One of the great surprises of 2012 is Dragons Dogma. Capcom's action RPG, set in a traditional fantasy world similar to Tolkien and Dungeon's and Dragons, is a successfully solid game that, although somewhat unpolished, is worth picking up by fans of the genre.
After customizing the appearance and class of their character, players begin as a peaceful villager at the start Dragon's Dogma, but this changes quickly, as a dragon suddenly comes hurtling out of the sky, spewing fire across the land and wiping out both the village and its inhabitants with terrifying ferocity. During this massacre, the player's ill-fated character has his (or her, if players so choose) heart ripped out of his chest and gobbled up by the dragon. Raised from the dead, the player is dubbed the Arisen, and the adventure begins. This, unfortunately, is where the story of Dragon;s Dogma stops being interesting and relies heavily on bland interactions with characters and repetitive quests. Those looking for a deep story in the same vein as the Mass Effect series or the original Dragon's Age, should move on.
The strength of Dragon's Dogma lies primarily in its gameplay, which is clearly influenced by both Dark Souls and Shadow of the Colossus. Echoing Dark Souls' gameplay, even small-scale battles are difficult, as Dragon's Dogma expects players not to charge blindly into conflicts. Instead, gameplay demands that players use thoughtful strategy, are solidly geared, and have appropriate party members fighting by their side. To overlook any of the aforementioned all but guarantees death. To keep the combat fresh, and borrowing from the mechanics of Colossus, players are introduced to new tactics when fighting one of the many large monsters to be found within the game. The need to climb the neck of a great hydra, cling to the back of a slobbering troll, or grip tight to the underbelly of a massive dragon, creates a sense of epic action that many games only hope to emulate. This type of fight, while not so frequent that they become dull, constantly inject a sense of excitement and wonder into the game.
At times, battles can become exceptionally difficult, which is why the pawn system plays such a vital role in Dragon's Dogma. At the start of the game, players create one permanent pawn, or character, that will travel with them throughout their entire adventure. However, players are also encouraged to hire other pawns. If playing online, these pawns are all player-created. They have also been battle-tested and equipped according to whatever adventures their player-creator has completed. Based on their previous experiences, these hired pawns will give suggestions, recall specific events from before, and warn players of dangers behind locked doors or in murky woods. Additionally, when these hired pawns return, they bring with them the new experience and knowledge gained from their time being hired out. Not only do these pawns serve as an incomparably useful tool within DragonÂs Dogma, they also keep the game exceedingly fresh and personal. Players also have the option of creating a list of pawns they prefer to repeatedly hire, similar to a traditional friends' list. Fortunately, if a player is not online, the pawn system is still available since Capcom has provided computer-generated pawns; however, these pawns lack the personality and the intimacy that player-created pawns posses.
Dragon's Dogma is an excellent game for fans of the action RPG or fantasy genre. Its uninspiring story and quests hold it back from greatness, but its gameplay and pawn system give players much to enjoy.