Posted by : Wendy B Sunday, 29 July 2012

What little I’d heard of Dragon’s Dogma interested me enough to check out its Wiki entry, and the review snippets there, all of which called it a “flawed gem” in some variation, intrigued me enough to add it to my to-play list, but I didn’t expect to be playing it so soon. Fortunately, my parents decided to surprise me on their weekend visit by bringing along my nephew, who brought along his Xbox 360. He mainly brought it to play Mass Effect, having downloaded it on my advice last week. He also watched me play KOTOR2 for a bit and we discussed Bioware games and I was pleased to see that he understood what made them so awesome (even when they aren’t). He’s the son of the brother that gave me my first comics, so I really shouldn’t expect any less geekery from him and am so proud to learn that he’s been schooling his girlfriend in the ways of the real X-Men, Batman, Spiderman and Avengers.

Anyway, he also brought along Dragon’s Dogma and let me create an account to check it out. First off, there’s the character creation. No wait, first off, there’s the opening theme song. I’m used to the haunting melodies of Bioware games and the ominous Batman sonatas. But here’s Capcom with its pounding J-rock. Gods bless ‘em.

 Anyway, on to the character select where you can create a truly customized Main Pawn of any race, any physicality. Creation even gets down to specifics like appendage length, allowing so much flexibility. And dreads. They have honest to goodness dreads.

I worked my way through the prologue/tutorial and then had my heart eaten by a dragon before being let on my merry way. Typical town exploration and a few quests to get me started before I met my first companion – or Pawn – at the Rift Stone. This is what makes the game fascinating. Aside from your Main Pawn, the Arisen, you’ll be able to create another to be your constant follower. Initial thought was “Whoa! I can haz muh own boifren sworn to obey me??” and I suppose, you can, if you want to play it that way. I’m not sure how interactive the Pawns become, though the one I created (which was a little mage girl, for the record, not a handsome lover), indicated continual conversation can lead to greater affinity. During their creation, you are also asked four vague questions that will help determine their personality, I assume. After this, your party can consist of two other Pawns which you pick up by interacting with a Rift Stone, or finding them wandering around town.

I was playing offline, so my Pawn choices were limited to whatever the game had premade, which were free, but I came to understand that you can access any player’s Pawn (Main or follower), as long as you could afford it. There is, essentially, a copy of your Pawn created and it can be used by others and you will be paid (in Rift Crystals) and can even be rewarded for the usage. It behoves you to properly level up your Pawns in order to attract more takers. Your Pawns can potentially learn many new things in this manner, making them even more viable for you and for others. The value of your Pawn is decided by the game, based on knowledge and skills.

I have put in a special request with friends that they play in PS3 so we can all abuse each other’s Pawns in naughty ways.

The other two Pawns in your party are replaceable and should be replaced as you out level them. I initially thought your selection was limited by your level, but you are actually only limited by your Rift Crystals. You could potentially purchase a level 99 Pawn if you had the funds. I’m concerned about how this might make the game unbalanced, but, at least, you can only earn those Rift Crystals if your Pawns are regularly used, and you’re Pawns will only regularly be used if you are taking good care of them (and if the servers aren’t completely saturated). My nephew said that he tends to use Pawns slightly higher than his main, but the game remains challenging.

Unlike typical companions, the Pawns learn more than just abilities, which are purchased and set with Disciple Points. They learn about enemies, locations and quests and will provide hints and information accordingly as their knowledge increases.

This is where the other fantastic aspect of the game comes in: combat. As usual, each enemy is unique, but their AIs are also very intelligent. Gone are the days of button mashing and killing it with fire. You really have to think about your battle and pay attention to your Pawns. If they suggest you should flee, then there’s a good chance you damn well should haul ass. If they say you should wait and see, then there’s a good chance they are going to figure out the enemy’s weakness and start doing what it takes to exploit it. Even if your Pawns think you can handle it, you will fail if you just approach everything head on with swords blazing. Strategy is vital.

Control of the Pawns is limited to “Help” (which implies healing and I guess aiding with your targeted enemy), “Go” and “Come.” “Come” is a lot less intuitive than I’d like. Or rather, I’d like a “Stay” option for when I don’t want them dashing off to gleefully attack the enemies I am trying to lure out one by one. “Come” will bring them back to your side, but they will still attack if an enemy is close by. Otherwise, they are very good in battle and work well together, assuming you have chosen the right set up for each task. 

Outside of battle they spend their time making comments that can occasionally become annoying, but, more often than not, contain important information. The Pawns also are excellent gatherers and will pick up anything and everything. Fortunately, it seems the game’s weight limitations do take into consideration that your companions are constantly “HEY LOOKAWHUT I FOUND!”

The environment is full of many things and having the Pawns around will ensure you don’t miss anything. You can also interact with the environment significantly, which is useful for battle, as well. Day and night are also a factor, with more monsters coming out at night, but more loot being available for the greater risk. Lanterns and oil should be standard and your Main Pawn will keep it lit when appropriate if she’s well supplied, but, Pawns warn, keep it out of water. 

I don’t know much about the story at this point, beyond going to chat with the dragon and hopefully getting my heart back. My nephew was level 32 and had not gotten particularly far into the story beyond running errands to earn status. That is troubling, but that concern is balanced by the fact that he’d also not discovered even half of the world yet. The map is huge and even at level 32 with the number of quests he’d done, he’d only traveled a small portion of it.

I explained the game to my husband and he agreed it sounded like a game that would interest him, however, I warned him that you could only create one character per account (for which he laughed at me) and one save (for which I laughed at him). I assume this has to do with the Pawn usage.

WHAT IS THIS?

This is my mindspill. Mostly about comics, books, video games, movies of the science fiction and fantasy leanings. Sometimes recipes and parenting stuff will sneak in, along with a real world rant or two.

I also write about geek culture at Women Write About Comics, and I review genre fiction at The BiblioSanctum.

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