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Dragon's Dogma Review (PS3)

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Dragon's Dogma

Dragon's Dogma

Image © Capcom
"Dragon's Dogma" is the kind of action fantasy game that rewards only the most committed players. There are some role-playing games that are easy to pick up and play, games that someone can just jump into and quickly rise the learning curve to killing dragons in no time. "Dragon Age" and the "Fable" games are good examples. They're complex but not overly demanding. There are other RPGs that require significantly more patience like "Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" or "Dark Souls." In games like these, it's the immersion into a fully-realized world that transports a viewer, not the high-speed action. Welcome to "Dragon's Dogma," a game that is heavy on action but also relies on depth and a long playing time to win over players. It's not a perfect game but it's a surprisingly well-crafted and complex one that should connect with those for whom it was designed.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
  • Genre: Action Role-Playing
  • Pros: Deep World, Engaging Pawn System, Entertaining Combat
  • Cons: Lackluster Storytelling, Generic Side Quests, Poor Dialogue/Character Writing

Developed by members of the Capcom teams that worked on action-heavy game franchises like "Resident Evil" and "Devil May Cry," "Dragon's Dogma" is a title that's heavy on action from the very beginning. Hacking, slashing, casting spells, engaging your allies in combat -- "Dragon's Dogma" will get the blood flowing with every attack. And there will be thousands of said attacks. The world of "Dragon's Dogma" is dominated by combat whether it's grinding on lowly goblins in the woods or surviving a brutal ambush by enemy bandits. What's "grinding," you say? It's the art of killing lesser enemies to raise one's experience level and make you more effective against greater ones. Get used to it in "Dragon's Dogma."

Gameplay

Dragon's Dogma

Dragon's Dogma

Image © Capcom

Like most RPGs, "Dragon's Dogma" begins (after an action-heavy prologue) with character creation. You can choose from a number of classes (Fighter, Strider, Ranger, Mage, and more), choose your gender, and alter your appearance in a number of ways. Unlike a lot of lesser RPGs, these early decisions are crucial. Choosing a fighting class will make for a much more action-heavy experience while a tactical class will have to survive the lengthy story of "Dragon's Dogma" in a different manner.

Fighter or Mage, you won't do it alone. The most innovative aspect of "Dragon's Dogma" is what's called a "Pawn" system. Throughout the game, you will gain and lose allies known as pawns. You will have three of said pawns with you and you can order them around or they will automatically join you in combat. They will often shout out hints and strategy advice, feeling like true members of your party instead of underdeveloped non-playable characters. Choosing your pawns is a strategical venture in that you want a well-balanced team but Capcom also turns it into a social one. While you choose one pawn from the world of the game, your other two pawns can be chosen in an online world from characters created by other players.

The world of "Dragon's Dogma" is immense and fully functioning. Every city you go to feels like it's honestly alive with characters (many of which will have side quests for you) and the player has to deal with real-world elements like the cycle of the sun (hint: try not to travel deserted roads at night). The game boasts dozens of hours of main story quests combined with reportedly 70 hours of side quests. And that doesn't even fully take into account the traditional RPG time drains like grinding or just having to travel by foot from one location to another. "Dragon's Dogma" is HUGE.

It also sometimes feels a bit generic. The combat has some inspired elements (I liked being able to literally grab and climb larger enemies) but it also feels slightly unrefined and familiar. There are times in the heat of battle when you'll have very little idea of what's even going on. And if your pawns are strong enough, you can just step back and watch the action unfold.

The story of "Dragon's Dogma" is also remarkably familiar and not as emotionally engaging as the best RPGs of the last few years. It's not just the world of "Skyrim" that makes it one of the best games of the last few years but what happens within it. I admired the setting and depth of gameplay in "Dragon's Dogma" but the tale of a young hero who discovers he's a chosen one (known as the "Arisen" in this universe) has been done to death and the writing here from the fetch quest structure to the sometimes-awful pawn dialogue is lackluster.

Graphics & Sound

"Dragon's Dogma" looks very refined, especially in its accomplished variety of settings. Many RPGs fall victim to the same dungeon look over and over again but "Dragon's Dogma" has a natural feel that really enhances the overall experience. Still, we're in an age where games like "Skyrim" and "The Witcher 2" are some of the best-looking titles in the last few years of any genre. "DD" doesn't compare to the best-looking RPGs but it looks refined enough so as not to be a distraction. The sound is satisfactory although much of the voice work is below par.

Bottom Line

Dragon's Dogma

Dragon's Dogma

Image © Capcom
Game length has become a major source of player anger in the last few years. It makes sense that in an era of increasingly tight wallets, people would want to make sure they get enough bang for their buck. As far as gameplay for your hard-earned dollar, one cannot deny that "Dragon's Dogma" delivers. I wish the storytelling was more detailed and accomplished but the world is one that I look forward to visiting again. And again. And again. When I have a few dozen hours to play.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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