erobb's Dragon's Dogma (PlayStation 3) review

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  • erobb has written a total of 2 reviews. The last one was for The Banner Saga
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Dragon's Dogma is an interesting take on the genre.

Dragon's Dogma is a hardcore game. And not just in difficulty like Dark Souls. Dragon's Dogma is even more of a throwback. Because the hardcore side of it isn't as immediately apparent. Most people won't notice until they're forced to, and then they'll complain. This is in the game mechanics, deep down. Like having to add oil to your lanterns periodically. To do this you have to have empty flasks, which you then fill up when you find a bucket of oil. Then you have to manually combine the flask with the lantern. That's a three step process to refill your lantern. Hardcore. Your food-based healing items will perish over time. First becoming moldy, but retaining their healing qualities, then they rot, which become hazardous if eaten, and must be sold or discarded. If you want to keep a perishable food item fresh, you have to buy or find airtight jars to store them in. Hardcore. No fast travel either. This is done to force you to interact with the world and it's gorgeous lighting effects. Everything casts a shadow. And even though it's a bright and shiny day, you may find yourself fighting in zero visibility if you're traveling between two cliffs, or in a thickly wooded forest. Also, you'll be forced to account for how long your journey away from town will take. As the sun goes down, it really goes down. Before you know it, it's pitch black and zombies are rising from the ground. This is where the game becomes a struggle for survival. So to all of those who consider the lack of fast travel a flaw, put on your big boy pants. Because Dragon's Dogma is hardcore.

Fast travel has become a common aspect of most open world RPG's. And it's a quality I believe is hurting games like Oblivion and Skyrim. You miss out on the world by fast traveling. You just chase around markers on your map. You travel to the nearest town, run to the marker, do something and fast travel out. Sure you don't have to. You can choose not to fast travel, but when given the option, I think most people can't help but use it. But when Dragon's Dogma forces you to interact with the world, you really get to see the gritty workings of it's world. Every tree, every blade of grass, every shrub blowing in the wind on a particularly windy day. The shaded areas of a wooded patch of forest. The game has a sort of ecosystem. Follow a river and you'll spontaneously find a cyclops bathing in it. Sometimes you'll be running down a road you've traveled a dozen times because it's part of your routine between towns, you'll suddenly come across a burning wagon and a group of bandits will ambush you. A totally organic change up just when you though it was safe to jog back to town to sell your loot. The game world is ever changing and growing. Just when you think you've seen it all a griffin's shadow flies overhead.

Now many of these descriptions will be considered flaws by some gamers. And that ultimately determines how much fun you'll have with Dragon's Dogma. For me personally, those qualities describe a game I've been waiting for since Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind. Sure, later Bethesda games like Fallout 3, Oblivion, and Skyrim have the open world, but they lack a grounded physicality which has been replaced by an arcadey video gameness. Bethesda has sought out accessibility that sacrificed the unbridled freedom of Morrowind. If you turn off the HUD, subtitles, and mini maps in Dragon's Dogma, which is how I play, you're literally told nothing about the game world. It's all for you to discover. I didn't even notice the game had rabbits until I had a quest to kill them. That's when I noticed there were rabbits absolutely everywhere hiding in tall grass.

The game is at a glance ugly. Especially in the horrible first impression the game makes. After a garbage menu screen rock song, and a prologue, the beginning of the game takes place in a dusty, drab, brown city, where your character, wearing ugly drab brown clothing, fights a dragon in a faux battle. Most of this takes place in clunky cut scenes. The ugliness of the character models might scare some away in these opening few hours. But like Dark Souls, Dragon's Dogma makes up for ugly characters with varied, impressively detailed, and good looking armor, clothing, and weaponry. So once you suit up in a real suit of armor, what was an ugly game all of the sudden looks great. Speaking of armor, did I mention you have to buy or find and equip a piece of armor for every body part in addition to a piece of clothing for each body part. Yes, you have to buy/find and equip the full set of clothing that goes under your armor. Did I mention this game is hardcore? The armor also has pretty impressive little details. For example some helmets with visors have the visor flipped open in town, but down like a knight in battle.

The game has a surprising level of verticality to it. Not quite like Assassin's Creed, but impressive nevertheless. You can climb most buildings to get to the rooftops. Sometimes while adventuring to castle ruins, you'll climb mostly destroyed towers, making impossible seeming jumps across destroyed bridges and climbing walls that seem like an invisible fence, only to discover important quest items at the top. You'll be surprised to find that you're going the right way while climbing a seemingly unscalable wall. The game becomes a sort of free form platformer at that point.

The world is a bit empty. Even in a giant open city without invisible fences, the limitations are that most buildings are off limits. Try to open a door and you'll get a message saying "This door is closed." or "'Tis shut tight!" And it's sort of a shame such a great environment would be a bit hollow at it's center. It feels like From Software (the Dark/Demon's Souls guys) made an Elder Scrolls game here. The realistic unstylized armor and weapons combined with strange ambient environments, with sparse soft-toned NPCs. When an NPC has anything to say at all, it's usually in a vaguely worded riddle, in a hushed voice. The citizens sometimes talk negatively about the Pawns, hinting at a classism/racism dynamic. But sadly this is never explored.

I haven't even mentioned the game's key feature: the Pawn system. This taps into something beyond most party based RPG's. You don't just equip them with new gear. You completely guide their habits, mannerisms, vocations, abilities, even their speech patterns and behavior. Do you want your Pawn to run slightly ahead of the group to scout? Or how about a Pawn that gathers all of the loot? Want him to protect the weaker team members or attack the strongest enemy? All of this is customizable. Leading to tinkering and perfecting your Pawn like you would a Pokemon team. Plus, by sharing your Pawn online, you feel a sort of obligation to make him as powerful, and cool looking, as possible. So that others will favorite them, give them gifts, and use them often, netting you Rift Crystals used to recruit stronger Pawns for your team. I find myself buying more expensive gear for my Pawn than my character. I want him wearing the best armor as soon as possible so he'll be more popular. It becomes a point of pride.

There is DLC already, but sadly it's that weird Capcom sort of DLC they just announced they'd stop doing. Pay $1.99 for extra hairstyles! Capcom treats DLC as a sort of microtransactions, like you might see in an MMO. Meanwhile some games get true DLC expansions with story driven content. Hopefully Capcom will flesh out it's amazing shell of a world with some extra story based quests, new monsters, and some new characters. This is a fantastic template. And some more content would really make it great. Or at the very least hopefully the sales are good and this could warrant a sequel. Because with some more polish, a deeper story, and some more co op features, this could truly compete with the Elder Scrolls. Despite it's lack of polish and unforgiving learning curve, this is a great game.

16 Comments
Posted by allgrinzz

Fantastic review. Was on the fence after Patrick's review, but reading this really set it for me to go get this game. I like the hardcore games, I enjoy not fast traveling in Elder scrolls, and the ecosystem you talked about sounds amazing. Great work on the review and thanks. ^^

Posted by xXDiabloFanXx

Very nice review my man. I hope to get into this game as you describe. I'll comment on it at a later time.

Posted by Karkarov

Nice write up, points out the flaws but doesn't exaggerate them or take off more than they are worth. Dragon's Dogma has plenty of issues, but they are hardly game breaking and Patricks review blew quite a few of them completely out of proportion because he did a bare minimum main story only playthrough.

Posted by Harpell

Awesome review, duder. Was on the fence on this one, but now I think I'll pick it up.

Posted by Ujio

Pretty good review. I'm still not sold on the game, however. I did notice something in your review that maybe you can clarify. You said,

Sometimes you'll be running down a road you've traveled a dozen times because it's part of your routine between towns, you'll suddenly come across a burning wagon and a group of bandits will ambush you. A totally organic change up just when you though it was safe to jog back to town to sell your loot.

Which seems to directly contrast Patrick's remarks when he says,

The same set of goblins and bandits just outside the main capital are there every time you leave. Every. Single. Time. There is no variation. No matter how often you kill them, they all come right back.

So which is it?

Posted by theinnkeeper

@Ujio said:

Pretty good review. I'm still not sold on the game, however. I did notice something in your review that maybe you can clarify. You said,

Sometimes you'll be running down a road you've traveled a dozen times because it's part of your routine between towns, you'll suddenly come across a burning wagon and a group of bandits will ambush you. A totally organic change up just when you though it was safe to jog back to town to sell your loot.

Which seems to directly contrast Patrick's remarks when he says,

The same set of goblins and bandits just outside the main capital are there every time you leave. Every. Single. Time. There is no variation. No matter how often you kill them, they all come right back.

So which is it?

Seems to be both. Patrick is right that there are set encounters that respawn everyday. The randomness seems to be in the big creatures such as chimeras. I've only played around 15 hours so someone correct me if I'm wrong.

Posted by ERoBB

It does seem to be both. There are certain mobs that will be in the same spot every single time you pass by, assuming you've entered a town since you killed them last. But I've also come across a bunch of seemingly random events.

Posted by Karkarov

@theinnkeeper said:

@Ujio said:

Pretty good review. I'm still not sold on the game, however. I did notice something in your review that maybe you can clarify. You said,

Sometimes you'll be running down a road you've traveled a dozen times because it's part of your routine between towns, you'll suddenly come across a burning wagon and a group of bandits will ambush you. A totally organic change up just when you though it was safe to jog back to town to sell your loot.

Which seems to directly contrast Patrick's remarks when he says,

The same set of goblins and bandits just outside the main capital are there every time you leave. Every. Single. Time. There is no variation. No matter how often you kill them, they all come right back.

So which is it?

Seems to be both. Patrick is right that there are set encounters that respawn everyday. The randomness seems to be in the big creatures such as chimeras. I've only played around 15 hours so someone correct me if I'm wrong.

The randomness comes down to a few different elements. First, time of day. Different enemies are around at different times of the day. What might be bandits in the morning could be necromancers if you come by at midnight. Second there is a very limited weather system to the game. Some days it will be sort of "foggy" and by foggy I mean like really really mildly, other days it will be cloudy, and most of the time it is just sunny. Again, different weather conditions different enemies will be around. And of course there are also a few spots where mini or full on boss monsters might randomly spawn and a couple instances where a person might be taken hostage and you need to free them from the slightly more BA group of enemies than is normally there.

It isn't Skyrim level random no. But you will see different enemies in places from times to time and every once and awhile there is even a set piece one off battle. It does take at least a full in game day for respawn. If you kill some goblins outside town, run around, then come back 20 minutes later they are still dead. Just remember sleeping advances that day/night cycle so if you rest a bunch expect to deal with a lot of respawn.

Posted by Stimpack

I'm sorry, but this should be the definitive Dragon's Dogma review. Well-written, and fair. I think I'd like to have read something about the asynchronous events, such as the Ur-Dragon, and I did feel as if it was missing out on a couple of other subjects. All in all, though, a good general review of the game.

Posted by falling_fast

very well written review. thanks, dude

Posted by maestro17

Patricks review is spot-on. However, the weight he places upon the successes and shortcomings is flawed. That the Pawn system (creating and sharing) works so well is enough to warrant 3 stars in in this less than robust open-worlder. But add to that the incredibly satisfying and customizable combat system and you've got 4 stars easily. The harcore mechanics are fantastic and refreshing, and not having some sort of co-op is the only thing keeping this shy of 5 stars. At least for my wife and me. A two player co-op, each with their main pawn would've been AWESOME. DLC? great review, and I highly recommend this game

Posted by MajesticOverlord

If I'd have to sum up the review with one word it would be, Hardcore.

Posted by Moxy

great ,Fair Review. Only played a few hours last night but im really enjoying it so far.

Edited by MonkeyKing1969

@Ujio said:

Pretty good review. I'm still not sold on the game, however. I did notice something in your review that maybe you can clarify. You said,

Sometimes you'll be running down a road you've traveled a dozen times because it's part of your routine between towns, you'll suddenly come across a burning wagon and a group of bandits will ambush you. A totally organic change up just when you though it was safe to jog back to town to sell your loot.

Which seems to directly contrast Patrick's remarks when he says,

The same set of goblins and bandits just outside the main capital are there every time you leave. Every. Single. Time. There is no variation. No matter how often you kill them, they all come right back.

So which is it?

The game respawns enemies, but it replaces them with different numbers and increases enemy counts at night. That is one thing it does well, if you really want to be a hero and creep around at night expect to meet MOBS of enemies. Certainly, the system is more advanced then what Skyrim’s in the day nigh cycle.

UPDATE (3-12-13): I was a little off. Enemies like goblins carry torches at night so their numbers appear greater (but it is the same count), nevertheless very often some areas have day enemies and then night enemies...so that's nice. Still love the game, but after the second or third play-through you'd wish the game game had some variability.

Posted by ChernobylCow

Cool review. You're first 3 paragraphs are very illuminating. The game is on sale for $12.99 on gamefly so I am considering picking it up considering that it's a console exclusive at this point. Keep up the good work!

Other reviews for Dragon's Dogma (PlayStation 3)

    So, so good. 0

    This might just be my favorite RPG of this generation.Take a dose of Monster Hunter, mix in some Oblivion, and top it off with a bit of Dark Souls and you'll have an approximation of Dragon's Dogma. I cannot stop singing this game's praises. It's the perfect balance between Japanese and American RPGs. If it had some way to enslave and train monsters as an additional pet, I daresay it might just be perfect.The Good:The open world gives the freedom it should, but without the ease of getting lost t...

    1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

    Capcom's Tour de Force 0

    Capcom really took the other developer's to school with a game that should become a franchise. Dragon's Dogma is a spit fire that really shines and rarely shows a lack of finish, although it does at times. I would suggest that every player worth their RPG salt invest some serious time in this title.We will start with the quick overview of the bad. There will be odd clipping events and the camera, in the tradition of Capcom, gets a little wild and makes it hard to focus at times. The targeting sy...

    1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

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