Title: Dragons Dogma: Dark Arisen
Platform: PC, Xbox One (reviewed), PS4
Release date: October 15, 2017
Tl;Dr: A uniquely brilliant experience from one of the best devs out there.
Family Focus: Click here for more information.
If I was to say that a game existed that was a cross between Dark Souls, Monster Hunter, and Shadow of the Colossus, would you believe me, or laugh in my face? Well, if you chose the latter, prepare to eat your laughter, for this game exists, and oh my, is it glorious!
Dragons Dogma: Dark Arisen is a game that, when originally released in 2013, was catapulted instantly to classic gaming territory. Like the Soulsbourne series, it was a Japanese RPG that was developed with more western games in mind. Unlike the Soulsbourne trilogy, it is a completely open world RPG experience that is absolutely huge! I have played this game for hours on end, but I don’t think I have even scratched the surface of what is to come, there are side quests a plenty that still are begging me to complete them, monsters that I can hunt (unless they hunt me first), and even more equipment to collect.
First, the story; you play as The Arisen, a warrior foretold in prophecy, that was created when an ancient Dragon literally tore the heart from my chest and ate it! For some reason, this gave me immortality, and also superpowers, so I’m not complaining. Also, this gave me the ability to command Pawns, strange voluntary slaves, that are sworn to your aid. They are undying servants of the Arisen, an army made to follow whoever gets the mantle given to them. With the Pawns by your side, you embark on a huge journey to rid the world of the dragon that gave you superpowers, and restore peace to the land.
The pawns are the only read characters of note in the entire game; they guide the plot and give the quests, which is odd, because they all have the personality of a brick. I’m not joking; the majority of the things you will hear your pawns say is “I now have new knowledge of this area,” or “Now I can fight this enemy easier.” The pawns are not really known for their emotional responses. This really puts a bit of a dampener on the story, where instead of rallying speeches or memorable characters charging into battle with you, emotionless robots instead give exposition in an odd monotone.
This really leaves all of the game world and its contents up to the player; I found myself more often than not, ignoring the less interesting story missions and instead just exploring the huge world that it inhabits. That really is the games biggest strength. NPCs that have no bearing on the story, or any side missions that populate the game world’s many nooks and crannies. It’s fascinating just watching these guys go about their lives; they are programmed to wake up, do a daily task, then at nightfall, they retire to their rooms. It’s quite a marvel just imagining how much effort was put into these little things most players barely even glance at; a shame that more wasn’t put into other aspects.
The game world is chock full of things to do. I am 60 hours in and I don’t even think I have explored the entire map. Not only that, but enemies which would usually be considered boss fights in other games pepper the countryside; stray off the road for too long and a cyclops so powerful it will one shot your whole team just comes bumbling after you. But don’t worry, because you can climb up to the beastie’s head and stab it furiously until you kill it, Shadow of the Colossus style!
This game is a very interesting one to play; it is what I imagine Devil May Cry meets Dark Souls would be. It is very hack and slashy; characters spend ages bashing away at enemies and slowly nipping away at their health, but one hit from those enemies will devastate me, taking up to half of my health in one fell swoop. I ended up saving after every battle just in case I died again! It did make for slow, and sometimes, frustrating playing, but that just increased the charm of it all. That amazing feeling when finally you find a way through a seemingly impossible enemy by just holding on for dear life and stabbing randomly at the beastie’s head, I promise you has no equal.
The battle system is simple and streamlined, but in no way does that make it boring. Your character has the basic light attack/heavy attack combo moves that are expected of any fantasy based RPG. But on top of that are special moves that take up your stamina ala Dark Souls, that can, if well timed, change the tide of the entire battle, or if timed incorrectly, spell doom for you and your party; when your character runs out of stamina, they have to sit down and recover for a time, which is literal hell when you are in the middle of a fight.
The only major downside I can see to this game is that, as it was originally released in 2013, it does look a bit old. It may be the port for the modern console generation, but it seems no effort has gone into improving the look of the game. The remaster still looks as if it is a game from the Xbox 360, and I mean launch title 360. Textures seem blurred and sometimes characters have an annoying ability to clip their arm straight through their shield. I have always been from the school of substance over style, so this isn’t a deal breaker, but it is a little sad that the way the game looks wasn’t brought forward into the current gen. Also there is a complete lack of any new content; this is the exact same game that was brought out in 2013, warts and all. The only thing that has been changed is the console you are playing it on.
- This game is huge!
- Incredibly satisfying boss fights
- Tis a good novelty to hear such old talk
- There is a difficulty curve that will put some gamers off
- As it is an older game it still does look a little dated
- Story is a bit lacking
Family Focus – Dragons Dogma: Dark Arisen
Dragons Dogma: Dark Arisen is ESRB rated M17+ PEGI rated 18. The game contains strong violence and some gore, definitely not one for the kids..
Disclaimer: This review is based on a review code of the game provided by Xbox UK for the purpose of this review.