dragon’s dogma: Dark Arisen
Going ba ck to some old school hardcore Pawn
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.
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.