Hopefully it is tasteful
Confounding, Compelling, and a third thing
Dragon’s Dogma Review
It baffles me. I’m baffled. Usually what pulls me in to roleplaying games is story, and Dragon’s Dogma has little of that. I also love character, and while the character creating is well done your avatar says nothing and has no personality. Ensemble cast of squad mates who I want to get to know more do not exist in this game, and still I like it. So what is it with Dragon’s Dogma?
It looks great. The environments are varied and the outfits are fabulous. Everything you put on your character is visible, cloaks helmets, armor, surcoats, coats, leather thongs, metal bras- you see them. The combat is interesting, and like in Kingdoms of Amalur, you can experiment with different classes for different play styles. You begin with the basic fighter, mage thief (called strider in this game), but later option open up that mix and match these, like mystic archer (wizard/thief). Assassin (fighter/ thief), mystic warrior (fighter/ mage), and then the damage dealers, sorcerer (death hands wizard man) and warrior (two-handed murder machine). Add to this your customizable pawn. You create the physicality and specialty of your pawn (mine is a huge man with a pink Mohawk and impeccable goatee named Cockswayn- I lurve him). You may also choose two pawns created by other players from a list of thousands and may change them at any time. The pawn system is the coolest innovation, your pawn can be hired by other players and will return with knowledge he has gained which may be tips on monsters’ weak spots, locations of chests or clues to what comes next in a quest, the pawns you hire can also provide information on things they have seen. Your pawn is with you whenever you play even if someone else is using him too, and I really enjoyed him returning with a gift from another player and feedback on how he did. There are giant monsters to battle and these fights feel epic and require some strategy, sometimes your pawns are great, and sometimes they will shout the right thing to do and then not do it and you have no command system beyond come, go, and help.
Capcom messed up a few things though. The worst is the English (at least I’m hoping it’s bad translation). Quests goals can be unclear, pawns speak in riddles- riddles is too generous- nonsense. You can seat them in a “Knowledge Chair” to modify their responses which can be grating and repetitive, but there is no “Shut the fuck up” option, only “I speak when I have aught to say and on occasions. Does this please you?” asks the pawn I say what I think is “Keep your thoughts to yourself,” and replies with “I will speak more often then.” They use the word aught often and I do not think it means what they think it means. There was a quest when a guy was on trial and I had to find evidence to clear or damn him- I didn’t know which to do, was he an asshole living off the misery of others or wrongly accused- I didn’t know. I went all over searching for evidence not sure why I cared and thought that folks seemed to like him, gathered evidence to clear him (except for a forged letter), my pawns told me they thought he’d be set free; the trial comes and he’s guilty. What? Because there is only one save slot I can’t fix this nor am I sure if I want to, but the one save slot means I can’t make a different character either (although I can pay to have my avatar’s look changed and change his vocation), so I can’t know what the other effect had been even if I could figure out the effect of this one. This happened more than once.
Also damming, the lack of fast travel. Monsters level up with you and spaces are long, so to get anywhere you are forced with random encounters. Eventually you can buy expensive stones which will transport you to the capital, but this is not especially helpful.
Dragon’s Dogma has a whole bunch going on. It can be frustrating and confusing, but I still found myself sinking hours into it. Even with all of that I am still not sure what to think of it, but I do want to hug Capcom and then slap them and then hug them again before punching them in the face.