Dragon’s Dogma Playtest: Dragons May Cry

By Kris . May 21, 2012 . 2:01pm

There’s a story to Dragon’s Dogma, but the game seemed to forget that an hour or so in, in my experience. It involves your created "Arisen" getting his or her heart ripped out by a giant dragon. To be honest, it really doesn’t matter what happens to the Arisen’s heart, because Dragon’s Dogma knows exactly where its own heart is. Dragon’s Dogma’s heart is in its combat.


Perhaps it’s due to the guidance of Devil May Cry 3’s Hideaki Itsuno, but Dragon’s Dogma has Devil May Cry DNA. Despite the obvious changes a genre shift brings with it, Dragon’s Dogma still manages to combine the strengths of an action game with a western RPG blueprint, making for a WRPG with a strong combat focus.


As you fight, you’re rewarded with "discipline points." These allow you to buy new skills at inns, much like "red orbs" in every action game released since Devil May Cry, but invisible. The skills you can buy range from simple attacks, like the fighter’s rushing "Blink Strike" and its improved variations (think Devil May Cry’s Stinger), to more passive abilities like the Strider’s double-jump, to various augments like the Assassin’s improved damage at night. Because you need to fight to earn new abilities, gaining more powerful attacks starts to overshadow leveling up as the goal of grinding. I constantly found myself toying with different builds and seeing if I could get certain abilities to chain into each other, just as I did when I played Devil May Cry 3 and Devil May Cry 4.


While generally the idea of having a ton of skills in WRPGs made me worry that I would spend a lot of time in pop-up menus and in the waiting for abilities to warm up and cool down, Dragon’s Dogma works around that by limiting the number of skills you can have at once. Each class has specific main and sub-weapons that they can use. Each type of weapon your Arisen can equip is limited to three abilities, used by holding the bumper it’s assigned to (LB/L1 for subweapons, RB/R1 for main) and pressing X, Y, or B (or Square, Triangle, or Circle).


It seems a bit limited at first, but six skills make for some pretty entertaining combat, especially when some of the weirder techniques enter the mix, like the Strider’s animation-cancelling "Reset" skill.


While I didn’t spend much time as a mage, the close-range abilities I used were practically instantaneous. I could transition straight from the animation of a standard attack into one of my skills without delay. Ranged skills require a bit more prep time, but waiting a second or two to fire an arrow that sends an enemy hurtling through the air is worth it. The combat isn’t quite Devil May Cry, but it’s the closest I’ve experienced within this genre.


Despite how much fun fighting can be, it takes a couple of battles to adapt. There’s no lock-on, no dodge roll, and until you’ve gained a few special abilities, battles with standard enemies like goblins, wolves, and thieves alternate between being dull or—if there’s a lot of them or they’re above your level—overwhelming. Fortunately, the game tosses a few large enemies at you early on so you can get a taste for felling things that are multiple times your size.


Big enemies are your combination of jungle-gyms, puzzles and swift and painful death. I should clarify that I mean this in the most positive way possible. Whenever I stumbled into a new creature, I was struck by a combination of excitement and fear. The fear came from the size and motion of these big creatures, and the excitement came from the fact that I was going to get a chance to climb all over the thing, trying to figure out what its weakness was. Climbing on enemies is lots of fun because they’ll surprise you with the ways that they try to remove you from their body. Ogres in particular amuse me, because if you stay on their back, they’ll just flop backwards to smash you.


As enjoyable as these fights are, if you’re not careful about saving frequently, they can set your progress back quite a ways in just a few seconds. These things are as powerful as their size would convey, and they don’t hesitate to pick you up and take a bite out of you. Naturally, you can’t take these creatures on alone, and this is where Pawns come in. 


Pawns are essentially your party. However, only the one you build levels up, and the others are essentially hired guns. Your Main Pawn is completely under your control, the way they look, the way they talk (not simply voice, but demeanor), and the way they fight. When you’re at inns customizing your skill layout with discipline points, you can customize the three skills per-weapon for your Pawn as well. Aside from the fact that it’s just helpful to have a well-equipped Pawn, the more you’ve explored with them and the more they learn, the more helpful they’ll be if someone else recruits them as a Support Pawn. 


Support Pawns don’t level up, but instead remain at whatever level you first hire them at (if they’re your level or below, it doesn’t cost anything to hire them). This means that as you level up, you’ll constantly be grabbing new Pawns to match your level or give yourself a party better-suited to the situation at hand. Hiring a Pawn who’s a higher level than you costs you "rift crystals," which are gained by people hiring your Pawn, but it can be helpful if the game keeps killing you at your current level. The fact that you can revive pawns whenever they die is handy too. That said, your Pawns will never stop talking. I personally turned off their banter subtitles, so that they weren’t always popping up.


While Dragon’s Dogma is centered around its combat, I feel like it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t talk about the exploration at all. At first, I wasn’t too pleased by the fact that I was assigned quests in places I hadn’t visited or even heard of. Couple that with the fact that it’s to find your way into a place where the enemies are beyond your capabilities, and exploration seems very intimidating at first. However, once I settled into a character class that I was really happy with (Assassin, for the
record) and made peace with the fact that I might have to run for my life at a moment’s notice, I started embracing the exploration.


Dragon’s Dogma adds a mystique to exploration simply by making darkness… dark. Run out of oil in your lantern at night or in a cave, and you’ll barely be able to see what’s about to tear your face off. Even with a light, I’ve had a giant cyclops emerge from the darkness and surprise me. Exploration in the day is of fun, and generally prettier, but night makes things feel dangerous. I’ve wandered through misty woods only to find that what I thought was fire were ghosts that could only be destroyed with magic. I killed an entire bandit stronghold just to get a magic book. While I generally don’t like aimless wandering, I enjoyed myself in Dragon’s Dogma.


Food for Thought:

1. The character customization is really in-depth. I’ve never been able to adjust a character’s posture before.


2. It’s always annoyed me when you get to a point in the game that certain quests are unfinishable, which this game has. However, my annoyance with the un-finishable quests sort of dissipated after I took on like 20 more from the various message boards populating the city.


3. I love how the music on the opening screen transitions from orchestral to Japanese pop band, B’z, in about a minute. This is their theme song for the game:


Read more stories about & & & on Siliconera.

  • VWinds

    A slight technical correction to your review above. There is a Dodge Roll in the game, it’s just tied to the Dagger weapon (as is Double Jump); whereas blocking and block counters are tied to shields, parries and dodge+attack moves are tied to 1handed swords/maces, and attacks with invulnerability frames are tied to 2handers. Your characters defenses are based upon the main weapon they have equipped and you have to unlock them in game.

    • badmoogle

      Also another thing i’d like to mention is that from what i’ve heard support pawns actually DO level up IF their original owners level them up in their own game.
      You just have to go to a Rift stone and then try to save and update your game.Your support pawns levels may go up depending on how much their original owners play their game.

      • Barrylocke89

        So Support Pawn’s are hired out by other players? That’s actually kinda cool.

        • badmoogle

           Yes and you find them either in a strange dimensional place called “the rift” or wandering around in the game’s world.
          If someone plays the game offline then he/she can hire AI ones.I’ve heard that Capcom has made lots of them and of course at various different levels.

    • Crimson_Cloud

      Indeed. I played the demo and with L1+X combination you would do the roll.
      Anyway, I’m loving the look of this game. Can’t wait for my copy. ^^

      • badmoogle

         I think it was R1+X. :p

        • Crimson_Cloud

          Missed it by this much. ^^’
          Thanks, I stand corrected.

  • XiaomuArisu

    So I heard you can somehow affect the story wanted to know if its true.
    And about the demeanor of the main pawn,does it means how they act(coward,funny)or is it like phantasy star where you write what they say in which situation?

  • MagoIichi

    What I don’t understand is how an rpg made by a Japanese developer can be a WRPG.This whole JRPG/WRPG thing is beyond retarded and only started to get really annoying this gen.In previous gens, the games were simply called Rpgs.

    • MrRobbyM

      You’re right. A JRPG should not be restricted to the typical systems and styles most JRPGs use. Last I checked, Japan is a location, not a genre. If it was made in Japan, then that makes it a Japanese role-playing game. Just my point of view.

    • Domii

      I completely agree. This is something that the media has to stop doing asap.

    • badmoogle

       Unfortunatelly  the terms JRPG/WRPG were also used before this gen.But i agree it’s stupid.

      • Guest

        Ever since Microsoft got into the console market and sparked the infuction of more PC game ports

      • Guest

        Ever since Microsoft got into the console market and sparked the invasion of more PC game ports

    • takopako

      i agree. people keep calling this a “western rpg wanna-be cause jrpgs suck”…its still a jrpg. lol. but i do remember when they were just rpgs and i miss it. there is a lot of discrimination that goes on, simply because games were developed in certain countries.

    • Crimson_Cloud

      I think that, today, people like to group gameplay type into one particular style. JRPGs are the ones that have (but not limited to) turn-based combat, linear gameplay and good storytelling with huge focus on characterization all packed up with anime style graphics. While WRPGs have the more open-world type of gameplay, real-life looking cahracters etc.

      You have to admit, when you want to explain someone what kind of RPG it is, wouldn’t we understand better when you say that it has Japanese/Western origin?

    •  Nowadays JRPG an WRPG don’t actually name where the rpg was made, but its overall style. For example, Dark Souls is another WRPG made by a japanese company.

      • Mago Iichi

        I’m sorry, but that just does not make any sense.There were Open World rpgs made by Japanese developers way before there was any Elder Scrolls game.

        And I’m talking all the way back to the original Nintendo/Famicom.One game in particular, Metal Max, came out 1991.It was one of the first rpgs to be open world.

  • MrRobbyM

    I played the demo on the PS3 an noticed the frame rate isn’t exactly the best. How is it in the full game?

  • Syltique

    I like that song.  Anyway, my copy will be here tomorrow.  I can’t wait.  

    All of the things I’ve heard as flaws just make me want it more.

    – limited fast travel
    – extremely difficult
    – overwhelming and easy to get lost

    Sounds great.

    • MrRobbyM

      I don’t know how any of those are bad things. Extremely difficult can be fun if done right.

  • Im the only one who found this game similar to Dark Souls? Because it resembles a litle. There isn’t much about Devil May Cry only some flashy moves and when you climb some enemies it reminds me to Shadow of Colossus.

    Well that was me impression when i played the demo.

    • MrRobbyM

      Kind of, much more fluid though. I think it best resembles Dark Souls in terms of physicality and being in third person view.

      • Domii

        Being that there is no lock-on, I can’t say this game is more fluid than DS, but we shall see.

        • MrRobbyM

          Maybe fluid was the wrong word. DD just feels(judging from the demo) more free as to where DS feels slower.

      • thats prolly it

    • Domii

      I kinda agree. But being that I’m the ultimate Dark Souls fanboy, I forbid you to compare it to any other game lol.

  • Domii

    I played the demo and loved it. So I plan on picking it up soon. I find it kinda of disappointing that reviewers in general found this game to be average at best, but yet it looks so freaking cool.

    Edit: Just read the part that says there is no lock-on. Wow that’s a bummer, I guess I’ll pick up the game when it gets cheaper.

    • Brandonmkii

      That would have killed any difficulty for me, at least. I’m glad they didn’t implement it. I hope you still enjoy it if you get around to playing it.

  • badmoogle

    “That said, your Pawns will never stop talking. I personally turned off
    their banter subtitles, so that they weren’t always popping up.”

    I remember hearing one of the developers saying (in one of their 2 hour walkthroughs) that there’s an option to edit how much your pawns will be talking and sharing information with you.He said that if we want we can turn off their speech completely.

    • Zal_Yagun

      Not in the options menu, but you have to discus at an inn with your pawn how much info they can spew and change their battle role traits.  

      • badmoogle

         Ah i see.Thanks for confirming it.

    • i hear pawns can tell you things about your enviroments and places of interest they hear from their travels.

  • Göran Isacson

    This game truly sounds like a very intriguing experience, but one that will take a lot of people a lot of time to get used to. A far cry from the far simpler combat-systems of say, Fallout and Skyrim… I wonder if that will be its gain or its detriment.

  • takopako

    cannot wait for midnight!!! >.<

  • LynxAmali

    I want the video.

    Without the subtitles.

    That was awesome. Makes me want to pick this up.

  • Uhm, I dodge roll in the demo all the time.
    It’s either a class only thing (ranger/strider) or a skill you need to get.

    Though even there I didn’t find it to be required all the time, I simply walked out of the way most of the time.

  • Guest

    I did nit get a DMC vibe at all playing the demo

    • Umar Kiiroi Senkō

      neither did i, combat was solid but its still felt more akin to other games in the genre not dmc

  • Solomon_Kano

    And now my purchase finds itself reaffirmed. Not sure when I’ll pick up Dragon’s Dogma, but now it’s certain to happen.

    I’m actually liking the sound of being sent off to places beyond your knowledge or capabilities. It seems like a more… real, I guess, approach to exploration in a fantasy world. When traveling to distant lands, whose to say you’ll always find things at your pace? That just sounds great to me. I’ve also been in love with how this game approaches darkness since I saw that one OXM video a while back. Darkness doesn’t even scare me in real life, but it’s handled so excellently here that it’s sure to offer some jumps. The way Capcom’s weaved in mechanics from their other areas of expertise is great too. I mean, seriously, the Strider has a cancelling move? Who else but Capcom?

    Yea, if you can’t tell, I really can’t wait to get my hands on this.

    • MrRobbyM

      Agreed on everything. I don’t know when I’ll get it either though. I still need to get Xenoblade. One thing is certain though. I will definitely not be using a walkthrough for this game. Well, maybe for a few things. A big world I can get lost in would be ruined if I knew what was coming ahead and where exactly I had to go.

      • Solomon_Kano

        I need to get Xenoblade too. And a Wii to play it on.

        I won’t be using any walkthroughs either. With the kind of scale this game sounds like it has, I think it’d be a shame to spoil the aimless wandering for myself lol.

  • Love the demo, the combat system is really great and unique, it has jump button, grabbing enemy and call your pawns to attack them, I don’t know if this has done before but its very unique to me. The pawns’ AI are clever as well. I never heard that music though but I love the music in demo screen. Definitely getting this game but not anytime soon.

  • Souji Tendou

    Game is good. The only thing I dislike about the game is that there’s no dodging mechanics. You either have to run around using sprint or jump to avoid enemies attack……. lame. :/

    But then again, I’m just about 10 hours into the game. :)

    • neogeno

       There is a dodge mechanic! But its class specific to the Strider. Its R1 + X.

      • Souji Tendou

        Wut? I’m currently using a Strider, and I can’t perform it. Are you playing the full game, or the demo? Cause you can dodge in the demo but not in the full game. Fyi, my Strider Rank is Lv. 4, and there’s no Augment which lets me use a dodge yet.

  • Nitraion

    I wanna buy it but not so sure… i guess i waiting  price drop…

  • Umar Kiiroi Senkō

    demo did not sell this game for me at all, combat so easy and the grab mechanic was just funky, still picking it up though so that i can judge for myself the full game. it was fun tough but there’s just missing in that demo imo. hope the full game is bad-ass-tastic

  • LOL he looks like a male  Meryl from metal gear

    • TheCynicalReaper

       HAHAHA~! I will never unsee that now.

  • Masengan

    I tried the demo and it left me wanting more, but Im not sure if I get it that I will finish it..

  • boundries_san

    Still waiting the game to arrive lol and seeing this review, this shows that this game is not for everyone here lol. Hoping that when i get this game, i will be able to get  some Siliconerean as my party here lol.

    • brian yep

      For everyone?
      Ehh actually, I’m iffy about it because it has so many quests.
      I’ve avoided Elder Scrolls for a similar reason.

      • boundries_san

        Lol wrong there. It should be “not” for everyone lol. “Like” for the notice.^^

      • Don’t want to sound judgmental or anything, but isn’t having many quests a good thing? It’s more content towards a game if anything.

        I’m curious to hear your opinion on the matter.

        • Solomon_Kano

          I’m inclined to agree with you. Especially since you’re given to the freedom to complete as many as you want.

Video game stories from other sites on the web. These links leave Siliconera.

Siliconera Tests
Siliconera Videos