Since I’ve now regularly started using my PS4 and my PC more than my PS3, I’ve been reminiscing about my favourite titles on the PS3. The last-gen consoles delivered a number of really good games in the fantasy action RPG genre, including such titles as Dark Souls, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and this unusual game – Dragon’s Dogma.
On the surface it appears to be little more than a class-based action game with skill trees, looting, light role-playing elements and solid, satisfying combat – but it’s so much more than that. After creating your character, choosing their starting class and going through some standard tutorialising, you’re tasked with creating a “pawn” – which is basically an AI-controlled helper who will assist you throughout the game, and who can be developed and equipped similarly to your main character.
You can also enlist two additional pawns for a maximum party size of four. These can be pawns randomly generated by the game itself, or the pawns created by other players around the world. When you’re done, you can rate these hired pawns and send them back to their owners with a gift – and they can do the same with your pawn. Hiring pawns with the right skills to ensure you’ve got healing magic, ranged attackers, tanks and other types of tactical abilities is a big part of the game.
The pawns are the main standout feature of Dragon’s Dogma, but it’s also surprisingly open-ended… almost too much so in some cases. For instance, there’s nothing stopping you from pursuing quests that are beyond your current level, or from wandering off the beaten path and blundering into hulking monsters you’re not yet ready for – but there also isn’t anything to stop players from running like hell to escape. I quite like this, actually. It makes the world feel like there are real threats in it, and it’s all the more rewarding when you can finally stand up to powerful monsters that once blocked your path. The quest system is a little bothersome though. Sometimes it gives you a very clear idea of where to go and what to do, while other times it just leaves you hanging – which would be fine except for the fact that some of the quest solutions are bizarre and tough to figure out.
You can imagine my elation when I heard it would be coming to PC. Unfortunately, it’s not hugely enhanced in any way apart from the extra bit of spit-and-polish PCs can put on games, such as 1080p instead of 720p, a smoother frame rate, better anti-aliasing and so on.
Despite not featuring anything truly fresh, it’s still Dragon’s Dogma, but a bit smoother and sharper – and it’s the Dark Arisen version, which includes the main expansion plus all the little bits of DLC that showed up after the game’s original release. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but it should speak volumes that a game I’ve already played is yanking me away from Fallout 4 and Metal Gear Solid V.