[REVIEW] Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen

[Platforms] PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, XBOX 360, XBOX One

[Graphics Engine] MT Framework

[Developer & Publisher] CAPCOM


Vision & Creation

From the group that brought to life Breath of Fire, Devil May Cry, & Resident Evil, Dragon’s Dogma was a long project in the making in both concept and design. I’m not going to elaborate how each developer participated in the creation of this masterpiece; however, I will include a few of the most significant details that contributed to it’s success.

As far back as 2000, CAPCOM had been working the concept of the Pawn system for one of their future titles. In 2008, CAPCOM’s executives called for a new standalone title, originally titled BBS RPG as it was under development. An intention of the design was to capture aspects of interactivity with other players through the Bulletin Board System (example: Pawn sharing). Other specifications were open world mechanics & action role-playing combat.

Initially, the map design of Gransys (the mainland) was approximately twice the size of the final product, with each region accommodating the progression of levels, up until 100. Alternate dimensions & parallel worlds were a concept because it complemented the title’s plot and backstory; ones that existed for each player, somewhat like Dark Souls. So why did they decrease the content and parallel world concept? Commercialization of the title forced the release of a final product & ultimately reduced the time that could’ve been spent on a larger game environment. Originally, the concept was going to be of the entire island of Gransys, a smaller island called Dragon Isle, & the game world’s moon.

Hideaki Itsuno was the director behind many titles of Breath of Fire, Devil May Cry, Monster Hunter, Resident Evil, an influence in Dragon Quest & the western titles of Fable & TES IV: Oblivion. He said back in 2011 that this title was a long dream of his since his school days; Dragon’s Dogma was an initiative by Itsuno’s team to start a transformed genre of Action RPGs. To have the opportunity to take on different roles in action-RPG combat, rather than always being the hack & slash front-man; finding strategies and weaknesses of enemies to gain the advantage in a tough fight.

An expanded version of the original title, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen was released on April 23rd, 2013, for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It included all DLCs from the original title, a fast-travel system, new items, weapons, armor, quests, and lastly, a very difficult zone to explore.


Setting & Story

The player begins in a dark canyon, with an environment that gives off the sense of the unknown that may lurk in the darkness, but also a curiosity for adventure & exploration of a vast world. The player finds themselves in Savan’s shoes, the Arisen that has the aide of his Pawn and other Pawns that join later to help fight off a Chimera, the first difficult monster in the journey. After killing the Chimera, Savan opens the doors and the screen turns away, showing a glimpse of the group approaching an ominous figure.

Several decades later, a dragon – the sign of destruction and chaos – returns; upon his entrance, he raids Cassardis, a fishing village. The player finds themselves as a new character – following the appearance customization – and approaches the dragon, foolishly attempting to fight him off with nothing but a sword. The Dragon knocks the player on their back, then seeing potential in this character – he claims the person has been Chosen – and then proceeds to rip their heart out, consuming it. After a person has their heart taken by the Dragon, they become that generation’s Arisen. The one destined to kill the Dragon, or to die trying, or to make a deal with a conceptual devil.

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The newly chosen Arisen has the freedom to wander into various locations, encountering what is an open-world environment. Many swarms of minions & great beasts will interfere with their adventure. Whether they’re a bunch of annoying little Goblins or a Gryphon that’s having a bad day and will take it out on someone by plucking them from the ground and dropping them mid-flight. The Arisen will come across many ancient wonders, whether they’re the never-ending Everfall, or the constantly revitalizing Healing Springs that are scattered all across Gransys.

There’s many unknown variables in this universe; the mysterious & ever loyal Pawns, for example, who don’t even remember who they were, and how they became what they are. The Dragon that constantly threatens the fate of the world with it’s reappearances, and no understanding of his origin, other than the facade that he needs to be defeated every time. A never ending cycle of the same thing; threats & dangers that constantly reappear from the ominous depths of the world. The truth is that it is all a test – the ultimate test – to see how humanity chooses their own fate, how they struggle and succumb to what they believe is impossible to stand against. A fate that they themselves brought the entire universe into; a fate that only they can change with just enough courage & determination.


Characters & Creatures

The land of Gransys has a wide variety of characters that can be interacted with; sometimes important people that the Arisen can gain relationships with, whether they’re a simple merchant, or the Duchess of Gran Soren. Many NPCs with quests to either gather items, or to be safely escorted across dangerous lands. In return, these escort quests also build relationships with them, as they can rely on the Arisen in future endeavors & requests. In some rare instances, helping someone in a quest might just mean they’ll assist the Arisen with something later in the story, which might be more effective than some would think.

A select-few characters have secluded themselves away and have no specific goal in mind other than to just live the rest of their days in solitude without getting involved with the never-ending problems of the world. For the most part, they are useful for just understanding the past, possible mistakes to overcome, and for gathering knowledge of the all-encompassing story.

The Arisen will also come across mischievous individuals or characters who have ulterior motives, such as greed or people who strive to obtain power in order to use it for their own reasons. The Arisen’s role is up to the player, as there are many characters to help with what goals they may have in mind, whether or not it’s relative to the main quest. There’s plenty of adventure and challenges in store for the Arisen, and if the player intends to successfully escort various characters, they will need to make sure each of them don’t die during the endeavor, as they will not exist, permanently.

There are hordes of monsters across Gransys, which replenish regularly within just several hours and they vary depending upon night or day. There are certain locations where specific types of creatures are rampant or colonize. Sometimes you might just accidentally run across the occasional nasty Saurian which like to camouflage themselves along the rivers and in damp caves. Goblins which are usually packed in narrow passageways and almost any location where they might be able to catch the occasional passerby that’s unprepared for an ambush. Certain creatures are weak against some elements and specific weapons, whether it’s a fire spell or a vulnerable appendage that reduces the maneuverability of the opponent.

Annoying and possibly challenging as these swarms of creatures might be, there are also giants and behemoths of various monsters that can be incredibly difficult to face against if certain weaknesses and strategies are not known or used against them. Sometimes, they’ll be mixed in with the minions to make things more challenging, and it’s up to the player to decide on what should be dealt with first. As many creatures have their own respective weaknesses, it would be wise to take down what is known first, while staving off the other monsters in the process. Some weaknesses can be obvious and it doesn’t hurt to try something that might appear to be a vulnerability, as it could be worth the effort. Rest assured that there are plenty of tough beasts to take on, and many mega-bosses towards the end-game dungeons that will prove to be ever more challenging than the previous versions.


Gameplay

I’ve already described the intentions of the Itsuno’s development team and their vision of how they were intending Dragon’s Dogma to turn out. The action role-playing combat with interactivity between the party and to have certain purposes for each party member. The Pawn system was intended to be very flexible, with many choices of Pawns to choose from, whether they were the default builds or custom-built from players across the Multiplayer side of the platform. With this in mind, the player can pick and choose from the Pawns that they find to be the most useful or strategically sound in for their party builds. To have designated classes such as a healer/mage, tank/warrior, & a DPS/ranger; to balance the party to the player’s preference or whatever they might find to be the most efficient, it’s all up to the user.

As it was said before, certain creatures have weaknesses and vulnerable points, and it’s just a matter of figuring out what they’re weak to. However, that’s merely half of what to take into consideration – on the other side, the player and their Pawns can also have the appropriate gear and spells to efficiently take down specific creatures & bosses. For instance, not having a ranger or a mage in the party can really be annoying when fighting harpies, as they will rarely get low enough to be hit with a common sword swing or within range of any melee weapons for that matter.

The equipment system is interesting, as all the equipment (excluding the accessories) can be enhanced, provided the player finds the required materials from their adventures. After finding the appropriate items, the player then goes to the blacksmith to get their items upgraded with an additional cost, which raises based on the quality of the equipment. Each item varies on how much the enhancement will affect it, but a few equipment upgrades can have some interesting results.

One last thing to mention is Bitterblack Isle; it’s the zone that’s included with the Dark Arisen expanded version. Be careful of going there really early game, as the dungeon isn’t scaled to the player’s experience, so the creatures and bosses will be extremely difficult. Many of the bosses there are considered end-game even on some of the earlier floors and the common monsters are also no joke, as they will be advanced versions of the creatures that the player runs into from the mainland.


Author’s Notes

I put some effort into this one, and I hope that I am getting better at this sort of stuff. It’s somewhat of a side-project on top of the other various things that I tinker with, so I may not put as much effort and time as is necessary.

Anyways, I spent a couple hundred hours into this game, so I certainly got the hang of it and it was enjoyable enough that I replayed the full game three times. I also did a full stream/recording of my last play-through, which can be found here.

There is no score – at least not on this full review. It’s not as if I’m against scoring a game based on it’s graphic smoothness, character depth, & sound quality; however, I find that just giving it a score doesn’t accurately portray titles, as the score can sometimes be irrelevant and people still will enjoy the hell out of it. So read up my friends, as taking the time to understand a game is just the beginning to fully enjoying the experience.


Also, the game is affordable; below is a link to a site that sells CD keys.

They are reliable and can be trusted.

Author: ArcanicVoid

"Forward the Foundation" - Hari Seldon

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