Dragon’s Dogma: 7 Reasons Why It’s The Dark Souls Of 2012
Dragon’s Dogma is a massive, challenging and innovative action RPG. While it doesn’t have ‘proper’ multiplayer, Capcom has created a stunning online system that rivals Dark Souls. We explore why you simply need to check it out.
Published on Feb 15, 2012
Dragon’s Dogma might look like a Monster Hunter offshoot at first glance, but it really has a lot more in common with both The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and the 2011 cult smash Dark Souls.
While Capcom has continually debunked the inclusion of co-op multiplayer in Dragon’s Dogma, it’s actually a wise choice, because the developer has created something much bigger, bolder and better than ‘typical’ multiplayer modes.
Let’s just say, if you enjoyed Dark Souls, Demon’ Souls, or any role-playing game for that matter, you absolutely must check out Dragon’s Dogma when it launches 25th May. Read on to find out more.
Dragon’s Dogma has a revolutionary online mode
Off the bat, it’s important to talk about the lack of multiplayer in Dragon’s Dogma, and to be fair, Capcom’s early trailers did appear as if co-op would be a perfect fit for the game. Taking on massive mythical beats as a coordinated team online would have been superb, but no such mode exists.
Instead, you have the superb Pawn system. As you start the Dragon’s Dogma campaign, your hero must enlist the help of a ‘main Pawn’. This is an AI-controlled companion who will fight by your side for the whole game and develop as he or she earns experience.
You can fully create and customise your main Pawn from scratch, right down to the finest detail. You can even select what class you want them to be, as well as what special moves they can use. Once you’re done making your trusty companion, you both head out into the wild world.
Aside from your main Pawn, you can also hire two more Pawns from the Rift Realm, which is an ethereal plane where every single main Pawn created by Dragon’s Dogma players exist.
So when you hire Pawns from the Rift Realm, you are actually hiring characters made by other players who are currently offline. You can hire Pawns from other players then, once you are done, send them back to their creator with a thank you note, Pawn review, or even attached loot as a thank you gift for their help. But this is only a fraction of what the Pawn system is capable of.
Dragon’s Dogma is a co-op game, you just don’t know it yet
Let’s say your main Pawn gets hired by another Dragon’s Dogma player while you are offline, and that player then battles a massive Cyclops monster with your main Pawn in their squad.
Every big monster in Dragon’s Dogma has a hard-to-reach or hidden weak spot, and chances are you will miss a lot of these during your travels. If your main Pawn has successfully defeated a boss monster with another player, they will gain detailed knowledge of how to defeat it.
When the time comes for you to fight the same monster, your main Pawn will shout out battle tips and information about weak points and strategies that they learned from fighting it previously with another Dragon’s Dogma player.
The same goes for quests. As the world of Dragon’s Dogma is absolutely massive, you will need to find specific locations, key items and NPCs to complete quests, which can potentially take you hours of exploration to find.
But if your main Pawn has been hired to complete a quest by another Dragon’s Dogma player, you will gain quest, NPC and item locations, as well as important tips that will help you in the field when you come to tackle the same quest in your own game.
So in a way, all Dragon’s Dogma players are co-operatively helping each other complete the game, much like the Dark Souls messaging system, except much, much deeper.
Check out our gameplay video to see Pawns in action.
Dragon’s Dogma has massive social networking potential
Whenever you play Dragon’s Dogma online, all of the loot and experience earned by your main Pawn while questing with other online players is transferred back to you. Depending on how strong or wise your man Pawn is – ‘wise’ meaning how much they know about quests and monster weak points – more people are likely to hire them.
But what if your main Pawn is inexperienced? You can use the social aspects of Dragon’s Dogma to advertise your main Pawn. All you have to do is sync the game with your Twitter and Facebook accounts and use the in-game camera to take a screenshot of your main Pawn.
You can then upload the image to your Facebook wall, Twitter feed, or the Dragon’s Dogma Pawn network, along with an automated message that lists their name, class, level and skills.
Also, you can even add a custom message along the lines of, “Hey! Hire my Pawn! It knows how to kill that insanely difficult Hydra boss later on in the game.”
All of a sudden, every Dragon’s Dogma player who has had real difficulty killing that Hydra boss could take an interest in hiring your main Pawn, just because the Pawn holds knowledge that could help them win the battle.
This knowledge could be anything from weak point locations, battle strategies and other tips they learned during your battle with it. By creating, levelling up and then advertising a particularly badass main Pawn, you will see it hired more often, earning you bigger and more helpful rewards.
Dragon’s Dogma is heavily inspired by Oblivion
Dragon’s Dogma is more than just Capcom’s attempt to create a fantasy RPG in the wake of other games like Oblivion, but creative director Hideaki Itsuno does cite Bethesda’s game as a huge influence.
Largely an open world experience, the world of Dragon’s Dogma is absolutely massive, with a campaign that stretches well beyond the 30-hour mark, with at least 70 hours of side quests to complete beyond that.
As you venture through the world, you can harvest plant life, explore forests for crafting ingredients, venture into mysterious caverns in search of rare loot drops and more. When you look at it this way, yes, Dragon’s Dogma appear to be copying Oblivion to the letter.
While this is good news for fans of the Elder Scrolls series, it’s important to point out that Dragon’s Dogma is very much its own game. For starters, the action is incredibly enjoyable, drawing on Hideaki Itsuno’s experience as director of Devil May Cry 2,3 and 4.
You can see the influences in the special moves, such as air juggle sword swipes and dashing swords tabs that have been ripped almost wholesale from Dante’s own arsenal.
We’ll return to combat in a moment, but it’s also inspiring to see Capcom delivering a massive world that feels populated, rather than sparse. In the same vein as Oblivion, Dragon’s Dogma is full of people going about their daily lives, with errands and quests that need doing.
There is a real sense of a functioning world here – where everyone has a story to tell and that you, the hero, are helping to steer the world in new directions through your actions. In short, prepare to get utterly lost under the sheer weight of content on offer here.
Dragon’s Dogma has a class system that makes a real difference
Anyone who has trudged through the crushing brutality of Dark Souls will know that choosing a character class is – at times – a life or death situation that will make your playthrough and approach to enemies drastically different.
The same goes for Dragon’s Dogma. There are nine classes – or ‘Vocations’ as they’re called here – on offer, and each of these really shakes up how your character and main Pawn reacts in battle.
Fighters are great at dishing out crippling melee damage, a well as using Dante’s move-set from Devil May Cry, mages are your typical magic casters, and Striders are nimble, as well as capable of climbing. Capcom has yet to reveal what the other Vocations are.
Take an early battle with a Hydra for example. As the Hydra has hard scales on its back, hitting it with the Fighter’s sword strikes will do very little damage, but Mages and Rangers can hit the weak spots on its many heads with little difficulty.
You can watch us play the entire Hydra battle here.
Striders are better at climbing, so they can shimmy up one of the Hydra’s necks and lop a head off no problem, while the Fighter’s poor grip means it can only climb a short way up before being thrown off.
We tried this battle as a Fighter and found it very difficult, but after a while a cut scene triggered that saw an NPC throw an explosive barrel into the mouth of one of the Hydra’s heads.
As the Hydra swallowed the barrel, our Fighter could climb up its underbelly a little bit and stab the barrel, blowing one of its heads clean off. As this cutscene would not have happened if we were any other class, you can start to see how varied the game becomes when playing as a different Vocation.
This makes for massive replay value, but best of all you can switch between any of the nine Vocations whenever you wish, giving you the chance to approach each battle with a suitable move set. You can also change your main Pawn’s Vocation whenever you want for double the options.
The monster battles in Dragon’s Dogma are insanely epic
At the start of Dragon’s Dogma, a hulking dragon attacks your hero’s village, rips your heart out and flies off to destroy the world. Your hero mysteriously survives the attack and gains the power to control Pawns, earning the title ‘The Arisen.’
The Arisen then sets off with his main Pawn to reclaim his heart and rid the world of the monster menace than has started plaguing the land. When you first see the dragon, chances are you will be amazed at how big it is.
This is definitely one of the key selling points of Dragon’s Dogma. Each boss encounter is an absolutely joy, throwing new mechanics and tactical options into the mix. Your first proper boss fight is against a Cyclops that is attacking an encampment.
You have so many methods of dispatching the beast open to you, that the level of freedom becomes overwhelming at points. If you’re a Fighter, you can hack away at one leg until the Cyclops is thrown of balance, then switch to the other leg to make it fall over.
But if you time this cleverly, you can make the Cyclops fall into a bonfire, inflicting additional fire damage over time. Alternatively, if you’re a Strider you can climb up its body – much in the same way as you would in Shadow of the Colossus – and start laying down some serious critical attacks to its head.
This is just a small example of what is possible during the boss fights of Dragon’s Dogma. Of course, if your main Pawn is hired while you are offline, and then fights boss monsters, you will discover more battle tactics like this in your own game.
Dragon’s Dogma is such a smart, collaborative experience that will offer a different experience for each and every player. Again, this is very similar to how gamers approach Dark Souls in that everyone will have their own tactics, approach and story to tell.
Dragon’s Dogma is difficult and bleak
Aside from its innovative online options, Dragon’s Dogma is also comparable to Dark Souls in just how bloody difficult it can be. Without quest knowledge earned through other gamers hiring your main Pawn, you can be easily killed unless you’re careful.
One quest sees your hero and his squad journeying to an encampment on the other side of a rocky canyon. As you venture up the a hill within the canyon, a series of massive stone boulders start rolling down the hill towards you, and unless you move fast, you will get flattened and potentially killed with ease.
But if your main Pawn has done this quest before in another player’s game, they will warn you to be cautious and to look out for traps, which in a way apes the message system from Dark Souls.
After skirting around the boulders you will fight a gang of thieves, and even these low-level enemies can kill you in mere moments if you’re not careful. You really need a squad with varied Vocations in order to survive, so that you are balancing melee and ranged attacks, as well as healing and offensive magic.
In true Capcom fashion, Dragon’s Dogma is a hard, punishing game, but together, all of the online player across the world will help each other through the grind, and this is a feature that will capture the imagination of many gamers when it launches.
Difficulty aside, Dragon’s Dogma takes place in a bleak world where monsters are killing all of the humans, and leaving the land in ruins. It’s a dark, often desolate world that – while graphically impressive – will beat you down at every opportunity.
Some might call Dragon’s Dogma depressing in places, but Dark Souls fans would call it ‘atmospheric’, and that’s exactly what it is. We’ll bring you more on Capcom’s superb action RPG as it happens, but for now, fans of Dark Souls have a lot more punishment in store in 2012.
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