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S&S Reviews: Dragon's Dogma


Title: Dragon's Dogma
Format: PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: May 22, 2012
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: The Workshop
Price: $39.99
ESRB Rating: E
Dragon's Dogma signfies a transition in many ways for Capcom. Running on MT Framework 2.X, the open-world Action RPG is daring and a good offering for western audiences in lieu of the Japan only release of Monster Hunter Frontier. The game's features emulate a massive online questing experience well. With great strides in progress, however, come the growing pains. It's those nit-picking points that separate the games that we merely like and those that we love.



At first glance, Capcom may seem to be intruding on uncharted territory with a WRPG wannabe. Taken in the context that this is the company that gave the world "Breath of Fire" and "Monster Hunter," we've nothing to fear. Dragon's Dogma is not Capcom aping the competition. Instead, it's a careful calculation and tuning of what North American audiences are buying.
Still, this is a distinctly Japanese game. the start menu chimes with a fantasy game melody as in any Square Enix game. A dragon passively watches over a small coast line on a swath of the expansive world. Smoothly, the music segues to "Into Free." Oh yeah, this is Capcom. At the start, the player is thrown into combat fighting off golins and minor fiends. Then, the big guys start. A chimera rushes the party of the player and his AI pawns. The combat controls are explained. Then, it's the player's choice: to fight head on, blast away with magic, or climb on top of the beast (Shadow of the Colossus style).
The hand-to-hand combat is very fluid with specials moves and combos. For this review, I played the Strider class with two AI pawns my own Warrior and a friend's Mage. It was at the moments of fighting on top of a monster that some design ideas or restrictions lead to frustration. The camera automatically rotated or didn't around the battle. The AI pawns acted more as they decided versus my own strategy. The controls when crawling or climbing on aren't as intuitive. The last point is especially frustrating when the monster is rolling around trying to knock the player off.
Graphically, the game's world is the true star. The character models are nice and fit within the Capcom canon. However, the lighting effects and weather system are prioritized in the pipeline. This is noticable when facial animation doesn't happen. Usually, lips will move as conversations occur. As the game progresses and especially outside, a character's mouth will only open once and then stay shut while the voice acting sounds out the statement.
The game's progression and leveling are fun and rewarding. It's probably is best to have a friend that plays as well, because of the Pawn system. When the player reaches the first rift stone where pawns are summoned, the game offers the chance to create a main pawn. That pawn level alongside the player. The third slot in the party is initially taken up by a pawn the game creates for the player. In the rift, however, the player can search around for pawns by gamertag or even special pawns offered by Capcom. The player can synchronize pawns by resting at inns. In this way, a friend over other player could summon a copy of the player's pawn and send back information of quests and monsters.
The trouble with pawns is the lack of commands and AI customization. Fighting a cyclops, chimera or any other large beast, I needed more commands than "Go, Come, Help." I found myself trying to "sign" to my AI pawns commands like "spam magic" or "focus attacks where I am." At lower levels, I stealthily attempted escort missions across the fields and canyon floors. This was easy-going until we came upon a monster or human congregation. The pawns remarked how treacherous the area is and how we must proceed cautiously. Then one of them shouts, "GOBLINS!" It was at this time that I wish there was Kinect features a la Binary Domain for me to shout back, "shut up!" I learned to save frequently.
Overall, Dragon's Dogma is a fantastic offering and when Monster Hunter's western future is uncertain it's a suitable hold over. The music is inspiring and rousing. The world is expansive and beautiful. Combat is almost the perfect balance between exciting, frustrating and fun. It's a great start for a new IP, and... "Armed rogues, Arisen!" "Shut up!"


Final Rating: 8.5/10
Email: jeanlucpierite@gmail.com
Twitter: @jeanlucpierite
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