Dragon's Dogma - Playstation 3
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121 of 129 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2012
Capcom, famed developer and publisher that's brought gamers such franchises as Devil May Cry, Resident Evil, and Street Fighter, enters the medieval fantasy foray with Dragon's Dogma, a peculiar take on the Western open-world RPG. (And seemingly brought to us with a lack of typographical errors.)

Taking inspiration from Skyrim, Dark Souls, and Capcom's own offerings, Monster Hunter and Devil May Cry, Dragon's Dogma stands out by being derivative of several games and in turn becoming uniquely its own title, and if the sales are promising, hopefully it'll be the start of a new series.

Before I get into what's important, the gameplay, let's get the graphics out of the way first ... Dragon's Dogma is a shoddy looking game. The game is letterboxed (black bars are located on the top and bottom of the screen, taking up real estate), and there is no way to disable this; the frame-rate isn't locked at 30 fps, and will frequently dip (though it hasn't turned into a game-breaking slideshow); there's noticeable pop-in; the textures are muddy, clipping is prevalent, and there's a soft focus to the world in general, similar to Devil May Cry 4 on PS3. The good news is the game is devoid of any screen tearing and when it comes to artistic mettle, it can be quite stunning at times, especially with its lighting. The world itself is alive with great wind effects, some lovely day to night transitions (though be wary of the night), and overall, a well realized D&D look.

Dragon's Dogma is however a joy to play. Initially allowing three classes to choose from -- Fighter, Mage, and Strider -- DD opens up with additional vocations, the game's preferred nomenclature, and adds Ranger, Warrior, Sorcerer, Mystic Knight, Magick Archer, and Assassin, for a total of nine vocations. Each vocation has its own skills and abilities, and you'll have opportunities to switch it up without having to start over, which allows you to experience the many variants in combat approach DD offers. If that's not enough, DD employs a unique pawn system, essentially party members, but with a twist. You create your initial pawn, and select their vocation, so you can live vicariously through them on the battlefield ... or should I say, they'll live vicariously through you. In addition to your pawn, you can hire two additional pawns created by other users, and these pawns take with them the knowledge they've acquired through questing with others into your game, frequently dropping quest hints and other various anecdotes pertaining to their surroundings; this also means your pawn, so carefully crafted, will be adventuring with others (they stay with you at all times regardless, even if someone "rents" your pawn while you're playing), and they too will come back with things to share, and if the previous master was so kind, with a gift left by whomever took them on their travels. It's an interesting take on the traditional party member, and something I've never come across in a game before. On one hand, I would like the option to just create all three of my pawns and form a bond with them as I adventure on; however, this system encourages the idea of player interaction, since you're swapping pawns frequently (they do not level up, and you can't assign specific skills, so you'll have to swap accordingly). It isn't as profound as Dark Souls online implementation, but it's a refreshing take on single-player RPGs with a community based element.

I've typed more than I intended and I' haven't even touched on the games crowning achievement, and that's the gameplay. The combat in this game is fantastic, with each class being awesome enough that no matter what you're doing, you'll see a pawn pull off some crazy **** and think, "I want to do that next!" The game simply feels like the director behind it brought us Devil May Cry 2, 3 and 4. And the best part is that this is an open world RPG! Dark Souls was all about precision, with a very methodical pace to its proceedings; DD is much more action oriented, with some eye-popping skills that are fun to perform and brilliant to look at it. The creatures that get to absorb these amazing attacks are terrific, with a nice variety of classic monsters that animate well and have attack patterns that require you to pay attention and to be on guard. I haven't even mentioned the climbing ability, similar to Shadow of Colossus, which allows you to scale these beasts and plunge whatever weaponry you're housing into their hides. Jeez, I haven't even mentioned the spells yet, either. You should see these spells! You really should, youtube them! It's what sorcery should look and feel like. DD just nails the combat. You'll know it as soon as you nock your first arrow and let it fly into the eye of a cyclops.

I could continue, but I feel I've made my point. Dragon's Dogma is a worthwhile entry into the open-world RPG market. It has fantastic combat and a grand sense of adventure, and it is able to encapsulate the feeling of danger that should arouse when you don't know what's down this cave you've stumbled across. It's unfortunate the engine can't keep up with its ideas (time for a new generation of consoles), but don't let that dissuade you if you're in the hunt for a lengthy title with rewarding gameplay.
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117 of 131 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2012
this is a truly excellent game with some really epic
fights. be warned though, you may die frequently especally at night when it seems
all the things that go bump in the night are bumping more so then usual
the nice part is you can save at any time.

the story isn't anythng special but serves well enough to get you into the game.

this game, unlike others does no hand holding at all
so you will not be treated to the usual tutorial or
any such standard RPG mechanics.

the battle system is fluid
and really fun to experiment with. the mages do really get strong after
some grinding (you will grind a lot in this game) I built my character
to be a "Mystic Knight" basicly a Warrior Mage hybrid. it seems to be a weaker class
though I have jolly good times climbing upon the likes of a cyclops and
stabbing him in his big old eye thus making him a bit chaotic
for a time where he even covers his face. the fighting is much more fluid
then in the demo which I thought was good but needed polish.
well the game has been polished quite nicely so most of the bugs you encountered
in the demo are not present here. (thankfully)

it's a little tough to get going since you have no idea where anything is and also do not know the map,
thus your first few adventures may be harder then you expected
especally when the quest marker is not being very helpful (I followed my quest objective into a city and upon going in it pointed behind me)
the pawns are a godsend though with better A.I. then I have seen in
an RPG in a very very long time. they heal you, fight the monsters
(a little zealously sometimes which leads to either death or another battle)
the pawns not only support your actions but actually assist very well
and their comments on the huge beasts weaknesses are most welcome! they also pick up items and give them to you. you also get a Main Pawn that will lvl up with you throughout the adventure and you may Hire using Rift Crystals up to Two Support Pawns that will Not gain levels with the party. they bring loot and info back to their masters. your pawn will be the same when "rented out" though while rented he will still be at your side so you're never without your main Pawn (unless he "dies")

the loot is a bit more sparse then I was getting from the videos but
it's not a big problem. the stores sell loads of items and Inns
sell Skill Upgrades where you expand upon your skill tree depending on your choices
the strider class is your "rogue" class with loads of nifty abilities (like invisibility). the mage is a AoE + Healing support style character.
you may also re-spec your points at almost any time (for a price)

the environments may seem bland at first but they soon are filled with life
and thgis life is intelligent too so beware of brigands that might
set a trap for you (like the rolling boulder shown in the vids)
or a dragon might come crashing through the trees and this above all
creates Tension throughout the adventure, which leads to caution.
caution is wise here as your pawns can "die" if one does it's sent back to the "rift" where they come from. your main pawn may be resummoned from the rift if he or she dies. support pawns cost Rift Crystals to aquire and the more crystals
you have the better class of pawns you can hire.

overall this game is a Must Buy for Hack & Slash fans and action RPG fans alike
theres loads of content and the map is Huge, be ready to cough up some rare loot
to fast travel though (No one rides for free I guess lol)
not only are the pawns quite smart, so are the baddies they will flank you, use long range to their advantage and annoy big monsters to lure then to you.
(so evil of them...) renting pawns is done through a rift stone 9they're scattered everywhere it seems) and a quest awaits you around every corner.
some of which take you underground into caves and labyrinths filled with the dead (some of which can posses party members lol) you must use a lantern in these dark places and you'll need to be sure to bring loads of Lantern Oil.
enemy types are quite varied with quite a few that will be easily identified by
RPG'rs and D&D fans. the enemies range from standard fare goblins on up to Chimera,
Harpies, Evil Eye (think Beholder) Hydra, Cyclops, Trolls, Ogres and more
all for you to climb on and give a beating (provided you have the stamina which is important in this game)

Some NG+ info
you get Portstones (which can be bought at the black cat in NG+) too which help a ton. (lets you set a spot to use ferrystones to Go to!)
you get one of these at the top of blue moon tower.
and at the end, the game IS NOT OVER! it's not only got NG+ (new game+)
but it has endgame content only available After beating the game. so there's Tons
to do. also they keep adding new quests and other stuff via DLC
the game is a blast if you're hesitating about picking it up, don't.
I haven't had this much fun with an RPG in years.
I'd recommend being at least lvl 50 before going for the end.
it's not due to the end boss rather, it will be eternal night
after the "final Battle" and is extreamly difficult. so be ready and
well equipped.

this game seems to be going back to
"the good ole days" of RPG's. I was shocked to see almost no fast travel (and I love it) (well, there IS fast travel but you need Ferrystones that you find (rarely) and they're extreamly valuable. also for resurrection you need Wakestones that you find in shards and need Three to Resurrrect your character. while this may sound difficult, it's great to use in times of dire need.) but I find it refreshing since it really makes you explore the whole world and as such, makes the game last longer (and the sun setting much more scary lol) also from the good ole days is the Lantern! How surprised I was at actually having to use the lantern in the dark (most games I turn the gamma up and I'm fine, not here though) and of course the brutal difficulty. it really makes me feel like I am playing old days D&D. I just love the game and it's exactly what I have been looking for on the ps3. I will sum it up in two words: Simply Stellar!

Gameplay: 4 of 5 stars due to the lack of a lock on. climbing is fun though.

Graphics: nicely polished and interesting locations 5 of 5 stars

Sound: an excellent score backs up the sound of combat 4 of 5

Controls: fairly easy to learn, menus can be a pain to navigate 5 of 5 stars

Fun: the game is a blast whether you're climbing a hydra lopping off it's heads one by one or bashing the undead in dark caverns. the battle system really makes the game shine. 5 of 5 stars

Overall: a must buy for RPG and Action RPG fans it will not fail to please.
5 of 5 stars
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60 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2012
It's been a long time since I've played a game where I truly felt that I was adventuring, D&D style, in a dangerous world. The combat is weighty, visceral, and exceptionally diverse and offers a real challenge (but not frustratingly so like Dark/Demon souls). Each encounter becomes epically cinematic as you and your pawns (companions) work in tandem to block strikes, grapple with foes, climb giant monstrosities to access their weak points. At one point one of my AI teammates used his shield as a springboard to vault me up onto a giants arm, where I then clung swinging my sword, holding onto the beast as he thrashed. He stumbled over to the edge of a cliff turning the tactical jump I just made into a grave mistake, as now I didn't have ground underneath to land on if he shakes me off. During a caravan escort quest, a harpy swooped down and grabbed the guard next to me, carrying him to a nearby cliff and dropping him. These weren't a scripted events, they were ordinary encounters and mob mechanics that turn seamlessly cinematic.

The environment has a few features that some people will hate, but I've been longing for. Darkness is truly dark - you need to ensure that you and your party have light sources (lanterns and oil for instance) before heading down into the unexplored, and those light sources can be influenced by the environment. Fighting in the water? Your light is going to go out and no amount of turning up the gamma will make it so you can see! Along those lines nighttime is also not something to be taken lightly. You need to plan your quests and travels so that you won't be caught outside when darkness falls, because not only will you not be able to see (even with light sources, it's realistically dark), but it's supremely dangerous. Getting caught out at night becomes nerve wracking as you strain to hear dangers that you can't hope to see, and try not to get lost as you seek some sort of shelter. It gives an old school feel of real danger and panic that I've really missed in games.

Character creation has you customizing every aspect of your character, not only in basic appearance and hairstyle, but in actual size, weight, bulk and musculature. This all plays into how your character performs - a smaller light character will be more nimble, a bulky sumo character will be good at knocking foes down. Even your posture and stance can be customized, you can realize the stooped and wizened wizard you always wanted (for you or your pawn).

The pawn system surprised me the most, I didn't think I'd become so addicted to it. Essentially, you make one main pawn for yourself - this is your constant companion on your journey, able to be designed with the full range of options as you yourself were built with. You equip them, they level with you, and most importantly they learn with you. As you do quests, fight monsters, and have conversations you direct their progression. Are they protective of the party and will help teammates above all else, or do they aggressively attack opponents disregarding everything else. Do they like to scout ahead or do they prefer to stay near the leader. If you show them how to do something (take restorative healing items), they'll learn how to do it themselves. These pawns and their AI are probably the most lifelike NPCs I've encountered in a long time, and the fact that they can be quite talkative just adds to that as they'll comment on anything and everything as you are exploring/adventuring.

You can have up to three other pawns with you in a party, but you yourself only make the one. The others you can hire are the ones that other players have made to be their main pawns. Your pawn doesn't go anywhere when another person uses them in their party, but instead a copy of them is used and then the quest and monster knowledge that they learn with other players, is retained. Your pawn will be out learning whether you are playing or not. I didn't expect to enjoy this feature so much, but seeing that my pawn is getting use by dozens and dozens of players, who send gifts and comments back with it showing it was useful to them, is a great feeling - not to mention that my pawn then has new insights into various enemies or hazards in the world that helps me dramatically in my own game.

The only real negative I'm finding with the game is the weaker main story (it's on par with Skyrims main plot), some occasional performance issues during busy fights, and the predictability of some areas. That is even though it's an open world, when you've been somewhere enough, you begin to learn what might spawn where. Since combat is so much fun it's not too much of a drawback though, and it will take you some time before you explore the entire world enough to begin predicting where things are.

Overall this is an amazing RPG and one that I'm obviously enjoying immensely. If I had to compare this game to something, I'd say it's some amalgamation of Dark Souls, Skyrim, Monster Hunter and Shadow of the Colossus. The few negatives about the game are easily forgiven and forgotten in the face of how much dang fun it is.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2012
I've been playing this for about 2 weeks now as a strider with a mage pawn...

Pros:
-Awesome Battles - Boss battles are actually quite intense. Some of these monsters you face are HUGE. And I do love the aspect of climbing the monster till I reach it's forehead and begin happily jabbing away into its brainpan with my awesome daggers! Very Cool!

-Pawn System - I originally bought this for the intriguing aspect of this pawn system. Long story short, you make a henchman - The henchman can be recruited by another player online and gain knowledge, items, and experience. You can do the same for other players online as well. So it's quite interesting and I kind of dig it. The best part is that your henchman (pawn) never leaves your side; however, when you rest at an inn, you get word that apparently your pawn has been breaking heads with other players. Kinda cool!

-Big World - Lots of exploring to do - Like I said...I've been playing for 2 weeks, but this thing is like HUGE - likely not Skyrim BIG - but still, a vast world with a lot of stuff to see...should keep you occupied for awhile...

-One aspect I like is that when you venture out at night, it is actually a little scary...you can't see very far in front of you - you're only fighting by a torchlight on your belt, and in the dark surrounding you, you can hear whatever monsters gathering...I like it that I'm actually nervous that something may happen to my character...

-Character customization - Huge amount of character customization for your character and your pawn. There are some bizarre body type configurations if you like the idea of playing a mutant...

Cons:
You only have ONE save game - unless of course you want to do some shake and bake and move your character to a thumbdrive or whatever, but I'll be honest...I'm too lazy to do all of that. So the fact that you only have ONE save for your ONE character is kinda BS.

No Fast Travel - 'Nuff said. I mean, they got these little token-like things that are hella-expensive, but you don't just find them lying around all over or anything...So anyway, you will be traveling back and forth to a lot to the same places and fighting that same group of goblins over and over again...which is good and bad dependent on how you look at it...

The talking from your henchmen...they will repeat many, many things over and over again. I find it's easier if I lower the voice volume and leave everything else as is...

Story and quests are pretty lame and unimaginative...

In Closing:
Overall I like the game, it's difficult which keeps me coming back to it. It angers me often with the little stupid things that's wrong with it, but obviously it doesn't bother me that much because I keep playing it...I only wish I was able to have more than one save file. I feel that detracts from being able to fully explore and appreciate the game such as changing your class. I did learn this the hard way when I upgraded my Strider to an Arcane Archer, and decided I did not want to play an arcane archer yet...I figured, "Okay, no big deal, I'll just go back to my old class and continue to be awesome.." Ho, ho...not so...I had to buy back my old class and I dropped in my ranking for that class to 0. Not cool at all...But despite that harsh learning experience, I still like it, hence my Love/Hate relationship with Dragon's Dogma...
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57 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2013
This is basically a GOTY version of Dragon's Dogma. It comes with the original main story, gives you a bunch of extras and adds on the "Dark Arisen" part. They also really fixed the game mechanics and loading times. Everything seems to move much smoother.
The "Dark Arisen" part is very challenging and rewarding, even for higher level players. I beat the new part around 3 hours and I was taking my time exploring. But you can still go back into the labyrinth and farm for various things.
All in all it was pretty good. If you haven't played Dragon's Dogma, I say this is a total buy for $40. With all the new updates and the difficulty settings, this makes for a good "hack and slash" esq RPG.
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61 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2013
Dark Arisen follows the course set by Dragon's Dogma-a great, atmospheric RPG with a few flaws. If you haven't played the original, the fact that Dark Arisen comes with the original Dragon's Dogma, all its DLC, and a moderately lengthy expansion (in a market otherwise saturated with low-quality DLC) at a discount price makes it a solid purchasing option. If you loved the original... the new content is well worth the investment.

Value: (5/5)
Before I get into the game, I'll talk a bit about the packaging and changes made to the original. First, Dark Arisen comes with two discs-one installs new high resolution textures and a Japanese voice track. The new textures are hardly noticable on my 1080p 42" HDTV, but cause sometimes significant issues loading NPCs (especially in Gran Soren's busy market.) I have not tried the Japanese voice acting out yet, nor do I really care to... not in a world based so firmly off of medieval Europe (with monsters from Greek mythology thrown in, but in both cases, it's strictly western-looking.)

If you owned the original game, you can import your old save. This creates a copy of the save-but doesn't touch the original. If you put in your old Dragon's Dogma disk, you can still play with your old character. The new character, however, has access to all the new Dark Arisen content, which features the new Bitterblack Isle-the subject of most of this review, but no more of this paragraph. The new DLC content can either be purchased at the Black Cat in Gran Soren... but it's not cheap. To get two of every new piece of equipment it cost me over 20,000,000 gold. Other content comes in the form of quests, on various boards. Even if you had the original game, the new DLC content cost more than twice as much as Dark Arisen, purchased individually. If you bought the old DLC gear... well, then this expansion is something of a slap in the face. Other new stuff has been well publicized-an Eternal Ferrystone (which allows you to fast-travel around the world for free, but only to customized Portcrystal spots) and 100,000 Rift Currency, which allows one to purchase custom gear... which is far less rewarding in Dark Arisen than in the original game. You also get some DLC NPC-based armor for free (Madeline, Julien, Aelinore, Festus, and Nun apparel.)

Gameplay (4/5)
Going into Dark Arisen, I had a pure-offense level 200 Assassin build
(10 levels of Fighter, 190 of Assassin.) I thought I was ready for anything... but, without getting too deep into the mechanics, many power-gamer skills were nerfed. Still, my character was rather potent, so I figured Bitterblack Isle wouldn't be too rough. I felt that way until I ran into my first Elder Ogre, which was able to smack me around for 1800 damage a hit, and took me several minutes to kill. Even if you're fully leveled, Bitterblack Isle is a stiff challenge. Many of the new monsters are palette-swaps of original monsters, or larger versions. Despite they, their ominous surroundings, feral power, aggressive AI, and sinister appearance work well. Some of the redesigns are so drastic, they hardly even feel like the old monsters you're used to fighting. Living Armor, Golden Knights, and Silver Knights hardly even feel like the old Skeleton Lords on which they're based, and the Gazer and Gorecyclops have increased in proportion over their originals so much they can't help but impress. If the game felt like Shadow of the Colossus before, these newer, even more immense foes can't help but heighten the connection. Some foes, however, are just shameless copies with special auras or lighting-Dire Drakes, Dire Wyverns, Dire Wyrms, Dark Bishops, etc.

Bitterblack Isle's content all takes place in a subterranean dungeon, divided into three strata, after the first two of which you'll find a shortcut to the surface. Minor stops exist along the way, where a former Arisen will help you out by providing Inn/Merchant services, such as storing your loot, changing your Vocation, and enhancing your gear. Inventory management has been improved with some better navigation options (the ability to try out gear right from your stash without having to take it into your inventory is a welcome addition.) All in all, you shouldn't ever feel like you're doing a serious grind. Unlike Dark Souls, safety is never too far away. Lifestones exist in great quantity to take you back to the surface should you need respite. If you're going to die, you'll do so in one encounter, not over several. On the other hand, monsters and treasure respawns much more quickly, so back-tracking to get to the surface is likely to be just as perilious (and less rewarding) than soldiering ahead until you reach a shortcut out or your friendly fellow Arisen.

The game starts out fairly easy-Hobgoblins and wargs (a new wolf creature in between a Direwolf and Hellhound in power) aren't much of a threat. The difficulty picks up satisfyingly a short distance into the dungeon, however. Individually powerful new foes like the Elder Ogre, Living Armor, Cursed Dragon, and Gorecyclops provide thrilling encounters, and Death-cast as the typical tattered-robe wearing wraith with a huge scythe-shows up randomly throughout, adding to the suspense. Death is a multi-stage boss, he kills in one hit, and can put you to sleep with his lantern, but can be driven off with enough damage. He is not invincible, like many reviews have said.

By the time you reach the third strata, however, the difficulty spikes immensely, and unjustifiably. I had my head smashed in by an Eliminator (more as a result of bad play than the difficulty, but it set the stage for what was coming.) In another part of the third strata, I had to fight a huge Elder Ogre and an Eliminator in a cramped dungeon filled with water. Since I play a Ranger (formerly an Assassin, but since the Assassin's skills have been nerfed, the bow power of a Ranger is a welcome improvement) I need to dodge often-I can't block or weather blows. This forces me to drench myself in water, putting out my lantern. Stuck in a cramped, dark tunnel, with two huge, powerful foes capable of killing me in two or three hits was not fun. The next level wasn't any better-in the midst of fighting some undead, three Garm appeared out of nowhere, forcing me to scamper up some rocks and laboriously shoot them to death. It wasn't fun, it just felt cheap. Shortly thereafter a Sorcerer Pawn cast a Maelstrom spell that annhiliated my entire party-my Arisen included-in one hit. By comparison, the end boss was fairly easy, but the massive ramp in difficulty was unexpected, not fun, and out of balance with the moderate increase in difficulty from the first to second stratum.

The worst part of Dark Arisen is-as it was with Dragon's Dogma, the AI. Your main character is called an Arisen, which-without going into the story-grants you the loyalty of the Pawn legion, or Myrmidons. They're essentially violent, cleptomaniacal, wonder-struck children who comment on everything you do and everything they see. They also are your partners in adventuring, and the steep difficulty of Dark Arisen (with the nerfing of skills like Autonomy) requires Pawns-at least initially. The confined spaces and ultra-challenging enemies conspire to make your Pawns more annoying than ever. Getting your Pawn to cast an offensive spell on a half-dead suit of Living Armor (at which point being immune to physical damage) is a nightmare. Having your Pawns mindlessly jump off ledges when you run over to loot a chest is aggravating to no end. When Death shows up, you can count on your Pawns to walk casually into his scythe attacks. If you find yourself prety to a monster in a chest (Maneaters), you're better off wiggling the analog stick like crazy and healing with inventory items... your Pawns would rather allow you to get devoured rather than walk over and whack the beast to free you. My greatest joy in Dark Arisen came from becoming so powerful that I could ditch my Pawns again, and rid myself of their incompetence.

There are only a few new augments, most of which are worthless (increasing ballistae reload speed, stamina drain when running, speed walking through water, lantern oil consumption rate, etc.) There are no new Vocations, the level cap hasn't been expanded, which is kind of a downer, if you power-leveled during the first game (like me.) Still, the original Dragon's Dogma was immensely fun, boasting the best combat in any RPG I've played in a long time. Whether you want to play a full archer, a robed mage, a platemail-clad sword-and-shield bearing fighter, a war-hammer weilding warrior, a foe-climbing, weakness exploiting rogue... you can do it, and in most cases, do it well. The variation between the fast-paced, dodge-happy Assassin, the massively powerful Sorcerer, the well-defended Fighter, and the ponderous, slow-swinging, weapon-charging Warrior, or the nimble archer is amazing, and it allows for many viable play styles.

You can level up to level 200, and your stats (Hit Points, Stamina, Magick, Strength, Defense, Magick Defense) raise as you level up-varying depending what your Vocation is each level. This encourages builds that focus on various strengths-Mages will end the game with more Magick, Warriors with more Strength, etc. And mixing Vocations will allow you to create specially-tailored characters to suit whatever your playstyle. Despite the obvious similarity to Final Fantasy Tactics, however, you cannot uber-grind godly jacks-of-all-trades. You cannot reverse the leveling process, so whatever character you make is bound to be locked into a certain role.

Almost as great are the character-customization options. Most RPGers by now are used to the fact that most RPGs only provide you with one body-and allow you to customize the face. Not so in Dragon's Dogma. Whether you want to play a young child, a buxom female, or a massive brute... you can do it. Your height and weight (variable from about four feet tall to seven feet tall, and over 100 kilograms) effect how your get about the world. Taller characters walk faster, use up less Stamina, but regenerate it slower, too. Smaller characters walk slower, use up more Stamina, regenerate it faster, and can fit into small spaces. Your weight also influences how you encumber foes you grapple. The custom options in Dark Arisen include many more hairstyles and colors than found in the vanilla Dragon's Dogma.

The new weapons are satisfyingly powerful, and look fairly cool (subjective, I know.) Improving all your resistances to 100% and becoming 50% resistant in all the elements is great fun, and it's provided me with hours of grinding to score all this new loot. The loot, however, doesn't just come usable out of chests and from the bodies of the slain-most of it has been cursed, which is a just a gimmick to limit the save/load farming that was so useful in the original game. Now you'll instead find 'Bitterblack Armor', 'Bitterblack Weapon', 'Bitterblack Novelty' or Bitterblack Gear', leveled one-to-to three, to denote it's basic quality. To make this new gear usable, you must take it to an NPC outside the dungeon and have her 'purify' it, lifting the curse and allowing you to identify and use said item. This isn't free, however, costing anywhere from a few hundred to nearly 30,000 Rift Currency... which thankfully drops in great quantities throughout the interior of Bitterblack Isle (expect over 100,000 or so for clearing one strata.)

Despite being an excellent RPG with great gameplay, leveling, and customization, it falters in one major area-the story. From the beginning, the game focuses on the Dragon, your antagonist. After a brief but fateful encounter at the beginning of the game, however, you won't see much of the critter. The entirity of Gransys is concerned over the return of the Dragon, and its presence permeates most quests, but the presence of the wyrm itself is strictly limited only to the beginning and end of the game. NPCs are bland, and establish little character. Despite this you'll be forced into a romance, deal with political intrigue, combat a cult, and help out a great deal of characters on various errands. The NPCs that ask you to do these things, however, have very little long-lasting impact, and fail to endear. The romance, however, is the biggest failure for this game. Without spoiling too much, you don't get to choose your partner-but you will have one. This romantic interest isn't chosen by conversations, quests, or design-just an invisible affinity rating. You can give gifts to improve this rating, and some interactions do help (saving the duchess from imprisonment is bound to win her affection, for instance, or letting a she-knight eager to prove herself defend her own honor will increase her disposition), and a rare, one-time gift of a ring will provide a massive boost, but nothing is set in stone. You could easily go through the entire game flirting (and financing) a busty burgeoning merchant, only to end up dating a bland, overly talkative innkeeper or an elitist, shrewish child. Capcom has no mercy.

Graphics/Sound (4/5)
The first game looked pretty good already, even without the texture pack adding much. Despite this, the game was ridiculed as being fairly bland... or rather, cliche. Personally, I enjoyed the creature design, and the contained area of Gransys made more sense than the unjustifiably rapid climate changes round in Skyrim. The palette employed through most of Dragon's Dogma is green-rather than the typical brown and grey seen in many RPGs and shooters as of late. The verdant meadows and forests are broken up only rarely by dark catacombs, water-filled caves, and mountain rifts. The monsters all look fairly traditional-but in my mind, a well-designed staple beats a crappy novelty any day. The Goblins, Hobgoblins, Saurians (lizardmen), Drakes, undead, Chimeras, Griffins, and Evil Eyes (Beholders) all look spot-on, and if you're like me, you'll appreciate the attention given to cherished monsters. The world is, however, somewhat on the small side, for what aspires to be an open-world game, and there is a fair amount of dead-space. Some of the western areas of the game are never referenced in the story at all, and unless you wander off the beaten path, you'll never bother to see much of Gransys.

The atmosphere of Dark Arisen's Bitterblack Isle, however, is far darker than anything found in the original game, save the Everfall. Green meadows are now joined by dank dungeons, crawling with beasts, and the sometimes gruesome remains of Arisen to dared to tread into the depths before. Unlike previous dungeons, which tended to look incidentally dangerous, Bitterblack's depths aren't just decrepit-some areas look purposefully hostile to explorers. A multi-level cylindrical area connects elevated ramps with rickety wooden bridges, occupied by mages that love to pelt you from the safety of height. Piles of corpses and bones lie stacked nearby, a flowing river of blood drains into the abyss, and wrapped corpses swing at the end of chains. Darkness permeates the entire game, from the abandoned ruins near the entrance to the remains of the city near the end. The mood contrasts well with the lush countryside of the original game, and gives you no false impressions-you're on hostile territory.

The dungeon's appearance is fortified by its design. At any moment Death can pop up (with the somewhat annoying choir that picks up when you encounter him adding to the tension.) Any treasure chest could contain a Maneater-a tentacle monster that dwells in containers, waiting a foolish adventurer. Slay your way through a level, and the festering meat of your slain foes might attract scavengers-who aren't afraid to add you to the menu. The unpredictability of Bitterblack keeps you on your toes-especially when one or two hits can prove fatal.

The sound is also fantastic-particularly the music that plays when you injure one of the game's many gigantic foes. You've never fought a Chimera, Griffin, Cyclops, or Ettin like the ones in Dragon's Dogma. Sound affects are appropriate, and the voices are well-done, even though the NPCs rarely have anything important to say. Even more than the heraldry, the crumbling-yet majestic-stonework around Gran Soren (the capital and one real city in Gransys), the heavily-accented voice overs sell the world you're in, which aspires to medieval Europe. I'd be tempted to rate this category 5/5 for Dark Arisen simply for removing the awful title music that plagued Dragon's Dogma... but I'll practice some restraint.

Reviewer Bias (5/5)
Dragon's Dogma is much of what I had been waiting for in an RPG. A game with good character customization, great action-packed combat that allows for great variability in play-style, and that isn't shy about adding some statistics. We're not that dumb, Bethesda, most gamers won't get scared away by attributes and numbers. The story is a let down, but the game is just so fun to play, I've been stuck on it for almost a year now. Shadow of Colossus-style boss fights, the gear and stat grinding, the Dark Souls atmosphere of Bitterblack, the beautiful (and sometimes misleading) tranquility of Gransys... I love it all. Dark Arisen adds to the challenge and content of the original game in a meaningful way. If you loved Dragon's Dogma, don't be shy about upgrading to Dark Arisen. If you haven't purchased the original yet... what have you got to wait for? It's easily the best RPG experience of the past year, and at $40, Dark Arisen provides an awful lot of great content.

Overall Score: 4/5

Review By: Nathan Garvin (Haeravon)
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2012
Okay, so I finished my first play-through the other day and started playing another game the following evening. Somehow I ended up back on Dragon's Dogma playing NG+!! I really, really liked this game.

The game itself plays like a hack and slash RPG in a lot of ways. Attacks are mapped to the three top buttons on your controller, triangle square and circle (PS3), but are tied to which bumper you are holding down. So, I hold down right bumper I have three options, hold left three other options. This gives you access to six abilities at any given time. Your abilities can be swapped at specific merchants. There are a series of vocations to play as, although when you start there are only three available. As you play your particular vocation you both level up normally and level up within the vocation unlocking new abilities.

This is a free roam game where you get to go anywhere you want to walk to, with some exceptions. Although, come night you will find it impossible to see anything for very far and more powerful monsters, as well as undead begin to roam the world, so watch out at beginner levels!! Being an open world, the auto save feature isn't in play very much. It seems to work when leaving towns or completing quests. So if you are wandering for hours out in the world you haven't saved! I strongly recommend hitting start and then hitting select to do a quick save. Especially if you are wandering around.

The story was great as far as I was concerned. This really is a hybrid between an MMO and a single player RPG. You will frequently encounter cinematic cut scenes moving the main plot (and side stories) along, but there are lots and lots of MMO style board quests. There are boards in all towns with quests on them that you can take if you wish. These sometimes lead to other quests later on, for instance you help someone and then another quest comes up where they can assist you with information or something, or better prices on gear, or a wider selection of gear. The main story was great and the conclusion had me feeling kind of sad and fascinated at the same time. I appreciate that game developers are willing to take more and more chances in regards to the messages they are trying to convey in this medium.

The MMO elements are as such: Pawns are a race of people trapped in a void called the Rift. They are not human although look it. They do not age and do not actually die as a fallen Pawn can be recalled from the Rift to help you. Pawns (online) are other people's created Pawns. You create one main Pawn when you start the game and that is the Pawn that will follow you to the end of the world. Invest in making your Pawn as powerful as you! Good gear and abilities are a must, not only for you but others. When other people are looking for additional Pawn to adventure with from the Rift, they will see your Pawn and hire them. People rate each other's Pawns, and if you release a Pawn back to the Rift, they will take anything on them back to the owner. There is a very robust search feature in the Rift for finding the perfect Pawn with specific levels, abilities, or vocation you are looking for to compliment your party.

Gear is ridiculous. There are seemingly hundreds upon hundreds of items to find. You can also combine items to create new items. When upgrading specific pieces of armor or a weapon, it will require certain items in many cases. These items may need to be crafted by using the combining method. The amount of armor and weapons is very large as well, and new DLC that has been consistently coming out after the games release has been adding quests and gear to the game.

Finally, visually the game is amazing. It only runs 720p max, but it is fine. I had the very rare frame rate hitch, but only when I had multiple spell casters in the group buffing party members. The spell hits an area and lingers so that you can walk through it to gain the benefit. There were three spells lingering and then a spell caster cast an additional spell to boost all of our stats which is like an explosion of light followed by light sparkling off the caster and when that spell went off the screen lagged out for a moment! :D
Environmental effects (primarily wind) are always present. The first trip out the gate to the neighboring fort is very cool as the entire forest around you is being buffeted by the coastal winds. I won't give away the story, but the mild weather is not present for the entire game!

Anyway, great game! Hours and hours of fun (over 60 before I finished the game the first time and I had not done everything by a long shot) great MMO integration and visually top notch! Lots of gear tweaking, character class tweaking and exploration! If this sounds like a game you'd like, don't hesitate to pick it up!!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2012
Dragon's Dogma is an amazing game. I've wished for a game like this for a long time, and it has become one of my all-time favorites. With that being said, it does have flaws that might be important for some people.

THE GOOD:
- The combat. Fast paced, fluid, and very deep. Despite what I've read about "no lock-on targeting", there is actually a soft targeting that occurs in melee combat (skills and attacks are pointed towards close enemies). Casting and Magic Archer arrows also auto-target. The only action that is completely without lock-on is standard bow shots.
- The classes. Much like the combat, the system is very deep and rewarding. Changing vocations and sampling different skills is easy and fun.
- The difficulty. This game is rough stuff, no hand-holding here. There is no level-adjustment of enemies, and no markings letting you know they will dominate you. Learn by dying!
- Large monsters. The large monsters randomly roaming areas are freaking awesome. It's very exciting, and leads to some epic battles.
- Pawn system. Pawns are AI companions, who learn from quests and battles. You create one and share it with other players, and you can keep two created by other players in your party. Early in the game, pawns might be kind of incompetent. But they grow and learn, becoming very good teammates.
- The details. There are so many small details, it's clear the developers really cared about creating something special. The lighting effects of your lantern, the goblins talking trash, the way cloth moves...really great.
- The world. Map images you see online do not do this world justice. It is truly huge, and takes quite a long time to explore. "Fast travel" options are expensive early in the game, so you have to hoof it everywhere. I've really grown to appreciate how large the game world is. Plus, it's not just empty land. Monsters, people, and pawns scattered all over the place.
- Greenery. I guess this could go under "details", but the trees and grass I think look great. They move with the wind in a very natural way.
- Character customization. The creation menu for your character and main pawn is extremely detailed and thorough. I was able to make a character that looked recognizably like me.

THE BAD:
- The story. I personally like it, but understand the criticisms. It is not very complex. It's basically, "Dragon shows up, takes your heart, now you need to kill him." Most of the fun in this game is sort of creating your own adventure. People will give you quests (escort, save a fort, explore a cave, etc.) and craziness ensues.
- Pop-ins. Graphically, there is definitely some character pop-in. Running full speed through the big city of Gran Soren, you will definitely notice characters not immediately rendering. Occasionally, I've seen environment objects (like a bush)
- Slowdowns. I have the PS3 version, and there are times the game's framerate slows noticeably. If I am battling a large creature with other small minions, and my pawns are casting big spells, sometimes the game gets choppy. It doesn't bother me much, but if you are used to high-end PC gaming, this could be a deal-breaker.

So, in summary, I think this might be the greatest, most enjoyable RPG of all time. But, it's not for everyone (specifically, people who prefer complex storylines or those who require technical perfection).

It's hard to compare Dragon's Dogma to other games, because it is very unique. But, to put it in such a context, I will say that I disliked Skyrim's combat and absolutely hated Final Fantasy XIII's linearity and cumbersome plot. I loved Dragon Age Origin's gameplay, and the challenge found in Dark/Demon Souls.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2012
I saw this game probably a year ago and have been waiting for it since, i forgot about it and saw it was coming out the next week so i was like hey why not preorder? and it was the 2nd preorder ive ever done and 1 of the best RPGs ive played, im a hardcore demons/dark souls player, 2 of my favorite games. if you liked those games youll love this, the gameplay is like DS but with a bit more action too it, and more RPG.People compare this game to skyrim just to give it a bad name in comparison but dont listen to them they're ignorant, these are 2 completely different games, the only thing related to skyrim is the fact its open world, but other than that nothing is alike. the class system used is great, it adds lots of options and gives the game replay value, which is rare these days, the pawn system is great, there is no direct multiplayer but this makes up for it since you get to use the other player created pawns, which is a NPC that fights along side you, you customize them just like you do your main character, you give commands but its all action based live fighting not turn based. There is a challenge with the game with it being open world, its kind of hard to figure out where to go if you dont pay attention, and if you wander too far you're bound to hit a road block of enemies you think you can beat...but turn out to be horribly mistaken, this may sound dumb but it adds to the adventure, there are a ton of side quest to do to keep yourself busy and plenty of places to go, i strongly reccomend anyone who likes RPGs to purchase, not rent, purchase this game, i cant completely describe the gameplay, but its addicting, you hack and slash and use some pretty flashy skills to make it stand out from the rest, the best little thing they did was the grapple system, is something running too fast for you to get in a blow with your two-handed weapon? jump at it and hang on as long as possible while striking blow after blow to its body, tired of the class you're using?go to the inn and change your class for a new take on this game, so for those of you who took the time to read this, i cant tell you how excited i was, and still am about this game, dragons dogma is the way to go, dont pass it up
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2012
After a few hours with this game today, I think I have the gist enough to form an opinion.

Dragon's Dogma is a nice blend of Eastern RPG with Western style and flair. Maybe it tries a little too hard to get that Tolkien and Game of Thrones feel, but it is unlike what I've been able to come across from a Japanese title so far. Combat flows plenty, and depending on your class can feel like something familiar to a Devil May Cry game. It's not nearly as fast paced and combo related as the former, but you can definitely tell this game was made by the same people. So far I haven't run across any major bugs with the combat, and trust me, this is a combat heavy game.

The pawn system is really neat. Being able to pull your companions out of other peoples games is something innovative and highly useful. The first time you dive into the Rift it'll fee like second nature, and searching for that perfect Pawn comes naturally and easily. In my relatively short time with the game, my own personal companion returned several times with gifts of rift crystals and loot, as well as valuable experience on the land, quests, and monsters.

Exploration in this game is there for you pioneers out there. Most of my first hour in the game (after the tutorial stage) was spent searching every nook and cranny of my tiny sea town for any hidden goodies I was able to find, and find plenty I did. There is an item upgrade/crafting system in place that rewards players holding onto rare items and weapons. But treading off the beaten path isn't without it's own perils. Many times I've been jumped by bandits or lizard monsters by just exploring not very far away from the main road. And when this game tells you to only travel at day, trust me, they mean business. Exploration at night is difficult, but oh so rewarding if you're willing to take the chance.

Is it perfect? No, no, there could be some fixes here and there. The camera often fights against you in tight quarters. Some of the menu interfaces and wording for training your main Pawn isn't completely intuitive, and I often find myself guessing as to what her behavior will be like. The screen can become quite cluttered with key layouts and pawn dialogue, but that can be remedied with a few option preferences. The game doesn't really let you know if you're getting in over your head (protip: don't jump in the well in the first town until you've leveled up a bit...)

But that's half the fun, the trial and error of figuring out what to do on your own. It reminds me of the old days of gaming, before way points, game guides, and FAQs everywhere you turned, and beating a challenging game felt like a real accomplishment.

Bottom line: This is definitely something worth your attention if you're a fan of RPGs and adventure games. Take it slow, don't be afraid to run away, and enjoy your journey through Gransys. I know I am.
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