The best benefit of remasters is that players who missed a game the first time around can enjoy freshly updated versions on modern hardware. Case in point, Capcom has just released Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen for Xbox One. A masterful RPG with a huge open world, excellent combat, and an innovative party system, Dragon's Dogma is an affordable role-playing adventure that shouldn't be missed.
Dragon's Dogma originally launched on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2012. The next year, a new version bundled with the Dark Arisen expansion arrived as well. Now Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen (after hitting Steam in 2016) has finally made its way to Xbox One and PlayStation 4, becoming the definitive console version of Capcom's role-playing epic.
Like most cool RPGs, Dragon's Dogma begins with a playable prologue. After surviving a dragon attack that killed his forces, a male knight must team up with a trip of NPCs to reach the dragon, battling minor foes and a huge chimera boss along the way. It's a decent introduction, though the story is initially somewhat confusing and the tutorial messages stay on-screen way longer than necessary.
After the prologue, players create their own character. The creation options are limited compared to current-gen RPGs like Dark Souls III and Toukiden II, but you do get to select gender, skin and hair color, and a few physical features during the process. Soon thereafter you'll select from one of three vocations (classes), with more becoming available later in the game.
The story now flashes forward several years, when a dragon attacks your character's peaceful village. As the lone person to stand up to the beast, our hero quickly falls. In a graphic turn of events, the dragon removes the player's heart and consumes it. Instead of dying, you awaken as an "Arisen." Now connected to the dragon by a glowing scar, the Arisen must find a way to take their heart back, kill the great lizard, and save the world.
Dragon's Dogma is an open-world third-person action-RPG in the style of The Witcher 3. Players awaken in their hometown Cassardis, but will eventually explore the sprawling world of Gransys.
Every dwelling can be fully explored, with numerous items safely lootable under the oblivious NPCs' noses. Many of these act as combinable materials, useful in Dragon's Dogma crafting system. Water and oil can be carried in flasks, numerous objects can be thrown to distract enemies, and lanterns provide essential lighting in the dark (the game has a full day-night cycle).
Numerous NPCs encountered throughout the world, helpfully identified by green icons above their heads, offer quests to complete. Notice boards dole out quests too. These tend to be of the collect X items or kill Y monsters variety, though some are more story-based. The total number of quests is absolutely huge, with Achievements for completing them all. You can set any quest as the active quest, causing its waypoints to appear on the map.
Gransys is huge, with many locations and biomes to explore and secrets to find. The day-night cycle affects the appearance of enemies, wildlife, flora, and more, rewarding exploration at different times of day. Fast travel is possible via consumable items called ferrystones. This being Dark Arisen, all players receive a non-consumable eternal ferrystone upon reaching a certain point in the game. How convenient!
You can safely expect an action-RPG from the makers of Monster Hunter and Devil May Cry to have good combat. Not only does Dragon's Dogma feature nine classes, they can be changed at any point, allowing players to retain their skills and stat benefits. At the core, you'll be a melee, ranged, or magic fighter.
Each primary weapon has two basic attacks. Holding the primary or secondary weapon skill button allows access to any skills you have equipped for that weapon type. The skill system itself is deep and rewarding, allowing you to purchase, mix, and match purchased skills. The skill vendor also sells passive skills, and skills can be equipped to pawns.
The element that really sets Dragon's Dogma's combat apart is the grabbing system. You can grab just about anything and throw it, whether breakable objects or enemies. Grabbing also lets you climb onto monsters, a very Shadow of the Colossus-like mechanic. Climbing a huge beast as you search for its weak points is thrilling and very distinct among action-RPGs.
As if climbing bosses wasn't enough, Dragon's Dogma also features a highly unique party system that provides an asynchronous element to this single-player game. Very early in the game, you gain the ability to command a party of three NPC pawns. Using the D-Pad, players can issue a handful of simple commands to their pawns – but they tend to hold their own in battle anyway.
You'll create and fully customize your primary pawn. This pawn can then be lent out to other players, earning items and learning tips for content your Arisen hasn't encountered yet. Your third and fourth party members will be other player's primary pawns.
After interacting with a rift stone found throughout the world, you'll enter the rift where you can recruit new pawns. Lower level pawns are free to hire, but higher-level ones cost rift crystals earned from killing monsters. You can search for friends' pawns, but they might be too expensive to hire if they out-level you. Pawns can die in battle. If not resurrected, they must be re-hired from within the rift.
Dark Arisen on Xbox One
This version of Dragon's Dogma includes all previous DLC and the Dark Arisen expansion. Dark Arisen rebalances the whole game, revamps the menus, and adds hard and speedrun modes. It also introduces a new location called Bitterback Isle, four new bosses, and plenty of exclusive items. Bitterback Isle is said to be ultra-challenging, which should make it perfect for Dark Souls fans.
The Xbox One version of Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen includes 59 Achievements worth a total of 1,000 Gamerscore, including all of the Xbox 360 Dragon's Dogma Achievements and some dedicated to the Dark Arisen content. You'll have to complete the game on hard mode, finish a speedrun (which isn't very hard on New Game+ thanks to fast travel), and more.
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen's Xbox One improvements are regrettably limited in nature. The original 360 version often chugged in the frame rate department, just like Dark Souls I and II. Running at an increased resolution, this new version maintains a solid 30 frames per second. So Dark Arisen is smoother than before, but 60 FPS and more graphical improvements would have been welcome.
Dragon's Dogma is a role-playing game that deserves to be appreciated. With so much content and depth, Dark Arisen is just as impressive as ever in the gameplay department. Few would've expected a Japanese developer like Capcom to release a "Western-style" action-RPG that could hold its own against the Elder Scrolls and Witcher series, but that's exactly what happened.
- Climbing gigantic monsters and stabbing them is just too cool.
- Pawn system is deep and lets friends level each others' party members.
- A huge world, countless quests, and nearly limitless adventure - all for just thirty bucks.
- Graphics and frame rate don't take advantage of the Xbox One's horsepower.
- Character customization options are limited compared to modern RPGs.
- The combat strangely lacks a roll or dodge move by default, though dodges eventually can be equipped.
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen costs $29.99 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam.
Xbox One review copy provided by the publisher.
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