Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen

Final Rating: 8.5/10

Dragon’s Dogma is an open-world medieval fantasy game originally released for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2012, with an expansion released in 2013. The story sees you defending your sleepy fishing town from a newly awakened dragon deity. As you attempt the drive the dragon back, you are severely wounded and near death. As you draw your last breaths it spares your life but magically claims your heart, laying out an open challenge to reclaim it. The game then sets you off into the open world as you seek out the dragon to reclaim what you’ve lost. Along your journey you’ll face many fantastical creatures ranging from lowly goblins to cyclops, hydras, griffins, chimeras and more. There are many sidequests as well, though many are of the usual open-world fair of “please go find my purse” or “kill x amount of undead at y”. The main questline doesn’t fair much better, as it too is full of generic quests until the major turning point that leads into the conclusion of the game. Luckily, the end of the game gets pretty weird in interesting ways, and the loose story telling was still very enjoyable and was complimented by solid gameplay with interesting encounters.

While the game initially appears to be the standard action RPG, the combat and vocations provide an unique spin on the formula. Though the player can only choose from three basic vocations at first, you soon gain access to three advanced and three hybrid vocations taking you from a lowly magician that expels small blasts of fire, to a grand wizard that can demolish groups of enemies with powerful tornados. Each vocation provide their own unique set of skills and weapons, while the hybrid vocations allow the player to mix and match certain aspects of the other classes. Combat in Dragon’s Dogma also takes it’s own twist on the standard action RPG gameplay. While the player does have the normal light and heavy attacks, each weapon set comes with various skills provide variety and tactical nuance to battles. Some skills provide a sweep around the player to hit enemies at all sides, while another may allow the player to nimbly attack enemies, thus your playstyle can change significantly as you gain a new skill or two.

Probably the most interesting and least common gameplay mechanic of Dragon’s Dogma’s comes in the form of the grappling system. For small enemies and objects, grappling simply allows the player to lift the enemy or object and throw it (or if your party member grabs an enemy, they hold the enemy in place for others to attack). However when it comes to large monsters, grappling allows you to latch onto the monster as well as allow you to climb and attack various weak points such as the eye of a cyclops, the necks of a hydra, or the wings of a griffon. The one fault with this system is that when you’ve mounted a large monster, controlling character movement can be quite troublesome and hard to get where you want to be, but it does add an extra sense of scale when facing large foes.

The most unique aspect of the game however is the “pawn system”. Pawns in Dragon’s Dogma are AI controlled party members that learn and act based on your playstyle. You can create one personal pawn that is fully customizable and has access to the same options and vocations as your character and employ two other pawns created by other people to assist you on your journey. Pawns serve as the game’s online aspect. Pawns can be hired and shared between players, netting bonuses for those whose pawns are hired and used by other players. As there is no direct multiplayer, this system also allows for the gifting, and in a way trading of items between different players, as well as rating pawns based on their looks and helpfulness. As you fight your pawn learns things such as quest knowledge and hints, your personal playstyle that it will try to mimic, as well as strengths and weaknesses of enemies. This knowledge makes your pawns act smarter as well as serve as quest hints for other players. All in all it serves as an interesting and more personal way to handling party member AI.

For the past year, the port quality of console games being brought to the PC have been all over the place. From the passable Sonic: Lost World, to the recent and embarrassing port of the arguably inferior Playstation 3 version of Tales of Symphonia, there was no real rhyme or reason to how well the ports were built. Thankfully, Capcom’s recent release of Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen sets a new gold standard for port quality, surpassing that of Sega’s 2014 PC release of Valkyria Chronicles. The options provided make for a stellar experience. There’s a decent array of options and support for resolutions up to 4k, and refresh rates of 150 hz. Controls are fully rebindable for mouse and keyboard (and some different presets for controllers). New features are few, such as an option which disables pawn chatter. In case hearing “wolves hunt in packs” incessantly for 40+ hours gets on your nerves. But the stability of the game is top notch, with any crashes I’ve had fixed in a recent update. Overall, this is a fantastic port of a great game and comes with all of the DLC included..

The original releases on last generation consoles were plagued by sub 1080p resolutions and an average of 20 frames per second, I for one am thankful for Capcom in allowing this game to shine in its full glory as it is one of the more overlooked RPGs of the last decade.

About author

Gaming writer at Live in Limbo. When Mihai isn't reading code on a computer sceen, he sits in front of other screens playing games. Don't let the picture fool you, he's since lost all his hair trying to be a tetris grand master.