To try to mitigate this damn heat wave we’re experiencing I have been re-visiting a certain JRPG by Capcom called Dragons Dogma (I have the dark arisen expansion disc, which is basically the whole game with the dlc and added area to quest in, so it’s essentially a directors cut). Where some people might have cold drinks to hand, I play games…. It does help take your mind off the oppressive heat, until you realise that your Xbox is at the temperature of molten lava so you have to turn it off to cool down, but I digress.
If there’s one thing that will strike you first on loading the game up is how ugly the visuals are, they are dark souls style graphics which lets be honest were not very good at all, even if you liked the game it wasn’t for its “Pretty” graphics.
For me though, the visual style adds to DD’s charm (side note the visuals get a slight upgrade if you buy the Dragons Dogma Dark Arisen edition which comes with a 2nd install disc which installs the Japanese voice pack and a HD texture pack, which doesn’t make a whole lot of difference that I could tell.) The world isn’t a sleek, dazzling, shiny bum-fuck final fantasy world where they prioritize looks over any real substance. Dragons Dogma feels like its more real, with its dingier setting, its illustration of a medieval fantasy setting (which would be anything but pretty.) It sets you in the right mood for an adventure, rather than a flashy slide show like FF 13, seriously, that game sucks.
So apart from its admitted ugliness and shades of dirt, what is at its core? Its meat in the sausage if you will? (sounded better in my head) Well the game has you start out as a lowly fisherman at a small coastal town which gets attacked by a ginormous dragon (who didn’t see that coming?) You fight it and end up getting killed….. Well that’s not strictly true, the dragon takes your heart and….. Eats it.. Ok that’s a new one on me.
This somehow doesn’t kill you as you awaken in your house none worse for wear. That is until you realise you have a glowing scar across your chest and you have no heartbeat. And this is where the game/story begins, *Film Trailer Voice* how this plays out is up to you!
However you are not alone in your struggle to regain your heart from the dragon! You get companions in the shape of pawns (No not the chess pieces). These “Pawns” are humans except without any kind of free will, their mere existence is to fight with and protect the arisen (You). Now, this is actually quite a nice little feature, where you can enter a place called the rift where you can recruit more pawns to your party (you can only have 3 with you at a time) swap out your weaker ones for stronger lvl’d pawns. They are provided by the other players which is really cool, once you do swap them out however you get a chance to rate them and perhaps send them away with a little gift for the owner of said pawn.
Now, this is where it gets a little uncomfortable if you think about the “Pawn” system. You are dealing with beings who are essentially human without any independent spirit or free will, and you “hire” them to fight for you. I mean sure you have to spend money on them to give them the best equipment/weapons etc. but to me it seems like a slave trading/Pokémon mini game, granted I am reading too much into it, but its interesting to feel that kind of moral dilemma in a video game. Sure you could just take it as a gameplay mechanic designed to help you and give you that sense of ownership, a sense of uniqueness when it comes to creating your own personal Pawn. You can say that’s yours, its like no one else’s etc. Or you could look at it like your commanding your own slave army, which personally I don’t believe and it would be too much to suggest its slavery of any sort, but its interesting to think about the sorts of situations games can present to you.
What I will say though is the level of customisation for your character and your pawn is really rather good, and the potential for creating utter freaks or whatever is hilarious. Although I messed up and accidentally gave my pawn an incredibly annoying squeaky voice…. And as far as I know I cant change it so im stuck with Mrs squeaks-a-lot. The customisation doesn’t change a characters ability to fight though thankfully, and the combat system itself is really fun. It’s deceptively simple but at the same time a lot of fun too, it doesn’t need to be complicated and be weighed down with a billion and one attacks.
Plus it has an awesome feature where if you get into a fight with a giant creature such as an ogre or a Cyclops you can climb on them and attack specific points, I absolutely love doing that, who knew that would add so much strategy potential?
I still have to complete the damn game as I had never finished it before so im determined to do it this time 🙂
I recommend this game to any RPG fan out there you’ll have a lot of fun with it, although if you’re not a fan then I don’t think it’ll convert you. If you are however, you’ll find a deceptively deep JRPG that gives you something different.
Thanks for reading hope you enjoyed it 🙂