcom has done something pretty unique here with its online system, allowing players to share Pawns with one another, adding that small sliver of online connectivity. While it’s not the most revolutionary thing in the world, the communal aspect inherent within this mechanic is an interesting novelty if nothing else.

Visually, the game is sort of a mixed bag. There’s nothing here that will really knock your socks off in the graphics department, but some of the game’s larger enemies are designed and animated particularly well. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the non-playable characters that litter the world. Facial animations – especially during dialogue moments – are particularly ugly, which only serves to amplify the weak writing and voice acting. As such, I felt incredibly detached from the game’s cast of characters, uninterested in not only the surrounding personalities, but also the game’s protagonist.

The game begins with our hero attempting to protect his or her village from a massive dragon. A bit clich√©, but it could be worse, right? Wrong. In what unfolds as a series of perplexing events, the dragon proceeds to pluck your heart out of your chest with its claw, leaving you – somehow still magically alive – laying on the ground with a gaping wound in your sternum. Naturally, you are on a quest to get your heart back, which serves as the premise for the entire game. I don’t know about you, but I’ve come to expect a bit more from an RPG’s story in today’s day and age.

Due to my lack of investment in the game’s plot, I couldn’t help but feel uninterested and bored by the majority of the game’s quests. Sure, a few throwaway fetch missions are to be expected in an open-world game, but when I find myself emotionally detached from what I am doing for five hours at a time, there’s something wrong. Honestly, the highlight of the game for me happened pretty early on when I was tasked with escorting a hydra head to the game’s main city. It served as a great “guided tour” that introduced me to a new part of the world, but unfortunately fell flat shortly thereafter, when I was suddenly faced with the question: Okay… now what?¬† Those of you who enjoy exploring and making your own fun likely won’t find it quite as frustrating as I did, but as a gamer who likes a bit of additional guidance, I was often times left feeling a bit lost and confused.

The game’s poor autosave feature didn’t help aid in my enjoyment either, as I learned the hard way that you constantly need to be manually saving the game, especially when exploring the world. You could be out venturing for an hour or two and then suddenly come across the wrong pack of bandits who wipe you out without a moment’s notice, bringing you back to where you last remembered to actively open the menu and save the game. I’m sorry, but this is completely unacceptable by today’s standards, especially when the game presents you with a decent level of challenge with every enemy encounter. Honestly, there were a few instances where I just wanted to cry in frustration.

That said, those of you with thick skin who like a good challenge will probably be able to overlook some of the flaws that a more impatient gamer like myself are quite sensitive to. Dragon’s Dogma serves up a role-playing experience that was designed for those truly loyal to the genre in its purest form. The gameplay is great and the unique Pawn system makes you feel like you’re playing with others even though it’s a single player experience. The world of Gransys is massive and will keep you busy for many, many hours. If you’re looking for an experience that will last you quite a while and don’t need a compelling story to keep you coming back for more, then Dragon’s Dogma is right up your alley.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Vast, open world with plenty to explore

+ Responsive, challenging combat

– Weak story, uninteresting characters

– Terribly unforgiving autosave feature

7 out of 10