Joystick: “Dragon’s Dogma” goes far, but not far enough
Rated M: 360,PS3
—MMO-style RPG leaves you in command of a party ready to bash monsters
—Follower mechanic isn’t deep, but it’s pretty fun.
—A few gameplay quirks and awkward-feeling controls won’t hamper experience.
There’s something quite addicting about “Dragon’s Dogma.” Not in a “This game is amazing and absolutely breathtaking” sort of way. More of a “I can’t tell whether this game is really serious” sort of way.
Regardless of the good (and bad) hype around Capcom’s attempt to cash in on single-player third-person RPGs, “Dragon’s Dogma” has a lot going for it.
The game revolves around the ties between a vicious, world-ending dragon and the protagonist that must conquer it. Designed to mimic MMORPG-style gameplay, players can design their protagonists using a limited character designer.
The world doesn’t feel open until a couple hours into the game. There’s plenty of things to learn about before then, but the game makes you stumble around for quite some time. The controls feel similar to From Software’s “Dark Souls,” except you can jump, which means exploring is meant to feel a little more fun and a little less strenuous. “Dragon’s Dogma” has more epic moments, wait until you defeat the Hydra for the first time. It’s worth it.
You eventually gain followers who you can (somewhat) command. Having your own party comes with more challenges than benefits.
Your followers — aptly named “pawns” — often run ahead of you, chattering up a storm, and sometimes being helpful. They forage for items, often taking things you were trying to pick up. You can steal items back from them, but it’s clear you have little control over their actions. In battle, your follower mostly used as a diversion so enemies try to chomp them instead of you. Sure, they heal you and sometimes boost your weapon’s affinity, but they also knock enemies away from you at the worst time. In addition, they’ll only heal you if you’re critically injured — I couldn’t find any command to get them to heal me to full strength.
Your allies’ dim-witted nature aside, the Pawn system is ingenious. Players unlock a permanent, customized follower within a few hours. You pick all the options your customized pawn will need, and you’re responsible for leveling him or her up, outfitting them with better gear, increasing their skills and making sure they don’t die. Online-capable players can summon each others’ permanent followers as well, making the customized experience a little more fun if you’re using your friend’s pawn.
There’s still some unfortunate flaws in the game. While the monsters and scenery look stunning, the characters look less than stellar (Read: blocky and polygonal). What’s more, the battle mechanics feel awkward at times. Enemies are easily disrupted, but knocking them down means chasing after them once they land. Enemies often foreshadow their attacks, and bosses, while impressive looking, tend to fizzle with klonky attacks and slow movements.
That doesn’t mean “Dragon’s Dogma” is a bad game, however. There’s a lot to explore in the game, and the plot feels interesting enough to overlook some of the wonky battles.