Dragon's Dogma, the powerhouse RPG by Capcom, was released in 2012 for the Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles. It's mainstay DLC; Dark Arisen was released a year later. This review covers only the original game. You can find Dragons Dogma at your local Gamestop for around $30, and the Dark Arisen version for $30
Dragon's Dogma is definitely a gem of a game. A unique world, with unique inhabitants, with even more unique speech, it will feed your eyes as well as your 'Ye olde English' soul. The gameplay is absolutely extraordinary with a mind blowing story to match. Even the landscape and enemies will leave you with a smile. I've played through this game around three times already, but I feel like nothing I could ever write would do it justice. But I will damned well try.
The story gets going right from the title screen. Dumping you into the shoes of Savan, the game pits you against your tutorial sequence. Although you're supposed to be learning how to play, its difficult to pay attention when a very large dragon is climbing pillars out in the distance (which looks pretty metal if I say so myself) and spitting fire at you as soon as you start the game. Savan and his pawn buddy crawl through this sprawling dungeon, picking up two more pawns and a squad of soldiers before being faced with the trial of putting down a chimera as your tutorial boss. When you finally settle the cranky little cat/goat/snake creature down, a long cut scene rolls, and dumps you into the character creation screen. After finishing up character creation your quaint little fishing village gets attacked by Grigori the dragon, and you lose your heart! Literally. The dragon literally rips it from your chest and eats it. Which apparently binds your fate to facing the dragon in combat and gives you a pretty sick looking scar. After crawling out of bed and selecting your class, your journey begins and you're free to start looting the town!
Now, we have all spent hours constructing our characters before. This is an undeniable fact. But with the amount of customization Dragon's Dogma has stuffed into its disc it'll be a blast the whole way. With over 30 hairstyles, makeup options, scars, faces, and even body types, its the picky gamer's nightmare. Now that you've settled on playing as a little girl swinging around a greatsword, you can customize your own pawn. Pawns are your other party members, that have no will of their own, and only realize their true potential when fighting alongside an arisen. The pawn you get to customize can then be shared via the pawn network, and will even learn new strategies or the steps to take in a quest when used by other people. The pawns made by your friends can even be used for free! So, if you have a friend that has several play-throughs already you'll have an easy ride.
As for the gameplay, you can't do much better when it comes to a free-roaming RPG. The sword-play is excellent and fluid, allowing you to block with a shield - or choose a massive hammer to mow down goblins. Bows perform really well too. Every snap of the bowstring feels powerful and when an arrow connects to a cyclops eye you can't help but feel elated. Even spell casting is fun in its own right. Being able to one-shot various mobs of enemies or even be the party's glass cannon is great and all, but shooting fire from your hands and calling down lightning is sure to satisfy your god-complex. With three main vocations, their advanced classes, and even hybrid vocations, combat never gets dull. Being able to switch between every single vocation at an inn gives so much possibility to how you perform in combat. Tired of getting trounced by that damned griffon? Switch from Fighter to Archer and go hunting for your revenge. Although, if you're stuck in your ways and absolutely cannot fight without your great sword in hand, you can always latch onto your foe, and scale him mid-combat. Be careful when fighting griffons though, you're in for a very surprising fall when you run out of stamina.
The scale of this game is no laughing matter. I can't count the amount of times (on fingers and toes!) that I set the controller down from having to walk from one end of the map to the other. Aye, the lack of an immediate (or cheap for that matter) fast travel system does put a damper on my mood, but everything else in the game is astounding. From Cassardis to The Duke's Manse, Capcom cut no corners in constructing this world. Full of dark forests, scarred battlefields, sprawling caves, and rolling hills, Gransys is truly a sight to behold. From the smallest tree, to the largest cliffside, everything is given great attention to detail. The game even says to prepare well before you leave a city to go on a journey, and it means every word. Most missions will have you 10 minutes away from the nearest merchant and mere seconds away from death. Even the amount of quests will have you busy for quite some time. After three play throughs I still haven't done every single thing there is to do.
Many of the enemy monsters and foes are ripped straight from folk-lore and mythology. Still, there are the usual bandit parties roaming the seaside cliffs and roads in between settlements, but you would be counted lucky if you didn't run into a cyclops or a flock of harpies alongside them. Even in the forests there will be spiders and snakes nipping at your heels. Each enemy has their own quirks, catch a harpy on fire and their wings set ablaze as they come crashing to the ground. Have a party full of women? Ogres will frenzy and attack them. Cut the head off of a hydra, and another will take its place soon after. Don't forget to carry a lantern with you at night either, lest the zombies rise from the earth to bring you to an early grave. The menagerie of creatures in Dragon's Dogma is massive, each enemy has their own secondary type, and even later in the game you'll find their corrupted/demonic versions roaming the hills.
Are you one of those role-players that like to speak in 'Ye olde English' Ser? Then Dragon's Dogma has a treat for you. Every pawn and person in Gransys speaks in such tongue. Traveling the lands in search of fat sacks of loot and my next conquest I've had many hours of conversation with my pawns. They often tell me to search buildings for "Aught" of use, or call me master, or Ser out of respect. Even in the midst of the fray, they keep their heads and still speak with conviction. Calling for help when cursed, or delivering an eloquently planned one-liner as their death rattle. Still, the constant babble seems a bit Navi-esque (zelda fans know what I'm talking about. Hey, listen!), because they feel an incessant urge to speak at every turn, or blood-letting. Romance fans will also be delighted there is a romance system as well. Its not as straight-forward as say, Mass Effect, or Dragon Age: Origins, but you still get a chance for some pixelated love.
Dragon's Dogma truly is an epic experience for any gamer that enjoys RPGs or Action/Adventure titles. An array of enemies keep you on your toes and have you changing tactics on the fly, making you feel more like a hardened warrior rather than the usual unsuspecting hero. The world even feels alive, with people constantly talking to you, or to themselves; and an ever changing state of affairs in the kingdom will keep you glued to the screen waiting for the next plot-twist. There's no shortage of customization, or uniqueness with Dragon's Dogma. Every pawn you meet will look different, from the ranger with short-shorts and a bikini-top, to the grizzled warrior all shined up in his plate-armor. If you're looking for your next epic adventure, or even a casual foray into a land of fantasy, Dragon's Dogma will find you love, find you battle, and maybe even find you wanting more.