Also available on: Xbox 360
Genre: Action adventure
Dragon's Dogma is the latest action adventure game to pit a "chosen one" against an ancient fire-breathing foe. Appearing with the same frequency as Nazis, alien invaders and Russian terrorists with dodgy accents, we would be sick of the sight of dragons, if not for the fact that recent fantasy titles have largely been superb. Capcom's Dragon's Dogma will have a tough time besting the likes of Skyrim, Dark Souls and The Witcher 2, but its fantastic combat system alone ensures that it's a game worth playing right to the very end.
In terms of plot and character development, Dragon's Dogma doesn't have much going on beyond a spectacular opening and intriguing finale. It begins with your custom hero coming back to life having had their heart ripped out by an ancient dragon. Newly arisen and with a 'chosen one' tag to think about, the game's hero scurries around the world for 30-odd hours, searching for new fetch quests and escort missions.
The gaming environment is also a mixed bag. There are some stunning views, as well as a host of finely crafted towns, caves and dungeons. The game puts its day and night cycle to good use, utilising some impressive lighting effects, which breathe new life into locations during different periods of the day - and a good thing too, because you'll spend a lot of time backtracking.
Unfortunately, however, the game is plagued with choppy effects and frame rate issues. The world is also a little sparse, which never helps when trying to create a living, breathing environment. It's not the most original of gaming landscapes either, making it hard to separate the world of Dragon's Dogma from the wealth of alternative fantasy locations. With a mediocre plot and setting, it's up to the combat system to save Dragon's Dogma's scaly skin.
At first glance, Dragon's Dogma appears to be a regular action, role-playing game. There are swords and shields, light attacks and heavy attacks, as well as modifiers for mixing up combos. Being able to select from a plethora of different character classes, however, ensures that there are plenty of alternatives to the hack and slash approach, giving players plenty of scope for tactical experimentation.
Undoubtedly the game's most unique feature is the Pawn system, which transforms Dragon's Dogma into a kind of offline MMORPG. Players are joined in their quest by three other characters, two of which can be hired from the Rift - a realm containing custom characters from other users' games. Picking one that has already completed a quest gives players an advantage in battle, as does striking a balance between different classes.
Pawn AI is relatively impressive, which makes up for the lack of extensive commands and instructions. Players earn Rift crystals every time their custom character is used in other games, which are used to purchase better-quality and more experienced Pawns for your own quest. This adds an extra layer of depth to character customisation, placing greater importance on levelling up and learning as wide a variety of skills as possible - after all, you want to be as attractive as possible for your fellow players.
It's when faced with the game's collection of vast beasts that things become especially interesting, however. Some of the monsters are truly spectacular, presenting players with some epic battle opportunities. Being able to grab onto and scale enemies, all the while hacking away at weak spots, leads to more comparisons, this time to Shadow of the Colossus, which is never a bad thing.
While the challenge might prove too much for some, and quests can be frustrating - especially with a poorly implemented fast travel system - Dragon's Dogma is ultimately very satisfying. It rewards those with enough foresight to plan and strategise for longer journeys, as well as players who rely on old-fashioned arcade instinct.
It's remarkable that a game as lengthy as Dragon's Dogma and with as little plot development manages to hold our interest through to an excellent finale. The combat system is undoubtedly the glue that holds the game together, providing a compelling reason to keep playing.
The battle system is complemented by what you fight against and who you fight with. Tackling the game's huge monsters is a pleasure, especially when coupled with the game's Pawn system. Dragon's Dogma is another excellent action adventure release, and further proof that the fantasy video game genre is on fire.
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