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Review

Dragon's Dogma Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • PS3

Engrossing and frustrating, Dragon's Dogma is a flawed and unique gem.

You might have heard Dragon's Dogma compared to Shadow of the Colossus, the The Elder Scrolls series, the Monster Hunter games, or even Dark Souls. But while this open-world role-playing adventure has some superficial similarities to these games and others, it can't really be described through such comparisons. Dragon's Dogma is stubborn and defiant, wonderful and infuriating in the way it does its own thing without regard for whether or not it was the right thing to do. That defiant attitude will have you cursing the game and rolling your eyes at the frustrations, yet you will be enchanted. When a game plays by a set of rules this unique, there is always a surprise lurking around the bend, or ready to strike from above.

And so you may love Dragon's Dogma. Prepare for a passionate relationship but a dysfunctional one, in which your lover refuses to give an inch, and yet you return for more. And like many relationships, this one begins with a bright spark--in this case, a prologue that gives you a taste of the legendary battles to come. And if that scenario doesn't draw you in, then an early cutscene certainly will: a dragon tears open your puny chest with a gigantic single claw, pierces your heart with that same claw, and swallows the vital organ in a gulp.

How could you possibly survive such an attack? After all: you have no heart! Answers come--well, some, anyway--but not before you ask countless more questions. You discover that you are the Arisen, but what does this title truly mean? How are you connected to this giant wyrm? How is it you can understand its guttural, unknown language? But before you find resolution, you must come to grips with yet another discovery. As the Arisen, you can command humanoids known as pawns that hail from another dimension. These pawns exist to serve; they wander the roads, ready to enlist as your companion, and aimlessly stroll in a murky otherworld called the Rift, where you can call them to your cause.

Up to three pawns can join you on your journey. One of them is a permanent fixture; you choose his (or her) looks, his name, and his class, and as he levels, you can equip skills and upgrades for him just as you can for yourself. Your other pawns are hirelings and can be taken on and dismissed as you see fit. These poor lost sheep aren't necessarily products of the game's creators, however; they may also be other players' main pawns who have stolen away to your own world, serfs to be bought by the land's rising star. Provided you have enough of the rift points needed to purchase them, you can bring on pawns of any level--even one much higher than yourself.

Felling that griffon doesn't just instill a sense of accomplishment--the defeated beast might also reward you with new crafting supplies.

Traveling with pawns is like having the company of curious, forgetful children who are constantly delighted by the world around them. And like children, they never shut up about things, interrupting each other with abandon. "What a large tree," one enthuses, each time you pass the same oak. "It's weak to fire!" your mage exclaims, as if it isn't the hundredth time he's seen a goblin. There are ways to adjust your pawns' social behavior, but the repeated lines can get tiresome. How is it possible they're so surprised that the path is near the beach, when they've noted the information countless times already? The chatter is meant to make pawns seem aware of the world around them, but with so much repetition, the illusion is shattered.

Yet despite their short-term memory loss, there's a charm to the dignified acting and affected Ye Olde English dialogue of your pawns. Your minions are just so happy to serve you, so happy to remind you that you need to shoot at a cyclops's single eye that you can only shake your head in wonder of their dedication. If only their other transgressions were so modest. "Heal thyself" you will cry aloud to your mage, who possesses any number of healing items, yet ignores them in favor of throwing another few fireballs. You can set general behaviors and give general commands, but a system for micromanaging the AI in the way of Final Fantasy XII or Dragon Age: Origins would have been a godsend.

Nevertheless, your pawns--bless their childlike souls--have a way of earning your affection, both by announcing their desire to serve, and by summoning meteor showers and spikes of ice when you most need them. Dragon's Dogma's closing moments use this attachment to enormous effect. Don't worry that this is a spoiler: nothing could prepare you for the bizarre and memorable turn of events to come. Well, nothing, perhaps, but the few hours of incredible gameplay leading up to it, beginning with an amazing and heroic boss battle that just keeps going and going, yet never drags because it keeps introducing new ideas and finding new ways to build tension.

Wolves are one thing. Wolves that bite on to you and drag you around? Bet you didn't see that coming.

It certainly doesn't hurt that the same boss creature is many, many times your size--as are a number of the other monsters you face. Griffons, chimeras, and golems are among the beasts you slay, and the ensuing battles are the game's primary draw. Imagine this scenario: You exit the city of Gran Soren, and a massive shrieking griffon flies above, circling in the air before landing just a few feet from you. As a warrior, you lash away at its talons while your companions set its wings ablaze, though this is by no means a certain victory. The griffon may simply fly away if you don't occupy its attention long enough. It might pick you up, fly upward, and drop you to your death. But you might gain the upper hand by leaping upon it, grabbing its feathers, and flailing away as it soars through the skies.

Such moments are the culmination of Dragon's Dogma's outstanding combat scenarios. These are some of the best-animated creatures in any game to date. You've never seen chimeras like this: part lion, part goat, part snake, and all fearsome. The lion's head roars and bucks, while the goat atop it yowls its displeasure at the flames you have rained upon it. When you lop off the serpentine tail and the beast falls, it kicks its legs wildly as it tries to get back on its feet. With substantial creatures, you can grab an appendage and climb your way to any body part accessible, provided you've got the stamina. These may be beasts of legend, but they behave in believable ways. Gravity affects them in ways that make sense, and armor falls from their bodies as you smash into it.

You and your companions can clip into a monster's geometry, and the camera can get somewhat unwieldy when you're crawling up a hydra's waving tentacles. But considering the ensuing thrills, these are minor blights on a fantastic combat system. You choose from three initial classes, but six more open up later, each with its own particular skills and weapons. Whichever you choose, there's a great sense of impact. You feel sword meet flesh, and when you unleash a particularly powerful move, the game slows down to highlight your feat. Firing a bow feels fluid, and you hear and see the arrows hit their mark.

The excitement is compounded by the sensation that anything can happen, because it so often does. In one early mission, you shouldn't stay and fight the tentacles that rise from the ground: you need to sprint away as fast as you can. (Your companions all the while helpfully proclaim how there seems to be an endless supply of tentacles, prodding you to get out of there posthaste.) You find yourself donning a party hat at one point, unsure if everyone's laughing with you or at you. And in the final hours, new concepts, new enemies, and new visuals are introduced. At this stage, not only does Dragon's Dogma not feel like a typical role-playing game, but it doesn't even feel like the same game you had been playing just a few minutes before.

If only the brilliance weren't surrounded by so much tedium, and so many conceptual missteps.

Most of the frustrations come from Dragon's Dogma's structure. The game wants you to earn your victories, which is not a bad thing. But it also refuses to give you a helping hand, even if it means making your adventure feel like work rather than fun. For several hours, traveling the world of Gransys is more annoying than it is adventurous. There is no travel-on-demand system, so you spend many hours traveling the same brown canyons and winding paths you've seen countless times already, fighting the harpies and saurians that prowled there before. There are items to help you get back to town, but these one-use items are expensive--and the items that let you choose your own destination are even more so.

Questing can also take some time to get a handle on. An early quest might send you up a hill, where the wolves are thick but manageable, and then straight into a coven of bandits--which are anything but manageable. Even in a large, freely explorable game like Dragon's Dogma, you expect the enemy placement to have a certain flow. The abrupt shift from easy to impossible is disheartening when it comes just after a long trek from town, and leads to a long trek back. The lesson: there is no shame in turning back. But the time spent on the journey can end up feeling like time wasted.

The only good cyclops is a blind cyclops.

The monotony of travel is compounded by the grayness and brownness of the roads and canyons. For too long, you crave visual variety that doesn't come, especially if you're used to the visual diversity of a game like Skyrim, where you might cross snowcapped mountains and survey lush caverns in the same hour. Yet there's more to Dragon's Dogma's art design than initially meets the eye--it's just that the variety is easy to miss when environments are painted with subtler brushstrokes than you're used to.

In other words, "art" means more than "color," and Dragon's Dogma makes excellent use of its earthen tones to bring Gransys to life. Explore to the north, and you discover a valley where you struggle against the wind, and then emerge to a cragged stronghold looming above the sea. Elsewhere, lifeless trees rise from the waters that pool amid the surrounding plateaus. Explore at night, and the sense of mystery intensifies. Your lamp illuminates only enough to aid your journey. Other bright orbs may appear, but these glowing visions are hardly friendly beacons of light. Tension is not exclusively a nighttime visitor, however. Snoozing lizards sun themselves on rocks, their snores warning you away--or perhaps inviting you to pierce them with arrows. And danger is consistently communicated by a cymbal undulation that you may never consciously notice but that instills anxiety each time.

Unlike its landscapes, Dragon's Dogma's story is hardly subtle, with its broad portrayals of cult leaders and crazed royalty. It tries to pull you in, but some events are so laughable that they effectively break the narrative. For instance, at one point, another man's betrothed professes her love for you, though you may have met her only once prior. After a twist, a turn, and a big fat lie, you face individuals who should--in theory--react very differently to you than they did before. Yet the event goes unmentioned, no love is lost, and you're left wondering how the game could fail so profoundly to acknowledge vital developments. Multiple quests can result in similar head-scratching inconsistencies--including outright mission failures--depending on the order in which you perform them.

Keep your inventory in check: the more you carry, the slower you move.

That doesn't mean that Dragon's Dogma is always ignorant of your choices, only that you are at the tale's fickle mercies, as if it is tolerating your presence rather than welcoming it. You occasionally face decisions that might cause you to miss out on entire quests. The same decision, however, might inspire a newfound ally to make a welcome appearance during a challenging battle. Toward the game's end, it's hard to know what consequence your decisions might even have, considering all the vague high-fantasy soliloquies that ultimately communicate so little. Yet one choice stands out, and may even leave you horrified. You don't just choose: you act. And those actions are shockingly final, even cruel.

These are the moments that stand out in a role-playing game destined to be remembered by anyone who plays it. Dragon's Dogma takes chances, and it's that riskiness that makes this role-playing game so unique among its peers. Of course, some of those risks will have you groaning in frustration. Dragon's Dogma is many things: a flawed classic, an exciting disaster, a triumphant mess. One thing it isn't is a generic rehash. Dragon's Dogma will remain with you, frustrations and victories alike, when your memories of other games have long since faded.

The Good
Fantastic combat encounters against awesome monsters
One of the best boss fights in any role-playing game, ever
There is always a surprise around the corner
Atmospheric touches that make the world feel authentic
A series of striking choices leads to an unforgettable ending
The Bad
Tedious backtracking through familiar territory
Annoying pawn behavior
Bizarre quest-related and story events
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Dragon's Dogma

About the Author

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

Discussion

72 comments
PayneKiller
PayneKiller

Got this free on PS+ some time back. Finally getting around to trying it

Derugs
Derugs

Awesome *ss game!! 

s_h_a_d_o
s_h_a_d_o

"You've never seen chimeras like this: part lion, part goat, part snake, and all fearsome."

OK, I really have to take issue with this statement Kevin - that description, and the representation in game, is the Grecian classical definition of a chimaera, and exactly how it's been portrayed for millenia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chimera_of_Arezzo

dalua360
dalua360

Please, your honest opinion:

Skyrim, or Dragon's Dogma, or Dark Souls (PS3 ), or The Witcher 2 (Xbox360), or something else????

Poordevil
Poordevil

How does it compare to Skyrim? Well, read the review, that will be a good way to find out. This game has me interested, but I don't want to drop more than $30 to take the plunge. There seem to be too many missteps in the gameplay to plunk down more than that. Kevin's description of the game not being a "generic rehash" is the most encouraging comment of the review. Seems like Capcom wants to offer an alternative to Bethesda's open world RPGs, which I'm all for. I think their formula (Fallout, Elder Scrolls) is getting tired, and a fresh take on the open world RPG would be welcome by me. But it has to be a fresh take on the genre that is well done. At least for the greater part of the experience, and from the reviews I am not convinced that is the case with Dragon's Dogma. I am willing to take a chance on it, but not for more than $30.

yujiyuji
yujiyuji

how does this game compare to skyrim?

nevershoutnevea
nevershoutnevea

even i dont like his reviews but this is the first time i agree with him ..this game it has the best fight system ever *i know coz im a big fan of RPG games* the skills is beautiful and fun..i love the game more than Skyrim...i cant wait for more from the series <3

manhunted
manhunted

thus far, 24 hours i have found this game pretty good oversall. The conbat kicks ten shades out of Skyrim, the world feels natural and real and the attribute system is fairly tight. However, i HATE the pawns system, its just pointless, one yes, 4? too much for my blood....... Also the constant hours of running between destinations, although assisting i exploration, makes me want to cry everytime i die and start from last checkpoint.... seriously, i have turned of the system out of anger at this.... what a ridicualous concept. I do love this game, but ilove dark SOuls ALOT more...........

zombieallred89
zombieallred89

Dragons dogma is a massive console rpg, its bound to have flaws. All games do. Its the positives that make up for the negitives that make this game great. And the monsters are a higher level because they're 50 feet tall and twelve tons. I like this feature, realism. That's another reason I don't mind the fact that there is no fast travel. Its a since of realism that other games don't give you. Imagine all the things you miss in elder scrolls because you can jump to cities and caves. Although someone said the rift stones should be warp portals, I agree. Even if dragons dogma has flaws its still one the funnest most exciting rpgs out there. The only flaw I find in this game tht if fixed would make it a 10 is the classes.rougesh classes should have a sneak mode and a backstab feature. Other than that I give this game a 9.5 .

Raziel_0
Raziel_0

with those emblems and the "good" comment the game deserve to be a editor choise ..at least and 8.5..oh the review..:-/

Mjcrbtcheckout
Mjcrbtcheckout

review done too early, I think something was not being examined, this game deserve a 9.0 or more

cdog5386
cdog5386

Spot on review, Kev.  Dragon's Dogma really is a flawed, amazing, silly, and immersive experience.  The quirks that it displays are all its own, and I have never played anything like it.  Ever.

 

The role=playing system is unlike anything in any RPG that I have played.  A player can level well beyond 100 and the different classes progress with different stats.  Choosing your pawn's class and skills, and most other customization options, is also a great experience.

 

Everyone interested in action RPGs should try Dragon's Dogma, you just might love it.

DaDoom
DaDoom

I'm around 40 hrs into Dragon's Dogma and I must admit that I love this game. It's one of the most immersive gaming experiences of the last years. Although the story is a bit weak, combat and exploration are top notch. It's one of those titles where the hardest thing is putting down the controller ;)

FoxDie85
FoxDie85

Kevin VanOrd is one of the top reviewers of GS. He is a huge fan of RPG games and he knows how to communicate with us. 

TheGame50401
TheGame50401

They mad a big mistake I think with this game....   They pit you against high lvl monsters when you and your pawns are low lvl....   The first 2 were kinda easy, the hydra and the Lion with a snake tail and a goats head on his back.....  chimera I think it was called..       they should of made it like Reckoning, where the foes and enemy's are same or lower lvl than you and they lvl when u lvl...     I still give it an 8.5 cause I loved the game play, just don't like it when they pit tough enemies against you when you first start out a game when your a low lvl noob...lol

shadow580
shadow580

Damn this game is good. If only it had just a little bigger map to explore. The healing system can also be too easily exploited if you have enough money. I hope this will turn into a series, we need more stuff like this.

samus_my_life
samus_my_life

Man , Most of the users don't play RPG games ... but what i prefer is RPG games because it has unique of gamplay other than all the type of games

 

Dragon Dogma is one of my favorite RPG game after Monster Hunter 3 (all the series)

 

yeah Dragon Dogma rules ..... :) :) :)

 

In my opinion this game should get 9.0 out of 10

 

yeah " Hunt or Be Hunted " lolz

Cell_kl
Cell_kl

they should make the stones used to summon pawns double as warp points so that u can move around the world a bit more freely 

nixonjd
nixonjd

Game deserves at least an 8.5. One of the best RPGs out there (and I've played them all), if your undecided buy it now. Dont ever listen to IGN, an absolute joke that they gave Kingdoms of Amalur 9 and Dragon's Dogma only a 7.5. Thank God for Gamespot!

pulamata
pulamata

Truly the best RPG ive ever played.I ve played Demon Souls, Dark Souls, Final Fantasy games, Zelda games, Xenoblde Chronicles,  White Chronicles, tried Skyrim but the combat was awful so stop after 15 hours and probably more. Dark Souls used to be my favorite but DD open world setting to explore, character and pawn customisation, pawn companions, sidequest, enemies and awesome creatures you fight made the experience a truly RPG  adventure! 

 

LoG-Sacrament
LoG-Sacrament

Symone is clearly the best animated monster in the game.

 

f1elds
f1elds

simply put great review once again KVO you definately sold me this game.

digi-demon
digi-demon

 @KOSMOSEngineer 

Exactly.

 Why get a RPG nut to review an arcade action game or beat-em up release?

Mr Van Ord enjoyed this game because of its RPG content - anyone buying this game and not expecting a decent RPG needs an education in gameplaying.

I got Dragons Dogma and its a great game - the review is fine if a little spoiler orientated - but I forgive Mr Van Ord's enthusiasm - he is pasionate for this genre - and I prefer this to the usual mix of non-plused reviews.  

See, Mr Van Ord has reviewed action games in the past and his seemingly lack of love / appreciation for the genre has also surely affected the overall scoring in those reviews - imo  the choice of reviewer in respect of genre is crucial to the gamesplaying public..

With a dedicated game site like GS, the leading editor should be the one deciding who is right for reviewing titles ie. specialists in said genre.

What i'm saying is considering the reviewer's gaming preferences should be a given.

TwinSnakes1989
TwinSnakes1989

My biggest gripe with this game is the lack of fast travel. I'm a good 30hrs in completing every sidequest i can find and having to walk the entire length of the map is a chore. The Ferrystones don't help as they only transport you to Gran Soren, I'm hoping at some point I will get to choose where I want to be taken too. Also the game goes into meltdown when too much is going on, everything to slows way down, you'd think the 4GB install would help the issue but nope. 

 

But I am enjoying it, even though it doesn't sound it XD

zneno
zneno

@s_h_a_d_o If you take that clause along with his previous statement "these are some of the best animated creatures to date..You've never seen chimeras like this before" along with the even more previous griffin fight rave-- it would seem he is referring to the animation of the chimera ( and the other creatures in general) not it's composition.

Derugs
Derugs

@dalua360 Dark Souls all the way... 2nd SKyrim... 3rd Dragons Dogma & 4th ..whatever that other game is because I dont have a 360 and my Macs are not for gaming

Coldpain
Coldpain

@dalua360 Dragon's Dogma or Dark Souls. Dark Souls is harder but Dragon's Dogma is no slouch either.

gamer_kwong
gamer_kwong

 @dalua360 Ive got Skyrim and Dark souls, planning to get DD. Dark Souls if you're up for the challenge. 

mjtplayer
mjtplayer

@dalua360 Haven't played Witcher 2, otherwise: Dark Souls, Skyrim and Dragon's Dogma in that order; with Dragon's Dogma a distant 3rd. A good game, but not even close to DS or Skyrim.

vyaswanth
vyaswanth

 @dalua360 

I only played skyrim and Witcher 2 because I am a PC user. I preordered Darksouls. All I can say is Skyrim and Witcher 2 are both different games and both are terrific in their own way.

 

Coldpain
Coldpain

@Poordevil If the game had stronger enemies in the New Game+ I would easily pay $80 for this game. It can keep you busy for weeks, but unfortunately after you beat the game 2 or 3 times, the low-level enemies become a chore to engage.

taplok
taplok

 @Poordevil it's worth it... even more than $30... i'd rather play Dragon's Dogma's New Game +, rather than to go back and finish my Skyrim...

f1elds
f1elds

 @zombieallred89

 i own and played both D'sD and skyrim and both games are miles apart ,except for the sole reason they are both rpg's. you said you don't like fast traveling and the fact that skyrim does but do you realise that it's optional so therefore you won't mis  anything unless you want to , put that aside i like D'sD but for me i love skyrim much more for it's diversive world.

lpsyco666
lpsyco666

 @zombieallred89 ya but i like the fast travel in dark souls.....goes to the most important sites. but you can not reach everywhere

in Skyrim, is upset because you can go everywhere

 

thingta42
thingta42

 @cdog5386 I would say, Flawed, amazing, annoying. Tedious. But a great game under its flaws

The_Dragon_Wolf
The_Dragon_Wolf

 @DaDoom Can totally relate .. i can't put down the controller either whenever i start playing ... it literally falls out of hand when i can't stay awake any more 4 AM in the morning XD

Coldpain
Coldpain

@FoxDie85 ...Not. This review was low...it should've been at LEAST 8.5 if not editor's choice...he even picks fun at the chimera ..any serious RPGer knows what a mythical beast looks like...

psy91
psy91

 @TheGame50401 I liked how the foes are higher lvl than me, I have to choose wether to fight or avoid it, and if it can't be avoided (like if you're ambushed), flee. I've once made a stupid decision of fighting a dragon in the southern forest, didn't end well lol.. 

The_Dragon_Wolf
The_Dragon_Wolf

 @Cell_kl That would completely water down the exploration aspect .. DD is one of the very few games today where exploration still feels dangerous, exhilarating and fun .. any means of easy fast travel will ruin that like in Skyrim.

shadow580
shadow580

 @nixonjd Yeah, I've seen IGN give games way too many shady scores. Gamespot usually sticks pretty close to the user score which I think reflects pretty accurately how good a game is, unless of course that game is getting a lot of hate from a minority (like Mass Effect 3 and Diablo 3).

The_Dragon_Wolf
The_Dragon_Wolf

 @TwinSnakes1989 Many people think lack of fast travel is actually a plus here .. everytime something new or unexpected might happen one the way .. and there are many side-distractions that you could spend hours exploring ... you just need to actually plan you travels well so that you complete multiple quests in one journey ... it makes you feel like you and your pawns are a real band of adventurers who go on long perilous journeys and need to plan and stock well before they go on  .. the escort missions are some of the best and hardest in the game and a fast travel system would destroy them completely.For example .. i met a Chimera in a thick forest near the Bandit castle in the south .. i explored the place before and found nothing but lizard-warriors .. so when i had to go there again i went there with confidence that there is no real danger there .. only to find a Chimera sitting there relaxing .. and i only realized what it really was after it was breathing down the neck of my Arisen .. not to mention it was already dusk and our party had 10 lizard men all around us plus the raging Chimera  .. i had a blast with that fight .. with fast travel that battle wouldn't have happened at all since i explored that area before.

shadow580
shadow580

 @TwinSnakes1989 I've heard that making the xbox display in 720p and not 1080p will fix the slowdowns in some cases. If only this game had a similar quick travel system as Dark Souls had. Skyrim's system was way too easy and almost sucked the enjoyment out of exploration for me.

zombieallred89
zombieallred89

@lpsyco666 I'm not sure I quite understand what your trying to say. You do or you don't like skyrim? I believe its all based on opinion and I'm probably one of the very few that enjoy traveling the virtual world of gransys

Shiroukai
Shiroukai

 @TheGame50401 I'm glad they didn't put that hand-holding mechanic in. If the enemies are to tough, fight them later when you're stronger.

Dragon's Dogma More Info

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  • First Released
    • PS3
    • Xbox 360
    Dragon's Dogma is an exciting and frustrating role-playing game featuring challenging battles versus monstrous foes.
    8.4
    Average User RatingOut of 1480 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Dragon's Dogma
    Developed by:
    Capcom
    Published by:
    Capcom
    Genres:
    Action, Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes, Violence