Day 7: I awoke to a darkened room. The red standby light emanating from the base of the display was my only indication I still inhabited any mortal coil. This familiar, even calming, sight did not stem the strange feeling crawling up the base of my spine. I opened my mouth to speak only to hear a lady’s voice leap from my lips. I awoke to a darkened room. The red standby light had been waiting for me.
Dragon’s Dogma is a single player action role playing game developed by Capcom for the Playstation 3 and Xbox. The player is able to select between various types of vocations in the game as well as gender choice and appearance settings. One of the main innovations is the ‘pawn’ system where the player is accompanied by three other AI controlled players, one of which the player has direct control over and can be configured at whim. There is also the ability to take screenshots directly from the game and upload them to Facebook.
The Single Player campaign lasts for around 40 to 60 hours depending on how much exploration or side quests the player chooses to do. During this time it is essential the player looks to the composition of their party and swap in and out members to ensure progress is possible. It is worth noting this game does not hold the player’s hand in any shape or form. Enemies, areas and quests do not have level markers, essential parts of the world’s background story which affect the player can be missed, the ability to fast travel back to the capital, or a second place the player manually designates with a beacon, from anywhere on the map can be missed and finally additional pawn customisations can be missed. The reviewer does not view these points in a bad light but merely the cornerstone of an open world.
At the start of the game the player creates their main pawn who will follow them during the course of the game. This main pawn has various characteristics which are mostly set at the beginning of the game but which can be adjusted slightly at knowledge chairs during the game or reset totally using special potions. Care should be taken when answering the pawn questions as it is easy to create a pawn who will not do anything to help the player or team members during battle or even one which will actively avoid combat and just pick up loot. This is another cornerstone to an open world where the player creates their pawn as they choose.
As the player kills creatures or completes quests they earn a multitude of points and money. Collecting enough experience points will automatically level up the player, rift crystals will enable the player to purchase pawns above their level or special items from vendors, vocation points which will allow the player to unlock new skills, discipline points can purchase the skills unlocked by the vocation points or change vocation entirely, enemy familiarity points which as they increase enable pawns to better fight enemies or support the player and finally money allows the player to purchase items. Equipment can be levelled up at specific vendors providing the player has the necessary items and money. This will improve the item’s stats as well as decrease its weight.
Active skills are split into two categories: primary and secondary. On the player these options will appear depending whether the player has their primary or secondary weapon equipped. For mage pawns this will control which spells they cast whilst in and out of combat or for other pawns which they will cast depending on the situation.
Bosses and mini bosses appear at various times during the game and take on various forms complete with their own, sometimes very amusing, animations. The player soon learns how to defeat these powerful creatures either by pawns passing on advice or via experimentation whilst crawling over creatures. An additional nice touch is some creatures respond to the gender of some party members and will specifically target them.
Additionally world time is implemented in the game and during the night period the player will have to use their lantern to illuminate the area surrounding them. This can lead to several tense moments when low level characters are rushing to complete quests or make it back to the capital and encounter new enemies which only come out during night time.
Two other pawns, levelled by other players, can be searched for and selected by the active player when they activate a rift stone. It is possible to hire pawns who have already completed the player’s active quest who will gladly inform and guide the player to a destination. When in another person’s game a pawn will earn both rift crystals and knowledge which will be returned to their master when they are dismissed.
Despite the amount of love being put into this game it is not perfect. The most unacceptable, and cost the game one point, is the single file save game. Whilst this can be navigated around rather inconveniently by using memory sticks, the inbuilt hard drive or cloud it is inexcusable – in this humble reviewer’s opinion – to have an open world where mistakes can be easily made and ruin hours of work. Creating a new character and keeping saved data from another can also be very difficult.
The second point which cost the game its other point is just how disjointed the storyline is in the beginning, almost as though the team was not used to working with each other or merely warming up. In the end game the story and game play improves dramatically, cumulating in a memorable ending which could only have been improved if more time had been spent allowing the player to connect with the important NPCs.
Another annoyance is the sheer amount of incessant chatter emanating from the pawns following the hero. Quite literally every five seconds of the 50 hours the review played this game at least one pawn was saying something which was, far more often than not, mentioned the last time a player navigated through an area. The reviewer eventually learnt to filter this out. Also annoying is the AI sometimes being unresponsive to the four commands (Go, Come and 2x help) which the player can issue making retreating an impossible exercise.
Overall, despite most of the good points being marred by annoying bad ones, Capcom should be applauded for trying something different and coming up with a flawed yet unique gem. Literally an open world which will satisfy those prepared to put in the effort. The reviewer completed this game over seven days before falling asleep in his gaming chair when the final credits rolled.