Giant Bomb Review

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Dragon's Dogma Review

3
  • X360
  • PS3

Capcom has delivered an open-world game with tremendously fun combat, a hilariously crazy ending, and not much else.

The game is at its best when fighting and climbing beasts.

You have to admire Capcom’s ambitions with Dragon’s Dogma. Monster Hunter, a series that’s single-handedly kept the PSP alive in Japan, just hasn’t caught fire anywhere else. Dragon’s Dogma feels like Capcom taking the most outwardly appealing part of Monster Hunter--big, meaty fights against monstrous beasts with a team of friends--and putting that into a sprawling world that goes on and on for miles.

The bummer: Capcom built this huge place to run around in but didn’t fill it with anything interesting. The saving grace: Capcom’s expertise in building robust, customizable, and super fun combat systems pays off.

The game opens with a promising enough premise. A dragon has suddenly appeared in the land of Gransys, and attacks your quiet, idyllic waterfront town. Pretty stupidly, you pick up a sword and “attack” the dragon, who responds in kind by tearing your heart out keeping it for himself. You’re still alive, though, and are now one of the Arisen, which means you're special and technically alive but not quite whole. The dragon says your heart can be reclaimed if you defeat him, and so your journey begins.

You gain some pretty sweet powers by becoming the Arisen, including access to Pawns, a human-like race of beings charged with following the Arisen. Pawns are AI support characters, and their roles are crucial in dealing with the game's endless supply of mobs. It’s probably possible to solo Dragon’s Dogma, but I wouldn’t recommend it--you need these guys and girls. You have one main Pawn, who you design early in the game. The other two are (largely) created by other Dragon’s Dogma players, which makes for some goofy allies (I had a high level mage named Ladypants with me for most of my 37 hours) but makes the experience enjoyably personable. For me, my daggers-n-arrows focused archer was balanced out with two support mages--one attacking, another buffing--and a fighter who largely focused on drawing aggro. All of the Pawns can be customized with equipment, but since all but the Pawn you created does not level up, it’s not worth it--it’s better to just recruit new Pawns every few hours.

The system is perfectly set up for other human beings, but Dragon’s Dogma doesn’t feature multiplayer. It’s an unfortunate omission, especially since you have very little influence over the Pawns themselves. This leads to more than a few frustrating scenarios where, say, healing spells are badly needed but everyone is focused on casting lots of fireballs. There are some built-in solutions to help address this, such as potions that temporarily change the attack patterns of your Pawns and the ability to set some generic action recommendations ahead of battle, but there’s nothing as simple and elegant as pulling up a menu and asking Ladypants to cast a holy spell on your daggers to help in crippling the undead.

The real core of Dragon’s Dogma is combat. Thirty-seven hours later, a pile of bodies the size of a mountain in my wake, I was still having fun slicing up goblins and direwolves. The game has a terrifically fun and dynamic combat system that constantly encourages players to experiment. Tapping shoulder buttons brings up adjustable modifiers that give you plenty of options in battle. You gain experience and level, but rather than worrying about assigning points to strength and other attributes, that’s in the background, with the focus on earning and assigning new skills. Like Monster Hunter or Dark Souls, many of the skills lock players into animations (though there is a skill for some classes that can actually break the animation), so combat becomes a shifting risk/reward proposition. Do you enable your supremely powerful dagger attack but chance missing and being stuck flailing in the wind for a few seconds?

Dragon's Dogma's world is certainly big, but big isn't enough.

And though you choose a class upfront, it’s only a few hours before you can swap to something else. There are even advanced and hybrid classes, such as the magic archer I ended up playing, that aren’t available upfront. It’s easy to switch classes, and if you come to regret the change, it’s a simple matter to go back or try another one. Some skills are even compatible across classes, which means you can begin to craft your own super hybrid that brings the best of several classes under one roof. By the end of my 37 hours, I’d maxed out two classes for both myself and my Pawn, opening up a robust set of skills. Combined with the other Pawns that have their own powers and magic and combat options are vast.

The big payoff is when Dragon’s Dogma introduces its slew of screen-filling creatures--dragons, hydras, griffins, ogres, etc. It looks a little goofy, but the key to defeating them is climbing on their backs and stabbing them in the face/neck/eye. It’s a brutal, bloody Shadow of the Colossus, and it’s intensely satisfying. There’s nothing quite like hitting a griffin mid-air with fire-infused arrows, watching it crash to the ground, straddling its neck just before it manages to take off, being lifted thousands of feet into the air and stabbing the hell out of it, as it maniacally tries to shake you off. It’s these moments, with you and your Pawns working in tandem to take down these towering enemies, that Dragon’s Dogma shines. It never gets old, and the ability to perpetually switch around your set of combat skills means fighting the same enemies manages to feel fresh, since your approach to it changes.

It’s a good thing the combat holds up, too, because that’s the biggest thing Dragon’s Dogma has going for it. Dragon’s Dogma doesn’t do much with its premise until the very end, at which point the game unloads an hour of completely unexpected, totally batshit crazy exposition. It almost makes the entire story better in retrospect, but such feelings only come after the insane revelations the ending brings, and not a moment sooner. Prior to crazytown, the story is utterly banal. None of the quests have captivating stories behind them, and add zero color to the world at large. Characters are introduced but never given any substance. Bizarre plot twists are wedged in and then completely forgotten, as if they never happened. At one point, you’re jailed for witnessing something very bad, but moments after escaping, the world forgets you were ever jailed. Even when you talk to the character that put you in jail--no response. The utter lack of consequence is littered throughout, and applies directly to the game world, too. Nothing has permanence. 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. Building a world that feels as alive and random as Bethesda Game Studios did with Skyrim certainly isn’t easy, and while it’s easy to respect Capcom’s ambition in what it tried to create with Dragon’s Dogma, the bar has been set so high, and Dragon’s Dogma isn’t close.

The most imposing enemies can take you out in a single swipe.

Compounding the issue is how often Dragon’s Dogma asks players to experience the same locations over and over again. There is fast travel in the game but it’s not very useful. Players can purchase magic stones that enable teleporting back to the main capital, though it’s not until halfway through the game that it becomes possible to transport out of the capital. Even then, you can’t choose a location and be whisked away--you have to physically go to a location and lay down a “portcrystal.” It’s especially infuriating when the game asks you to spend 20 minutes running to a quest location, then come back to the capital, and immediately asks you to head to that location again. It’s one thing if the game had dropped a “hey, maybe you should drop the portcrystal here--wink!” hint but it never does.

There’s so much to like about what Capcom gets right with Dragon’s Dogma that it makes the missteps utterly heartbreaking. The combat has enough depth and variety to keep you interested for the duration of the story and beyond, but in terms of what might have been, what should have been, Dragon’s Dogma falls gut-wrenchingly short.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
124 Comments
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Posted by patrickklepek

@Godak said:

@Xeirus said:

I'm pretty sure Jeff has said 10000000 times, games are not to be compared to each other. That's not how this website does their reviews.

If you think 37 hours is the "bare minimum" you seriously are clueless. Patrick's feelings have been stated by tons of people on the net, do some research and grow up man, seriously... it's an OPINION, calm down

Just out of curiosity, what else does one compare games to? Movies? Books? The arbitrary and completely subjective concept of fun? Sure, in an ideal world all things would exist in a vacuum where they don't have to be judged against by the standards of their competitors and, instead, only on their own merits. But that is not realistic for a review - something that should, in theory, help consumers find and purchase products that are the best monetary value for them. In order to do that, games should be (perhaps MUST be) compared to other games in the genre. Relating information in terms of popular games in the genre will give readers a better mental image of what they can expect from the game, thus fufilling the purpose of a review. It's, like, science!

Also, just as a footnote, average review scores would seem to put Dragon's Dogma at more of a four star level, making Patrick something of an anomaly.

YOU ARE AN ANOMALY, PATRICK (please don't have your fuzz-iferous follices devour me).

I think what's actually being argued is that you shouldn't necessarily pit our reviews of products against one another, not that games shouldn't be compared. When Brad reviews Diablo III, that's Brad reviewing Diablo III, not Patrick reviewing Diablo III. So when Patrick reviews Dragon's Dogma, his opinion of Dragon's Dogma can't be compared to Brad's opinion of Diablo III -- apples to oranges. Also, stop talking in the third-person, me.

Staff
Posted by biggiedubs

@Karkarov said:

@Brad said:


Who did you think I was calling out...?

Pretty sure he was saying you were calling out who is being the adult in this case.

I have no problem with people calling me out for being a asshole, because I can definitely be one. But the thing is Brad in your reviews of Diablo and even Skyrim you admit the story and most npcs were weak and had issues. However you also acknowledged that maybe the story/npc interactions aren't the "point" of the game and don't significantly detract from what makes those games good.

Patrick on the other hand took a game he clearly had fun playing and enjoyed, by his own admission in the quick look he felt compelled to beat it and "wanted to like the game". Then proceeds to explain how 3-4 fairly minor gripes make the game a 3. Vinny even said during the quick look it sounded like Patrick was making maybe too big a fuss about his gripes. As I am sure you know many open world RPG fans will even argue one of his detraction's (no fast travel) is actually a good thing.

I try to be the adult most times, but sometimes I just feel I've got to stick up for the guy making points in a kind of dick-ish way. I feel like sometimes the smart person who makes an aggressive point is sometimes completely disregarded for the less intelligent person with nice grammar, and I hate that. Someone's got to be angry around here, goddamit.

@Brad: I honestly have never played Diablo, so I can't speak to the story, but I was merely paraphrasing that original post. To be fair though, in my mere spectating of Diablo fans thoughts and opinions, I have heard a lot of 'I don't care for the story, I'm just in it for the loot and / or combat' etc. And that strikes me as incredibly similar to Dragon's Dogma.

This may be the point though, Diablo has the attraction of both the loot and the combat (and the multiplayer and whatever else) to back up a story some may find poor, whilst Dragon's Dogma, from what I've briefly played and seen, doesn't. It makes the problem of a poor story all the lot worse when there's nothing to cover for it.

Patrick may just hold story over gameplay as being more important to the overall game, whilst Brad the opposite. Then there's the whole, 'you can't compare two scores together' argument, and the 'scores don't really matter anyway' argument. I'm sure we've all had this conversation a million of times before; I just hope that people play Dragon's Dogma.

I also have no problems in being called out, or being thought I was being called out. For what it's worth.

Posted by jesterroyal

@patrickklepek said:

@Skanker said:

So Patrick, does this mean you're going to play Monster Hunter next? Because you totally should.

Probably not until the next 3DS one. But, yes.

I look forward to it. I think you said in another video you heard the wii one was good. Your source is right on that and the 3ds version is going to be an extended version of the wii one. The psp one is actually really great on the vita since you can map camera to the right stick and not have to claw it up.

Solid review. I selfishly was hoping for a higher review of this game because I know capcom needs tons of encouragement to take risks or make beneficial business decisions on what games to release where. Super enjoying the game right now but I can totally see myself getting glassy eyed running all over creation to do near pointless sidequests.

Posted by Stimpack

@Karkarov: Nail on the head, and I couldn't have said it better myself.

Posted by Xeirus

@patrickklepek said:

@Godak said:

@Xeirus said:

I'm pretty sure Jeff has said 10000000 times, games are not to be compared to each other. That's not how this website does their reviews.

If you think 37 hours is the "bare minimum" you seriously are clueless. Patrick's feelings have been stated by tons of people on the net, do some research and grow up man, seriously... it's an OPINION, calm down

Just out of curiosity, what else does one compare games to? Movies? Books? The arbitrary and completely subjective concept of fun? Sure, in an ideal world all things would exist in a vacuum where they don't have to be judged against by the standards of their competitors and, instead, only on their own merits. But that is not realistic for a review - something that should, in theory, help consumers find and purchase products that are the best monetary value for them. In order to do that, games should be (perhaps MUST be) compared to other games in the genre. Relating information in terms of popular games in the genre will give readers a better mental image of what they can expect from the game, thus fufilling the purpose of a review. It's, like, science!

Also, just as a footnote, average review scores would seem to put Dragon's Dogma at more of a four star level, making Patrick something of an anomaly.

YOU ARE AN ANOMALY, PATRICK (please don't have your fuzz-iferous follices devour me).

I think what's actually being argued is that you shouldn't necessarily pit our reviews of products against one another, not that games shouldn't be compared. When Brad reviews Diablo III, that's Brad reviewing Diablo III, not Patrick reviewing Diablo III. So when Patrick reviews Dragon's Dogma, his opinion of Dragon's Dogma can't be compared to Brad's opinion of Diablo III -- apples to oranges. Also, stop talking in the third-person, me.

Word

Posted by Godak

@patrickklepek said:

@Godak said:

@Xeirus said:

I'm pretty sure Jeff has said 10000000 times, games are not to be compared to each other. That's not how this website does their reviews.

If you think 37 hours is the "bare minimum" you seriously are clueless. Patrick's feelings have been stated by tons of people on the net, do some research and grow up man, seriously... it's an OPINION, calm down

Just out of curiosity, what else does one compare games to? Movies? Books? The arbitrary and completely subjective concept of fun? Sure, in an ideal world all things would exist in a vacuum where they don't have to be judged against by the standards of their competitors and, instead, only on their own merits. But that is not realistic for a review - something that should, in theory, help consumers find and purchase products that are the best monetary value for them. In order to do that, games should be (perhaps MUST be) compared to other games in the genre. Relating information in terms of popular games in the genre will give readers a better mental image of what they can expect from the game, thus fufilling the purpose of a review. It's, like, science!

Also, just as a footnote, average review scores would seem to put Dragon's Dogma at more of a four star level, making Patrick something of an anomaly.

YOU ARE AN ANOMALY, PATRICK (please don't have your fuzz-iferous follices devour me).

I think what's actually being argued is that you shouldn't necessarily pit our reviews of products against one another, not that games shouldn't be compared. When Brad reviews Diablo III, that's Brad reviewing Diablo III, not Patrick reviewing Diablo III. So when Patrick reviews Dragon's Dogma, his opinion of Dragon's Dogma can't be compared to Brad's opinion of Diablo III -- apples to oranges. Also, stop talking in the third-person, me.

If that's the case, then I pretty obviously misunderstood. My apologies Xeirus (whose name begins with a "X", the most unpronounceable of the letters). I honestly wasn't trying to be party pooper. I'm just internet-incontinent sometimes.

A wee-bit off-topic, but...Do you guys think it would be kosher for one reviewer to make note of what other reviewers are saying about a game to support their own argument? For example, if (in some bizzaro Biant Gomb universe) Patrick and Brad both had to review Large Beast Finder/Killer for the Atari Jaguar 720, would it be appropriate it for one of them to make note of the fact that another reviewer shares a similar view on a particular mechanic, for better or worse? One of the issues I constantly see is people in the comments yelling, "LOL, lies, no 1else is saiyan thowse things!"

One could argue that this will be a problem regardless of what the reviewers do - you cannot, afterall, please all parties, and some individuals will complain no matter what anyone does. However, I do find that this particular sub-set of commenters have some small shred of validity to their arguments, and that, at the very least, cross-refrencing other reviews might very well do something to shut them up. Now, I have no clue as to the logistics of implementing such a program. Would mere citations and credits be enough, or would some sort of financial recompense be in order?

Ow, my head.

Posted by Kino88

the monsters look amazing so.....yeah Im sold

Posted by Kino88

looks badasss!!

Posted by Video_Game_King

@patrickklepek said:

@Godak said:

@Xeirus said:

I'm pretty sure Jeff has said 10000000 times, games are not to be compared to each other. That's not how this website does their reviews.

I think what's actually being argued is that you shouldn't necessarily pit our reviews of products against one another, not that games shouldn't be compared. When Brad reviews Diablo III, that's Brad reviewing Diablo III, not Patrick reviewing Diablo III. So when Patrick reviews Dragon's Dogma, his opinion of Dragon's Dogma can't be compared to Brad's opinion of Diablo III -- apples to oranges. Also, stop talking in the third-person, me.

Actually, I'd still say that games shouldn't be compared in reviews, at least not in a normative fashion. Doing so treats a lot of unknowns as certainties. (Descriptive comparisons are just fine, if used carefully.)

Posted by Godak

@Video_Game_King said:

@patrickklepek said:

@Godak said:

@Xeirus said:

I'm pretty sure Jeff has said 10000000 times, games are not to be compared to each other. That's not how this website does their reviews.

I think what's actually being argued is that you shouldn't necessarily pit our reviews of products against one another, not that games shouldn't be compared. When Brad reviews Diablo III, that's Brad reviewing Diablo III, not Patrick reviewing Diablo III. So when Patrick reviews Dragon's Dogma, his opinion of Dragon's Dogma can't be compared to Brad's opinion of Diablo III -- apples to oranges. Also, stop talking in the third-person, me.

Actually, I'd still say that games shouldn't be compared in reviews, at least not in a normative fashion. Doing so treats a lot of unknowns as certainties. (Descriptive comparisons are just fine, if used carefully.)

This is purely my view (opinions are en vogue), but I see a review as being necessarily filled with certainties - that is, the reviewer is certain that this is how they feel about the game. I think it is important to be absolutely authoritative when it comes to your views on a game and, yes, to treat those views as certainties. And, honestly, would you enjoy reading a review where the reviewer was constantly making notes about how your experience might be different?

If they find the combat to be on-par with Skyrim's (whether that's a pro or con), while the exploration is on par with Final Fantasy XIII's (...that's mostly a con) that can be valuable knowledge for a reader. Even if the reviewer presents it a certain way, you can still make the ultimate judgment on the matter - perhaps a reviewer hates X game's combat, and compares it to game Y's combat. You just so happen to LURVE game Y's combat. So, the reviewer has still done their job - they have given you the knowledge to better equip you to make a responsible purchase.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@Godak:

That's...almost an entirely different issue from what I was talking about. Maybe I should have been clearer. I'm saying that the comparisons can't be made because you can't be certain that the reader is going to understand them. Had I read this review earlier today, I'd have no clue what the fuck putting Dragon's Dogma in terms of Skyrim means. That is the uncertainty I refer to: not knowing if I, the reader, have even played Skyrim.

Posted by Godak

@Video_Game_King said:

@Godak:

That's...almost an entirely different issue from what I was talking about. Maybe I should have been clearer. I'm saying that the comparisons can't be made because you can't be certain that the reader is going to understand them. Had I read this review earlier today, I'd have no clue what the fuck putting Dragon's Dogma in terms of Skyrim means. That is the uncertainty I refer to: not knowing if I, the reader, have even played Skyrim.

No, I got what you were saying. I think I should have organized my statement so that it had better clarity - the first paragraph should come later on in my keyboard ballet (in my defense, I was kind of in a hurry while I was typing), and it needs to be fleshed. As it stands now, it's just kinda floating above the second paragraph without a segue to be found.

I am saying that if an author wishes to describe gameplay mechanics in terms of another popular game, that's fine, and might even be the best option in many cases. An online video game review can probably count on a lot of its audience who have a passing interest in a game being familiar with the more popular games of the genre. Yes, those comparisons may not mean anything to some individuals, but that doesn't bias the ignorant reader one way or another, and they should still be able to read the rest of the review and gauge the author's view with clarity (if they cannot, something has gone wrong).

Thus, authors should be allowed the certainty/assumption of, say, every RPG lover having played Skyrim. Is that true? Absolutely not! I still haven't gotten around to it. However, when I see reviews referencing Skyrim, that doesn't turn me off - it merely puts the game into a certain context. It may be a context that I do not completely understand, but it does not taint my impression of the review. However, if someone HAS played Skyrim, a quick comparison in a review may give them a clearer idea of what the game is all about.

For example: "Like Monster Hunter or Dark Souls many of the skills lock players into animations (though there is a skill for some classes that can actually break the animation), so combat becomes a shifting risk/reward proposition. Do you enable your supremely powerful dagger attack but chance missing and being stuck flailing in the wind for a few seconds?"

A comparison is made, but even those without MH and Dark Souls experience understand the jist of what is being said; combat animations are binary proposals (save for some special cases) that you must commit to. The assumption that people have familiarity with Monster Hunter and Dark Souls does nothing to harm Patrick's point, though it certainly helps people who have played them put things into perspective. Comparisons are, overall, helpful to the reviewing process as long as they are used to support a statement and are not the statement in and of themselves. And I'm pretty sure I wanted this paragraph in my last post, but whatever. XD

Posted by Klei

Skyrim and Dragon's Dogma are opposites, so why compare? One is piss-easy, the other is fucking hardcore. One has horrible combat, one has awesome combat. One has fucking lame dragons, one has great dragons. One has horrible, bland textures, one has great textures ( when modded ). I could go on and on. Neither Skyrim or DD are better than the other, it's more a question of picking your poison.

Posted by primalmaster

Played this game a lot yesterday, having so much fun. Also really liking the atmosphere some of the dungeons give, Like the Water God temple. And offcourse the epic fights.

Posted by kealivio

i ppl, i just what to say that i have the game and i dont recomend this review of the game. this game is a 4 stars game.

Posted by Patman99

Im playing the game right now and I totally agree with the review. Fundamentally the game is pretty intriguing but it is on the "fluffly" parts of the open world RPG that it does not exactly shine. The story quests are not really marked so it is a little confusing if: One, I am doing a story mission, or Two, if this quest will advance the state of the world. While I am still playing it, more often than not (or should I say naught), I will do a quest thinking it is a side quest but it will end up being a main quest. No big deal except that when you advance a little in the story some of your side quests disappear. The real downer about this is that most are multi-faceted (e.g. talk to NPC, gather information, collect materials, kill group of monsters, save the princess, collect reward) and having completed half of the side quest then only for it to be wiped of the edge of the earth because you went and spoke to another NPC completely kills my completing self.

But yeah, it's a game for those who really like RPGs and the mechanics that come with the genre.

Posted by s10129107

Patrick needs his review pictures like the rest of the crew.

Edited by Kosayn

We're at a very dragon-friendly time in videogame history - again. I remember around the middle years of the NES, every fucking game had dragons, usually in a 'waiting-at-the-end-of-the-game' capacity. And we loved it.

Anyway, with talk of a weak plot I'm keeping an eye on this one for price drop - that's my primary requirement. Speaking of dragons, I'm hoping for a new Breath of Fire announcement at e3. I've always thought the series was great. 2 was dark, 3 was jazzy and lighthearted, and quarter was urgent - in ways that no other RPGs have really pulled off. I think they could still have a mainstream breakthrough like FF did with the right kind of game. Between Game of Thrones, Skyrim, and Demon's Souls, I'd say there's never been a better time to try.

Posted by Napalm

Skyrim gave me plenty of dragon action, so I'm good.

Posted by darkjester74

Thanks for the review Patrick! Going to wait til it drops to around $20 or so, have plenty to play atm.

Posted by nimbil

I respectfully disagree, to each their own. I would argue dragon's dogma has a much more realised world than skyrim because the environments aren't so cut and paste, animation isn't stilted and the character interaction doesn't make me want to throwup. But I suppose it depends on what you're looking for in a game.

I give this game 5 wet kisses. XXXXX

Posted by debrislide

Dragon's Dogma is the best rpg since Skyrim. I have put more hours into this game than I can count. I was certainly skeptical, I did my research...even the people at gamestop tried to keep from buying it new. I did anyway and I cannot stop playing it. I started a mege class the switched to sorcerer. The game rules and is largely under appreciated.

Posted by dabobsta

This game is the definition of a flawed gem.

Posted by digi_demon

I like Dragons Dogma - its a little difficult to pin-point the exact reason why - but its a very playable and refreshing change of pace for a Japanese developed RPG