A mild gust of wind is sort of pushing me.
In this age of the constant flood of must-play titles, I think we all have games in our backlog that we want to eventually check out because it has all the trappings of some of our favorite series. Dragon’s Dogma was one of them for me, with its similarities to Monster Hunter, Souls and Kingdoms of Amalur.
In fact, I took multiple stabs at playing through the game on the PS3 as well as on the PC, but for one reason or another, I stopped after putting only a few hours in. With the release of the complete title on PS4, I thought it was finally time to do a full playthrough and find out once and for all if this was title worthy of my attention.
This being a port of what was originally a PS3 game, I expected the usual improvements in terms of higher resolution as well as a stable framerate as the PS3/360 versions were plagued with constant framerate drops and for the most part, it succeeds.
Visually, the details of the textures, character models and lighting have been improved across the board, and even though it’s still not a particularly good looking game, the excellent animation work for the powerful weapon/class skills as well as the various imposing monsters shines through.
Even though I’ve noticed a handful of dips in the frame rates during combat, they were quite infrequent and the experience on the whole was locked at 30. However, this being a PS3 game, I was surprised to find that a 60FPS option was unavailable even on the PS4 Pro. As that is something available on the PC port, it seems like a missed opportunity to refine the game’s engine further to allow for a smoother experience.
As for the gameplay, it did not take long for me to discover why I stopped playing the game multiple times in the past. The biggest offender was the size of the world itself, as I would start a main quest just to be told that I needed to travel halfway across the world map to a destination. However, the world map being large could be seen as a positive if not for the stamina meter which drained too quickly and refilled at a snail’s pace. There were no mounts and the use of quick travel was limited to only a few major cities in the map as well as some way points I was able to set for myself.
Along the path, I was constantly ambushed by bandits, wolves and the like which posed no real threat but only served to slow me down and irritate me further, as I power walked for what seemed like an eternity, waiting for my stamina to refill so I could sprint for another 8 more seconds before I would have to wait again.
If the world itself was populated by interesting encounters, treasures and the like, traveling across wouldn’t have felt like a chore, but the ground was littered mostly with useless junk which served to weigh down my character, slowing him down even more. It’s a combination of mechanics that tested my patience, and if I wasn’t reviewing the game, I would have stopped my playthrough once more.
The quests themselves didn’t fare all that well either, with most of them feeling derivative and uninteresting, revolving around talking to one NPC after another or slaying X number of monsters. There were some interesting quests in the mix that salvaged the experience a bit, but those were few and far between.
Luckily, customization and combat is where Dark Arisen really shines, and given I was able to create my avatar as well as my pawn to fit a certain combat archetype, I was impressed to find the depth of customization I had in creating multiple builds to fit different scenarios.
With a good variety of classes to choose from, I was able to transfer over many of the skills from previously mastered classes to form hybrid builds, and between summoning other pawns offered by players, it was quite interesting to see if I could put together an utterly overpowered team and I feel I succeeded, taking on the content on the Bitter Black Isles without much issue while being fairly under leveled.
Given that encounters with brand new monsters were a highlight of the experience, I would have liked to see a greater variety during the main campaign as it felt as though many were hidden away, exclusive to the post game content.
The combat is focused mostly around the use of class skills, as four skills can be assigned to both main/secondary weapon slots. As a fighter, I was able to use one-handed sword and shield skills. As I leveled up the vocation of my class, I earned the right to learn new powerful skills and testing out different classes to see how each of the different weapon types stacked up was quite entertaining. My pawn was also fully customizable in the same way except they weren’t allowed to access dual hybrid classes. Drawing in the monsters with my shield skills to take aggro while my backline of powerful mages unleashed devastating AoE spells was a favorite strategy of mine, and proved useful for most of the game.
As for the story, it’s a bit of mess to be frank but I can appreciate the effort in being more ambitious than what I first expected. It’s just unfortunate that there are scenes that require some emotional attachment to certain love interest characters but the game did absolutely nothing to develop those characters to anything more than NPCs that gave out quests.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is a game about moments. Encountering a brand new monster, obtaining a powerful weapon or when a Drake crashes your goblin slaying party with a storm of hellfire- all moments that are memorable and fun to experience. The issue is that getting to those moments are oftentimes an absolute slog of tedious stamina and weight management, battling the same group of wolves and bandits for the thirtieth time.
Fun Tidbit – The ability to summon pawns that are low leveled carrying end game equipment breaks a lot of challenge the game has to offer but I confess that I took advantage of some extremely powerful pawns during my playthrough.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.