Reviewed for Xbox 360
Rating: 7 out of 10
Dragon’s Dogma is a pretty good game. I’ll cut right to the chase – the game is good, not great, the open world is fun to explore, characters are fun to level up and build out inventories, but overall the game just doesn’t feel quite polished. Yes, it’s fun to fight wolves. And yes, it annoys the hell out of me to hear one of my pawns yell “Master, wolves travel in packs” after we’ve killed them all.
The story begins with your character being naught but a humble fisherman, or fisherwoman. A big dragon comes and kills an awful lot of people. You attack it. For some reason the dragon knocks you down to the ground and stands over you saying something in Latin – and then plucks your heart out. When you wake up, it is explained to you that you are now an Arisen and your job is to combat evil since you’re by far the most powerful human in the land.
One innovative aspect to Dragon’s Dogma is the use of the “pawn” system. Essentially, the world is full of AI partners for you to command to join your party. They pawns fight independently – it’s true, just watch them charge past you to engage an enemy you’re trying to avoid – and also respond, albeit somewhat loosely, to your commands. Commands, accessed by pressing the d-pad, consist of “go”, “come”, and “help me”. I personally found “go” to be the best command so I could send the fodder forward while I hung back and shot the enemy with my bow. Supposedly the pawns learn from you, but in my 20 hours of game play I didn’t really see any behavior from the pawns that I could refer to as learned. What they are very good at is filling the world (and the screen, of which the readout can be turned off) with insipid statements like “Duh, that castle looks so big from afar” and “Many a citizen has met an unfortunate death by falling from a great height”. There is no end to how many times they’ll repeat the same thing; annoyingly many times it is a useless color comment. This can’t be turned off. The closest you can get to turning it off is to turn off all voices and then turn off pawn transcripts.
The pawns are pretty helpful and it is a cool idea to be able to swap them in and out depending on your mission. Players utilizing Xbox LIVE® or PlayStation®Network, can rent out their main Pawn companion to friends as temporary secondary Pawns in those parties. Whatever experience is gained by the rented Pawn on these excursions is brought back in the form of strategic knowledge and even loot. Conversely, players can borrow friends’ Pawns with the specific skills or experience beneficial to tackling a particular quest. A Facebook and Twitter compatible photo share feature allows players to capture in-game screens in order to promote the use of their main Pawn by others. Additionally, Dragon’s Dogma will ship with thousands of ready-made Pawns for players to pick their allies offline.
I’m not sure that I approve of Dragon’s Dogma’s graphics. Admittedly, this game is not pretending to be visually stunning. And there are some vistas that are quite pretty, especially if you’re watching the sun rise or set. But this game does not have good graphics, collision detection is way off (I like walking through trees and walls), and items mysteriously appear on screen. I find the last aspect particularly distressing. I turn a corner and look down a hall. There’s nothing there. And yet, when I walk down the hall the air shimmers and baddah-bing baddah-boom there’s a big pile of crates that look like they were there the whole time.
In some ways playing Dragon’s Dogma was a little tedious, but to be fair I do find most of these RPGs a bit tedious. The fetch quests and the stupid annoying enemies sometimes made me want to just put down the controller and walk away. For now I think the fun outweighs the tedium, but that might change at some point. It always feels like the game is just about to get good, like all the elements are almost in place, but it’s a tease, at least up until now which is about 15 hours into the game.
I mean, does the average gamer really want to run around and pick flowers while fighting spiders and seagulls? I would rather fight something that I don’t get to fight in my daily life.
This is one area where Dragon’s Dogma doesn’t disappoint; the bigger, badder enemies and the bosses are pretty fun to fight. In some ways I’m reminded of Shadows of the Colossus as the monsters are big and require a number of steps to defeat. For example, I fought a hydra where I had to defeat each head instead of simply whacking away at the enemy wherever I pleased. It is very cool that I can jump up on an enemy and hang on it, like to jump up on an ogre’s shoulders to stab and it in the head. Or my personal favorite, mounting a cow and then slitting its throat to get its steak for nourishment.
There’s a lot to explore in Dragon’s Dogma and there’s a lot to like. Unfortunately, there’s also some (not a lot) to not like. It’s also important to remember that I’m typically bored by these RPGs. And bored by Dragon’s Dogma I am. However, if you’re an RPG-lover, and maybe you are or you wouldn’t be reading this, then there’s enough here for you to have fun with for hours and hours.
And yes, I know this is a mixed review.