The set-up for Capcom’s new role-playing property may have you rolling your eyes – dragons, fantasy world, legendary hero rising from unlikeliest of backgrounds, etc. – but get to grips with everything it has to offer and you’ll find a fantastic game underneath.
It’s a bold departure for the developer of the Breath of Fire series, and western RPGs have clearly been a key influence. Dragon’s Dogma’s wealth of character creation tools, open world and real-time combat all shed the expectations of the typical Japanese RPG, and for the better. While three character classes are available initially, more open up as you progress, allowing constant development of your character. Battles are pleasingly difficult – shades of Namco’s daunting Dark Souls – and preparing the right band of recruitable Pawns beforehand is key.
It’s in these Pawns that Capcom has struck upon a perfect way to bring an online element to a single player game, without interrupting the solo experience. Every player creates their own partner, who can be recruited by others when you’re not playing. Log in again and you’ll reap the benefits of their travels with items and gold. In turn, your own party can be expanded by adding up to two extra Pawns.
Visually, Dragon’s Dogma is a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s full of elaborate cities, brilliantly realised dungeons, monster designs that give God of War a run for its money and an aesthetic that beckons you to explore just that bit further. Yet on the other, the smaller details seem to suffer – grass is a collection of flat stalks zig-zagging in the breeze, trees turn 2D when walking through their branches, and textures range from blocky colours to near-photo realistic. Distracting but not game breaking, though hopefully something a later patch can address.
A tough but ultimately rewarding title that balances familiarity with originality, and hopefully one that gets the recognition it deserves.
Reviewed by Matt Kamen