If you’ve read Dossers latest post then you’ll probably be asking yourself “what has elth been doing whilst dosser was splattering heads all over the shop in Max Payne?”. Well with my Spartan teammate otherwise occupied and the Woaf temporarily out of action I’ve been making the most of my free time exploring Gransys in Dragons Dogma.
I know what your thinking I can totally see Japanese rpgs are a bit of an enigma at times, I do love the traditional turn based, story driven, visceral experience you get from a final fantasy, Dragon quest or Tales of .. game, whilst I equally understand peoples frustration at the slow pace such titles can take at times. This game should not be confused with any of those titles though. With DD Capcom targeting a market that has been swamped with western offerings of late the Japanese giants have the likes of Bioware, EA and Bethesda firmly in thier sights with this offering.
So how does this adventure of a hero and his/her pawns stack up against the western giants? Well it doesn’t have the fully immersive world of Skyrim nor does it have the epic story of Dragon Age, the visuals are not quite as vibrant and exciting as Kingdoms of Amalur but what it does have is pawns.
One of the really impressive features of Capcoms very own western world style of rpg (W-rpg?) is the character creation system.
Here are four good examples of what the system allows you to do. What it doesn’t show is the level of detail you can go into (Capcom even used the the same system to create all the additional characters) allowing you to make anything from a tiny stooping, shriveled sourcerer to a bulky, behemoth, bruiser, creating a character that’s as hilarious as another is imposing or anything inbetween, its delight to use. Then you get to do it all over again for your own custom companion (pawn).
An a-typical ranger and his ramshackle gang of pawns.
Now we have our hero and a loyal supporter game on right? Not quite you also get to hire in two further pawns created by other players all over the world. This method of team building is at the heart of this journey and you will find yourself becoming increasingly attached to your artificial allies, resulting in grave disappointment when your pawn returns with a negative review from another hero in another realm.
The right combination of pawns can really make or break any journey and as you level yourself and your trusty pawn you’ll find that the others you are hiring become more useful and effective, even offering handy tidbits of information for the quest you are trying to complete, but the main job of a pawn is combat and lucky for you they can prove pretty capable under pressure.
Battle in Dragon’s Dogma can be tough at times but work with your pawns and you can vanquish even the most powerful enemies. Shadow of the Colossus proved that there is little more satisfying (out of Mjolnir armour) than felling a beast more than ten times your size and this proves equally true here. Scrambling up the back and onto the head of a fearsome beast and unleasing a series of strikes to the head or face before leaping and rolling out of the way before it crashes to the ground is made all the more fun when a beast is being set ablaze by a mage or peppered with arrows from the bow of a ranger.
Story never really seems to be the focus of this game the world is driven far more by the beasts that inhabit the plains, woods, valleys and dungeons outside the walls of Gran Soren, the bustling capital city at the heart of Gransys.
The creatures on show look great but also move and act intelligently meaning even repeat encounters don’t feel like a chore, you can never tell what a wild animal will do.
There are issues with the game of course, in particular the constant desire of the pawns to describe anything and everything you come across “look master a bridge”, “watch out, dragon!”,
“does this chainmail make my bum look big?”.
It gets pretty annoying at times and it isn’t helped by the utterly appalling voice acting which is standard practice for any translated video game now.
The graphics are decent but not beautiful, the animations aren’t slick more Resident Evil than Bayonetta.
But if you like a chunky combat system like those found in Dark Souls or Monster Hunter and want your rpgs to be more about adventuring than politics this game is a must play.
But remember kids a pawn is for life, not just for Christmas.