Dark Monster Souls Hunter: the Dragon's Dogma Demo write-up

What you say about my game?

This demo is dumb Shawn lol” read the message in KakaoTalk from my wife. A real understanding of what Dragon’s Dogma is has been hard for me to come by and this foreboding message was as close to a cut and dry explanation as I’d come. A “Japanese Skyrim” or “another Monster Hunter knockoff” seem to be the most frequent comments but now I’ve played it myself and I can definitively tell you that it’s... well, it’s like... uhm...

Dark Souls meets Monster Hunter. Having barely played either of those titles I still feel totally comfortable in telling you that’s how Dragon’s Dogma boils down... probably. Obtuse systems and peculiar terminology mixed with epic fights against giant beasts in an open world. There, now you’ve got it.

The demo throws you straight into things with its “Prologue Quest” and offers only a couple screens that break down what the buttons do. And wow, there’s a lot of button combos. Blocking with your shield enables 2 attacks and an Aggro call while you have a default Regular and Strong attack as well as 3 more combos that use your stamina. An inventory of found ingredients and a screen full of numbers and status symbols await you if you press the Back button. There’s nowhere you can go in this game that doesn’t initially look overwhelming.

Your companions -- flippantly referred to as “pawns” who can be warped to you at special stones -- try to help but they’ve clearly played this game before. Mimicking the live chat of an MMO, their comments and hints are constantly scrolling up the left hand side of the screen as they run directly into combat with or without you. You’ve got a few commands on the D-pad but no matter how frequently I called them to my side they would always run off chasing the story while I was trying to get my bearings. You can’t live without them, though, as they are the A.I. embodiments of your MMO hotbar. A mage will cast healing spells or buff your weapons while another brute will yell out that he’s going to draw the beast’s attention. Still other characters will be shouting out hints and offering to launch you onto whatever monster is around.

"Hey watch out sir, that goblin is about to hit you in the face and you know how bad your acne is already!"

At one point I referred to them as my three moms, constantly telling me to do this or watch out for that. “Let him do it himself, it’s the only way he’s going to learn,” I hear an imaginary dad say, one I wish was in the game to assuage the fears of my pawns. Maybe there’s a way to tailor the behavior of at least one pawn -- your dedicated follower -- but I sure didn’t see it in my five runs through the demo.

I also wasn’t aware that there are character classes in this game! The Prologue Quest forces you to use the default fighter dude but the second demo mission lets you use anyone you’ve made in the world’s worst character creator. Without explanation you choose a class based on a single visual of what look to be monks, mages, rangers, warriors and the like. Seriously, they don’t even give them a name, I just picked a lady who looked like Legolas. Sure enough she wields dual blades, ditches the shield for a bow and has amazingly different moves than the default dude. Then it’s off to fiddle with their physical appearance which can be tweaked to create some truly horrific (but also recognizable) figures. Sliders define how “ladylike” or “confident” a character is while wrinkles can be added but only to the head. It is perfectly bizarre and totally Japanese and you can expect it to be a short-lived meme or a Joystiq header image.

I never did get to really sink into Dark Souls so I’m hopeful that Dragon’s Dogma will be my perplexingly difficult fantasy adventure game to comprehend and conquer. It seems like there’s a ton to learn and even more to customize about your character and those nannying pawns. I don’t think the demo does a good job of explaining exactly what the game is but at least I know how it plays and can say for certain that I really want to dig into it. Check out the demo yourself (it’s out on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) because if you’ve read this far you’re clearly as intrigued by the game as I am.

15 Comments
15 Comments
Posted by ShawnS
What you say about my game?

This demo is dumb Shawn lol” read the message in KakaoTalk from my wife. A real understanding of what Dragon’s Dogma is has been hard for me to come by and this foreboding message was as close to a cut and dry explanation as I’d come. A “Japanese Skyrim” or “another Monster Hunter knockoff” seem to be the most frequent comments but now I’ve played it myself and I can definitively tell you that it’s... well, it’s like... uhm...

Dark Souls meets Monster Hunter. Having barely played either of those titles I still feel totally comfortable in telling you that’s how Dragon’s Dogma boils down... probably. Obtuse systems and peculiar terminology mixed with epic fights against giant beasts in an open world. There, now you’ve got it.

The demo throws you straight into things with its “Prologue Quest” and offers only a couple screens that break down what the buttons do. And wow, there’s a lot of button combos. Blocking with your shield enables 2 attacks and an Aggro call while you have a default Regular and Strong attack as well as 3 more combos that use your stamina. An inventory of found ingredients and a screen full of numbers and status symbols await you if you press the Back button. There’s nowhere you can go in this game that doesn’t initially look overwhelming.

Your companions -- flippantly referred to as “pawns” who can be warped to you at special stones -- try to help but they’ve clearly played this game before. Mimicking the live chat of an MMO, their comments and hints are constantly scrolling up the left hand side of the screen as they run directly into combat with or without you. You’ve got a few commands on the D-pad but no matter how frequently I called them to my side they would always run off chasing the story while I was trying to get my bearings. You can’t live without them, though, as they are the A.I. embodiments of your MMO hotbar. A mage will cast healing spells or buff your weapons while another brute will yell out that he’s going to draw the beast’s attention. Still other characters will be shouting out hints and offering to launch you onto whatever monster is around.

"Hey watch out sir, that goblin is about to hit you in the face and you know how bad your acne is already!"

At one point I referred to them as my three moms, constantly telling me to do this or watch out for that. “Let him do it himself, it’s the only way he’s going to learn,” I hear an imaginary dad say, one I wish was in the game to assuage the fears of my pawns. Maybe there’s a way to tailor the behavior of at least one pawn -- your dedicated follower -- but I sure didn’t see it in my five runs through the demo.

I also wasn’t aware that there are character classes in this game! The Prologue Quest forces you to use the default fighter dude but the second demo mission lets you use anyone you’ve made in the world’s worst character creator. Without explanation you choose a class based on a single visual of what look to be monks, mages, rangers, warriors and the like. Seriously, they don’t even give them a name, I just picked a lady who looked like Legolas. Sure enough she wields dual blades, ditches the shield for a bow and has amazingly different moves than the default dude. Then it’s off to fiddle with their physical appearance which can be tweaked to create some truly horrific (but also recognizable) figures. Sliders define how “ladylike” or “confident” a character is while wrinkles can be added but only to the head. It is perfectly bizarre and totally Japanese and you can expect it to be a short-lived meme or a Joystiq header image.

I never did get to really sink into Dark Souls so I’m hopeful that Dragon’s Dogma will be my perplexingly difficult fantasy adventure game to comprehend and conquer. It seems like there’s a ton to learn and even more to customize about your character and those nannying pawns. I don’t think the demo does a good job of explaining exactly what the game is but at least I know how it plays and can say for certain that I really want to dig into it. Check out the demo yourself (it’s out on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) because if you’ve read this far you’re clearly as intrigued by the game as I am.

Posted by Packie

I'm disappointed that they didn't allow us to free roam. Just two sections of murdering goblins and badass bossfights.

I do hope they give the option to close the damn text screen and turn off that damn slow-mo camera zoom up every time your pawn does something stupid.

Other than that, yeah it was solid.

Posted by Karkarov

Wow you really had no clue what was going on in the demo did you? It shows. I don't mean that as a dig or anything the demo has one major flaw and that is it doesn't do any kind of job at educating the player on what the hell is going on.

First off. Almost everyone who plays this demo makes one big complaint. There is too much crap on the screen or these dudes talk to much! Okay, fair enough, they do talk to much and there is too much crap on the screen. So it is good that you can go into the options menu and turn off the text pop ups. They will still talk, but it won't take up any screen real estate. You can also turn off tutorial hints, the button menu on the bottom right, even the mini map and everyone's hp bars. Just a heads up to Packie.... you can turn off the "cinematic" camera thing that highlights your ally's actions too. The only thing you cant turn off is the black bars. The reason for this is because the game is actually played in some funky aspect ratio like 16x10 or something. I actually had part of the screen cropped off at the sides when my monitor was in strictly 16x9 mode. Fortunately that is easy to get used to. At least it was for me. Unfortunately the demo never bothers making sure the player knows you can do that stuff.

Second the character creator. You had a really funny coincidence there. Because it seems like you choose a build that looked like an archer. Here is the skinny. You were only choosing your characters "build" as in base body shape/physical look. It is too bad Japanese dev's don't know all the mmo/diablo speak of the west or they would have chosen a different word. In other words the choice you make on "build" only gives you a starter body type and has no bearing on your actual class. Of course taller characters have better reach and heavier ones have slightly more hp/physical damage or some such supposedly. Of course smaller lighter characters compensate by regening stamina faster and moving slightly faster in game. So that is worth thinking about I guess. Not that the demo says anything about that either.

So what about your class??? Simple, you never pick one in the demo. You are given a pre set party of dudes and it makes your custom character a "Strider", think Aragorn with Daggers or like you said Legolas. In the prologue you are literally playing the intro of the game, it is the retail games tutorial level. So there you get to play Savan who happens to be a Fighter and is actually the character from the Digital Video Comic Capcom is making for the game. The reason you are Savan and not your character is like I said... it is the games intro/tutorial level. When you play it in game you haven't even hit the character creation screen yet. In the actual game you get to pick your class extremely early in after a couple in game events. You can also change your class as the game moves along so you are never really stuck with your early game choice.

The cool thing about the demo is it shows off the combat, the monsters, the whole pawn thing, and the character creator which I actually like. You can even use your demo custom characters in the real game you know? The not so cool thing is like I said, it doesn't explain crap. I only know this stuff because I have been following this game REALLY closely and learned all this from the Capcom live streams and other coverage. It also doesn't show how the actual game is a real open world RPG with wandering NPC's insane amounts of stuff to do etc etc. If you saw more of the game you wouldn't make a Monster Hunter comparison, because Dogma has far more in common with western RPG's like Skyrim or even the Divinity games than it does MH.

Posted by ShawnS

@Packie: I was so bummed when I hit the invisible wall! And they cut it off right next to a treasure chest even! It's evil.

Posted by ShawnS

@Karkarov: I was about to ask "how do you know so much!?!". Any time I get excited about a game I cut myself off so I don't see too much until there's a demo or I happen to catch them talk about it on the Bombcast. I did know you could export your character to the full game but I wound up making a girl I thought looked cool so I didn't go back to try and make a different one. I probably would've realized then that the characters who look like the different classes didn't have an effect on the Strider you wind up playing as in the demo mission. You have to admit some of the ways they let you put body sizes and shapes together look really weird though. I haven't seen a creator in a long time that would let you, say, make someone super short but then let their arms dangle almost to the ground next to their giant hips.

Thanks for pointing all that stuff out, that's what I get for being excited and trying to write something super quick.

Posted by Skooky

I just killed the griffin while it was flying in the air and my entire party was hanging on it. It was fucking cool.

Posted by ShawnS

@Skooky: Yeah! The creatures look awesome, the first time we all took down that griffin I wish I had a high five button. Too bad it's so short though.

Edited by Karkarov

@ShawnS said:

Thanks for pointing all that stuff out, that's what I get for being excited and trying to write something super quick.

Not at all, you write up was great. I just wanted to let you know about that stuff because I know the demo just doesn't do the job on that front. My biggest worry for the game is alot of people will be on the fence, think "let's check out that demo!" then walk away with a bad impression because they don't have a full understanding of the game. That isn't their fault either, it is the demo's for not giving enough info and partially Capcom's for making the demo work like it does. I sort of wish they had just said screw it and made the demo into the first hour/hour and a half of the game itself. People would have had a better impression that way I think.

But then you would not get a cool Griffon fight that way ;p

Posted by Apathylad

ZombiePie's twitter sent me here! I do like Dark Souls, so I may want to check this game out.

Posted by Bollard

@Karkarov: Have you any Monster Hunter/Dark Souls experience? I freaking love MH, and am pretty into DS too, so does this really compare to them that well? It seems like a statement people who have never (seriously) played MH are throwing around with abandon and I'd love to see if the analogue is true. I deleted a bunch of stuff off my Hard Drive to make space for this game, so fingers crossed it will impress.

Online
Edited by Karkarov

@Chavtheworld said:

@Karkarov: Have you any Monster Hunter/Dark Souls experience? I freaking love MH, and am pretty into DS too, so does this really compare to them that well? It seems like a statement people who have never (seriously) played MH are throwing around with abandon and I'd love to see if the analogue is true. I deleted a bunch of stuff off my Hard Drive to make space for this game, so fingers crossed it will impress.

Dark Souls/Monster Hunter experience... Yeah you could say that ;p. Maybe I will pm you my youtube page....

That said I don't think a Monster Hunter comparison holds up long term outside of combat handling for a few reasons. Yes you fight big monsters (hardly exclusive to MH), and you can knock them down..... but that is where the similarities sort of dwindle. Monster Hunter can be pretty instanced at times, relies on multiplayer, even has timed missions here and there, and in the end is a pure gear game. Your gear determines how BA you are, your weapon determines how you play, etc. Dogma is totally the opposite. Your character not only has a personal level, but a job level as well, and there are a ton of skills to learn per job. Like it is impossible to actually have every job skill slotted at the same time even on the starter classes and gear is restricted by class. There are even some things you gain that are like perks and give you permanent upgrades. Basically there is a ton more in the world and character development of Dogma than MH.

That said.... how would I describe Dragon's Dogma? Something like this ....

"Your Dark Souls character used a red crystal to invade another world and finds himself in Skyrim. Somehow he brought three blues with him that have the strange power of speech and boy do they love to be chatty Kathys! Even weirder it seems all the huge bosses from Shadow of the Collosus invaded this world at the same time you did. To make things interesting all the villagers are now calling you the Dragonborn and due to all this attention some giant ass dragon decided to beat you up and steal your heart. Good thing you are an undead, but you figure you should go get it back anyway."

Yeap that is how I would describe it.

So in the end the combat doesn't 100% handle like Dark Souls or Monster Hunter, and the leveling and game environment is more similar to a western action RPG like Skyrim or maybe Divinity 2.... But anyone who has played MH or DkS will be right at home with how the combat works and the overall gameplay. It is similar enough to make sense, but different enough to not be a rehash. There is even a certain level of alternate reality/community that ties in to the Souls games.

In closing, I love the Souls games and my most played game on Wii is Monster Hunter Tri. I have Dragon's Dogma on preorder with Amazon for release day delivery. Nuff said.

Posted by Bollard

@Karkarov: Hmm... Well I like all these games (Dark Souls, MH, Skyrim, SotC) so I reckon it sounds good! And feel free to link me your Youtube if you like :)

Online
Posted by mordukai

@ShawnS said:

Dark Souls meets Monster Hunter. Having barely played either of those titles I still feel totally comfortable in telling you that’s how Dragon’s Dogma boils down... probably. Obtuse systems and peculiar terminology mixed with epic fights against giant beasts in an open world. There, now you’ve got it.

As someone who played over 300 hours of Demon's Souls I can tell you that description is wrong. Obtuse systems and peculiar terminology mixed with epic fights against giant beasts is basically the thing in almost every Japanese RPG game. Maybe you should play more of those and get a better idea of where Dragon's Dogma stands.

@Karkarov: Pretty much everything you said.

Posted by ShawnS

@Karkarov: I edited the stuff about classes out of my post on my own site so I'm not lying about the game to anyone who doesn't also find your excellent additions. :)

Posted by ShawnS

@mordukai: I also said I'd barely played much of either of them and that they were probably, maybe-sorta, kinda like them.