Now choose Arisen, flee or step forth!
Dragon's Dogma is a little bit of a mixed bag, with a whole lot of good rather than bad. The underlying gameplay systems in this expansive open world action rpg are enough to outweigh some of the technical issues that do appear in the game, fortunately the whole package when taken together is a great direction for this kind of game in the face of endless remakes and sequels that the industry seems to find itself in at the moment. Dragon's Dogma stands out as an ambitious title that's well worth the price of admission.Story
Dragon's Dogma casts you as the next link in a seemingly endless cycle of events, the Arisen, foe of the dragon that preserves a tenuous yin-yang style balance throughout the world's history. With your heart stolen you must grow in power to face the dragon and reclaim your still beating heart from him. It's pretty interesting as far as the story goes, but the execution can feel a bit lacking.GameplayCustomisation
Dragon's Dogma features an extremely detailed, robust and deep character customisation system that lets you build your Arisen and Main Pawn how you want. The way the body type and weight plays into the gameplay system is extremely important and even the length of your arms and legs can play a role in how the character interacts with the world. For example you can have a tiny Arisen who can fit into small places where the normal folks can't go and in some cases this opens up whole new tactical opportunities for you.Inventory
You can freely swap items around between your characters though, handing off any excess weight materials to your less encumbered pawns. There's also a handy system for putting items into storage at inns and certain rest stops throughout Gransys (the world of Dragon's Dogma) and being able to access the combine option through these NPCs is also a godsend if you happened to drop all your materials into storage like we did.
There's far more 'good' in the inventory system than 'bad' and the way you have two separate screens for item management, and equipping various weapons/armour combinations works surprisingly well. It would have been nice to be able to order things by weight and see how heavy a whole stack of items was in total...but these are minor issues which could probably be patched in (hint: CAPCOM).Crafting
Materials can be combined to make other things of use and you can enhance weapons at the blacksmith for a sum of gold and the right materials. There are 3 levels of enhancement and some of the requirements will be tricky to get until you have encountered or slain the right monster type.Saves
Save anywhere is a godsend in a game like this; you can indeed do just that. You get one slot though so you need to make sure you're in a good position to save in the first place. You always need to save after a major battle because you never know when things may go completely wrong for you and you end up losing against even the minor foes due to a tactical error. At the moment there's no Load anywhere function, only a checkpoint load, which takes you back to the last auto saved checkpoint.Exploration
Dragon's Dogma is built on the core idea of exploring and there are no fast travel systems in play like Skyrim. There is a single fast travel system through the use of expensive portcrystals (placeable platforms) and ferrystones, but the crystals and stones cost a fortune so you will likely be using these very sparsely. Ferrystones can be used to take you back to Gran Soren, the capital city of Gransys...but they are consumed once used. So exploration takes place during real time, with the sun tracking across the heavens as you set out for your quest or just for a wander.
Day is relatively safe, or rather, it's safer than night. You can rest at dedicated stops such as encampments, inns, and rest camps. The gold cost paid lets you sleep till morning or night depending, since some quests are time based this is pretty handy when you need to discuss the quest with an NPC and they're not around till morning or night. You'll also get a chance to earn some loot from your pawn's extra-realm wanderings in terms of gifts and rift crystals from other Arisen players across the world, more on that a bit later on in the unique multiplayer section.
There are random encounters and set encounters, where you will always find the same enemies. There are also no enemies that scale with your level, so if you explore too far at the beginning and encounter something beyond your means, it's time to RUN and level up before you come back for another try. There are also hidden places to explore in the world to find loot, there's a lot of meaningless junk on the surface and some really choice pieces if you're brave enough to delve into the deeper dungeons of the game.
Night brings new challenges and more fearsome foes, it brings the danger of sudden death as you plummet off a cliff or get caught by a giant Cyclops with a flaming tree trunk as a weapon. Night also brings out the undead, and they can be pretty scary. You have a lantern of course, which runs on oil, so it's wise to make sure that you have plenty of that in your party inventory.
Exploration in Dragon's Dogma is fun, worth every minute and addictive even if you've walked the same roads time and time again. Each journey brings more experience and more loot, more gold and more chances to interact with the world in terms of the combat system as well as possibly bump into some of the game's travelling peddlers.