Dragon’s Dogma is a game that’s been on my radar since it was first released in 2012. When it’s enhanced version was released not too long after, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, it immediately went on several of my wishlists…and there it remained for a very long time. Between then and now, I became immersed in countless other gaming distractions, and so, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen became just another backburner game that I figured I would try to play someday, eventually, maybe. I imagine it was kismet when I recently found Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen on sale in the Microsoft store and had just the right amount of money left in my wallet to burn. And so, after so many years of being a “someday, maybe” game, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen became mine. With Mass Effect and other games set in my review mirror (except for Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle – more to come on that eventually!), I began a new adventure. Would it be good? Would it be fun? Would I stay alive long enough to find out? Best to just get started and find out!
After being lead through an impressive opening/tutorial sequence and an equally impressive character creator, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen wastes no time in bringing on the dragons…well, one, to be exact, that just happens to attack the main character’s – the eventual “Arisen” – home town of Cassardis, located in a world called Gransys. Taking up arms among the villagers and soldiers, she mightily fights the dragon, only to be summarily swatted away. And then, rather than become mincemeat, the dragon proceeds to steal and consume her heart. In the aftermath of the attack, she’s found, still alive, and rescued. Waking up later in the village, she’s then told by an ethereal voice to “take up arms, newly Arisen.” In short order, the protagonist learns that as the Arisen, she’s destined to fight that dragon once again and save the world from annihilation. No big deal, surely.
For my first jaunt as the Arisen, I created Corinne, a strider, a class that uses a bow and arrows for ranged attacks and daggers for close combat. As I mentioned, the character creator was incredible and almost overwhelming as to how much customization it offered. (I could have easily spent more hours than I have actually played so far just picking and choosing various features!) Once Corinne was set loose in the world, the game wanted her to head to a nearby encampment, but of course I had to spend time getting to know my home Cassardis. In roaming around the town, I picked up a couple random quests and realized that quest management was going to be a…thing. Same went for general inventory management. To a degree, it reminded me a little of The Witcher 3, what with the number and variety of inventory slots I had at my disposal. Equipping new items seems easy enough; consuming items seems tricky. As with any new game, there’s always a learning curve at the beginning. We’ll see just how long it take me to get over the hump in this game, so to speak.
Before heading out from Cassardis, Corinne had one other important task – to gather a companion known as a “pawn.” As I understood it, this was an offering that made Dragon’s Dogma stand out from other RPGs with companion systems; as such, I was highly interested in seeing just how the system worked. I was given a fellow named Rook, and I can’t for the life of me remember what class he was, but he happily followed me as I set off from Cassardis for whatever encampment lay off in the distance. Traveling along the roads led to some interesting, um…learning opportunities. For example, Rook talked, quite a lot at times. But, his words often provided clues as to what I was (and wasn’t) supposed to do and where I was (and wasn’t) supposed to go. Rook also looted on his own, which I found interesting, and would immediately head into battle upon seeing any enemy. Speaking which, I found my footing well enough with combat, but I was a little dismayed at how quickly I encountered mobs of enemies. Not that I was expecting an easy go of things, but as I was traveling at night, and fighting in the dark was just confusing to begin with, I wondered if the game might be one of those where nighttime encounters differed from daytime ones. Add that to the growing list of discoveries to be made!
After unceremoniously dying several times, mostly to stray wolves, Rook and I finally reached the marked encampment…only to find its soldiers battling a cyclops! At least I think that’s what it was. At the very beginning of the game, which I imagine represented its end in some manner, I was thrust into the Arisen’s shoes as he took on enemies galore, including a very intimidating Chimera. From that battle I gathered one of the game’s unique combat mechanics, that of climbing onto an enemy to attack it. (Very Shadow of the Colossus, no?) Upon meeting up with the cyclops, that was one of the first things I attempted. And it worked! Can’t say my rusty daggers did much but poke at it, but I had a grand time in the fight nonetheless. I had the feeling at that point that, if nothing else, at least I was going to get my money’s worth in this game with exciting monster fights.
As it turned out, once the cyclops was dispatched, I didn’t have to wait long to take on another beast. But before that, I was given the chance to create my own pawn – marvelous! It was then that I learned that my new pawn, a mage I named Josefina, would remain with me through the rest of the game. I could manage her just like I managed Corinne by giving her new equipment, armor, and skills as needed. I could then choose to take on two additional pawns – making a party of four – either by hiring them off the street or from those available in a network called “The Rift.” I had only managed to do just that before kicking off another question concerning the aforementioned second beast – a formidable hydra! Between my arrows and daggers, Josefina’s lovely magic (which included healing – yay!), and the swords of the two warrior pawns I had found, the hydra fell in due course. A character named Ser Mercedes gave me my current quest in tow – to deliver with her one of the hydra’s severed heads to a place called Gran Soren.
Even after just few hours in Gransys, I’m happy to say that I’m looking forward to spending more time in it. Starting a new game can be intimidating, and I can already tell that Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is lacking elements to which I’ve become accustomed in other RPGs, such easier wayfinding and fast travel. As well, I’ve no idea if I’m the right level to tackle some of the quests I already have, or if leveling even matters. There are some things to do at the encampment, and as I said, I picked up a few quests in Cassardis, too. But maybe I should just head to Gran Soren and see what comes of things there? Decisions, decisions! The only things that’s clear is that I’ve still much to learn in Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen.
All images, include lede, were captured by author during Xbox One gameplay of Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen (© Capcom).