Dragon’s Dogma Preview

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If there’s one thing that both Capcom games and hack and slash titles have in common, it’s a tendency to be linear, guided experiences that hinge on a strong character. Devil May Cry, Onimusha, God Hand – if Capcom’s behind the wheel of a game with a sharp weapon in it, expect narrow paths and a defined personality.

Enter Dragon’s Dogma, a soon-to-be-released action RPG following the story of a hero without a spirit. After having his heart torn from his body by a vicious dragon, the warrior miraculously survives what seems like an unavoidable death. Now dubbed the “Arisen,” this hero becomes destined to find and kill the dragon that captured his heart. Yet, the heartless traveler doesn’t have to be a “he” or carry a specific weapon. Their entire appearance, as well as the path to the final encounter, is entirely up to the player. Dragon’s Dogma may have every element of a standard, linear Capcom title, but what lies beneath the surface is a vast, personal adventure.

The recently released demo on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network may not show the promised scope of the world, but character customization is available and rightfully comprehensive. While choosing stock body types is an option, Dragon’s Dogma allows for an impressive amount of detail and flexibility, though you won’t be seeing a man with lizard’s tail or a woman with the wings of a hawk. It’s humans against the monsters of the world, and that statement holds true with the possible three pawns that tag along on this adventure. Instead of incorporating an online system of co-op play, AI-controlled allies, known as pawns, tag along in both battle and exploration. They’re surprisingly responsive, both in their quick counters and insistence to shout hints during skirmishes, but a personally tailored partner doesn’t quite carry the intrigue of an online companion. The online integration’s absence is peculiar, but the co-op available is still solid.

Any thoughts of missed opportunities in the online space are quickly thrown away once combat commences. While diversity is displayed in the types of environments available in the game, with the first scenario taking place in narrow corridors and the second a wide, open field, the fast-paced combat is what the demo focuses on. Enemies attack in swarms, and while it would be easy to label this as a simple hack and slash, there’s a little more method to the madness that keeps the action engaging. Light attacks, heavy attacks, grabs, and special abilities make battles not only look flashy, but feel fantastic. It’s responsive and clean, and the multiple weapons available add a variety of play styles. Once again, the demo didn’t have the opportunity to show off the seemingly deep RPG elements of the game, but even without stats and deep character progression around, the action has the strength to stand on its own.

Dragon’s Dogma doesn’t match a game like Dark Souls in its highly calculated and exact combat system, but it may trump it in enemy scope.  Both segments of the demo concluded with massive beasts that took all four members of the party to conquer, and the manner by which they fell was supremely satisfying. A four-legged creature at the end of the more narrow area had to be attacked in segments, as chopping at its legs or back would ground it for a brief period of time. Archers supported from the rear, as the rest of the crew threw every attack at their disposal in the direction of the beast. It was a true romp, but the griffin floating over the lush, green fields was the most impressive battle. Similar to the PS2-classic Shadow of the Colossus, grabbing bosses and holding on for dear life is sometimes the only way to make it out alive. While fire and arrows momentarily brought down the bird, the real damage had to be dealt in the air, which was difficult to not be impressed with. Clutching the beast’s feathers while it tumbled back to Earth was strangely terrifying, but the thrill of these sequences is something every player interested in this title should look forward to.

The demo may just be a simple vertical slice of the combat, but with the action alone making the game worth a look, the abundance of other features should excite every open-world RPG enthusiast out there. This is mostly new ground for both Capcom and the hack and slash genre, and since Japanese development is in somewhat of a rut, this could be seen as nothing more than an attempt to reach western audiences who haven’t quite connected with the studio’s previous works. Even if that’s a case, what’s known about the product, which is set to release on both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 May 22, is extremely promising. Over 100 hours of gameplay are said to be packed into Dragon’s Dogma, but if you’d rather give it a test run before committing to such a time investment, the demo is available now.

Does the thought of an open-world RPG from the creators of Devil May Cry and Resident Evil tickle your fancy?  You can also secure your pre-order of Dragon’s Dogma today as well!  Let us know what you think of the title in the comments, or discuss Dragon’s Dogma in our forums.

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