Dragon’s Dogma PS3 Review

I’m just going to get this off my chest and out there before I begin this review: I’m completely over RPG’s. I’m tired of taking Material x for Quest-giver y in order to receive Potion z. The formula is that of many RPG’s these days, and that’s just the problem to me. The genre has just gotten too…formulaic. No one wants to run around casting Thundagagagaga at the same three enemies over and over for 30 hours. It’s a practice of sheer tedium, and one I’m quite frankly sick of.

As many of you saw in my preview feature, I was highly excited to see if Dragon’s Dogma would be the one to break the viral set of cliches that have stricken the genre. To make what is going to be an extremely lengthy review very short: It does, and pretty flawlessly so.

With that, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. As far as the story goes, it’s interesting to say the least. You take the role of Arisen, a human whose heart has been claimed by the mighty dragon. And not simply claimed, but ripped from your very chest cavity. After stealing your precious organ, he dares you to reclaim what is yours and swoops off into the distance. Enter Arisen. Your lad (or lass) is fully customizable in no short of Skyrim fashion. From jaw definition to stomach girth, there’s a slider for it. Mind you, an additional two Pawns are at your beck and call should you choose to hire them from the spirit-esque plane of existence known as The Rift, accessible only via Rift Stones located sparsely throughout the game’s realms.

Your Pawn can be largely modified in the same sense as your Arisen. If you want to make a fat, plum-skinned sword and shield user with red hair and name her Tasha, the game’s robust editing and creation system will allow it. For the uninformed, a Pawn is something of an ethereal being ‘resembling’ a human. Pawns exist only to serve their Arisen and have no active willpower or volition of their own.

Speaking of swords and shields, let’s get into the class system of Dragon’s Dogma. In high similarity to the job system favored by Final Fantasy III, both you and your Pawn choose one of three basic classes vocations (Fighter, Mage, and Strider). Fighters excel in sword and shield combat, Mages rely on the mystic arts to do damage, and Striders are your run-of-the-mill archers.

Truth be told, it doesn’t really matter what vocation you choose to fill in the game, and that’s just one of its many beautiful facets. I’m not personally a sword-wielding fellow. I prefer to cast devastating incantations of destruction from the rear and let others do the physical handiwork. Dragon’s Dogma let me do just that. With the Pawn system, I was able to have two Warrior lackeys rush forward while a healing cleric and myself prepared terrible meteor showers from the safe rear. The level of strategy available to the player is simply refreshing. Should it be your wish, your Arisen can specialize in defensive healing magic exclusively while your Pawns take up the offensive entirely. And while it would be a particularly boring experience in my opinion, it is wholly possible.

Of course, such a dynamic system would be rendered useless without effective AI. I can safely say that the AI in Dragon’s Dogma is quite simply some of the best I’ve ever encountered in a game of this caliber and scale. Pawns, though they initially start out particularly naive in nature, quickly become familiar with quests and the lay of the land as you continue in your journeys and explorations. Once they’re uploaded online, Pawns will assist other Arisen with the various quest knowledge gained. The system works both ways, as Pawns rented out will gain knowledge as they accompany other adventurers via The Rift. It’s an excellent interface through and through, and a sheer delight to play around with. Take for instance, my first battle with one of the land of Gransys’ many great beasts: The Griffin. Unfortunately, in a horrific swoop, the mighty beast killed one of my beloved Warrior pawns. In a flash, the healer was on double duty. Entering the fray of combat, she instinctively picked up the fallen Pawn upon her shoulder and carried his exhausted body to my feet where I was able to quickly revive him. Moments like these are where the game shines as a truly intuitive experience.

Combat feels weighty, with a gravity to it reminiscent of Dark Souls though Dragon’s Dogma provides nowhere near a weary, dreary, or lonely experience as the aforementioned. One oversight I’m not pleased about is the lack of medieval transportation in game. Not to complain, but Gransys is huge. Really huge. Walking to and fro on foot isn’t always very exciting, especially when a cockatrice could swoop down in the pitch black night and kill my party in one fell swoop (everything is deadlier at night, as a rule of thumb). A horse would be nice.

Now, I will say this. Dragon’s Dogma sports fantastic graphics. Everything from water, to forestry, and especially the lighting during day and night cycles is beautifully rendered. My only qualm would be the minor clipping that occurs when equipping certain weapons such as archistaffs. Particle effects are simply gorgeous during the more flashier attacks such as summoning a cataclysmic meteor show or groundshattering (yep, I just invented that adjective) earthquake as a Sorcerer. You’re in for nothing less of a visual feast with this one.

There’s only so much I can say about how engaging and revolutionary a title is in one review. So, let’s recap what’s available in this delicious package. For £39.99, you’ll receive: a tale of courage and choice, interwoven with dark political secrets and intrigue, breathtaking visuals, a refined and strategic combat system that should be a genre standard, and an interesting endgame that essentially never ends. Yes, while the last part should be fairly intriguing to most, I won’t spill the beans. Just know that there lies a threat even more deadly and unforgiving than the game’s ‘final’ boss.

I was going to try to come up with a dragon-related one-liner, but I’ve got nothing.

Nah, I’m just blowing smoke.

10 out of 10