Capcom’s hack ‘n slash role-player Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen arrives on Nintendo Switch this April.
As one of our favourite games of the last generation, which we sunk well over 60 hours into, last week’s announcement was a cause of celebration around these parts.
Don’t let the fact that it’s 6 years old put you off – we recently revisited the Xbox One remaster and found it no less exciting than it was in 2013. It still feels remarkably fresh.
Here are five reasons why Switch owners should be excited:
It isn’t a traditional role-player
Dragon’s Dogma was intended to appeal to a broad audience, hence why it features many staples and tropes from traditional JRPGs but resembles a western developed RPG, complete with a heavy Dungeons & Dragons/Tolkienesque influence to the artwork direction. Imagine Skyrim, but with the craftsmanship of a typical JRPG.
It’s a case of east meets west, with rugged knights in shining armour and gruesome mythological beasts, married to traditional JRPG-styles quests and a familiar feeling of progression to character development, levelling up at a respectable rate.
Moreover, this is an RPG of the hack ‘n slash variety, heavy on both scripted and completely unscripted events due to a focus on unbridled action. A typical character move list features numerous heavy hitting attacks and a wide range of defensive manoeuvres. There’s also scope for experimentation thanks to the ability to attack while jumping, adding impromptu downwards strikes to your repertoire, in addition to one game-changing ability worthy of its own bullet point.
Also pleasing is how over the top some attacks are. Rangers can fire arrows so powerful that they send weaker enemies flying across the screen; genuine blink and you’ll miss it moments that make battles wildly unpredictable.
It has a fresh approach to online play
Prior to release, RPG fans were disheartened to learn of DD’s lack of online play. After the game launched, however, Capcom’s vision became clear. Instead of allowing gamers to team up online, the online functions involve creating and sharing AI controlled Pawns, cultivating a different kind of community.
Although humanlike in appearance and in nature, Pawns come from another realm; who and what they are forms part of the game’s lore. They level up and can be kitted out with weapons and attire of your choosing, sticking by your side from start to finish. Over time they grow more experienced, learning how to dispatch certain enemies swiftly. They even gain quest knowledge, so if your Pawn is used by another player they may be able to give pointers for quests they haven’t completed yet.
Not only this, but their fighting styles and classes can be chosen to complement yours. They can be instructed to charge into battle and hit danger head-on or hang back and help with magick and support items.
Adding to a sense of community, Pawns can be rated on their usefulness and appearance before being returned to their maker. You can also send them away clutching a gift for their master, picked from your inventory. Often they’d return to us with a bunch of junk, but every now and then they’d come back to us bearing something of worth. Remember: caring is sharing.
The ‘grab’ button is a game changer
One small feature takes the combat system to new heights – the addition of a ‘grab’ button. Smaller enemies can be grabbed from behind or pinned to the ground, allowing your AI controlled Pawns to deliver a brutal finishing blow. Alternatively, it’s possible to grab enemies and then give them a swift kick off into the depths below.
Still not sold? Larger beasts can be climbed by using the ‘grab’ button. The key to defeating a cyclops, for instance, is to scale its rugged spine and beat its helmet off (oh, grow up) to expose its eye. These battle tactics aren’t always immediately obvious, giving room to become more adept to taking on large foes over time.
Additionally, there’s also a ‘throw’ button. Pretty much every item in the inventory can be thrown, again allowing for experimentation.
Those vials of oil cluttering up the inventory aren’t just for topping up the hero’s lamp – throw oil at an enemy you’ll find that fire attacks will cause longer-lasting damage. If some encounters are hard going, using a few sneaky tricks such as this can vastly increase chances of success.
The difficulty level is perfectly pitched
Dragon’s Dogma is no cakewalk – even on easy difficulty it still proves to be a slow-burning affair with some battles requiring a couple of retries to eventually prevail. Rarely does it feel punishing, however, as the ability to hire high-level Pawns gives an advantage.
It’s definitely worth researching a Pawn’s skill level before coughing up valuable Rift Crystals; you may be able to find a Pawn who’s highly skilled at dispatching an enemy that’s giving you trouble or beaten the quest you’re currently stuck on. Experimentation is key here – we recall finding a battle against a winged griffon tricky until we enlisted the help of a trio of archers.
As for the difficulty within quests, upon retrying you may stumble on items or equipment overlooked before – the game world is littered with secret stashes, chests, and natural resources. Pawns will often pick up items you’ve missed – essentially giving three extra inventories to manage, but hey ho – and if they’re already familiar with a quest they may know of a shortcut, skipping areas that have previously given trouble.
You’re rarely ushered down linear paths, and so there are plenty of ways and means to tackle the tougher areas. If one approach isn’t working, you can usually try something else.
It doesn’t take itself too seriously
There’s a slightly daft streak present, found mostly within the Pawn creation and online elements. Scroll through the list of online names available for Pawns and you’ll find several references to other Capcom franchises. It’s hard to dislike a game that allows you to call your teammate Viewtiful Joe.