The last time we saw the fantasy hack-and-slash title Dragon's Dogma, we took on a mighty griffin, plucking it from the sky, setting it on fire, and turning it into a sword pincushion. Today during E3, we got our hands on another of the game's three classes: the fighter. Where previously our time was with the strider and saw us using a combination of short swords and arrows to jump in and out of the action and still stay at arm's length, the fighter class doesn't back out once involved in the skirmish. Instead, he makes full use of his sword and board to keep the hate off the squishier members of the group.
Our quest began inside a cave. Initially flanked by just a single other team member, after we had come to grips with the controls, we located a stone that doubled as both a summoning portal and a squad manager. Though the game was pre-set for our demo purposes, the full version of the game will let you trade and equip any associate (Capcom calls them pawns) you've met along your journey to kill the namesake beast at the centre of Dragon's Dogma. A strider and a mage joined our merry team, the latter helping out by buffing the group with area-of-effect auras during combat, and helping to heal when things weren't going so well.
As we wandered deeper into the bowels of the mountain, we warmed up our steel inside the bodies of goblins and other mythical creatures dumb enough to cross our path. Jumping down a steep rock embankment, we picked on something a bit more our size: a Chimera--a monster with the head of a lion, half the body of a goat, and a tail made from one hissed-off snake.
Our AI counterparts offered their advice on the best approach to take in slaying the creature, and the enemy's health bar at the top of the screen indicated with two extra notches that the encounter would contain three phases. We began by attacking the tail, jumping onto the rear of our target, and after several hacks, we severed it to leave a bloody stump. Goat proved to be slightly more difficult because he was raised high on the midsection of the animal and used his psychic goat powers to incapacitate members of the team--rendering them unconscious temporarily. While we didn't appear to take any additional damage when downed, the spell did leave us knocked out and pressing buttons wondering what was going on for an extended period of time.
As we slowly limped to our feet to rejoin the fight, we moved on to the king of the fantasy jungle, the ferocious bearded lion. Though the game practically begged us to climb aboard by choosing a foothold on its body by hitting the left trigger--and we were pleased to see you can do it anywhere on the thing you're trying to make dead--we struggled to climb as it moved around above, often getting caught underneath, brushing against the flooring of the arena and hugging its knees.
Low on health from the encounter, we pulled up the menu mid-fight, pausing the action and allowing us to rummage through our knapsack. Herbs instantly heal you for a particular amount of life, and by selecting the item, it was easy to see how much value its consumption would provide before committing to its use.
Because Mr. Lion's area of expertise was physical damage, and he seemed to have more than a passing interest in rush attacks, we were forced to use our shield a little more liberally with him. Once we cottoned on to his routines, we managed to successfully keep him at bay before returning fire with a bevy of light and heavy sword attacks. The game didn't appear to offer much by way of a combo system for alternating strike types, but we did find a rhythm to the fight, and after a protracted period of time, we slew the fiend.
In our two outings with the game, we've now had the chance to experience two different levels--today's cave adventure and one in the rolling green fields of the outdoors. Though you'd be mistaken for assuming this is a role-playing game, it's very much a hack-and-slash adventure title. Capcom staff did say that the finished game will include towns to trade in and that the wider world will be open to explore. We enjoyed our fantasy outing, and while we would like to see climbing become simpler, our AI team did an admirable job of holding its own and offering sage advice in the throngs of battle. Dragon's Dogma is due out for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 sometime in 2012. Stay tuned for more details.