reviews\ Jan 14, 2016 at 11:33 am

Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen PC Review

Capcom's strange-yet-intriguing western-style RPG makes its debut on PC

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Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen PC Review

The Positives

  • Dragon's Dogma puts you in the shoes of an Arisen, a special being who's destiny is to reclaim their heart from a giant dragon that essentially kills you in the beginning of the game, and takes it. Being an Arisen also allows you to command Pawns, which I'll get to a bit later, that act as the game's party members. The story itself was intriguing enough for me to stay consistently interested, though the game's structure of consistently offering a slew of sidequests often made me forget what my main goal was.

  • The combat! This might sound like a hyperbole, but Dragon's Dogma has one of the best combat systems in any action RPG I've played to date. It's not even so much its mechanics, but how the combat itself feels. It's immediate and yet has weight to it. It sits somewhere between the fast combat of games like Devil May Cry (which Hideaki Itsuno also directed, along with Dragon's Dogma) and slower paced, more weighted combat of Monster Hunter or even Dark Souls. Smaller weapons are fast, nimble, and strike with precision, while large weapons like greatswords or hammers have a much longer wind-up and a huge swing arc.

  • Taking the combat mechanics further is the movement system, which allows you to climb on to big bosses and target specific body parts to paralyze them and do more damage. The first major boss fight against a Chimera, showcases this perfectly, where you can target the snake tail and the goat head first, which disable a lot of the Chimera's special abilities, only then focusing on its lion's body and head. And that's just the beginning, bosses get much crazier after that, such as giant ogres, hydras and even fearsome dragons.

  • Lastly, the combat feels extremely diverse thanks to the different vocations you can switch to, as well as the various weapon classes you can wield. The Fighter, Mage and Strider are your basic classes that focus on strength, magic and agility respectively, but can then further be enhanced by further specializing in their respective fields, or becoming hybrids of two classes at once. Fighters and Warriors stay close to the enemy with short ranged combat, while the Mage and Sorcerer focuses them from afar with powerful spells. The Strider and Ragner is versatile in that they can strike from up close and climb the enemies to deal damage to specific points with their daggers, or strike from afar with their bows. It's worth changing classes and seeing what sort of combination works best for you, but no matter your choice, they're all very viable.

  • The day and night cycle are more than just aesthetic, so be sure that your brightness isn't turned up all the way. When night rolls around, the game gets terrifying. Creatures are harder and come in greater numbers, but most of all, your vision is severely limited. Lanterns are pretty much a necessity if you hope to navigate during the night. Couple the fact that those lanters can run out of oil and you got yourself a pretty terrifying scenario.

Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen PC Review

  • The Pawn system is probably one of the most unique and interesting aspects of the game. Aside from the one you get to create that will follow you for the entirety of the game as well as level up along with you, you'll get to employ two others to bring with you, bringing your total party count to four. Having a good party combo is always a good idea, since you're going to want a healer with you at all times, unless you're the dedicated healer in your group. The Pawns do a pretty decent job at helping you survive during intense battles, though be prepared to resurrect them from time to time. Since you have no direct control over them aside from giving commands like Go, Help and Come, you'll have to hope that they'll do what you expect them to. Thankfully, for the most part, I had no problems with them, as they usually buffed and healed me whenever I needed, and provided great support for taking down harder enemies.

  • However, the Pawn system goes deeper than simply combat support. The other two Pawns you can hire, if you're connected to the online servers, will be Pawns other players have created, to be their constant companions in their game. What's cool about this is that if they have experience in beating certain quests and sidequests, they'll be able to help you out by giving you clues as to how to proceed. If they've never done a particular quest before, they actually learn it by completing it with you, and can then help others by already having that knowledge. It's nuts, and a very unique system that I really liked.

  • The two extra Pawns will always need to be replaced with others, as they don't gain levels, only knowledge. You can also higher Pawns that are higher level, though those will cost you Rift Crystals, which are earned throughout the game.

  • The Pawns are very talkative, and thus feel a lot more "human." Many will find this to be a negative, as they can be quite the chatterboxes, but I appreciated their constant comments on what's going on around me. The plus side is, you can always turn the Pawn chatter off completely if you're so inclined, which is new in the PC version.

  • The game comes with some special armor and weapons that you can unlock as soon as you progress a bit into the game, which can give you a slight edge, especially in the early parts of the game. The most helpful item addition, though, is the Eternal Ferrystone, which allows you to fast travel to major towns and wherever a Portcrystal is placed, without limit.

  • The port also includes Dark Arisen expansion, which is high-level, end-game content that introduces new enemies at a new location, Bitterback Isle.

  • Not only has Capcom delivered a fantastic port with an uncapped framerate and high-resolution support, they're also open to players modding the game, without any repercussion. While the game doesn't natively support Mods, Capcom has stated that they're OK with them.

  • The microtransactions for Rift Crystals were taken out completely.

  • Keyboard and mouse controls are supported, and for the most part, are quite serviceable, but if you have a controller, I would recommend playing it with one. The game supports Xbox 360 and Xbox One gamepads, as well as the DualShock 4.

Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen PC Review

The Negatives

  • No Berserk armor due to licensing issues.

  • No Japanese voice tracks due to licensing issues.

  • No "Into Free –Dangan–" theme song due to licensing issues.

  • The inventory system is extremely clunky. You technically have two inventory screens, with one allowing you to use all your restorative items and such, while the other is strictly for equipment. Equipping your other characters is slightly annoying as well, since you have to give them the item first, then switch to them, then equip it.

  • The weight system absolutely sucks! I know it's a gameplay mechanic, where the lighter your armor, the faster you move, but given the massive amounts of stuff you'll constantly be picking up, you'll find that you're always going to be encumbered. Transfering items to a Pawn seems like the correct course of action, but even that is tedious.

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Mike Splechta GameZone's review copy hoarding D-bag extraordinaire! Follow me @MichaelSplechta
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