The Arisen's Return
Back in 2012 we reviewed Dragon's Dogma and we thought it was a really good game deserving of a lot of praise. It had faults, it had some issues and none of it was a major let down for us at all. We enjoyed it and personally I've put hundreds of hours into the game since then...
We gave it an 8.8/10 and if you want to find out more about Dragon's Dogma itself - http://www.gamesxtreme.com/xbox360/game/dragons-dogma/review.html the review will tell you why we thought it was so good.
Flash-forwards and if you missed the original game you can now pick up Dark Arisen for a lower price, complete with Japanese voice over and HD texture pack on disc 2. The texture pack sorts out some of the pop-in issues and texture problems we had with DD back then. Dark Arisen bundles the main game with hundreds of hours of play with the new expanded area of Bitterblack Isle, a dangerous Dark Souls like dungeon which can be replayed for epic loot and more experience - providing even more value to the Dragon's Dogma experience.
In short it is an amazing game for newcomers to the series, but a superb addition for veteran players. Yes you'll need to buy the game again, but if you own a DD save game you'll get a 6 armour pack, Eternal Ferrystone and 100,000 Rift Crystals for being an early supporter.
It's not a fantastic deal - but it is better than being kicked off a cliff by a Cyclops.
There are changes galore which come with Dark Arisen too, rebalanced weapons and a slew of improvements - including a new Portcrystal outside of Cassardis as well as removable crystals placed elsewhere in the game. You can set up a nice fast-travel network if you know where you can put the 10 portable crystals the game allows you to place. Or if you're like us, put down 9 and keep one on you as a town portal (with the Eternal Ferrystone this is now viable).
If you're interested in the changes which have been brought to Dark Arisen, then there's a handy link right here!
This isn't an exhaustive list of the changes and there are even more un-documented, we found the way the camera now works for taking pictures to share is even better. It can be rotated, panned and zoomed now - you can press X and remove the Arisen from the picture so you can get a good shot of that Pawn or action scene.
It is in the Bitterblack Isle beyond the cosmetic and system changes the game really shines, offering a repeatable battle-fest of enemies (new and old) to face down your Arisen and party of 3 Pawns. The dungeon can be completed numerous times and there are randomised enemies, wandering monsters and chance encounters galore in the depths of the isle.
One of these chance encounters is with the personification of Death. This super-tough boss is capable of murdering your Pawns (and you) in a single blow from his scythe and can move through walls, teleport and send you/your Pawns to sleep with his lantern. He leaves the confrontation if you're able to cause him enough damage to deplete his health beyond a certain threshold and when he returns again, he'll be on the same health you managed to chip off previously.
He's sort of like the Ur-Dragon in that respect (Offline) and provides a longer challenge since you'll meet him in the dungeon from time to time. Usually when you least expect it...along with some of the towering new mini-bosses and random Curse Dragon encounters.
At one point we were battling two massive skyscraper sized bosses, a bunch of sorcerers and to add insult to injury - Death shows up. The party just managed to succeed as well; it was a narrow victory with a ton of curatives used and amazing action. These moments elevate Dragon's Dogma into the annals of a great game.
The loot alone from the room was well worth it. You see Bitterblack comes with its own set of new gear, from armour to weapons and even rings. None are more prized than the various skill rings which open up Tier 3 skills for your character and upgrade various things like Sixfold Bolt (Magick Archer) to Ninefold Bolt.
There are lots of new items and again for the Magick Archer you can get hold of the Blackwing Bow, a superb powerful weapon which is literally the most powerful magick bow in the game it seems.
There's a trick to it though, the items are cursed and you need to use rift crystals to purify them from one of the new NPCs. You won't know what you're getting until you do this, so it's a bit of a ' luck of the draw' thing too. Fortunately you can influence the kind of item by picking the best vocation for you and your Pawn when you purify it. Try Mage + Strider for a Magick Archer's bow - that's how I got the Blackwing bow for mine in the end.
There are two new NPCs to meet on BI. One who purifies your items and the other; he's a great new addition. He can take any dragon forged weapon and upgrade it to Silver or Gold forged. Allowing for even greater power in the long run, of course this costs a fortune in gold and requires new resources and materials which can be farmed from the isle's labyrinthine dungeon.
You might also notice that there's now a way to change your equipment as you talk to a vendor, rather than going to an inn or so on. The system lets you quickly compare items and change your gear out - it isn't a documented change in the changelog, but it's a welcome one!
There are some repeated sections of geometry for Bittleblack Isle, however unlike Dragon Age 2 these are done in such a way that they make sense and don't feel cheap. The dungeon itself is big enough to provide a good few hours fun even if the story itself isn't all that great. You'll mostly be in it for the epic boss fight, massive loot fest and experience point boost (as well as the new skill rings and gear). The thing is with every other element of Dark Arisen smoothly integrated into Dragon's Dogma, all the new changes to monsters and the main game...the whole package is fantastic value for money as well as time.
There are not many expansions which feel as fresh as this, and certainly none that come with a whole slew of improvements beyond say: Skyrim. There's even new dialogue, music and more hidden away in Dark Arisen. The new layer of texturing makes the game even prettier and that's a bonus right there.
Dark Arisen has taken what was a good game and transitioned it into a great game.
Some people are reporting that Dark Arisen corrupts game saves, we can't say we've encountered this - but we have started backing up the save just to make sure.