Demo Thoughts: Dragon’s Dogma

I love fantasy.  And by that, I mean the traditional fantasy settings.  Medieval times, fantastic creatures, knights & all that good stuff.  So anytime an RPG with this fantasy setting coming out, I pay attention.  The demo for Dragon’s Dogma was released this week.  The upcoming RPG has gotten a lot of attention it’s new “pawn” system.  And even though I’m still having fun with Skyrim & Amalur, I’m hoping this game turns out good enough to buy.

Not a whole lot about the plot has been revealed.  All I know is that you play as the hero of the story, who at the beginning of the game has their heart stolen by a dragon.  Instead of dying, they become an “Arisen” (though the specifics about what that means is still unknown) & embark on a quest to find & slay the dragon… & presumably get their heart back.  Several gameplay aspects have been revealed, one of which is the Pawn system I mentioned.  Pawns are NPC’s who will join your party & fight beside you.  I believe you can have up to three in your party at a time.  An interesting feature of the Pawns is that players will be able to borrow other players’ Pawns.  Lending your characters out will also benefit you, because they will develop new skills on their own.  The second much-touted feature of the game is supposed to be large boss battles that require you to climb onto the creature a la Shadow of the Colossus.

The demo contains three sections.  The first is during the prologue quest where you’re chasing down the dragon.  It leads through a ruin & ends with a battle with a chimera.  The second section is the character creator.  Here you can customize your hero as well as their main Pawn (I believe this pawn is a non-exchangeable constant companion).  According to the demo, you’ll be able to upload these characters to the full game.  The third section is a battle with a griffon.

Thoughts on the demo: The demo restricts you to what is likely the Fighter & Ranger classes during the two gameplay sections.  It also gives you a fighter, ranged & mage Pawn.  The prologue gives a brief tutorial showing some unique mechanics of the game.  The ability to grab is used not only for clinging to bosses, but for picking up items such as crates, which can be thrown.  I’m not sure if that can be used in combat.  Another feature that Resident Evil fans will recognize is the ability to use & combine herbs to heal yourself.  They even look the same — although the names are a little fancier than Small Green Herb.  The griffon section lets you use your created characters.  Combat consists of light attacks, heavy attacks, block & a primary attack button that seems to be for ranged & probably magic attacks.

The Good & Bad:
      + Character customization is insanely detailed
      + Able to customize main Pawn
      + Good use of mythological creatures
      + Pawns able to hold their own in combat
      + Pawns give tips during combat
      + Climbing on creatures is fun
      – Combat can be hectic & hard to see
      – Default controller layout feels awkward
      – Health bar hard to see
      – Limit to how much health can be recovered
      – Running is awkward

I was really impressed with how well the Pawns could hold their own in battle.  Although the commands you can give are limited to help, go & come, I never had to give a command because they were on top of things.  It didn’t feel like babysitting.  Pawns will heal you, draw enemy attention & even hold enemies down for you to finish them off.  They also talk a lot during battle.  It can be annoying with all the text on the side of the screen, but the advice they give is useful.  I was also impressed with the enemy design.  Even though the demo only showed goblins, harpies, a chimera & griffon, they all looked like what you’d expect them too.  The chimera was especially well done.  The character creation is also mind-numbingly detailed.  You can create a wide variety of characters.  There are tons of customizable presets for hair, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, scars & body types.  Want to play as a behemoth with a beer belly & a dwarf sidekick?  Go for it.  Or would you rather be an amazon with a cranky old mage following you around?  Knock yourself out.

On the other hand, the default controls seem a bit awkward to me.  I think it’s because the button to draw your weapon is the left shoulder button while blocking is done by holding the left bumper.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been playing Skyrim, but it feels weird to me.  Of course these sorts of issues can be fixed by changing the layout.  Other problems, however, cannot be fixed so easily.  The health & stamina bars are in the lower left corner of the screen & seem unnecessarily small.  I’m also not crazy about how when you take damage a portion of it can only be healed by sleeping.  Combat can also feel a bit hectic with four characters running around.  When you’re hanging off the side of a griffon whose wings are flailing around while three other character with their names & health bars displayed above their heads are swarming it, it can be hard to keep track of your hero.

Short of this game bombing in the reviews when it’s released at the end of this month, I definitely plan to check it out.  The Pawn system alone warrants it a glance.

– GamerDame


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