Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen Review

By Mike Sousa on January 31, 2016

Developed and published by Capcom, Dragon's Dogma is an action role-playing game that had a positive critical reception when it released on PS3 and Xbox 360 back in 2012. Now, four years later, Dragon's Dogma makes its way to PC. In addition to upgraded visuals and a few fixes, this re-release also includes the game's expansion, Dark Arisen.

The plot is far from memorable, but it's still satisfactory enough to keep players entertained, especially towards the end. The story begins with a dragon attacking the village of Cassardis, our hero's (or heroine, depending on your choice) hometown. The hero tries to fight the dragon, only to be defeated and have his heart removed and eaten by the dragon. However, the main character manages to survive, thus becoming known as "Arisen". Arisen must now embark on a journey to find the dragon that stole his heart and kill it.

As an action RPG, Dragon's Dogma offers a lot of freedom, not only in terms of exploration but also in character customization. When creating the main character, the player is given the option to select their Vocation (class job) between Fighter, Strider and Mage. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and if the player is not satisfied with its current Vocation, the option to switch between these Vocations is always there. As the story progresses, stronger versions of these Vocations and even hybrids Vocations will be unlocked.

Arisen won't be alone in this journey, as he will be followed by AI-controlled Pawns, which are basically denizens of the Rift that lack any kind of emotion and will help Arisen to defeat the Dragon. Early in the game, Arisen will be joined by a fully customizable main Pawn, one which will remain with the player till the end of the game. Players can then recruit two more Pawns to their party, including Pawns from other players. This doesn't mean that players can lose their main Pawn, on the contrary, if your main Pawn is recruited by another player, you will receive some rewards for it and your Pawn might also return with knowledge about certain quests that you have yet to complete, something that happens when the Pawn completes those said quests with other players.

Players can have up to three Pawns on their party, and just like Arisen, each Pawn has its own Vocation. This will play on how players should arrange their party, as it's wiser to have your party using Vocations that will compensate the weaknesses of your own Vocation. For example, if you are a Fighter, it would be best to have at least one or two Striders/Mages in your party, as they can do a lot of damage and support you from afar while you take on the enemies in close combat. It's an interesting concept, in which working as team with your AI-controlled Pawns can sometimes be the difference between victory and defeat.

The combat itself is simple and easy to grasp. When facing regular enemies, the game plays out as a typical hack-and-slash game with a few RPG elements into the mix. It's when you are faced with larger enemies and boss battles that things get more interesting. In the vast majority of these situations, the enemies won't go down easily with the usual "hack-and-slash" combat. These enemies will have some sort of weak spot, which will require the player to grab and climb the monster in order to strike the weak spot. These segments are without a doubt impressive and represent some of the best moments the game has to offer. While there might be some occasional movement and camera issues, these don't ruin the experience.

Although you might just want to go along with the story, the game offers a lot in terms of freedom to keep players occupied for dozens of hours. As soon as you step out of Cassardis, you will realize that you have an enormous open-world to explore. From finding new locations and collecting items, to fighting Goblins, Chimaeras, Wild Animals and even Humans, there's certainly a lot to do and explore in Dragon Dogma's open world. In addition, there's also tons of sidequests that the player can do. While it's true that these become repetitive after a while, some sidequests actually reveal bits of information about some of the mysteries of the overall story.

The "Dark Arisen" expansion, which was released in 2013 on PS3 and Xbox 360 is also included in the PC release. This expansion adds a new location known as Bitterblack Isle. In here, there's a new dungeon where players will face fearsome enemies, some stronger than those featured in the base game. It's definitely something that will test the skills of veteran players. In addition to this new dungeon, the Dark Arisen expansions also includes new equipment, skills, character/pawn augment, the option to fast travel between locations, and more.

Regarding the visual presentation, Dragon's Dogma has seen some improvements on PC. Although there's not that much of an improvement when it comes to detail, the game runs a lot more smoothly on PC. Even at 60 fps, the game doesn't suffer from drops in framerate, something that happened often on PS3 and Xbox 360. The soundtrack is really strong here and fits the mood of each situation almost perfectly. From the epic tracks during the spectacular boss battles, to the soft and calm tracks when you are in a village, the soundtrack is never a letdown.

Final Thoughts

Dragon's Dogma Dark Arisen brings to PC one of the best action RPG experiences of the previous generation, an adventure that remains quite enjoyable four years after its original release. Although the story could do a bit better as an incentive for players to play the game, the excellent combat system and the enormous world to explore that the game offers makes up for it. Despite its shortcomings, this is one adventure that RPG fans shouldn't miss.

Excellent combat system.
An enormous open world filled with lots of secrets to uncover and explore.
The Pawn and Vocation systems adds a lot of depth to the gameplay.
Visuals definitely needed some work.
Sidequests become repetitive after a while.
Story gets interesting only toward the end.
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