Top critical review
83 people found this helpful
Well that just happened
on July 8, 2012
Dragon's Dogma has a lot of things going for it. I think that's why the more I played it, the more frustrating its negative aspects were. Because there were many things I really liked about it, the fact that there are such serious flaws were heartbreaking. Before I get to the meat of the review, let me say that overall I really enjoyed Dragon's Dogma. That being said, if the game is never patched, I will probably never play it again. So on to the review...
As I said, there are a lot of aspects of this game that felt original and fresh. The one that should be first on everyone's list of pros is the pawn system. In the game, once you create your character, you then create your main pawn. In the DD universe, pawns are humanoid beings whose sole purpose is to help your character defeat the dragon that has stolen your heart and marked you as the Arisen. Basically what happens is, you design your main pawn, and then if you are playing while connected to XBOX Live, that character is uploaded to a place called The Rift, a gateway that connects you with a wide selection of everyone else's main pawns to recruit, and where other people can recruit your main pawn into their game. The idea itself is just really cool to me. That any pawn I recruit (you can have two on top of your main pawn and yourself) is something that is purely the creation of someone else. Then, your main pawn adventures with other people during their game, and when they are released from another person's party, they/you can choose to send them back with an in-game gift, and you can rate their performance. In this way, your main pawn accumulates more experience on top of what they are gaining in your game. Everything gets updated every time you rest at a camp or inn, and that's when you can receive the gifts from other players. I think this is the single greatest strength to the game, and without it I don't think I'd have enjoyed the game nearly as much. The novelty never wore off, and I still believe the system is fantastic, and the best usage of single player online connectivity I've ever experienced. If you don't play online, no worries, the game either has a set population of scripted pawns you can choose from, or ones that are randomly generated by the game.
Second, also a huge positive, is the boss battles. As far as combat goes, this is one of the most original things about the game. Even though none of the functions are new in and of themselves, I've never played a role playing game where you can climb onto a dragon and slash at its heart, or climb onto a cyclops' head and stab its eye, or mount a chimera and cut its snake tail off, and then kill the goat and lion. It's fantastic, and there are plenty of them to be had. It never feels too repetitive either, since there are so many different ways to approach battle with them. It's especially fun once you're a sufficiently high level, because then you are be more inventive and experimental with your approaches.
The third noteworthy thing about the game that I loved was the variety and depth of the items. I put 60-70 hours into the game, exploring most of it quite thoroughly, and I know there are probably dozens of items and crafting materials I haven't even found yet. Most enemies drop loot, and there are chests, barrels, crates, plants, minerals, and an assortment of other items to be found, picked up, combined, used to enhance weapons and armor, or just sold for some major cashola. If you played Capcom's awesome Resident Evil 5, you'll be familiar with the inventory and combining system. Except in the case of Dragon's Dogma there are hundreds and hundreds of items to be acquired. It keeps the game feeling fresh when you're interested to find or use various new rare items to enhance weapons and armor. Each weapon and piece of armor in the game has a 3 star tiered rating system. The first tier only costs money to upgrade to. And then the second and third tiers require a specific number of a specific item to upgrade to. The better or more rare the equipment, the more expensive and difficult it will be to find those items.
Another worthy mention goes to the landmass of the game itself. The world of Gransys is quite large, even if it isn't terribly varied. Elevation is used frequently to change things up a bit, and it works well, providing long falls for unlucky enemies (or adventurers).
So on to the bad parts of the game. There are going to be more than four things listed here, but I still maintain that hidden in the mess that is Dragon's Dogma is a truly good game.
There are two main problems with the game, and I could go back and forth about which one is more irritating all night: The (lack of) fast travel, and the way pawns interact with the world.
First off, fast travel is almost nonexistent. There are items called Ferrystones that you can carry with you that will instantly teleport you back to the biggest city in the game world. Aside from that, eventually you will also be able to take what's called a Portcrystal with you, which you can set down anywhere in the world and then your Ferrystones will transport you there instead of the city. And that's it. You get one Portcrystal, and aside from that, you can only teleport to the main city. This becomes more frustrating the more you play the game, unless you're a masochist, because the world is quite large. And not only is it quite large, but since the terrain is so varied, you cannot ever travel any great distance in a straight line, so you end up sprinting until you're almost out of breath, and then jogging while your stamina regenerates, and then sprinting again. And over and over and over to your destination. The game tries to provide a couple of shortcuts between areas of the world, but it's really not very helpful. A lot of your time in game will be spent running from one place to another. Not only does this get really grinding after a while, but enemies also respawn in the exact same places every time, so you will have the exact same fights again, and again, and again. And then some more. To the point where I pretty just ran past them and kept going. Because it got so tedious. And then if you don't have a Ferrystone, you have to run all the way back to where you came from. And not only that, but
Secondly, your main pawn and the two you can also have with you will repeat the exact same lines of dialog when you hit certain markers in the game. The exact same lines, in the exact spots, every single time. It got so annoying I went to the options to see if I could turn off the voice volume for just the pawns. You can't, unfortunately. If I had a quarter for every time I heard the phrase "Perhaps we'll find aught of use," I would be seriously loaded. The main problems in the game all kind of flow into the other, and they make it quite a big mess. Even just describing it, it probably seems to someone who hasn't played the game like it's really not worth it to even give the game a chance. If you like highly polished games, you might want to pass on this one. So yeah, the pawns get really annoying after a while. If they would just change it so they only spoke when you initiate conversation with them.
If Capcom fixed only those two problems, the fast travel and the pawn irritation, the game would easily earn a four star rating from me. However, those aren't the only problems with the game...
As stated, fighting normal enemies becomes tedious after a while, because they appear and respawn in the same places every time. It makes that combat repetitive and very boring, even though the combat itself is pretty fun. There are only so many ways you can kill goblins after the four or five hundredth one.
Texture pop isn't actually an issue that I noticed in the game. What is an issue though, is people pop. From the start of the game all the way through, I'd find myself running into people because the streets would be empty, and then suddenly three appear, and then ten, and then twenty-five, all of a sudden. It's not so much an irritation as it just feels lazy. There's no way they didn't come across it when they beta-tested it.
Lip-syncing is godawful. Which is to say it's laughably bad, or just nonexistent. I don't particularly care if lip-syncing is bad, but this isn't even bad, it's like the already bad lip-syncing wasn't matched the recorded audio, so characters are speaking when their lips aren't moving, and vice versa. Another thing that just felt pretty lazy.
Side quests are extremely boring and unoriginal. Most of them fall under two categories: escort missions, and kill set number of [this creature]. Almost all quests not in those categories are main story-related. Kind of disappointing. I think this might be because there are only actually two cities in the whole game world. And no real villages or just lone houses at all. So there aren't quirky people giving you odd quests out in the middle of nowhere.
One of the most bizarre things to me about the game was the "love interest" aspect. Or lack of, I don't even know. I'm still not sure if it's possible to even have an implied relationship with any of the characters you meet. I think this is one thing that maybe I just don't get, because I'm not a fan of Eastern-style RPG's, and am much more used to there being a clearly defined list of things that can or won't happen in a game as far as role playing relationships. There are a few cutscenes in the game where your character will exchange...let's call them "significant stares" with other characters...and then that's it. It's never revisited or mentioned again or anything. And I'm not sure what the point of it is, or what the payoff is either. It's just kind of baffling to me. Music swells and two digital people are staring into each others' eyes not saying anything...and then it ends and nothing.
The save system is also lacking. The game only allows one save slot. It autosaves, and you can save when you want as well. But it's all one save file. If it corrupts, you're screwed. I imagine this will be one of the first things addressed if and when there is a patch for the game. But poor design in the first place, and pretty unacceptable for an RPG.
The last thing I can mention are the graphics, which I'm only mentioning so I can say that if a game is engrossing enough, graphics really don't matter that much. And in this game, they don't. They are function-only, and it works that way. I'd much rather have this deep and varied universe with pared-down graphics than a gorgeous backdrop with no real substance.
So, with so much working against a game, how can I possibly still actually like it? The honest answer is I don't know. I think because the things I like about it outweigh the things I don't like about it, and because I see a ton of potential for this to become a really good franchise if certain simple changes were made. Towards the end of the game I was really reminded of playing Alpha Protocol, which is another highly flawed game that I really liked. So much was wrong with it, and yet I loved it, and saw great potential for it to grow into something really great. That won't happen now, of course, but as with it, I think if Dragon's Dogma gets a sequel, it will be far better than this one as long as a few key things are addressed.
If you're on the fence, I would recommend you at least rent the game to see if it's something you'd like. As I said before, I'm convinced there's a really great game buried in this mess. As I did, you will probably alternate between total immersion and utter boredom. In my opinion though, its pros outweigh its innumerable cons.