Posted Thu 21st Jun 2012 6:11pm by Ruser Saldana
Dragon's Dogma Review
Combat in Dragonís Dogma (DD) is typical for an Action game, but set in the trappings of an open-world Action RPG, it feels mercifully refreshing. I have often wondered why melee combat in the Elder Scrolls series has remained terrible over time: why there is a lack of force behind blows and why wildly flailing oneís weapons is such an effective tactic. I still donít know why, but Capcom has at least given†me a worthy alternative.†
No, Dragonís Dogma isnít as good as Skyrim, but considering how much of both games is composed of fighting, I would argue that the bulk of DD is more fun than the bulk of Skyrim. Specifically, I enjoyed climbing large beasts in Dragonís Dogma, delivering blows on whatever part of their massive bodies I could get to. This is particularly pleasing because I cannot think of a less entertaining place to attack a Cyclops than its shin. That eye, after all, is basically a bullseye right in the middle of its head, and I appreciate Capcom encouraging me to go get it. At times, the camera misbehaved while scaling creatures, and trees often blocked my view of the action. But then, for example, I would find myself around the neck of a soaring griffin, stabbing it in the face, and all was forgiven.
There isnít much else to do other than fight bandits, cultists, goblins, the undead, etc.; there are plenty of quests, but the majority of them involve hunting certain beasts, clearing out a location, or defending a hold. There isnít even much of a story to follow for which I am actually thankful:†I have become an advocate for less story in Japanese RPGs because of their recent propensity to be horrible. To be fair, the concept behind DD is fairly interesting, and there are some creative twists. But the storytelling is clumsy and fails to articulate people and events in an intelligible manner. Characters are insipid and plot points donít take the story anywhere.
The game ended suddenly for me, not because itís short, but because I hadnít realized that the story was advancing. I thought I was completing random sidequests and then, suddenly, the narrative reached its climax. The story was about my characterís destiny to slay a dragon, but the game I played was about my character running errands for a duke.†It is as if the writers knew were they wanted to go, but didnít know how to get there. Late in the game, I discovered there was a love interest but I had no clue how my interactions with this character constituted love, romance, intimacy, or affection. But I guess the writers felt the need for this romance angle and so they just slipped it in like an enema (i.e., it was done in the end and done quite smoothly, but it was very obvious something was there now that wasnít there before).
Finally, there is the Pawn system which allows people to create a non-playable character (called a Pawn) to serve at their side, share the Pawn with others through the gameís servers, and download up to two other Pawns to round out their own team. Though battle-tested and generally excellent allies in fights, Pawns are rather dull and unintelligent (ďthis looks interesting,Ē one Pawn said as he stopped to pick up a rock). Some characters believe Pawns are soulless, and I canít think of a better way to describe them.
Yet, despite their vapidness, I found these created characters intriguing and highly personal. I became excited whenever my Pawn returned from another personís party with a gift and a message of thanks or praise for how well she performed. Similarly, I felt a surprising amount of disappointment whenever she returned empty handed: no gift or message, as if the other player refused to acknowledge her existence. No, there was nothing special about my Pawn, but she was my creation, and I just wanted other people to like her.
The Pawn system shows how well a four-player RPG would work on consoles, but then it also underscores the fact that the game doesnít have multiplayer when it clearly would have worked. Next time, perhaps. The banal story and characters leave a lot to be desired, too, but at least we have an open-world Action RPG that actually delivers on the action.
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