Demo Impressions: Dragon’s Dogma

I hadn’t even heard of Dragon’s Dogma until a friend of mine mentioned he’d really enjoyed the demo. I didn’t have anything to do at the time, so I downloaded it and gave it a shot. The demo allows you to fool around with character creation and play a bit of the main storyline and one outdoor quest. All in all, it gave me about forty minutes with the game.

Dragon’s Dogma
System: Xbox 360 (reviewed), Playstation 3
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: May 22, 2012 (NA), May 24, 2012 (JP), May 25, 2012 (EU) (full game)
MSRP: $59.99

The character creation aspect of this game is promising. You can customize practically everything about your character, from hair color, body build, and eye shape to the infamous boob slider, which, refreshingly, isn’t absolutely ridiculous. While the demo didn’t seem to allow you to choose a class, there are nine available: mystic knight, magick archer, assassin, sorcerer, warrior, mage, ranger, fighter, and strider. I spent a good fifteen or twenty minutes in the character creator for my own character and decided to go with a default for my pawn, though s/he is also customizable. A pawn is an AI-controller party member, of whom you can have up to three, that you can give orders to. One of your pawns is an NPC, but the other two can be borrowed and lent via XBox Live, so you can borrow a friend’s pawn when you’re in need of a particular skill set. If someone borrows your pawns, the experience they gain will be passed on to you via loot  and strategic knowledge. I’m not really sure why they opted for this system instead of online play, but it does seem to be an interesting addition. I’d like to see how they implement it once the game is released.

The gameplay was surprisingly fun despite its length. The first option I chose the was the prologue, which allowed you to fight a chimera as a generic character with a sword and shield. (Why they didn’t allow us to use our customized character and pawn, I don’t know.) I enjoyed this mission especially because you basically have to kill three creatures: the lion and goat that make up the chimera’s body, and the snake that makes up its tail. The best part for me was that my pawns and I could actually get on top of the chimera and stab it. After being able to do that, slicing at legs and torsos just doesn’t seem as fun.

The game gives you a tutorial as you go along, but most of it is easy enough to figure out on your own. Your controls are as such: you have a strong and weak attack, with the strong attack apparently having a longer recovery time. You can also block and pick up objects in order to throw them. You have your own inventory, as do your pawns, and you can manage all of the inventories.

The outdoor adventure gives you the chance to fight a griffin as the character you created, though your class—archer—is automatically assigned to you. Your job is to go out and fight random bad guys until you run into the griffin. The best part about this particular battle was again the ability to climb on the griffin and stab it; it was even cooler if you managed to grab the thing before it took flight. If you’re able to climb up to its head, you’re actually able to strike a fairly fatal blow.

Neither gameplay option for the demo really allows you to get into the open-world aspect of the game, which is unfortunate but to be expected. It also doesn’t let you see that the game actually switches between night and day in real time, which gives you the opportunity to fight different enemies and trigger different events. The game also features fully-voiced NPCs, none of which (other than pawns) you really get to run into in the demo. As far as AI goes, I was pretty impressed. I felt like my pawns were quite capable of doing what they needed to do, and when they went down, all I needed to do was go over and help them up. The only thing that I didn’t find particularly useful was that your pawn will take a character and hold him, telling you to hit him. While I understand how that can be satisfying, I didn’t really feel like I needed to take time out of what I was doing in order to appease my pawn. Just kill the guy and move on.

The demo doesn’t seem to really get into the story behind the game, but this is what the Dragon’s Dogma Facebook page has to say about the plot:

Driven to seek out the Dragon. They say that the one whose heart is taken by the Dragon is forever changed; their destiny now lies with the Dragon. You have been chosen. And now, you are an Arisen. But everything is not as it seems. The choices you make will determine your fate. Make sure you choose wisely, for the path of least resistance and one requiring more courage might grant you immortality but not true freedom. The vast open world is filled with all sorts of characters you’ll encounter in addition to massive beasts you’ll need to defeat in battle.

I will say this: the demo was incredibly short for a game they expect us to drop $60 on. I expected at least a half hour’s worth of actual gameplay, but it was closer to fifteen or twenty minutes, not including the time I spent in character creation.The time I did spend playing, however, I enjoyed. The music is well-composed and the graphics are beautiful, even on my older-than-me television screen.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for this game as it looks to be exciting and somewhat different from other RPGs I’ve played. Dragon’s Dogma drops on May 22. Preordering the game gets you a weapon upgrade pack, which gives you weapons for the class—fighter, strider, or mage—you choose at the beginning of the game. You’ll also receive access to the Resident Evil 6 demo, which will otherwise be available July 3 for 360 players and September 3 for PS3 players. It has been said that there’s about thirty hours of main gameplay and seventy hours of side quests, so this game, if as exciting as the incredibly short demo, will prove to be well worth the $60.

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