Review: Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen

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When Dragon’s Dogma originally launched back in 2012 on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 I hadn’t really paid attention to it. Now, years later, Capcom is releasing the game onto PCs and in doing so, makes me sorry that I didn’t give this game a closer look the first time around.

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, released in 2013, contained the original game as well as new content such asn new island for players to explore while also providing more skills, equipment, and player customization options. Now, Dark Arisen is coming to PC with higher frame rates and resolution, making it run even better than when it first released.

After going through a brief opening sequence, the game sets you out into the world of Gransys to do… well, whatever it is you want to do. One of the biggest love-hate things about this title is that it gives you very little guidance in terms of where to go next when you start out. Some may prefer more hand holding, and some may like to simply go out and explore. I’m more a part of the first group, but I did find myself enjoying times of annoying uncertainty that lead into interesting discoveries.

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There are many standard RPG elements here such as quests and being able to spend points earned while leveling to unlock new skills and traits. What really sets Dragon’s Dogma apart however is the Pawn system, and the ability to climb onto large monsters during combat.

The Pawn System

One of the most interesting elements of Dragon’s Dogma is the Pawn system. After starting your journey, you’re able to create your own Pawn, an NPC character that acts as your sidekick during your adventures. The interesting part about this system however isn’t necessarily that you can make your own companion, but that you can hire the Pawns of other players as well, and in turn, they can hire yours. While this doesn’t take your Pawn away from you, it can benefit you in a very interesting way: Knowledge.

Say for example, someone uses my Pawn while they’re questing- my Pawn will then gain the knowledge about the quests that player progresses through while under their charge. It will then learn where to go, know where special items may be and other helpful pieces of information. After staying at an inn, Pawn data goes to the server and I can get back the knowledge that my Pawn gained while doing quests with other players. If I undertake the same quests that my Pawn just did with someone else, they can go “Hey, I’ve done this before, let me mark on the map where you need to go.” For a game that doesn’t hold your hand much as I stated previously, this is a fantastic way to help guide players. Pawns can also gain knowledge about enemies, being able to shout out things to you during combat about any weaknesses that you can exploit.

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Climbing

One of the other cool features of Dragon’s Dogma is the ability to grab onto monsters. For smaller monsters, you may be able to pick them up and throw them, or hold them so that other members of your adventuring party can get a good hit in. For larger monsters however, you can actually climb them! One of my favorite monsters to fight are the Cyclops. You can climb up their back, attack their eyes, sever their tusks, or attack their weapon wielding hand in order to make them lose hold of their weapon. In the case of a cyclops with a helmet on, you have to climb up, attack his neck and then in a fit to get you off, it will reach back at you and subsequently remove its own  helmet, exposing its eye.

Another interesting fight I had was against a rock golem, who had several glowing discs covering his body and as you may have guessed yes, the glowing spots are what you attack. But in order to hit these areas I had to climb up its back, it’s arms, and then knock it down to attack its feet. Some of the fights against these larger monsters take more time, but being able to jump up onto them as a part of the combat strategy is a blast.

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Being a port of an older game, there are a few minor graphical issues. Some textures don’t look terrific up close even though Capcom has stated that the game is using some source texture assets that couldn’t be used on the console versions due to memory limitations. Additionally, the text used during cutscenes could definitely use some touching up- a minor annoyance. Largely though, for its age, Dragon’s Dogma looks great on PC, especially with the added perk of being able to run at up for 4K resolution and having higher frame rate possibilities (30, 60, and variable) than its console versions.

Having a large world to explore with the help of the knowledge passed along through the Pawns by other players is an interesting experience. The combat is fun, and scaling onto larger monsters makes it even more so. I wasn’t sure what to think of this game when I started, but I’ve quite enjoyed my time with it and I would definitely recommend it.

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen will be available on January 15th for PC at $29.99

DDDAreviewCapcom provided us with a copy of the game for review purposes.