Dragon's Dogma

Dragon's Dogma Review for Xbox 360

On: Xbox 360PS3

With your party of three you set out on an epic adventure to track down and destroy a mysterious dragon.

Review Verdict Read Review
7Out of 10
Back to game info
Dragon's Dogma screenshot
Dragon's Dogma screenshot

In the wake of Japan's dwindling games market, Capcom's been courting the West for most of this console generation. For a while, the publisher concentrated on ideas that might appeal to us Brits and our American cousins. Then the published handed a torrent of its properties to lesser-known Western developers, with the assumption that these guys would know what they're doing because they're from round here. The patchy results have been inconsistent at best, and there's still a niggling feeling that the publisher doesn't quite know what it wants to be doing.

Ironic, then, that the Japanese giant's biggest success story the past few years has been with its altogether local flavours of Monster Hunter, which is presumably why its latest attempt at 'going West' has been taken back in-house. Dragon's Dogma looks every inch a Western RPG, with all the hallmarks you'd expect: a sprawling open world, the Tolkien setting and people that say the word 'aught'. Oh, and real time combat. Yet beneath all of this, Dragon's Dogma is very much a Japanese videogame, which is probably why, at first at least, it doesn't feel quite right.

Venture into the game's verdant world of Gransys expecting to get your Skyrim on and you're going to leave very disappointed indeed. Strolling about won't unravel a spellbinding series of quests where you take in breathless sights, visit mystic ruins and fill yourself with an unparalleled sense of wonder. Nope, in Dragon's Dogma, wandering about will get you eaten by a Chimera.

In fact, there's nary a chance to wander anywhere for the first few hours, which sticks you to a very rigid path in order to learn the systems at play. You, sir or madam, are The Arisen, a chosen warrior who has his heart nicked by a Dragon during the opening scene and really wants it back. So far, so sort-of-Skyrim, but this is where the similarities end.

In place of Western RPG's traditional wanderlust, Dragon's Dogma does three very interesting things. First is its bestiary, which borrows from every myth you could think of to conjure an army of weird and wonderful monsters with which to do battle Secondly, when night falls in Gransys, it falls hard; type of night that won't let you see more than a few inches past your face. Thirdly, and most importantly, it introduces its unique form of slavery, the pawns.

At all times, you're accompanied on your travels and travails by three doting slaves, who'll do your bidding at any cost. They'll plough headfirst into battle, heal you when you're hurt and hoover up loot upon command. They're a bloody good bunch to have around, basically. You create one main pawn, who'll stick with you through thick and thin, while the other two can be hired and fired through Dragon Dogma's people exchange, the Rift.

It's an odd concept, but strangely brilliant. In the Rift, wandering pawns can be bought in exchange for RC (which I presume stands for Rift Currency). They're not just AI, though, they're actually the uploaded clones of other players' main pawns. And, bizarrely, whenever you rest at an inn your pawn will disappear into the ether, returning when you wake up with some presents. It's the type of idea that could only be conceived in Japan.

As well as smacking up all manner of goblins, wolves, bandits and even dragons with you, the pawns actually act as a dynamic hint system. They learn about areas you're walking through, remind you to look out for treasure, and most crucially, tell you how to defeat the game's tough baddies. Dragon's Dogma is full of enormous monsters, many of which just appear in the woods when you're trying to mind your own business, and all of them have a specific way to be taken down.

Dragon's Dogma screenshot

Your pawns will instruct you on how to do this, meaning you can concentrate on executing rather than just button bashing. And as there are three major classes in the game - mage, warrior and archer, essentially - most of the fun comes from banding together a party that will suit your own playstyle. My ageing mage, Dentacles (it's meant to sound like Heracles, but saying it like 'tentacles' is fine too) found it best to have one other mage healing him, with two warriors up front to do the dirty work.

The combat system is varied and deep enough to account for numerous styles, though, and positively encourages ridiculous effort against insurmountable odds. You can actually climb larger enemies like the lumbering Giant or the growling Chimera and stab them while on their backs, and if instructed to do so by using the d-pad, your pawns will do the same.

So pawns are awesome, then? Yes and no. They're helpful and innovative sure, but they do not ever shut up. Ever. Imagine driving to Scotland from Cornwall with two kids jacked up on Monster Energy in the back seats; that's what the pawns are like. It's impossible to gain any sense of mystery or magic from Dragon's Dogma because the whole game is soundtracked by relentless, poorly acted insights into every minute detail in the proceedings.

This is where the cracks start to creep in. This unstoppable noise is incredibly annoying, and it's not helped by Dragon's Dogma's rather punishing structure. While it is a grand open world, with questing, side questing, looting and all that other good stuff, it's best to actually think of it like a game about travelling. Albeit travelling in a time where no one had made a map, and if it gets dark you're basically dead.

Quests are always best approached first thing in the morning, and it's up to you to get where you're going before nightfall, or you're just going to end up falling off a cliff or getting eaten by zombies. The problem is, getting to where you're going is often a dreary trial and error. Never before has a game featured so many dead ends, and the in-game map only reveals itself as you travel. The sense of accomplishment in getting to your destination unharmed is palpable, but so often you'll end up losing half the day walking in the wrong direction, then dying when a Giant spawns one inch in front of you - which feels a bit like a bug. This game has its fair share of technical issues, although to be fair there's nothing here as glaring as Skyrim's buggy launch.

Couple this laborious drudgery with the irritating babble of the pawns, and Dragon's Dogma often feels like a chore. There's so much to admire in the game; a finely tuned gear system, spectacular combat, partner AI that learns and interacts, but the world itself feels more like a space that exists for the sake of it rather than a lived-in world with its own stories and secrets. It's best to think of it as a map where enemies roam, and you're given tremendous tools to take them out. Go in wanting a fulfilling adventure that takes you on a journey, both literal and metaphorical, and you'll surely be disappointed.

This is one of those really tough games to score, because I can easily see how some will love the game's innovations and commitment to preparation and gear-management, while to others it'll feel unplayable. In many ways, Dragon's Dogma is comparable to that other recent Japanese take on the Western RPG, Dark Souls. Both are defiantly obstinate, both offer physical, tangible combat, and both try out clever ways of interacting online. And both, of course, are definitely a matter of taste. Where Dark Souls divides people through design choices, though, Dragon's Dogma's will likely divide through design flaws.

An interesting, ambitious and thought-provoking effort, then, and certainly one with much to be proud of, but not the all-conquering RPG Capcom hoped for.

Version Tested: Xbox 360

New stuff to check out

9 Comments

To add your comment, please login or register

User Comments

Endless's Avatar

Endless@ FantasyMeister

What!? I'ma pop into the Indie I have it pre-ordered at and see what the crack is :)

EDIT: Humbug. They were expecting it today, but it didn't arrive :( They'll probably get it tomorrow now though, which I have conveniently booked off work :D They're gonna text me when the game arrives!
Posted 12:28 on 23 May 2012
FantasyMeister's Avatar

FantasyMeister

I picked up a copy today (yay for indies!). No idea when I'll get around to playing it though due to Diablo III, but just wanted to add that I was sold by the Extended Plays.
Posted 12:02 on 23 May 2012
Whitewolf's Avatar

Whitewolf

Good review and i agree the pawns never shut up lol
Posted 09:39 on 22 May 2012
CharleSketch's Avatar

CharleSketch

As someone said before, the review drifts a bit in the beginning, but it's a fine review. It reads more like an 8 to me, thou.

I've got my mind set on this game anyway, I enjoyed the hell out of the demo and the Super Extended Plays made it look even more fun and gave me a taste of the first couple of hours. I don't know how much time I've spent on the character edit mode in the demo just perfecting the look on my Arisen and my Pawn, and seeing how I loved seeing my character in action as a Strider, it's probable I'll go with that class.

I'd say the so-very-much-talked similarities to both Skyrim and Dark Souls are shallow, at best. All of these have a very detailed open world with its own lore, but they all play very differently. Skyrim is, I think, a bit more passive (unless you got a dragon on your face) and the fighting can get a bit stale, even if the spells look cool. In Dark Souls you have to be on your toes every second, the world is layed out in a very different labyrinth-ish way, and again, the leveling system is PAIN to someone new to the game and the fights can be a bit unexciting... or the total opposite, a stress-filled mess.

The director's and producer's backgrounds on action games is something worth mentioning since it's clearly seen with how the battles in this game look. They're exciting, varied, even a simple fight with a bunch of wolves can be engaging and fun. I'd go out and say that the game is an action game first and an RPG second.

One of the things I've seen most critiqued about the game is the story, in that it's just there without much fanfare or presence. Maybe it is, after all I haven't played it; but from what I've seen and read, it seems like a lot of the story would be subtly referenced, kind of like in Dark Souls. And in this case I like it because it gives me a chance as a player to let my imagination go and really make the character my own, give him his own back-story: Why did he went to fight the dragon? Why does he has those scars? I think silly stuff like that gives it a nice chunk of personal fun, but I admit it's that: personal, all subjective. Maybe some people just want to be given all the background and reasons of their characters and go with the flow.
Posted 17:42 on 21 May 2012
Bloodstorm's Avatar

Bloodstorm

Since when was a 7 deemed a failure?
Posted 16:45 on 21 May 2012
stealth's Avatar

stealth

"In the wake of Japan's dwindling games market"

Your mistaken, its the western market thats dwindling........

"Capcom's been courting the West for most of this console generation"

oh yeah because pheonix wright, okamiden, fighting games, scream the west right?


"Japanese giant's biggest success story the past few years has been with its altogether local flavours of Monster Hunter, which is presumably why its latest attempt at 'going West' has been taken back in-house. "

monster hunter has soul, this doesnt


" In many ways, Dragon's Dogma is comparable to that other recent Japanese take on the Western RPG, Dark Souls. "

from software has been making games like that for generations, western rpg isnt a genre, just a place of dev

damn I am just waiting for a decent review from this site but i guess its impossible
Posted 16:07 on 21 May 2012
Wido's Avatar

Wido

Too much palava (or is spelt palaver?) in the first 4 paragraphs about Capcom's misfortunes thus far to attract western gamers etc and not really diving straight into Dragon's Dogma.

When I first downloaded the demo to Dragon's Dogma the vibes From Software's Dark Souls & Demon Souls comes straight to mind. I like the feel and atmosphere of that nature, yet I wasn't impressed the first time around. I played the demo yesterday as all the talk of Dogma got me intrigued, so I thought I would let the demo to try and win me over, and it did. I did try both prologue and country side quest and I really do like the combat. The use of companions are very useful than compared to most other RPG's.

I can safely say that I will be getting this game this Friday. So long to my no more games till such & such.

Already have a mage/ranger style character that I would like to go down that path.
Posted 11:38 on 21 May 2012
Hooded's Avatar

Hooded

Not bad, I hope to get this. The demo was really good and the Super Extended play made the game look quite interesting.
Posted 10:56 on 21 May 2012
CheekyLee's Avatar

CheekyLee

So, it's not Skyrim? Thanks for the info, but I could have worked that one out just from picking up the box.

EDIT: Sorry, that was maybe a little harsh. Early, pre-coffee, etc.

Point is, though, I kinda want to know what it feels like to ... actually fight the monsters? Are we talking about Colossus style epic battles, or are we just in for running around in circles style wars of attrition?
Posted 09:25 on 21 May 2012

Game Stats

Technical Specs
Dragon's Dogma
7
Out of 10
Dragon's Dogma
  • Interesting connectivity ideas
  • Strong party and gear management
  • Irritating, unrelenting chatter
  • Often laborious
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 25/05/2012
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PS3
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Action
Rating: BBFC 12
Site Rank: 2,124 3
View Full Site