dragon’s dogma: Dark Arisen

Go­ing ba ck to some old school hard­core Pawn

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START - Leon Hur­ley

Some­times an RPG just nails that sense of open-world ex­plo­ration—of not quite be­ing sure what to ex­pect, but set­ting out any­way, to learn through trial and er­ror, and well-earned pro­gres­sion. Dragon’s Dogma gets it. Cre­at­ing a place that you grow into, and mas­ter through your own ef­forts rather than care­fully guided mis­sions.

The core parts are in­stantly fa­mil­iar: a ye olde world me­dieval set­ting full of knights and mages, gob­lins, and drag­ons. You pick quests, level up, and grad­u­ally move from bum­bling vil­lage newb ham­mered by the small­est foe, to a force to be reck­oned with, tak­ing down 20 foot ogres with ease. While the world, char­ac­ters and set-up might be very ‘trad fan­tasy RPG’ Dragon’s Dogma has a few tricks to freshen the mix. The main one be­ing the Pawns. Hu­man in ap­pear­ance, these en­ti­ties are sum­moned to form your party, one ‘main’ you keep for good, and two you can swap out. They’re oddly charm­ing as, not quite be­ing real peo­ple: Ev­ery­thing’s amaz­ing to them.

Where things get re­ally in­ter­est­ing is that the two ringers you can swap out are ac­tu­ally other play­ers’ Pawns, while your main is also ‘bor­rowed’ when­ever you rest. Pawns re­mem­ber ev­ery­thing they do, so it’s pos­si­ble you might hire some­one with prior knowl­edge of a mis­sion or area you’ve not en­coun­tered yet, or your main might come back with sim­i­lar info be­cause they’ve al­ready seen it with

“Mis­sions spring up con­stantly and it cre­ates a lovely feel­ing of place”

an­other player. It’s weird, but a re­ally in­ter­est­ing sys­tem as, while you never have any di­rect con­tact with any­one on­line, you’re aware they ex­ist.

Dark mem­o­ries

Else­where there’s a hint of Dark Souls. A dan­ger­ous com­par­i­son I know, but it’s pos­si­ble to en­ter ar­eas full of en­e­mies you can’t pos­si­bly de­feat, or die and restart back at a dis­tant check­point be­cause you didn’t take a threat se­ri­ously. The game gives you no help here—it’s about know­ing your lim­its. The real sim­i­lar­ity with From’s games is how your pro­gres­sion is tied to your abil­ity to sur­vive new ar­eas and reach the point you can en­dure them to progress fur­ther.

Mis­sions spring up con­stantly, and it cre­ates a lovely feel­ing of a place, filled with many things to do and dis­cover, rather than a back­ground for a sin­gle story. That chal­lenge is just enough that the quest feels mean­ing­ful. Your max health, for ex­am­ple, can be low­ered as you take dam­age, and only re­stored by rest­ing or eat­ing cer­tain things. It means you need to pre­pare, re­sup­ply, and think about what you’re go­ing to do. And not be afraid to aban­don it and run away if needs be.

Life’s made a lit­tle eas­ier by the abil­ity to change classes, or vo­ca­tions as they’re called here. There are three main op­tions to be­gin with—Fighter (swords), Strider (dag­gers and bows), and Mages (magic, ob­vi­ously)—and ad­vanced hy­brids later on. The free­dom lets you tune your ap­proach to suit your mood, and opens up a lot more fun to ex­per­i­ment.

You could ar­gue Dragon’s Dogma was a lit­tle ahead of its time in 2012. The un­usual on­line and class sys­tems and open-world free­dom felt odd then be­cause there wasn’t quite any­thing else like it. But it says a lot that now, five years later, it still feels fresh and in­ter­est­ing. Worth both a re­play and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing for the first time.

Be­low Your party is made up of ‘Pawns’, mag­i­cal en­ti­ties you can sum­mon that are ac­tu­ally other play­ers’ com­pan­ions. Up to you!

right This is a game all about killing mon­sters, which oc­ca­sion­ally means climb­ing on them. As fun as it is sat­is­fy­ing.

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