Dragon’s Dogma PS3 review
Dragon’s Dogma PS3 review
Look – no number tacked on the end of the title! That’s worthy of at least a little gasp in these sequel-obsessed times, and goes some way to indicate what a brave, pioneering RPG Dragon’s Dogma is: full of wide-eyed ideas and audacious East-meets-West gameplay mechanics.
Up against a slew of fiercely playable RPGs including Skyrim, Kingdoms Of Amalur and Dark Souls it doesn’t always keep pace, and is hampered by occasionally hamfisted execution. But the intent of this game, the non-derivative atmosphere and the scale of its aims make it a dragon’s wingspan more loveable than any super-polished triple-A title with none of its own ideas.
Take the charming fishing village of Cassardis where you start your journey – a jumble of fishing huts set around a beautiful beach, full of pseudo-Italian residents to chat to for quests. If you’re that way inclined, you can assault a girl who saved you from a dragon attack with a water jug, trash homes by throwing people’s stuff around, chuck rabbits off a cliff and take an arrow to the seagulls.
Or you can talk to nearby folk for quests, collect flowers to make medicine and catch thieves in the night. Your call.
That freedom and intense level of interaction with your surroundings continues throughout the game. This is hardcore role-playing – to the extent that meeting tough enemies while lacking in medical supplies, low on oil for your lantern or travelling without the right companions results in short, sharp death.The ensuing loading screen even tells you that there’s no shame in fleeing from powerful opponents, and it’s deadly serious.
Doesn’t sound hardcore enough? How’s this: quests don’t come with map markers. It’s a crutch we’ve slowly become dependent on with every hour in the Elder Scrolls games spent following the arrow on our compass, and having that crutch removed is both liberating and frustrating.
On the one hand you’re forced to scrutinise and memorise each area, consider where you might have to go to find this or kill that based on what characters have told you, which creates a realism and increased interaction missing from most RPGs. On the other hand, where is that sodding witch? Where am I going to find 20 war bugles? WHERE’S QUINA GONE?
In a departure from pretty much every RPG you’ve played before, there’s no main quest in your journal at the start. In fact, major quests just kind of happen, usually after resting or upon visiting a certain location. Combined with the already challenging navigation system, it often feels like you’re floundering in the world of Gransys without specific purpose – which isn’t all bad, as your resultant exploration often leads to some rewarding accidental side-questing and anecdote-spawning expeditions – “Remember when we fireballed that wolf clean off a cliff? And chopped the tails off the giant alligators living down the well?” you’ll say to your pawns.