Dragon's Dogma: Meet the Pawns

Say hello to pawns, the customisable companion characters shared online in the fantasy role-playing game Dragon's Dogma.

One great thing about making a fantasy game, according to Dragon's Dogma producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi, is that you don't have to explain your terms. Thanks to the universal language of classic fantasy lore, everyone knows what to expect of a mage (wears robes, casts spells) or a dragon (is big, breathes fire). It's a good jumping-off point for a role-playing game. "It's really easy to get into a world like this when it's such a universal concept," says Kobayashi of the setting of Dragon's Dogma: a big, open, Tolkienesque world of sword and sorcery.

Into that world of fantasy genre tropes, Dragon's Dogma brings an original gambit: customisable companion characters called pawns, of which three form the party that follow you around and into battle. Your primary companion character, your main pawn, accompanies you through the whole game. You create him or her in the same way you customise your player character, in a deep, multi-slider character generator, teeming with all the hairstyle options, face and build variables, limb types, tattoos, and skin colours an obsessive amateur character designer could crave. You also select a class for your main pawn and establish their personality by completing a short questionnaire on their behalf. Personality governs your pawn's general AI-driven behaviour in combat.

So far, so what, but here's the hook: the other two pawns aren't created by you but are downloaded from your friends' games. They are the main pawns of other players around the world and can be swapped in and out as you go, letting you pick the right mix of classes for the task at hand. It's a curious online feature--a taste of intersecting gameworlds in an essentially single-player, offline game. We look forward to recruiting the custom abominations of friends who can't take a character creator seriously. If you're playing entirely offline, there is a set of premade pawns to select from.

More than just an online gimmick, pawns are "integral to the story," says Kobayashi-san. Pawns aren't actually human. Though they look and speak like normal people, they have no will of their own--hence all the following you around and doing your bidding. We're told to expect the mysterious origins of the "pawn legion," as well as the reason the pawns will do only your bidding, to become clear over time. Dollars to donuts it has to do with the way your character's story begins: a dragon attacks their sleepy coastal village, plucks out and eats their heart, leaving them improbably alive and with a magic glowing chest scar. The first pawn we encountered, when he popped out of a sudden vortex in the sky, presented a similarly glowing scar on his hand.

So begins Dragon's Dogma, with your newly heartless player character jogging the narrow streets of the village, hitting up locals for quests (fetch this book, deliver this message). In our hands-off presentation of the game, we were skipped ahead, full party of pawns in tow, to a rumble with a stone golem in a rocky valley. Here, Dragon's Dogma showed its colours as an action RPG, with the player character, a magic archer, painting targeting reticles on the big stone beastie and firing away, and the main pawn, a warrior, in support. The two pawns, a mage and a second magic archer, brought up the rear, with the mage chanting healing spells from a safe distance. When the golem was stunned, the whole party piled on, scaling the stone giant to hack at its glowing purple weak spots.

Pawn this way (pawn to be wild, etc.)

Pawns are on the chatty side in combat, letting you know what they're doing at all times ("I'll scale it and strike from above"), though you can also issue them general orders (attack, fall back) with the directional pad. In our demo, the pawns' AI-powered instincts for self-preservation weren't enough to keep them alive through the long golem fight (that or their player-defined personalities were given to recklessness), but fallen pawns can be revived in battle by the player character.

The game stretches across "a good-sized peninsula, about 40 square kilometres," with fast travel to previously visited locations enabled by a ferrystone item, and it's fully explorable; beyond the golem's valley, a castle loomed invitingly on the horizon. Though the scenery is pleasant and the gameworld extensive, it'll take more than good looks and long walks to set apart a fantasy RPG such as Dragon's Dogma. The benefit of a fantasy setting might be universality, but it comes with competition aplenty. Dragon's Dogma's player-created and shareable pawn characters might just do the trick. We look forward to finding out.

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35 comments
CruiserCaptain
CruiserCaptain

Just picked up another new game, which I rarely do anymore, but I think I may have to get this. Looks huge, I like the action rpg style.

Lhomity
Lhomity

Got my pre-order paid in full. Can't wait to get my pretty paws on this.

leonpoly
leonpoly

capcom those are thieves. Today they release Dragon's Dogma, and tomorrow we are selling a Super Dragon's Dogma or Ultimate Dragon's Dogma. should not buy a game ormore. company of criminals.

depman1972
depman1972

I really hope you dont have to have pawns with you, I like to play on my own without others around me.

trippage
trippage

My biggest concern is that this is Capcom and this game will suffer from all of the crap Capcom pulls with their other titles. Locked content and DLCing game modes and pawn classes.

trippage
trippage

I am sick of this, every new RPG that comes out and the multiplayer complaints. I love co-op games, I love online multiplayer, but in this online age it is not required. Skyrim doesn't need it, KOA:R doesn't need it, Dragon Age doesn't need it. This doesn't need it, contrary to the thought multiplayer doesn't always add to the game.

PerfectZedor
PerfectZedor

Not promising, not at all like Demon's Souls, no multiplayer, no, no, no. And what the hell? Why would I go through a list of random characters to help me in a mediocre game? Also, it would be nice to know who the hell invests in these projects... Anyone who buys this, is probably someone who hasn't tried Dark Souls yet. Period.

KaiserKasey
KaiserKasey

Oh it isn't Multiplayer? Bummer. Not a multiplayer-only kind of guy, but I was really banking on this to be a Demon's Souls-esque game with true multiplayer. But alas, I'm going to need to wait it seems. Looks solid though.

rad2071
rad2071

would def be cooler if it was multiplayer

Syn_Valence
Syn_Valence

errr i thought this game was a co-op game.........what happened?

Blayzino
Blayzino

Pawn Legion. Looks right... Sounds wrong.

ccgil
ccgil

they've put themselves in the bad position of being compared with skyrim

Encephlon
Encephlon

Who let the dogs out?! woof woof woof woof woof

Phazor58
Phazor58

I hope they pull this off. It would set a much higher standard for companion AI.

Wandrian
Wandrian

@ koorkoor: Probably because it's clearly inspired by western lore, specifically European. Maybe we should just be thankful it's not loaded to the brim with hadoukens, zombies, and/or anime pretty boys though.

koorkoor
koorkoor

Looks good. But the art direction is just like any other western fantasy title out there. I mean come on. Where's the slick japanese stuff?

sircyrus
sircyrus

Cool idea, being able to adventure with your friend's characters even if they aren't being controlled by your friends.

Kefka-
Kefka-

Why is this game still listed as action? Its an rpg.

s_h_a_d_o
s_h_a_d_o

[QUOTE="Jane"]Pawns are on the chatty side in combat, letting you know what they're doing at all times... though you can also issue them general orders...[/QUOTE]

How about the ability to tell them to STFU? :P

whitejackel
whitejackel

still cousisly optimistic about the game, after all capcom dose have great ideas but rarely exicutes them well...

Wandrian
Wandrian

Hmm...Sounds hot. 'Twould be hotter with co-op, but I'm not complaining :)

TERMINATOR-SSD
TERMINATOR-SSD

mmm could be good. but i do hope they fix the annoying npc shouting out the same thing over and over from the May 25, 2011 trailer.

megakick
megakick

Interesting if the pawns have great AI.

grove12345
grove12345

Game seems great, pawn idea seem good, but still no substitute for good Co-op action.

Lhomity
Lhomity

 @leonpoly And this is different from any GOTY or "Complete Edition" that nearly every other publisher does? Guess you should throw the cuffs on Microsoft and Sony too, for the crime of 're-releasing games' under Classics/Greatest Hits labels. Or is it only a criminal offense to add or update content in re-releases now?

 

Sounds like your idea of consumer rights is that publishers should have no rights.

CruiserCaptain
CruiserCaptain

 @trippage

 I agree to some extent. But I think it would be nice to play huge games like this with a friend. To share the adventure. However maybe that's more "co-op" and not "multiplayer" because I to get sick of team deathmatch and capture the flag. It'd be nice to play WITH people and not just fight people all the time.

lonewolf315
lonewolf315

 @PerfectZedor I never played Dark Souls because I played Demon Souls and got bored of it within 10 minutes. A bunch of pointless dungeon crawling with no plot and an insane difficulty level that is somehow considered a selling point. Believe it or not there are some players out there that still enjoy a good single player story that they can actually see to the end because the game isn't hell bent on abusing and humiliating them as a "feature".

CruiserCaptain
CruiserCaptain

 @Syn_Valence

 Yeah, thought I read that some where a long time ago. Like a year ago or more... but then I also thought I read at one point in time thta this game was going to be scrapped.