Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen
plays kind of like Monster Hunter
, but with a much more entertaining combat system. It's great fun, though a lock-on mechanic would have been great. Boss fights are the best part of the experience. Most of these beasts are much taller than you, and hacking away at their feet is not often a good strategy. Luckily, you can climb on them, which adds an exciting dynamic to the combat, whether they try to buck you off or (more incredibly) take to the skies while you hang on for dear life.
As you level up, you earn discipline points which can be spent on new abilities and augments. Abilities are essentially special moves that are vocation-specific, while augments are passive buffs and stat increases. You can only manage the skills of your character and your primary Pawn; if you want something special from your secondary Pawns, you'll need to examine them closely before hiring them.
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen's most interesting facet is its Pawn system. You simply cannot survive alone in Gransys: you need help. Being an Arisen, you are gifted with the power to walk through the Rift and call on Pawns to assist you. One Pawn stays with you throughout your entire adventure: you can design that Pawn from the ground up and grow/equip him/her as you see fit. The other two Pawns do not level with you or your primary Pawn, so you will need to change them out when you outlevel them. What's truly fascinating about the Pawns is how they relate to the online world. When you complete quest objectives, they become more knowledgable about the quests in general. When you log off, the Pawns can be used by other players, who can capitalize on the knowledge that was gained during your session. Not all quests tell you exactly where to go, so having a knowledgeable Pawn is extremely helpful.
One more thing: if you played the original Dragon's Dogma, starting up Dark Arisen will automatically reward you with 100,000 Rift Crystals. These can be spent in the Rift to purchase Pawns who are higher-leveled than you. If you're trekking through Bitterblack Isle, you'll undoubtedly find a different use for them. Either way, thanks, Capcom!
The first thing you do when you reach the first encampment is access your item storage and retrieve an Eternal Ferrystone. This single item is the bane of the grief countless players felt when playing the original game. You do not need to backtrack in Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen: you can fast travel to any portcrystal you drop, and you can do so without limit. As the name suggests, the Eternal Ferrystone does not disappear after a single use, and it never goes away. This will save you from the headache of having to repeatedly slog through areas that are far beneath your level.
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen is loaded with great ideas, though its execution is admittedly uneven. The new content has value, but it doesn't hold a candle to the original game. If you haven't played the original, this is a great game at a great value. It's titles like these that make me appreciate the idea of the sequel. In this case, I can't wait to see the next one.