Dragon’s Dogma Dark Arisen PS3 review – Expandalone quest has Miyazaki on its mind
One hour into your adventure in the Bitterblack Isle – a testing new chunk of Dragon’s Dogma with a moody colour palette, low ceilings and devilish enemies – you hit a wall. Down in the depths, guarding a Void Key you need to go even further down into said dungeon, with his nine health bars, is a Cyclops-Golem beast who laughs in the face of your level-76 assassin. He smashes your pawns to dust, and depletes every Curative you own. He is Dragon’s Dogma’s own attempt at a Dark Souls boss.
Dragon’s Dogma Dark Arisen PS3 review
And in the game’s endearingly dog-eared fashion, he doesn’t quite work. There are areas in the boss arena in which he simply can’t hurt you, so you’re free to pelt arrows his way at arm’s length for nearly an hour with impunity.
By trying to beat Dark Souls at its own game, Capcom’s loveable and idiosyncratic RPG comes off inevitably the worse. Dark Arisen is a worthwhile expansion that also adds a fistful of new weapons and armour for your now redesigned inventory, and a welcome change of scenery from the pastures and forests of Gransys. But it doesn’t play to the game’s strengths.
And by strengths, I mean pawns, of course. Your diligent, vocal, occasionally hapless and consistently hilarious companions shine through despite the Bitterblack Isle’s design, rather than because of it.
The labyrinthine tunnels, winding staircases, holes in walls, and caverns are suitably claustrophobic and trick you into the conceit of a larger area, but they don’t accommodate a four-person squad with all that much finesse. Dark Arisen is all about comedically abrupt deaths and deadly Wyrms lurking in treasure chests, giving little room for your pawns to team up, use the topography tactically and show off their smarts.
It’s the price that makes this a tricky one to recommend, rather than the content
It’s the price that makes this a tricky one to recommend, rather than the content. For first-time buyers this £20 bundle (which includes the original game) is a bargain, but for the hardcore player it’s designed for, that same price is a big ask when you already own the main course. Veterans should knock a point off, but curious bystanders have the perfect excuse to enjoy an offbeat gem.