While the rest of us were looking at the big names that made every game of the year list, surly TAYbie Bish decided to look back on Dragon’s Dogma and what made it memorable to him.
It’s a time for people to be figuring out and writing their Game Of The Year lists, re-living the joy of games in months past. We each have our own stand out experiences and very few of us non-journalist/reviewer plebs don’t have the time to play many of the blockbusters or games that were just quiet achievers. Each of these GOTY lists you’ve seen on Potaku have been a very personal list from the games we only managed to play, and that’s fair enough. And that’s why I’d like to give a shout out to a game that was a bit flawed, didn’t receive amazing critical acclaim, but still had great ideas and gameplay and was a boatload of fun, and I encourage you to do the same!
This game was a bit interesting for me. I had read some TAY excitement over Dragon’s Dogma, but I infrequently get wrapped up in game hype, so this sort of blew by me. But when it was released, I was looking for something RPG-y or meaty to sink my teeth into, and I more or less decided to buy it on impulse, and am I ever glad I did.
Dragon’s Dogma is a stab at ‘Western’-style Action RPG from Capcom, who are of course Japanese developers. It’s a bit of a blur between Elder Scrolls and Monster Hunter with a large world for you to traverse on foot; it takes a few in-game days to actually traverse the land from one end to the other. It’s a fairly pretty landscape, too, even if it isn’t too varied with your standard environments such as plains, woods, castles, caves and canyons. You start off as your typical inoffensive resident of a fishing village, but then a Dragon eats your heart and apparently that’s not really some that you are cool with, then things happen. There are some nuggets of good lore in the story, but for the most part, it is fairly ignorable or non-nonsensical, and sometimes it even messes with some of the questing.
The combat system is where the best idea out of this new IP is, however. You can play the game as a hack n’ slash, mapping moves and attacks to the controller’s face buttons and triggers, but there’s a deeper RPG ability system underlying it, almost as good as any MMORPG where you’ll be planning out which specific skills you want to get and what synergises well with other skills and abilities, and how it contributes in fights; area of effect damage, crowd control, defensive buffs, high single target damage, they’re all there, and they’re distributed amongst your Fighter, Ranger and Mage class variants. There aren’t many classes, but most of them play differently enough to be tailored to your fighting style preference.
It’s a good system that will test out your battle party with anything from weak mobs to giant beasts that you can actually climb to try attack it at its weak spot. Cyclops, Griffins, Hydras, Chimeras, and Dragons; all are fair game as you leap onto them as they thrash about to try get you off them. There is a certain exhilaration as you leap onto a Griffin as it flies off and you’re dangling off its back stabbing its wings up in the air, then more joy as you manage to deliver the finishing blow, then sadness as you realise that with the Griffin dead, you’re now falling in the sky, plummeting to your death (but worth it!).
A new mechanic they threw in was a pseudo-multiplayer ‘Pawn’ system. Early on in the game, you create your own companion pawn to fight alongside you, who you can customise however you like, and then you’ll be able to hire two other pawns from any of the other players around the world and swap them out if the time comes. It’s an excellent team management system that gives you great flexibility in your party if you’re not quite able to get past a certain quest or boss. Hiring your friends’ pawns for a while gives them various bonuses and when your friend next logs in, they’ll be informed of how awesome their pawn was in helping you out. Unless you’re a jerk and rate them with one star and send them off with a herb, you horrible friend. While it’s a great system, it’s just a shame that there wasn’t outright co-op multiplayer.
The other major issue with the game is the horrible inventory system. For some reason, Capcom thought a great inventory system would be some sort of Eastern European Inventory-within-Menu-within-Inventory-within-yo-dawg-I-heard-you-like-menus system. It’s not intuitive, and you have to learn to use it, which is detrimental for an RPG where you will be diving into your inventory fairly frequently.
Dragon’s Dogma is a game with a few great ideas that were implemented, but also had other basic gameplay mechanics that were poorly executed. It is a thoroughly fun Action-RPG though, and perhaps with a bit more spit and polish, the confirmed sequel might make it onto some GOTY lists in the upcoming years.