Take a smattering of Capcom’s finest games – a dash of Monster Hunter, a pinch of Breath of Fire and maybe a seasoning of Devil May Cry – and you’ll begin to picture just what Capcom’s latest game, Dragon’s Dogma, really is. Their latest foray into an open-world with plenty of combat and big huge monsters, Dragon’s Dogma promised to deliver a brilliant blend between eastern and western RPG mechanics. But can they call it a success?
What Dragon’s Dogma Got Right
Character customisation - Customisation is typical of “western” RPGs, even though this is a Japanese-developed game. I’m a guy who likes to invest a little time into creating a character. If I’m going to spend 50+ hours on a game, I don’t want to hate the way I look. Typically in eastern RPGs, your character is pre-generated so that a story can be moulded around the personality the studio made. In most western RPGs, however, you customise your character how you see fit and the model is just tossed into cut-scenes.
Dragon’s Dogma takes the latter approach, allowing you to craft your character how you see fit to be whatever shape and size you want, and then just places it into the scenes necessary. While really neat, the downside to this is your character is plagued by the silent protagonist bug.
The detail is amazing -
If you’re going to make a game with huge monsters, you want your animations up to scratch to match. Thankfully, due their experience with the Monster Hunter franchise, Capcom realised the need for beauty and detail in such a game, and they have not disappointed. The animations – anything from sword-swinging to fireballs flying through the sky to trolls picking you up and smashing you into the ground – are simply superb.
I threw a barrel of explosives down its throat, climbed up the hydra and stabbed the barrel causing an explosion and the decapitation of a head. This was just a typical boss fight.
The detail in the monsters is comparably amazing. Goblins vary in size and arms, Chimera are utterly terrifying and the undead are chillingly grotesque. I’ll never forget the first time I stumbled upon a chimera in the wild. I was travelling to a magical fountain, and the chimera stumbles out of the woods ahead of me. Instead of giving into fear, I charged ahead… while it charged my party. I clambered onto its back while it tore my party to shreds. I eventually managed to slice off the snake portion, and then silenced the goat, and then finally slaughtered the chimera… while barely living and my party lay in shambles.
Then the chimera decided to roar before carking it, attracting a horde of snow harpies and direwolves. I ran, quite quickly, but I’d never had so much fun before – not even in something like Skyrim.
Combat is a hell of a lot of fun -
In case you can’t tell, I’m a huge fan of the combat system. When you generate your character you pick a profession from the typical trinity – warrior, mage or rogue – and then get involved in combat. Fighters deal in close range quarters, utilising anything from wide sweeps and powerful thrusts to launching allies into the air to utilising shields in offensive and defensive combat.
Mages are typical – they blow things up with fire, heal other things and enchant weapons to do more damage. Finally, rogues – called Striders a la Lord of the Rings – shoot things and then stab them when they get too close. Utilising all three classes – and their upgrades – in your party and in combat is the key to effective gameplay. If you rock a party of 4 fighters, you won’t be able to kill Spirits and will struggle with undead. Conversely, if you have only striders and mages you’ll die at your first troll. This balance, combined with the frantic nature of open combat, leads to a hell of a lot of fun and frustration.
Boss fights are wicked -
Combine my previous points and it’s easy to see why boss fights are wicked. Bosses are huge, imposing creatures that have thousands and thousands of health points, they knock your party and allies flying with simple sweeps and require knowledge picked up through experience to defeat.
In my journey, I fought a Hydra – I couldn’t cut through its necks because the scales were like armour and I had really poor gear. So, I threw a barrel of explosives down its throat, climbed up the hydra and stabbed the barrel causing an explosion and the decapitation of a head. This was just a typical boss fight, too – there are several throughout the game, and there are even fights that are just as difficult and exciting but aren’t boss fights.
What Dragon’s Dogma Got Wrong
AI is a bit poor -
For a game that relies so heavily on AI (your party is computer-controlled) the AI is a little… bad. It’s not so abysmal that you should never use AI as they do stupid things constantly, it’s just not amazing. They will regularly not dodge attacks or block, or run off and not follow you, or not focus what you’re focusing on doing.
However, they have a knack for finding good items in the wild, so it’s not all bad I suppose.
Bland environments -
Gransys, the land Dragon’s Dogma takes place in, is not a bright place. There’s a variety of places to explore and enjoy, sure – waterfall caves, forests, a giant city – but none of it is really varied. The rough edges around the graphics of the world really detract from the quality of the enemies. It’s all grey with trees here and there and ruins everywhere else. Honestly, it’s a minor thing that Capcom can easily solve in the next game, should they choose to release it – give a variety of places to fight enemies, from wide fields to grand forests to mountains, with a bit of colour to boot.
The Final Verdict
Dragon’s Dogma is a very solid piece of work that Capcom should be proud of. If you ever find yourself looking for a fresh new experience, check it out. The gameplay alone will keep you thoroughly entertained, even though by the end of it you will still have no idea what the Dragon’s Dogma actually is.
By Thomas Robinson - Bio