North American Release Date: May 22, 2012
European Release Date: May 25, 2012
Trophies: 42 | 5 | 3
You have lived most of your life as a villager in the fishing community of Cassandis when one day a dragon attacked at dusk, killing dozens of your friends and relatives. After attacking without any effect, the dragon seems intrigued by you and instead of killing you, rips out your heart. Instead of dying, you wake up later finding that your heart is indeed gone but you are still aliveÖan Arisen. As you travel through the countryside of Gransys tracking down the dragon, you encounter a situation much larger and more complex than you could have ever imagined.
The combat system of Dragonís Dogma is fluid and requires you to constantly move around and react to snap decisions or you might find yourself swarmed by several enemies. While you need to constantly watch out for yourself, your pawns require you to direct their actions during fights. While fighting a goblin, the game will slow down and the camera will shift to your pawn holding down another goblin while yelling for you to finish it off. While the pawns could do with improved movement during combat, especially against creatures that have wide-range attacks, the lack of needing to direct your partyís every move is a welcome addition and allows for you to simply focus on keeping yourself alive.
Dragonís Dogma allows you to switch combat styles through the use of unlockable vocations. There are a total of nine different vocations, or classes, that can be unlocked that enable you to choose from a wide variety of weapons and combat skills including the mystic archer, assassin, warrior, and sorcerer. Each of the vocations has a balanced style of fighting that allows you to pick whatever you want without feeling that you are playing an inferior class.
While fights against goblins and bandits might simply require attacking them, fighting monsters 5-6 times your size involves improvising. Unlike most other RPGís on the market, boss battles in Dragonís Dogma do not occur in specialized locations or only during story quests, you can encounter many boss-type monsters in the wilderness that take several minutes to beat. You might run into a 30-foot tall Cyclops sleeping on the side of the road that wakes up and starts attacking you or you might be traveling down the road and hear the roar of a drake or gryphon swooping down on top of you. Bosses such as these require you to risk life and limb to run up close to them and grapple onto their body in order to scale them and attack their weak points. A gryphon will fly away and swoop down on top of your character or pawns but if you command someone to grab itsí wing, it will be unable to take off without crashing.
Fights like these require coordination and teamwork
Fighting is fun during the day but when night rolls around, it becomes challenging. When you travel down a road during the day, you can see the various enemies along the road with plenty of time to avoid them if needed. However, travelling that same road at night is a whole different story. More dangerous monsters will walk throughout Gransys and your eyesight is limited by the glow of your lantern attached to your waist that will go out if wet. Trekking during the night requires you to constantly plan where you are going to go because odds are you will need to fight tooth and nail in order to get there.
The main concern that I had with Dragonís Dogma is the story, or lack thereof, during most of the game. The premise of the game is that the newly awakened dragon landed at your village and stole your heart and now you need to go get it back. For the first few quests, you travel to the capital of Gran Soren to see the Duke, who was the last person to slay a dragon. The problem is that once you arrive, instead of immediately talking to the Duke about how to fight a dragon, you are sent on several quests and errands that take you across all of Gransys. While I can see how several of these quests might help against the dragon and the monsters over time, the necessity of have a single person save every part of the kingdom seems a little bland. However, the story after confronting the dragon throws in a curveball that I did not expect since the whole premise of the game is killing the dragon. The twist that the dragon was only the beginning helped to expand the story beyond the simple quest you started out with.
Another issue is the lack of a quick and reliable fast travel. Anyone who has played a game like Skyrim will know how necessary fast travel is when it takes up to an hour to run across the world. While the world of Gransys is nowhere near as large as Skryim, it is still large enough that fast travel would save several hours of travel over the course of the game. While there is no instant travel feature, there are items called ferrystones and Port Crystals. A ferrystone allows instant transportation to the capital or to a Port Crystal from any place in the game. While that is helpful, it does not allow transporting from Gran Soren to other parts of the world. The argument of the people against a fast travel system is that such a feature takes away from the immersion of the game by allowing the player to skip over large sections of the world once they have visited certain locations. I can see where they are coming from here; game developers put hundreds of hours into designed the world and they might want the player to see every inch of it.
Without the inclusion of a fast travel method such as mount like horses, the player must either run or sprint to their goal. While sprinting is arguably several times faster than running, it is a double-edged sword. Sprinting takes up stamina and as you use stamina, you can visibly see your character start to stumble and falter. Once the stamina bar is depleted, your character will stop and catch their breath for several seconds as the stamina bar starts to regenerate. While this helps to increase the realism of the game, the fact that sprinting is tied to the stamina bar makes the game seem artificially larger than it is.
The multiplayer in Dragonís Dogma works differently than in other games. Instead of an online community with other players, you summon their pawn. Pawns can be recruited by talking to them as they wander throughout Gransys or by entering the dimension known as The Rift through special stones. The Rift is a lobby where you can search for a pawn by sorting through criteria such as level, gender, vocation, and fighting style. A neat feature about this is that while higher-level pawns require Rift Crystals to be summoned, if you have friends that play the game you can summon their pawns for free. Another positive feature about the pawn system is that anytime you sleep at an inn you might receive a message informing you that your pawn returned. When another player hires a pawn, they gain experience and knowledge on how to fight certain monsters or complete quests. So if your pawn is hired enough times, you might be fighting an unknown monster that your pawn will tell you how to easily kill.
The Rift allows you to pick and choose who you want to team up with
The online systemís main feature besides the pawn recruitment is the creature known as the Ur-Dragon, who can be fought either at the end of the game or during any time in a New Game Plus run. This secret superboss has approximately 15 times the health of the strongest offline boss in the game, is many times more powerful, and every time it is defeated it comes back stronger and tougher. If you have fought some of the more difficult bosses in the game, you might expect this battle to take a very long time. Fear not, because this is where the online aspect comes in. Everyone who goes in to fight the Ur-Dragon works together to bring it down. As more players attack the Ur-Dragon in their own realms and do damage to it, you will see it decay and rot as its health decreases every time you re-enter then arena to fight it again.
Sure there are a few things that could be improved with the pawn system such as better A.I. and the ability to use more than 6 spells or abilities. While I understand why your character can only use six, there is no reason why your pawn canít simply use everything you train them for. Another minor issue is that you cannot upgrade your pawnís equipment. While it makes perfect sense that if you try to un-equip a pawn the item is sent back to the player, trying to improve the pawn by upgrading armor to the max level should be allowed.
While the opening theme may seem a little cartoonish, after a dozen or so times it began to grow on me. Besides that small issue, the music and soundtrack of Dragonís Dogma is full of fantastic tempos and themes that fit perfectly. If you are trekking through a dank cave or dark mine, the music will become organic sounding with echoing notes and hollow chords in the background. Boss battles are not immune to this; fighting against a gryphon or a Cyclops will change the normal travelling music to a fast-tempo orchestra that gets your blood rushing as you fight to take down the monster and survive.
The game runs smoothly for most of the time. The only exception is when fighting large creatures such as the Dragon and Ur-Dragon when they cast spells that impact a large area. During moments like these I can visually see the framerate struggle for a few moments before picking back up to normal again.
Something that bugged me was the many comments the pawns make throughout the adventure. In order to make them seem more lifelike, Capcom gave them dozens of phrases to say that help to express your location through the eyes of someone who has either never been there or knows where they are. While this feature is nice, it gets highly repetitive and annoying after a while when your pawns say the same thing over and over again without any variety. The worst part is that if you do not turn off pawn text in the options menu, you will literally be unable to see through the left side of the screen due to the almost constant pawn comments scrolling as you move through the game.
Capcom put a lot of time and effort into making the country of Gransys a large and mysterious place with hundreds of areas to explore and many mysteries to solve. While this was great they did not put as much emphasis on the NPCs that you interact with. Instead of having the level of detail of your character and pawn, they seem to be created from templates with only a few variations. While I could live with this based on the assumption that with a large open-world game such as Dragonís Dogma, they might need to do this to make the game playable, the fact that the NPCs lips do not match what they are saying really irks me. I could literally hear a shopkeeper talk and finish what he was saying and see his lips still move for several seconds.
The trophy set for Dragonís Dogma is fairly straightforward. There arenít any difficult trophies apart from the one that requires you to kill the end game superboss, the Ur-Dragon, either online or offline but that is to be expected. The other trophies included are mostly story and exploration based along with a few trophies for completing a certain number of quests, collecting a set number of equipment pieces, or doing a particular action such as equipping a male pawn with a womanís dress. While some of the trophies may seem to require grinding, it is not as bad as it first appears and you will be able to get most of the trophies by the time you finish your first run through the game. Getting all of the trophies is impossible unless you start a New Game Plus. However, starting a new game can be rather useful due to the inclusion of several new board quests that have extravagant gold rewards.
Despite all its faults, Dragonís Dogma is a shining example of what a RPG could be if the time and effort were put into making what players wanted and not what could make the most money. While it is certainly rough around the edges, the gameplay is solid with fantastic and fluid combat, easy to access and use online pawn recruitment system, excellent and appropriate music and orchestra numbers, fun character and equipment development and a large, engrossing world. While it is not the best game on the market, it is still a great game to buy and play.
The overall gameplay is solid with only a few negative remarks to be made. Chief among them is that while the pawns have excellent combat learning skills and know how to fight monsters and bosses, they still tend to stand around and get hit rather than dodge. I have fought some bosses where I spent more time reviving pawns than doing damage.
The singleplayer story was great at the beginning and towards the end but for most of the game it was almost as if it didnít exist. You would think with a dragon attacking the countryside the leader of the country would want to see his or her savior as soon as possible instead of sending them off for weeks doing errands.
The online pawn system was fun to use and allowed for the recruitment of pawns with different fighting styles and vocations. While I would have preferring summoning the playerís character to use instead of their pawn, there was nothing really wrong with the system in place. The online feature I wished it had was the ability for you to upgrade a pawnís equipment as a gift to the player.
The technical aspects of the game were fantastic. While there were a few negative things like framerate dropping in high intensity fights and the pawns comments throughout the game, the rest of the game was great.