Getting in on the open world RPG action scene and staking a claim as being a serious contender got a whole lot more tricky after the release of gargantuan unit shifter ‘Skyrim.’
Here we had a game that raised the bar to never before seen levels of scope and polish making everything that had gone before seem distinctly paper thin and puddle deep by comparison.
But, always up for a challenge, Capcom bring us Dragons Dogma and they’re hoping to take a hearty bite from the RPG pie.
Dragons Dogma is Capcom doing RPG western style. Real-time combat, open world adventuring and a little trick or two up the sleeve for good measure.
So where does this tale begin?
Well, with a rather bog standard and very well worn route to be honest.
Living a quietly idyllic life in a little coastline village life seems good. Then lo and behold a bloody big dragon awakes from years of slumber and rains a fiery hell on the village and it’s people. Picking up the sword of a fallen guard you charge headlong at the ferocious beast and attempt to drive it back. The Dragon fells you and at this point things go a little weird.
Rather than killing you the beast plucks out your heart and devours it. By some feat of magic your lifeless body finds life again and known now as ‘Arisen’ by the villagers it seems you may be the only one with the power to take down the Dragon.
Let’s face it, we’re not dealing with anything particularly ground-breaking storywise, humble villager realises a destiny to save the people and sets out on the adventure of a lifetime but, despite being a weathered tale it’s still strong enough to carry the game along.
And as for the game itself, we’ve been given a highly entertaining medieval romp with some tremendous monsters and well delivered ideas.
No doubt like a lot of gamers I’d eagerly devoured the videos and articles featuring Capcom’s latest and each time saw things that surprised and excited in equal measure so, when finally sitting down as the opening credits rolled and some very dodgy Japanese rock music kicked in I was very much perched on the edge of my seat.
Shortly afterwards I was edging, a little deflated, deeper and deeper into the couch.
Like so many games before when the anticipation is so high it’s almost inevitable that your expectations won’t be reached, and gazing at the poor character model before me on the customisation screen had me worried and nursing rapidly diminishing hopes.
The first thing I had to do upon entering the world of DD was remember that beauty goes far beyond what you can see on the surface, and, despite these fairly lacklustre graphics and glitches such as pop-up characters and invisible enemies it’s important I dig deeper and search for something special.
And thankfully DD does have that special something.
In fact this is a game that has the power to grab you and keep you captivated for hour upon hour once you embark upon it’s adventures.
When facing some of the bigger enemies the game has a slight ‘Shadow of the Colossus’ feel as you clamber onto the back of some huge creature and attempt to bring them to their knees. And it’s an incredibly tough challenge to boot. DD doesn’t ease you in gently, within the first few minutes you’ll find yourself facing a rather impressive Cyclops in an attempt to defend an outpost and almost certainly this beast will be ending the adventure a tad prematurely for you.
To find success in these battles takes teamwork, that’s something you’ll learn early in this game, and here’s where Capcom have been a little innovative.
Throughout the adventure you can call upon ‘pawns’ to assist you in your quest. These ‘player created’ pawns can be chosen to create your own party of four. The first pawn is one you yourself create via the same method as your own character was born, the other two you get to choose from a selection of pawns created by other ‘real-life’ players, a very nice idea and one that works very well.
Getting the balance of your party right is vital to taking down the bigger creatures. You can employ mages, fighters, stealthy rangers and any manner of character to compliment the group.
Your own character is subject to the tried and tested levelling up systems that inhabit so many of these type of games but the scope for creating something diverse and away from the norm is very evident and branching off to utilise a number of different skills can leave you with some sort of exciting hybrid class with which to wreak havoc. This customisation is a hugely valuable commodity as the game progresses, not because it’s necessary to emerge victorious but rather because as the game rolls along it does occasionally become a bit tiresome facing the same monsters in the same way.
The game does suffer a little from repetition, but, in a game of this sort that’s almost inevitable, the main quest is enjoyable but the side quests begin to grate before long and it seems little imagination was poured into these. It’s a shame as in a game of this size the side-quests can make up a large portion of the play-time.
Where DD really excels is in it’s real time, arcade style combat. Throughout the game this remains fast paced, frantic and highly enjoyable. It requires, in equal measures, skill, strategy and a modicum of luck. The party selection is paramount to taking down the bigger beasts and even when you’ve got the selection spot on it’s still no easy task. Levelling up unlocks new moves or ever more powerful spells that result in making the longer battles look quite spectacular, thanks to the combat system even when you find yourself facing very similar enemies it still manages to entertain.
So where are we with this one?
Well, Capcom deserve praise for innovative ideas like the pawn system and for delivering some truly stunning creatures, both in size and challenge, for players to get stuck into. The adventure, if given the chance, will draw you in and at times is both exceptionally tense and grippingly exciting, but, at other times it becomes highly repetitive. The side missions are largely dull, the voice acting is maddening, particularly the use of olde English style speak, if I ever here anyone use the word ‘aught’ again in game or in life I will personally unleash the kung fu, and I don’t even know kung fu and the game does suffer from some graphical glitches.
Overall then Dragons Dogma is an enjoyable romp through a medieval world full of huge monsters and annoying locals, not perfect by any means but still a worthy addition to any adventurer’s RPG quiver.