The good people at Capcom were kind enough to send me a review copy of Dragon's Dogma on 360 and I've been putting some time into it.
It was a game I was very curious about since seeing an early demo last year, but there were a lot of questions in my mind about what the final product would be like. After speaking with others who were also looking forward to it, I see that I wasn't alone in wanting more information. Now that I've logged some time with it, I thought it might be helpful to clear up a few things for those of you who are considering picking it up on 5/22.
First, a disclaimer: This is not a review.
Reviews were embargoed until 5/21. Besides, I'm not nearly far enough to even begin to write a review, so this blog post is simply to clear up some of the questions and misinformation that may be out there about the game.
Now, the info.
What is Dragon's Dogma?
This game is a third-person single-player open-world Western-style role-playing game (RPG) on PS3/360. There is a central storyline or "main quest", but there are also tons of sidequests that are optional.
Is it like Dragon Age, Skyrim, Amalur, Dark Souls or a JRPG?
While it's vaguely similar to Skyrim in the sense that it's largely a self-driven experience, it doesn't spend the same amount of time on the lore and minutiae found in that game. Characters don't play the sort of role that they do in a BioWare style adventure, either. Dogma's focus is on exploring the world and battling monsters with skillful real-time action through a variety of character classes which can be changed at will. Dark Souls is a pretty good comparison—both are very experiential in nature, and neither spend much time on dialogue/story elements.
For more information on the specific classes, please check out @Kotowari's excellent breakdown of each job.
Is it like Monster Hunter?
In some ways, yes. As someone who has spent a ton of time with the Monster Hunter series, I can see vague parallels between the job classes in Dogma and choice of weapon in Monster Hunter. Also, the Pawn companions (see below) are quite similar to the Felynes (Monster Hunter Freedom Unite) or Cha-Cha (Monster Hunter Tri), only taken to the next level. As far as combat goes, it doesn't feel very similar to Monster Hunter to me… it's faster, and the group dynamic gives it its own identity.
What is the world like?
As I said earlier, it's open-world. There are cities that act as refuges, offering blacksmiths, apothecaries, inns, and so forth. Items can be bought, skills can be learned, and Pawns can be managed. Each city also offers several quest-givers as well as quest boards where players can select their own assignments. Once a quest is chosen, players are free to leave the city and wander in any direction in the world. It's safest to stick to the roads, but forests and mountains can be explored as the player desires. Caves and ruins can be found, and monsters, bandits, and other hostiles are around every corner.
What are Pawns?
Pawns are the defining characteristic that Dragon's Dogma is built on. The player will create one to be their constant companion for the duration of play, but it's also possible to "hire" two more to create a total party of four characters.
The player does not give Pawns orders except for basic things like "Go!" or "Come Here!". In battle, they make their own decisions and perform their own actions without any input from the player. Their purpose is to not only to offer safety in numbers, but also to balance out the deficiencies of the player. For example, my character is a bow & dagger-using Strider great at distance attacks, but weaker at melee and with low defense. My personal pawn is a strong Warrior class, and I usually hire two Mages for offensive and healing magic.
Something that isn't widely known (or at least, widely understood) is that friends on XBL or PSN can "borrow" and use a copy of each other's personal Pawns without any limitations on level or hiring price. For instance, a level 1 player can borrow a friend's level 30 Pawn for high-caliber backup. When doing so, the pawn learns information about quests, gains experience, and gets ranked on a leaderboard for most popular Pawns.
Is there crafting?
Items can be bought at various shops, gained as rewards or found in dungeons, and those items can be improved by finding resources on your adventures. Example: A shirt gives +2 armor. Modify it with two rabbit pelts, and it gives +4.
Also, certain items can be combined to create new ones. Example: Combining a mushroom with some juice will create a strength potion, and so on.
Can you have multiple characters/save files?
No, just one character and one save file. PROTIP: manually save OFTEN.
Is it hard?
That's tough to answer since every player is different, but I will say that it's more difficult than the average game, and players are required to use their heads in terms of preparing before quests and managing their tactics on a moment-to-moment basis. Also, I would say that anyone expecting to solo the game without Pawns can pretty much forget that. The game is built on using them as a central mechanic, and having a group of three seems to be the best way to go. Also, there are no selectable difficulty settings. Instead, it seems to be set by region. When entering a new area, a Pawn might give you a warning. If so, then you may be in an area that's a challenge for your current level—consider taking a different quest.
Going into any game with the correct expectations is important, so I hope this sheds a little light on Dragon's Dogma and helps you make an informed choice about whether this sounds right for you!
…And look for my full Dragon's Dogma review soon!