It’s been interesting to see how a Japanese developer took on a the task of developing a typically Western role-playing experience. Capcom’s ambitious project Dragon’s Dogma is definitely not the typical Japanese role-playing experience.
But is that enough to ensure that it will appeal to anyone that enjoys playing the likes of Fallout and Elder Scrolls?
Dragon’s Dogma is set in a medieval world, where the population is being terrorized by a dragon. It all starts out promising with the player given the freedom to create a custom character. This is extremely easy, thanks to the superb customization options available.
It’s then up to the Arisen character to single handedly take down the mighty dragon. This is not a new idea when it comes to the role-playing genre, but it still initially seems like a promising tale.
However, it is soon clear that narrative is not the best aspect in Dragon’s Dogma. Any story elements are brief ,and it’s even possible to guess most of what happens before hand. Perhaps the biggest let-down is the fact that not a lot of the main quests are actually linked to the storyline.
Obviously, part of the role-playing experience is to do side quests. But the main issue is that anyone just interested in story related quests, will still have to do some quests that don’t advance the plot. These offending quests typically ask the player to go find someone in another area.
This wouldn’t pose that much of a problem, if there wasn’t so much walking involved. Another small issue is how difficult it is to find quest locations, when making use of the map. The markers used are not very helpful in guiding player towards the objective. It more often ends up leading towards a dead end.
Quests are planned so that most of the times, it literally takes twenty minutes to get to a destination. It’s all very exciting at first since there is a lot to explore. But there is so much sightseeing that someone can take in, before it all starts to look the same. Specially in a video-game set in a huge rural area.
There is no easy way to skip these long walks, but those that look will find the Ferrystone transportation system. The problem is that it requires placing transportation stones in locations, so a Ferrystone is used to move to one of them.
The good news is that Dragon’s Dogma is an excellent experience for most of the journey. It manages to include a superb item management system. It’s easy to use items when in combat, by selecting from a categorized item menu. It also makes it extremely simple to perform other tasks, such as buying equipment and using it. Each character has an item limit, so it encourages the player to think carefully about what items to carry.
There are other features that work really well such as the fact that there is a night and day cycle. Traveling at night is dangerous since it’s harder to see what far into the darkness. Dragon’s Dogma contains the typical role-playing roles, which are called vocations, such as the fighter.
What’s so great about it is that the player is allowed to change vocations. This makes it possible to adapt to various situations by choosing a different vocation. It’s but one of the many reasons why Dragon’s Dogma feels so unique when compared to similar video-games.
One of the best features in Dragon’s Dogma is the inclusion of helpers called pawns. The player can create a pawn, and recruit a specific set of other pawns, by using a Rift stone gateway. What is so special about it, is that these extra pawns all belong to online players. It’s fascinating to see all the different pawns. That others have created. The full version is a lot tougher than the demo, so it’s handy that the pawns are resourceful.
The player created pawn will behave according to how a few questions are answered. This makes for a valuable ally when facing tougher battles. The player created pawn is the only companion that levels up. But it’s easy to change rented pawns, so that the player can pick better ones.
A rift crystal amount ensures that players can only rent pawns that match their current skill level. It’s possible to rate rented pawns and send a gift to the owner. The pawn system is a superb feature, that demonstrates how Dragon’s Dogma isn’t just another forgettable role playing experience.
Something else that Dragon’s Dogma does really well, is the monster fights. There aren’t a lot of giant beasts to face off, but the likes of the Chimera and Cockatrice won’t disappoint. Perhaps the only downside is that different variations of these creatures pop up later on.
It makes it seem like the developers ran out of time, and obviously had to resort to recycling some of the earlier monsters. But it’s very exciting to fight off the bigger monsters, since it requires a different approach to successfully defeat each of them. It’s even better because the characters can even scale these large scale beasts. It will use up the stamina bar though, so it’s wise to only do it when the timing is right.
Visually Dragon’s Dogma succeeds in creating a vast area that the player can explore. Admittedly some of it isn’t that exciting to explore, but some key locations more than make up for it. The story related sections are interesting enough to make it to the end.
It will take some time to finish the main story, with plenty more to do in terms of side quests, and other content. Just make sure to save regularly. It’s also important to note that it’s not possible to do current side-quests, once the player accepts certain story quests.
Dragon’s Dogma is an interesting take on the traditional Western role playing experience. It’s just a shame that it’s not possible to fully enjoy it, due to a few dubious design choices. It certainly has all the makings of a video-game that can measure up to high standards set by the competition, but it fails to make the most of them. It’s still a fantastic video-game in its own right, but it has too many minor flaws to make it the fantastic experience, that it should have been.
Capcom deserves a round of applause for making such a major gamble with Dragon’s Dogma – specially in a world where publishers like to play it safe.
It’s not for everyone but role playing fans will certainly get a kick out of Dragon’s Dogma, if they can see past those flaws.