When Dragon’s Dogma saw its release last year, it showed off Capcom’s fine work on building a rich action-RPG with some unique ideas, great combat and a brilliant gaming world. However, it wasn’t pulled off without a hitch – server issues and small glitches marred the opinions of many. This time around, Capcom are looking to make amends by releasing the full title again, only at a smaller cost and with a rather huge expansion added in, but just how good is it? And have they fixed the original titles ills?
What I found was actually a mixture of disappointment and elation, disappointingly, the original issues are roughly the same. The frame-rate struggles and streaming issues are a problem, with town folk taking some time to appear on-screen and enemies suffering with clipping (lets not talk about weapons protruding through hands and shields). This is however eased by simply installing the disc onto your Xbox HDD.
Capcom have worked on some feedback despite this, opting to add a much-needed fast travel system, and the new content which in my mind at least, more than makes up for the technical issues. There’s around 10 hours of brand new gameplay. A new mysterious dark island called Bitterblack Isle, rises from the sea around Cassardis promising a hugely challenging task ahead, if Dark Arisen is your first play-through, definitely leave the Dark island till last, you’ll need your wits about you and a beefed up character in order to survive. Bitterblack Isle feels like a focused section taken straight out of the rage inducing Dark Souls.
The Isle has been designed really well, the tone is handled perfectly giving you that fear of a deeply unpleasant place to be and it adds a new dimension to the combat. Filled with vast tunnels and tight spaces it’s a sparse difference to Gransys. Out there on the fields of Gransys, you’re free to run away from anything you couldn’t handle yourself, but deep in the dank corridors of Bitterblack, you’re forced to play the game like a survival horror, being extra careful with every step.
Combat is still Dragon’s Dogmas biggest pro, offering you a choice between Mage, Ranger and Warrior then offering different vocations for each. The vocational options change-up game tactics depending on how you’ve set yourself up. You can build a hardcore fighter, willing to hack’n’slash their way to victory or you can create a powerful mage who’s happy with some distance. The most unique vocation is perhaps that of the Strider however, who once built up can choose to actually climb up larger colossal enemies to bring them tumbling down to the ground.
Adventure is still at the heart of Dragon’s Dogma, possibly one of the best RPGs out there for the type of exploration on offer, making any expedition something you need to prepare well for if you want to make it back alive at least and this is backed up by the feeling of isolation you’ll encounter once night falls. Once the sun goes down you’re on your own to survive the beats and demons that come out to play. Thankfully this is where Pawns come into play, AI characters you encounter along the way whom you can choose to have join you on your journeys, make battling what bumps in the night that bit more bearable – everybody needs somebody right? (thank you Blues Brothers) Interestingly though, despite how standard the AI may be, you’ll find yourself getting rather close with your new-found partner, weighing up if a battle was good/bad or how hurt your companion is. Every Pawn death feels like a “NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” moment.
Survival is a big challenge thanks to the large selection of beasts, always on hand to slash your throat. From bandits, undead, phantoms and demons, there will be a lot to contend with but as previously mentioned, there will also be some Colossal beasts made up from a mix of Shadow of the Colossus and Dark Souls, when you face an enemy like the Hydra, be prepared for an epic battle.
With great gameplay, a brilliant soundtrack and decent visuals despite the technical issues, Dragon’s Dogma is a decent outing. The main issue I encountered was the lore behind it all, with such an amazing world it often feels like Capcom missed the chance to add in some truly exciting and unique missions along with a much deeper back story. Instead, the overall story is fairly standard and the missions much the same. The gameplay is such that you can get over these gripes, but it’s sometimes hard to see why they missed this opportunity. Let’s not talk about the ending though, it’s extremely off-the-wall and will throw everyone. Yes. Even you.
Dragon’s Dogma Dark Arisen is definitely a game worth playing. If you loved the original outing, then don’t hesitate with this. Bitterblack Isle should be your next holiday destination and if you have yet to play Dragon’s Dogma then you’ll find even more value for your money in this bundle – offering up the best of the original and a brilliant extra few hours thrown in for good measure. Dark Arisen left me satisfied and excited to see what the team will do with a sequel, here’s hoping we hear something soon!