So this was going to be a full fledged game review but that would have required me to actually finish the game. After 16 hours you could not pay me to finish this game. Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is a 2016 PC port of the 2012 game Dragon’s Dogma. It is supposed to be an RPG that is hard as nuts. When it originally came out, it was likened to Dark Souls.
So let’s start with the technical problems before I get into the actually game. I normally have a very high tolerance for things like low frame rate, low resolution textures etc. Luckily, the game does in fact run with a very high framerate. There is no improved textures so the game does look like it is straight out of 2012. The problem is, the game crashes a lot. I had at least one crash per hour during my time. These crashes usually happened when entering and leaving the main city (which acts as your hub) but they would also occur during boss battles. If it does occur during a boss battle, you can tell it is coming because the enemy AI will bug out. For me, seeing the boss get trapped in a repeating movement loop meant a crash was coming soon.
If these technical issues where the only problem I probably would have finished the game. So lets back up for one second and talk about RPGs in general. When someone describes a game as being an RPG three things come to my mind: there is a progression system based on experience levels and gear, the playable character is going to go on a grand adventure visiting many different areas of the world, and the story is going to be at the forefront and well-written (well at least by video game standards). Dragon’s Dogma fails on all three facets somehow.
So the progression system is odd. Basically your character and your class (profession as it is called in this game) level up separately. This is because you can change your class at any time. This means you can be character level thirty but class level one if you just switched into it. Pretty neat to be honest I always love being able to experiment with multiple class types. The problem is you reach max level with your class extremely quickly. Since getting new and stronger abilities is tied to your class level and not your character level, it makes leveling up kind of pointless after you reach max class level. Getting a new level should never feel pointless in any RPG ever. The gear progression is not much better. Basically the best stuff you buy from vendors rather than completing quests. Do you understand how disappointing it is to defeat some cult that is terrorizing the city only to get a dagger that is horribly worse than the one you bought 2 hours ago? The best gear should always come as quest rewards not as vendor items.
Okay so the progression is bad, the world must be interesting to run around in right? The actual game world is super small. Once I gave up and searched online for a filled out map I was shocked to find out I had already been everywhere. The game is basically starting city, main city, and outlying areas. Everywhere looks the same because you are never actually that far from the main city. I am convinced there is no free fast travel (you need to use a consumable to fast travel) just to make the game feel bigger than it actually is. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time had a more diverse and enjoyable world than this. There is a big problem when the first 3D adventure game has a better gameworld than yours.
Well the actually game mechanics may be bad but the story must be good right? If anyone can actually explain to me what is going on in this game please leave a comment. The game starts with a dragon appearing, attacking your village and eating your heart making you “Arisen.” The Arisen is destined to defeat the dragon as this has happened before. Like its happened very recently, the Duke is a previous Arisen who defeated the dragon. The thing is nothing else in this game is explained or makes any sense. You would think that all main story quests would revolve around making progress to fighting the dragon. One mid game main quest you receive from the Duke is to collect evidence concerning a merchant’s business practices. Why is the one chosen to face the Dragon being a detective about a civil matter? At one point you discover the Duke is insane and he attempts to strangle his wife. She only survives if you intervene. The thing is, it is never discussed ever again. Seriously, you just show up, stop him, get thrown in the dungeon for a bit, and then everything is like it always was. It just feels lazy and rushed.
This game is a definite do not play in my opinion. It’s not completely broken, but there is so many better RPGs out there to enjoy. It just fails to meet the basic expectations of a RPG that I can not see anyone enjoying it. Oh, and it’s not that difficult. If you do not count deaths due to crashes, I died maybe twice in 16 hours. Save your money and pray that Final Fantasy XV and VII Remastered will come to PC someday.