Game review: Dragon’s Dogma is still a deeply enjoyable, totally immersive experience
This port from console to PC is showing its age a little, but it remains a gripping game that will consume many of your hours
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
Halfway down the winding ramp, I realised how big a mistake I’d made.
Up to this point I’d been holding my own against any bandits and creatures I came across. But the lurching troll ahead of me stood taller than I did, and he wasn’t very happy either. Without thinking, I pulled out my bow and let arrows fly. Beside me my companions raged forward, their spells and swords lashing out at the beast. He took them down first, leaving me no choice but to retreat and try to escape while my pawns lay dying in a pool of their own blood. I never made it to the exit. I’m not sure how things turned so badly. I only know that troll was out for blood, and mine must have been pretty tasty.
That, of course, was the first of many deaths to come during my time with Capcom’s latest PC port, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen. Working from the re-released version of the game in 2013, Capcom uncapped the frame rate, made a few of the textures a little higher definition, and fixed a slew of bugs and glitches that plagued the original console release on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The game is, however, pretty much a port, and its age can definitely be felt in its UI and menus.
But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While the menus did feel a bit hard to handle at times, I was genuinely surprised at how enjoyable Dragon’s Dogma was four years after its original release. Sure, it still suffers from having too many side quests, and some of the humdrum “run here and do this then run back” tasks can get annoying, but overall it’s still a really solid role-playing game.
Dragon’s Dogma, for those who haven’t played it, is like a Westernised version of Monster Hunter. It follows the story of an Arisen (played by you), who must journey and face a massive dragon after it appears in your village and eats your heart like a chocolate chip cookie. The journey is long, and it’s a bit convoluted at times, but overall it feels solid and interesting enough to keep you chasing after whatever new monsters stand in your way. That’s where the best parts come in.
The combat system in Dragon’s Dogma is exceptional. It’s really among the best I’ve seen in a third-person RPG, and it helped make the 50 or so hours I spent in the game worth every minute. The class system, called Vocations in the game, is well thought-out, and even featured upgrades for classes if you level up enough. For example, I began my game as a Strider, which is basically a Ranger who can’t use longbows, and eventually was able to upgrade and become a full-fledged Ranger with access to longbows, new skills, and longer distances from which to attack my enemies.
Another important part of the combat is the ability to climb onto animals much larger than your character. This allows you to attack certain parts of their anatomy, weakening them, and ultimately offering better ways to kill them. I quite enjoyed being able to climb onto griffins and attack them; however, this is one part of the game where the animations show their age, as my character would often glitch through the creatures, leaving him hanging halfway in a troll’s leg, stabbing at some unseen target. It’s not a huge issue by any means, but it was annoying enough to make me think twice about climbing onto creatures for the attack.
Aside from the combat, there’s only one area of the game that really sucked me in enough to keep me playing far into the night, and that is Bitterblack Isle, an endgame dungeon with hundreds of new areas to explore, and thousands of challenging monsters to defeat. It’s a tough area, meant only for those who can hold their own, and it’s just as punishing as playing one of FromSoftware’s Dark Souls games. Of course, it has a story of its own, and I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you, but I actually felt that the story for Bitterblack Isle was more engaging than the main story. But that could just be the masochist in me.
Overall Capcom has done a solid job bringing a very well-made RPG to the PC. The game features the massive world of Granys and is filled with tons of customisation options, as well as hundreds of complex and dynamic combat situations. It’s really one of the better RPGs we’ve seen of late, and I only experienced two crashes during my time with the game. I also never had any problems with the game’s frame rate, which was a huge issue on the console release. If you’re looking for a game that combines elements of Skyrim, Monster Hunter, Dark Souls and Japanese RPGs, then Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen should be on your watch list.