Dragon's Dogma Hands On Preview
This is a game you will probably want to pay attention to.
Capcom has been quite the news grabber lately, and it has been mostly negative news over the past year and a half or so. Whatever your feelings for the prolific Japanese developer/publisher, it can’t be denied that Capcom has been one of the most aggressive leaders in establishing new IPs this generation. While that has given us everything from very popular properties like Dead Rising to failures like Dark Void and games that can’t quite be defined like Asura’s Wrath, new and untested games seem to come out of the House of Mega Man at least a couple times a year. Enter Dragon’s Dogma, a game that hopes to bridge the gap between Japanese and Western development sensibilities.
It's an action-RPG that blends elements of Monster Hunter and Dark Souls with bits and pieces lifted from Bethesda games and even Shadow of the Colossus. That’s a lot of source material, but if you’re going to crib ideas, it seems that Capcom has decided to crib from the best.
You’ll start out by picking a class and creating a character. This seems like a no-brainer for Western gamers, but it’s rare for Japanese developed RPGs to allow players to have such a high level of customization. The character editor is fairly extensive, and lead producer Hideyaki Itsuno claims that very detailed gamers could easily take an hour or two to get their characters just right. This level of customization isn’t just an aesthetic feature; the stature of your character can factor into how he or she performs in battle. While there won’t be a “right” or “wrong” way to create your avatar, the larger battles may flow a little differently based on your choices.
Once you’re out and about in the land, it’s amazing just how open ended and vast the world is. You will of course be able to acquire a plethora of quests and missions from NPCs and other sources, but many of the things you do in Dragon’s Dogma seem to unfold organically. As you traverse the huge tracts of land that Capcom has built, you’ll come across some enemies of epic size and scope that are just begging to be messed with. Initiating a battle with these gargantuan beasts will open up a quest right away that hinges on walking away from the fight alive.
That’s easier said than done, of course. Not only are these massive beasts, well, massive, but they have multiple levels of life bars that need to be whittled down. Doing so will take a lot of skill and possibly some dumb luck as well. These monsters have attack patterns that need to be learned, and weak points that need to be exploited. Felling one of these great beasts looks to provide the same sense of accomplishment that defeating bosses in From Software’s Souls series gave, and that’s certainly a welcome feeling.
Helping you in this endeavor are your Pawns. Pawns are NPC party members that can join you either through story means or by hiring them in the field as mercenaries. Pawns level along with your character, but you have a Main Pawn that you can outfit with gear just as you would your main character. This Pawn levels at the same speed that you do, but your other two Pawns level at a slower rate. Pawns act like actual party members, and have plenty of in-battle chatter. Not only does this give the game a great way to integrate tips into the actual game world, but it gives a sense that you’re playing with real people instead of bots, and reminds me a lot of your party members in the PS2 series .Hack.
Pawns can be shared over Xbox Live or PSN, and if you choose this course of action, any XP the Pawn earns in someone else’s game will show up in your coffers as loot, strategies the Pawn picks up along the way, and more knowledge of the lay of the land.
Knowing the land and the way to take out aggressive monsters efficiently will be the key to success in Dragon’s Dogma, where knowledge is power. Like Demon’s Souls and Monster Hunter, this game is geared around players getting together and discussing strategies on how to dispatch great beasts or where in the world to obtain good loot and XP. Venturing out willy-nilly is a great way to get yourself killed; the day/night cycle of the game is such that being in the wrong place when the sun goes down can be disastrous. There are things that go bump in the night in Dragon’s Dogma, and you won’t want them bumping into you until you know what you’re doing.
Dragon’s Dogma is a game that was announced with little fanfare, and the generic and sometimes sloppy look of the game doesn’t do it any favors. But the more people get their hands on it, the more excitement it generates. This is a game that any adventure fan should put on their radar, and a demo is available now. Playing the demo won’t be a waste of time if you end up purchasing the game, as you can customize your character just so and import him or her into the retail release. Look for Dragon’s Dogma with its packed-in demo of Resident Evil 6 on May 22.