There are so many aspects to the original Dragon’s Dogma that made it a fantastic game. It was beautifully crafted, with stunning scenery, massive mythical monsters, and grand castles dotted about the landscape. Not only this, but the combat was a refreshing change to the usual RPGs, combining real-time combat with tactic based fighting. The different player classes, which can be changed at will (for a price, of course), helped keep the combat exhilarating as well as fresh. Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is not necessarily a sequel. Nor is it really DLC. It’s best described as a refined version of the original title, with some added extras for die-hard fans and newcomers alike.
Dark Arisen does bring some new content to the table in the form of a new island, Bitter Black Isle – a dark, perilous labyrinth of corridors and catacombs. The original was less than easy; to be perfectly honest, the ‘easy’ difficulty was a flat-out lie. You’ll lose count as to how many times you’ve died and had to restart from a previous checkpoint or save. Well, just as the original game, this add-on is not for the faint of heart. New players will have to play through the original game before attempting Bitter Black Isle; even level 100’s will have a tough time at points, so prepare wisely. New bosses and monsters lurk among the unforgiving tight spaces of the island, and it really is in stark contrast to the wide open spaces of Gransys. That being said, the new settings, monsters, weapons, and armor are fantastic, and it’s well worth braving the frustratingly tough bad guys that lurk in the darkness just to experience the new content. Capcom has also included a number of new character customization options for both your main character and your pawn. So, overall, there’s a lot to see and do in this new content.
Dragon’s Dogma is possibly one of the most detailed and well developed RPGs out there at the moment. There is just so much to do, and it’s all set in a wonderfully rendered world. The quests are well developed and captivating, the graphics are stunning (if a little buggy at times), and the monsters are so tough that defeating them makes you feel like a demigod. Sure, there are some bugs with the game. There are the occasional frame rate issues, especially on the XBOX 360, and occasionally enemies and NPCs take a good while to load in the scene. That, and the story is a little lackluster. Considering the inspiring settings, characters seem a little one dimensional – in this aspect, Dragon’s Dogma can’t hold a candle to games such as Skyrim. However, exploring the game world makes up for almost all of its shortcomings. Fast travel isn’t really an option, as so much of the game is spent taking long journeys across the map towards your objective. These journeys take a lot of preparation, and if you set out on a whim, you’ll be pretty unlikely to make it back. Especially once the sun goes down and the monsters come out to play.
For most, it’s the monsters that make this game so entertaining. These vary from ogres to dragons to part snake, part goat, part lions (Snagoations – sounds about right), and tackling them is incredibly rewarding. To say that they’re tough would be an understatement; there are games with final boss levels who seem like low level goblins when compared to these beasts. What’s more, they just stroll through the game, making it more likely to bump into one of them than to reach a valid checkpoint in the game. Defeating them can be achieved by a number of tactics. Stand back and pelt them with arrows, draw closer and cast spells at them, or, alternatively, climb on their back, mount their head, and start a slashing. This game is not for the faint of heart or weak-willed. It takes every inch of perseverance not to eject the disc and snap it with your bare hands. But persevering is more than worth it, and winning those battles and completing those quests gives you a level of satisfaction that you just can’t find in other games.
This is a game that can’t be tackled single-handedly; thankfully, Capcom has you covered. The player will be able to bring in three NPCs to help them on their noble quest. These NPCs are known as pawns, otherworldly beings whose only purpose is to serve the Arisen (that’s you). One will be a permanent character who will level up with you, the other two can be chopped and changed at will depending on the enemy you will be facing or the level that you have grown to. This is where online capabilities come into play. Online players are able to take control of your pawn to help you out on your quests. You are also able to download a friend’s pawn to pad out your team. This helps give a feel of togetherness to the game, sparking creativity from you and your fellow players in making the perfect pawn for yourself and others. I found myself growing attached to my team; I felt bad when I couldn’t reach one quickly enough to revive it or when it accidentally fell off a cliff (or when I accidentally on purpose hurled one into a dark chasm, just to see what would happen).
Dark Arisen is a brilliant game for serious gamers, but it is no barrel of laughs if you’re just looking for a casual game to pick up and play. You will die, a lot. You will have to restart the game more times than you will care to remember and you will be eaten alive at least once every few hours. If you have an iron will, a steel jaw, and a thick skin, then you will probably enjoy this game. I like to think of myself as a relatively good gamer, but Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen really led me to question my commitment to gaming. I found myself grinding my teeth and yelling at the screen every time I died and had forgotten to save the game. Overall, this is a game with a few bugs which, despite various patches through the Dark Arisen disc, still rear their ugly heads. But, if you can look past the occasional frame rate issues and the crippling difficulty of the game as a whole, then you will find a lot to love about Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen and the Bitter Black Isle add-on.
This review is based on a retail copy of the XBOX 360 version of Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen by Capcom, distributed by Capcom.
- Well Crafted Game
- Looks Great on Consoles
- Occasional Frame Rate Issues
- Crushing Difficulty