Capcom takes on the action RPG
XBox 360, PS3
In Dragon’s Dogma, your character earns the title of ‘Arisen’ in fairly unusual fashion. In the opening moments of the game proper, you’ll fall victim to a dragon attack before having your heart ripped from your chest. Surprisingly, you’ll wake from that disagreement with a hideous scar, a sibilant voice in your mind and a thousand burning questions.
That is practically the only set up you’ll get in Dragon’s Dogma – a new third person RPG from Capcom. Most often associated with titles like Resident Evil and Street Fighter, the game sees them move into the open world RPG genre.
You’ll do a lot of fighting in Dragon’s Dogma, fighting a huge variety of deadly creatures from myth and legend. The weapons you carry will depend on which vocation you choose but are generally limited to two, with heavy and light attacks on different face buttons and the ability to block and perform special moves using shoulder button modifiers. The game also adds a grab move which does what you expect to smaller foes but allows you to clamber all over towering enemies.
The clamber move has been compared to Shadow of the Colossus but the ability to use it in any situation makes the comparison pretty limited. Dragon’s Dogma also adds in AI controlled characters called Pawns who can be issued basic commands (come, go, help!) and who actually make a difference in a battle.
The range of combat options are balanced by intuitive controls but there’s serious depth here as you add new skills, special moves and search for the perfect mix of Pawns. It may not quite match Dark Souls for depth or fluidity but Dragon’s Dogma has some of the best and most comprehensive third person combat yet seen in an open world RPG.
Those RPG elements come more to the fore after the prologue, when you’ll be asked to create your character and head out on your mission. Three vocations are initially available – fighter, strider and mage – with more becoming unlocked as you level up specific vocation skills, allowing you to purchase more advanced weaponry armour. Levelling in general is a little unusual – general attributes (like health and stamina) get a boost every time you level up but you must travel to a vendor to assign points to unlock new skills. With no fast travel option, it can be irksome to have to wait to get that vicious new dagger combo but it makes tooling up at towns all the more enjoyable.
Dragon’s Dogma has made much of its system of Pawns and they’re useful but hardly revolutionary. Surprisingly adept in combat, they’ll grapple enemies for special attacks and get all up in the grills of your larger foes. Pawns will also call out contextual advice - which is a nice idea but leads to repetitive comments – and even fetch things for you. Players can customise their lead Pawn to a frankly ridiculous degree (shopping is very therapeutic here) and even swap Pawns online. This multiplayer aspect is pretty limited, with little real interaction, but the impression of other fantasy worlds in motion is a pleasing one. Plus your Pawns return from other world’s with gifts, which is always nice.
Technically, Dragon’s Dogma suffers by comparison with other titles in the genre with only marginally attractive graphics but the creature designs and sense of scale are generally impressive, though slow-down is a problem, particularly in towns.
Dragon’sDogma is a bold and brutal action RPG. While its story and performances can’t match the best of the West and some mechanics and fundamentals are less intuitive than we’d like, the freeform majesty of the open world combat more than compensates, while the bruising difficulty level really makes you feel the power of your towering enemies.