Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Path of the Dragon

In eastern literature there is no mightier creature than the Dragon, I remember watching a martial arts movie where the teacher is trying to explain the concept to his student. He says the difference between the tiger and the dragon is that the tiger only reacts to pain while the dragon considers and thinks, only then acting or reacting. Dragon’s Dogma is Capcom’s first foray into the unforgiving world of RPGs. Best known for their Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, and Street Fighter series; Capcom has made its mission to expand their stable of games in the last five years or so. From Lost Planet to Dead Rising, Capcom has had a few well deserved successes, but they’ve also faltered when they left their comfort zone of Japanese games. The reboot of Bionic Commando was a well-publicized disaster that some took to mean that Capcom wouldn’t take any more chances, but here we are just a few years later with Dragon’s Dogma; Capcom’s biggest roll of the dice yet and boy is it impressive.

Dragon’s Dogma takes place in the world of Gransys, a medieval world that is forever haunted by the cycle of the Dragon, an eon old Dragon that terrorizes the world before being defeated by the Arisen character. The Arisen is born from death, his or her own death actually, and the proof and what forever links the Dragon and the Arisen together is the eating of the Arisen’s heart all Temple of Doom style. The sense of danger is amazing in Dragon’s Dogma. Battles are frantic and powerful, when everything comes together you have a smile on your lips as you whisper ‘who needs the A-Team’, but when you rushed ahead and got ambushed by a group of bandits or that pile of rocks is actually a huge monster that thinks you look nice and juicy there is a sinking feeling in your chest as you try to keep a stiff upper lip and take them down. Combat is weighty enough to give most every encounter the aura of danger; especially at night. Night time in Dragon’s Dogma is dangerous, if you get caught outside without a campsite nearby you’d better have on some running shoes. Night in Gransys means night. And even with the lantern on every party member you can’t see more than ten feet or so in from of you. Just enough to give you the courage to run right into that grinning Cyclops or the flying Chimera, or even a Dragon; Dragon’s Dogma loves to reward your stupidity with death. I know some people compare it to Dark Souls but for me it’s so much better. No hand holding, no cheap deaths, no easy quest guide telling you exactly what to do or how hard a quest is going to be. If you fall off the beaten path expect the path you're walking on to beat you silly.

I started playing Dragon’s Dogma as a mage, which meant that I needed someone to keep the mobs off my back long enough to rain fire down on them. No seriously one of the sorcerer class abilities is a meteor shower on your enemies, how cool is that. My pawn, or as I like to think of it (my grunt who does all the heavy lifting), is a fighter class who keeps the bad guys off me. Visually Dragon’s Dogma isn’t always the pretty girl at the ball but when she shines, she really shines. Some of the best and most impressive abilities are five story high tornadoes sweeping up your enemies like so much trash. It is obvious that this game is the first of the series, it has all the hallmarks; the protagonist that doesn’t talk, features that are astounding right next to graphical popups, a barely there storyline together with terrific combat. All that doesn’t change the feeling that Capcom has stepped right at the edge of something spectacular, I look forward to seeing what Capcom does next; this should be the beginning of a very good IP for them.

Everything about Dragon’s Dogma screams for a sequel, from the large and impressive world building, to the need for a second and better story a la Avatar (yeah I said it), even from the way combat is great but could be excellent; Dragon’s Dogma is a promise not only of what it delivers now but for things to come. Dragon’s Dogma looks across the lay of the RPG world and rather than simply cut and paste in reaction to the success or others, it breaks new ground just like its namesake.

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