Preview: Dragon's Dogma
- — 22 April, 2012 22:00
|Name||Fantasy RPG: Dragon's Dogma|
|Summary:||A fantasy RPG that doesn't take itself too seriously.|
|Games Info:||Developer: Capcom; Publisher: Capcom|
|Test Platform:||Xbox 360|
To be frank, I didn't expect a whole lot from Dragon's Dogma. It was a franchise I'd never even heard of a couple of months ago, and it looked like a watered-down Skyrim. When I sat down with it for a few hours, however, I was pleasantly surprised.
In actual fact, not much about Dragon's Dogma is like Skyrim at all. It's an open-world fantasy RPG, with sprawling landscapes and beautiful scenery. At the very start of the game, your village is attacked by a very large, nasty dragon. The similarities pretty much end there.
Dragon's Dogma doesn't take itself all that seriously. It's a bit of a silly game; the storyline's cheesy and the dialogue is delivered in a rather overdramatic way. Some of the music is epic orchestral music, but some of it is hard rock and metal. It has nowhere near the level of detail in the mythology, which will put some people off and make the game more accessible to others.
The character creator is incredibly detailed, but you don't have access to a whole bunch of races. You're a male or female human, and that's it. You have a choice of only three classes - the fighter (essentially a barbarian), the strider (a ranger), and the mage (wizard). From there you can customise the way your character looks, and there are at least hundreds, if not thousands of possible combinations. My character had my haircut, my skin, my eyes, my nose, and was almost my exact height and weight. If you spend enough time on it, you can recreate just about anyone.
Rather than being the massive, go-anywhere-and-do-anything open world that Skyrim is, the world of Dragon's Dogma guides you through it, along roads, with only a handful of quests available to you at one time. Often, those quests are to be completed in the same location, so you don't even have to make a special trip. You can go off the road if you want to, but as soon as you veer from the worn path, life becomes a whole lot more dangerous. You're also going to want to mostly travel during the day - nighttime gets pretty scary, as well.
If you're like me and choose to play with a mage the first time through, you're going to have some difficulty in the early stages of the game. Your spells kind of suck, and you have to keep your distance when the swarms of bad guys get thrown your way. Often, you'll be taking on ten guys at once, and if they get too close and flank you, you're dead.
Thankfully you won't have to fight all your battles alone. Within the first couple of hours of the game, you gain the ability to recruit up to three 'pawns', who are essentially mindless fighters who will obey your every whim. Whether or not you're in battle, you can tell them to come, or stay, or help you out, by pressing a button on the D-Pad. You can swap your pawns in and out, except for your 'main' pawn, who you can name and completely customise using the character creator. You'll quickly discover that it's best if you have a mix of character classes on your team.
To control your main character in combat, you have to alternate between using your main attacks with X and Y, and holding down the right bumper to perform more powerful attacks. Unless I'm missing something (which is always possible), your character will just auto-aim at the nearest enemy that you're facing, which made for some frustrating moments as I didn't really want to get close to my enemies. If you do get close, however, you have the opportunity to grab your enemy, with potentially hilarious consequences.
See, if you grab an enemy that's much larger than yourself, you climb up onto it and can then attack it where it can't get to you. It can throw you off, but most enemies take some time to do so. But what's even better than that? You can also grab people-sized enemies. If you're fighting a bandit, you can simply pick him up and drop him off of a cliff while he struggles to get free. Alternatively, if there's no cliff available, you can hurl him at your other enemies and watch them both fall down for your pawns to pick on.
You don't have to be in combat to pick people up, though - you can just walk around your village, picking people up and tossing them off of cliffs. Sometimes they can survive some quite serious falls, and other times they just seem to explode into a splatter of blood.
You can even kill people who appear to be essential to the plot in this way. Want to murder someone who's given you a side quest? Sure, you can do that. You can't complete the side quest, of course, but the ragdoll physics will be funny. Annoyed with one of your pawns? Why not throw her off a cliff, too? You can always get a new one.
Needless to say, Dragon's Dogma is probably not for kids.
As I continued to test the boundaries of what I could do, I discovered some other cool stuff: I could pick up crates and throw them at people, and after those people fell down, they'd get up and sprint away really, really fast. If you push someone off a dock into water only a metre or so below, the water around them will turn blood red and they'll never be seen again. (I guess the water must be piranha-infested.) Ultimately, those little, silly details were what made Dragon's Dogma fun. It's that same feeling you get when you discover that you can steal from a merchant in Skyrim by putting a pot on hsi head so he can't see you.
There is only one really major problem I had with the few hours of Dragon's Dogma I played. The graphics really are sub-par, at least in this build. People aren't detailed, textures pop in, and the draw distance is terrible. With any luck, these issues will be fixed up in the final build of the game. If they're not, Dragon's Dogma will be dead in the water.
Dragon's Dogma is not going to be the game of the year, and if you want to play Skyrim, you might as well just play Skyrim. But if you've spent you 150+ hours on Bethesda's fantasy universe, and you're ready to move on to something a little lighter, the world Capcom has created might surprise you.