Thanks to my proximity to THQ’s Melbourne outpost, I recently had the chance to try my hand at one of the Capcom titles the company plans to distribute in 2012. After watching a brief but informative demonstration of Dragon’s Dogma, I seized a controller and plunged headlong into the game.
If I took one thing away from my time with Dragon’s Dogma, it was that it was designed to deliver wall to wall combat. I couldn’t wander more than 100 metres from a waypoint without being assailed by all manner of monstrosities. My stroll along a mountain path ended abruptly when a lumbering Cyclops tumbled over the edge with me still clinging to its leg. Any notion of enjoying a picnic in the woods was dashed when a vicious three headed chimera invited itself to the party. The fire breathing dragon I encountered only stopped incinerating my companions for long enough to pick me up in one massive claw and body slam me into the turf. The dragon wasn’t terribly talkative, unfortunately, so I couldn’t speculate as to its dogma.
All of the adversaries I encountered were as beautiful as they were intimidating, none more so than the reptilian horrors that ambushed me as I was crossing a stream. As my party bore down on them, their scaly hides became translucent, making them incredibly difficult to keep track of. I was forced on multiple occasions to revive my stricken allies as they lay unmoving in the shallows. These cold blooded killers took a power of killing, as did just about every other creature I stumbled upon. The length of these encounters brought the limited range of attacks at my disposal sharply into focus. I would have liked to see a little more gameplay variety.
This issue was alleviated to some extent by the contributions of my party members, here known as pawns. These loyal offsiders could be sourced from within the game or borrowed from other players in an online lobby. My pals not only pummelled my enemies with sword and sorcery, they also assessed our opponents and offered advice on how to take them down. Alas, many of the tips appeared to be elementary (target the glowing weak spot!) and/or redundant (watch out for the death beam, you know, the one that just killed you). Worse yet, I heard the same tips over and over again. According to our host, my companions would soon learn and share new tips. Not only that, I would eventually be able to recruit pawns with more specialist knowledge.
For the most part, Dragon’s Dogma was visually striking, but I encountered numerous instances of texture pop in, particularly in areas with multiple trees or intricate stonework. Our host acknowledged the issues but quickly assured us that they would be eliminated by loading the game onto the hard drive. While this set my own mind at ease, I couldn’t help but feel for the many Xbox 360 owners who would be forced to play the game directly from the disc.
I enjoyed my time with Dragon’s Dogma, but I’m not yet 100% sold on the concept. The monsters were stunning, but the world they inhabited was largely nondescript. The combat included several beautifully staged set pieces, but it could also be quite repetitive at times. It was the intriguing pawn system that caught my eye. The success or failure of this component is likely to determine how much I appreciate the finished game.
Looking for more Dragon’s Dogma coverage? Check out Stephen Foote’s demo impressions.