Dragon’s Dogma review

Dragon's Dogma ReviewWhen baking an adventure, mystery is the fundamental base. It is the sugar in your cake, the flour in your sourdough bread. It’s how you compliment that mystery that determines what kind of magic your adventure has. Dragon’s Dogma has ample mystery. The medieval countryside you wander is vast, full of secret ruins and caves; its tale of destiny is gossamer thin, but personal as a result; and its rules for play are so poorly explained that it’s up to you to figure them out. Though it looks familiar, Dogma is distinguished from its swords-and-sorcery contemporaries. Cruelty is Dark Souls leavening agent and grandeur is Skyrim’s cream cheese icing, but quiet, graceful speed is the yeast that lets Dragon’s Dogma rise.

The land of Gransys is a rough place. Every few hundred years or so, a dragon shows up and starts laying the place to waste. The only one to put the sumbitch down is a warrior of the dragon’s selection, the Arisen. After the dragon shows up in your home town and eats your heart marking you as the destined hero, its off into the countryside to chase that scaly jerk down, unraveling the mysteries of the land as you go, righting wrongs and killing giant beasts for kicks in the meantime.

dragons dogma review ddYou have a goodly amount of freedom in creating your character in the game. Dogma’s world is for the most part drab and mundane, lots of dirty cliffs and dark green forests, but that plain façade makes it feel a bit more real than more fantastic fake countrysides. What it lacks in colorful flourishes it makes up for in detailed, attractive character models that look nice in motion and can look just like you. Pick a hairstyle and a character class—sword-and-shield warrior, mage, or bow-and-knives ranger type, with six more unlocked as you progress—and you’re off into the world without much more than a brief dialog with the village chief.

That nonchalance threatens to drown Dragon’s Dogma at the outset. Even as you learn new skills, the combat feels swift but devoid of nuance, so fighting bandits that can down you in a single swipe feels no different than facing a giant cyclops that you can kill after ten minutes of climbing on its head. The Arisen feels like a mannequin wandering a Lord of the Rings-themed window display at Macy’s more than a chosen hero, and the game is less mysterious, more hollow. It’s only after your start to journey on the game’s myriad quests, and come to understand interactions with pawns, that Dogma reveals itself.

Pawns are actually both the narrative and play justification for Dogma’s initial empty feeling. The Arisen is the only person that can command a race of warriors that come from another world, soulless mercenaries called pawns. Three travel with you at any given time, one of whom is your personal buddy who you design from the ground up, and much of the game’s hidden flavor comes from understanding how pawns work with you. Only your personal pawn levels up, necessitating you hire new ones created by the game or from other players online.

dragons dogma reviewCapcom barely sidesteps the murky ethical territory raised by the pawns; lots of games team you with artificial intelligence partners but few are explicitly slaves like the pawns seem to be. The characters you meet early on go out of their way to stress “PAWNS AREN’T PEOPLE,” but their humanity is slowly revealed as they help you and the story further unfolds. When your own pawn shows up in the morning at an inn, telling you about their adventures in another Dogma player’s adventure, they start to feel more autonomous. They slowly become as likable and reliable as any party of role-playing game partners, but your closeness to them is based on their actions, not some speech about heroism or friendship.

Those actions are largely performed in the game’s fast battles. The fighting that at first feels so thin and unforgiving becomes balletic quickly. A Strider, the ranger type, for example can double jump on to the game’s huge beasts—Dogma constantly pits you against both mobs of small enemies and huge monsters like chimera and basilisks that take upwards of ten minutes to put down—but the light and heavy dagger stirkes they can do feel weightless. At the upper tiers though moves like “Ensnare” that let you hog tie and knock down a whole crew of enemies changes the entire dynamic of the game.

Moving into a new territory of Gransys feels laborious at first as well. The terrain doesn’t change as quickly or dramatically as it does in Skyrim, so it feels like a trip into a new mountain guarded by lady thieves takes forever. (Even longer, since there’s no quick travel ability in the game, save for an item that returns you to just one town.) Like the combat though, return trips feel fleet and light. Just like travelling to a real place, it only feels like it takes a long time because you’re unfamiliar with the terrain.

dragons dogma reviewConclusion

For as savory as Dogma’s personal experience is, it’s not without real rough edges. Needless menus and restrictions obscure simple things like unlocking new skills, crafting items, and reviewing quest information. There’s no good reason why you should be at an inn to assign skills you’re using, and the game doesn’t bother with an explanation. That sort of barrier building, the sort of token role-playing game obliqueness, mars the lightness that’s Dogma’s greatest strength.

Capcom has made a solid but imperfect mystery, one that lets players discover its secrets quickly and always provides more. Its flaws aren’t enough to overpower its fundamental flavor, but are enough to keep the game from matching its peers. Dogma‘s worth playing if only for the moment the dough starts to fluff and you can make your character dance rather than walk. 

(This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 on a copy provided by Capcom)

Movies & TV

How ‘invisible’ effects brought Winnie the Pooh to life in ‘Christopher Robin’

Christopher Robin earned an Academy Award nomination for the innovative way it merged Winnie the Pooh and other imaginary characters with its human cast in postwar London. Here's how visual effects studio Framestore worked its movie magic.

Everything we know about Devil May Cry 5, including characters and combat

Devil May Cry 5 is just around the corner, and is the first game in the original series since Devil May Cry 4 in 2008. Here is everything we know about the game, including its playable characters.
Movies & TV

The best movies you’ll find on Hulu right now (February 2019)

From dramas to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.

Xbox-exclusive games could find a second home on Nintendo Switch

Microsoft is reportedly set to release some of its first-party games on Nintendo Switch, as well as the Xbox Game Pass and Project xCloud services. Cross-play between Switch and Xbox One is already enabled.

Transform into a tetromino master with our Tetris 99 tips and tricks

Tetris 99 is the latest battle royale game to stir up quite a bit of commotion. The Nintendo Switch Online exclusive adds a few new unexplained quirks to the Tetris formula. We've got you covered with our Tetris 99 tips and tricks.

Metro Exodus update brings DLSS improvements to Nvidia RTX 20-series PCs

Having issues in Metro Exodus? A February 21 update for the title recently delivered enhancements to Nvidia’s deep learning supersampling feature and other fixes for low-specced PCs. 

Need to perform a factory reset on your Xbox One console? Here's how to do it

Whether you're upgrading to a One X and giving your old console to a friend, or troubleshooting a technical issue, sometimes your Xbox One needs a clean slate. Here's our quick guide on how to factory reset an Xbox One.

Battle royale-style Tetris 99 is the first Nintendo Switch Online-exclusive game

If you want to play online multiplayer on Switch, you'll need a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Here's what you need to know about Nintendo Switch Online, from price to features to the awesome library of NES games.

The best PUBG weapons to win you that coveted chicken dinner

Which weapons in PUBG are worth the time to scout out and fit with attachments? Which are going to help you become the last player standing? We've got the answers you need in our best PUBG weapons guide.

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in Destiny 2: Forsaken

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.

Want to play as Iron Man or Waluigi in GTA V? Our favorite mods make it possible

Grand Theft Auto V is best on the PC for many reasons, and modifications may be the most important. You can cause riots, spawn unique cars, and play as a cop with just a few extra files.

Walmart slices prices on PS4 DualShock 4 controllers just in time for Anthem

The standard black PS4 controller is what usually comes with the console itself, but if you want to add something a bit more customized your gaming experience, Walmart is offering a wide variety of colorful DualShock 4 controllers at…

How you can give your PS4 a fresh start with a factory reset

Learn the many ways you can factory reset your PS4. From reverting your settings to factory to doing a full wipe and reinstalling the latest PlayStation firmware, we cover it all here, step by step.