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.