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Dragon's Dogma

Score: 75%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG/ Action/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Dragon's Dogma does not offer a good example of an interesting fantasy world. In addition to being woefully underpopulated, the world of Gransys is as bland as fantasy gets. Granted, it runs the gamut of tried and true fantasy tropes in the visual department, but it only makes use of the most tired motifs in the genre. Wooded glades, open fields, bleak brown castles -- you know how it goes. Thankfully, the action looks really good. Enemies (particularly the fantastical beasts you slay over the course of your journey) may not be the most creative in fantasy, but they look and animate superbly. Humans don't hold up under scrutiny, but again, the magic is in the animation work.

Dragon's Dogma sounds great at points and horrible at others. The soundtrack is nice and epic, and monsters sound as ferocious as they look. Attacks have a real sense of impact and sound nice and gruesome. The voice acting is almost universally abysmal. Pawns are intolerably annoying, and there's no way to shut them up. Well, aside from going into the Rift and releasing them from your service, but that's a terrible idea in itself (more on that later). The game builds the Pawns up to be these incredibly knowledgeable companions, but their incessant yakking gave me the temptation to mute my television. When they're not spouting small talk loaded with clumsily shoehorned-in medieval archaisms, they are frequently reminding you of specific battle tactics. Most of the rest of the voice acting is dull, if only because the storytelling is bad.


Dragon's Dogma features a really interesting setup for an open-world role playing game. You (a custom-made character with his/her own vocation and inclinations) lead a simple life in a quaint fishing village in the world of Gransys. But one day, a dragon decides to pay a little visit. After a futile struggle, the dragon subdues you, plucks your beating heart out of your chest, and flees. Most people give up the ghost when they no longer have a heart... but you are not most people. Such a phenomenal event is not exactly unheard of in Gransys -- you see you are an Arisen, a legendary warrior destined for great things. You awaken shortly after the encounter and immediately set out to retrieve your heart and slay the monster responsible.

How to describe Dragon's Dogma? It's an action-heavy role-playing game that features an amalgamation of borrowed mechanics. It has the slightly-clunky but overall gratifying combat of Monster Hunter, innovative online mechanics somewhat similar to those in Dark Souls, and the open-world of something like Skyrim. It's almost a recipe for success, but the execution is heavily flawed. Dragon's Dogma would have benefited from more time in development.

If you're going to make an open world, it needs to have a certain pull to it. The lore has to be seductive and the imagery has to make you want to roam around aimlessly for hours at a time. Dragon's Dogma fumbles the ball severely in this regard. Gransys isn't interesting from any perspective, nor is its people and their histories. Dragon's Dogma leans heavily on its action to succeed -- a good idea, considering the combat is quite fun.


Dragon's Dogma has only one difficulty setting, and it's wildly inconsistent. It can be a total pushover, and it can also be as merciless as Dark Souls. If you wander into the wrong encounter too soon, you will find yourself pushing up Gransysian daisies in a heartbeat (or in the main character's case, no heartbeats at all). Keep your Pawns alive at all costs, especially if they have the ability to heal you. They can be revived -- you, on the other hand, cannot.

You will inevitably have to go off the beaten path early on to do some grinding; if you pursue some quests too diligently, you will eventually find yourself fighting battles you have no hope of winning. Learning how to pick your fights takes a good deal of trial and error, and if you lack patience, you may find yourself frustrated with Dragon's Dogma more often than you'd like. Once you get into the swing of things, however, Gransys will become your playground and the game opens up to reveal all new possibilities. Less persistent gamers will not get to that point, and I fear this game may get a bad reputation for that.

Some of the frustration could have been pared away with a more simple fast travel system. You can return to the capital city of Gran Soren using purchasable Ferrystones, but it would have been much more ideal if the developers had simply used the same fast travel system used in most other games of this type.

Game Mechanics:

Dragon's Dogma features a gratifyingly fun but stiff and inelegant combat system. Each attack must be planned and timed with careful precision; once you start your attack, you are locked into an animation sequence, much like in Monster Hunter and Dark Souls. If you choose the wrong attack and execute at the wrong time, you will be left vulnerable. Being vulnerable in Dragon's Dogma is just shy of signing your own death warrant; some enemies go on the offensive with murderous glee. Between all the knockbacks, knockdowns, and reaction animations, recovering from attacks in this game is often reduced to a desperate struggle. However, learning enemy weaknesses and exploiting them successfully yields rewards both material and emotional.

This is particularly true of the game's impressive (and wild) boss encounters. Large monsters can be grappled with and clambered upon, like in Shadow of the Colossus. It's striking that it's taken other games this long to incorporate such a cool idea, and it's done well here.

Dragon's Dogma really prides itself on its Pawn system, and to be fair, it is really neat. As mentioned briefly, Pawns are your companions and servants. You can lead up to three of them, with one of them (your Main Pawn) staying at your side throughout the adventure. The really neat thing about Pawns is that you can share them over Xbox Live. Interacting with a special stone sends you into the Rift, an ethereal realm where you can examine and recruit other player's Pawns into your party. Having your own Pawn employed by another player rewards you with Rift Crystals, which can be used to employ more powerful Pawns.

I get the feeling that Dragon's Dogma would have been great if it spent some more time in development. Some better production values and a more interesting world would have worked wonders for a game that, in its finished state, is entertaining in several parts, derivative and stale in others. Try before you buy.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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