Dragon’s Dogma has been advertised as an imported take on classic RPG games that have originated here in the States. It was said to offer a large, expansive world with character customization and customizable companions who will follow the player on their journey and offer advice and combat support, all while bringing a personal touch to the gaming experience.
While the title does indeed offer a large world, there are few hills to climb with both the gameplay itself and the experiences that come with having a customized group following you around. Yes, you can create your own character and play in a class you prefer, such as a dual-wielding dagger assassin complete with a secondary long bow as a back-up or even as a two-handed swordsman, but most of the downfalls in the game are due to the blatant imbalances in the difficulty. The game seems to randomly jump from mobs being on-level with you to having mobs that are far beyond your current capabilities.
The story of Dragon’s Dogma begins with a very oddly well-spoken dragon who decides to stick its fingernail into your chest and eat your heart like it’s made of Tic-Tacs. For some reason or another, you come back and you’re given the new nickname of “Arisen.” If you had an actual name before then, no one seems to really care about it.
With great cinematics and opening soundtrack, it doesn’t take long for feelings to set in that you’re about to start playing a well-planned-out RPG. It actually leaves you wanting to meet your companion, but there’s some bad news. Apparently, the entire race of the Pawns hasn’t a single personality between the lot of them. Unlike some other RPGs that allow for companion-type characters to join your party, these rarely have anything interesting to say.
If you’re looking for a game where the companions and followers makes witty comments, bicker amongst themselves, and make flirtatious advances towards your character, this isn’t the game for you. Instead, the comments made by the Pawns sound as if they were written by Captain Obvious. The constant alerts to finding small things on the ground, that doors are locked, that zombies are scary-looking, and that fire is hot will either have you muting your sound or finding a way to simply tune it out.
One of the redeeming factors, however, is the combat. The highly interactive fighting that involves yourself and your companions consist of something more than lot of button mashing. Most areas will require you to plan ahead. Equipping lanterns in dark dungeons or at night means that you’ll be going into your inventory menu and manually putting them onto your character. You also want to make sure that companions are carrying both tools and curatives before going into major battles, which they’ll activate whenever they believe it’s the right time to use them. Another interactive feature is the chance to complete triggered combo moves.
Triggered combo moves with your companion are highlighted when one of your Pawns call out to you for assistance. Time will slow down as the camera zooms in, showing exactly what is expected of you. For example, if your Pawn grabs an enemy from behind, the camera will slowly zoom up to show what is being done. It’s up to you to rotate and move your character properly in order to finish an attack. The trigger modes aren’t dictated by certain skills, either, unlike a few other games which require you to hit certain buttons in order to complete the sequence.
Instead, you’re given the freedom to determine which skill in your set would be good for closing the gap and finishing off the creature. Other combinations could be that one of your Pawns announces that they have knocked an enemy from the sky, or has pinned a beast down with their heel. Successful completion of these triggers will raise your companion’s skills and make them much more efficient in combat. You could look at it as a type of affection meter, in a way.
The monsters of Dragon’s Dogma range from being acceptably easy to annoyingly difficult. The mobs are imbalanced, which can either be taken as a good or bad thing. On one hand, you have what I like to call, “Surprise Mobs.” One minute, you’ll be feeling pretty good about yourself for killing a group of zombies, walking skeletons and poison-spitting spiders. The next minute, and just behind the group you decimated, there can be a normal-looking enemy who then one-shots your entire group in a matter of seconds. Surprise!
On the other hand, there are also giant monsters who look extremely scary and difficult, who are most likely just that. There isn’t much of a surprise there, and if you decide to pick a fight then you are expected to be prepared for the worse. The only way to really spare your pain, misery, and sometimes just flat out embarrassment, is to save constantly. You also must constantly upgrade your secondary Pawns, and I recommend going over your own level by at least five or more just to be on the safe side.
Without saving, you’ll be in for a world of hurt and frustration while trying to battle through both open area quests and dungeons alike. The quests are unmarked and unleveled for the most part, leaving you with the assumption that if something is too difficult, come back and fight another day. As your Pawns will say quite often, “There is no shame in running away from a difficult fight.”