Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen – Flirting With Death

By Robert Ward . April 25, 2013 . 2:00pm

There’s something amiss in Gransys. Murmurs among the villagers of Cassardis have heightened to audible whispers, and it seems that everyone now knows of the mysterious, other-worldly woman who waits on the docks, staring into the abyss of the night-time sea. To the villagers, only darkness lies beyond the waves, and by night, a promise of death rides on the back of chilling breeze blown in from afar. In Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, the true form of this darkness is revealed, and out of the shadows the harrowing underground labyrinth of Bitterlback Isle takes shape.


Needless to say, if you thought that you finished 2012’s Dragon’s Dogma with no stone left unturned, you think again.


Just shy of its one-year anniversary, Capcom has released the bulky Dark Arisen expansion pack together with a new and vastly improved version of the original game. If you’re a Dragon’s Dogma veteran, the purchase will land you some extra goodies—including 100,000 rift crystals, infinite ferrystones, and an apologetic costume set called the Gransys Armor Pack. If that’s not enough to lure in returning players, they’ll also get the meaty 15-30 hour Bitterblack Island campaign, the option to play through the game with Japanese voice acting, an HD texture pack for improved graphics, and a number of new skills and augmentations for your character.


Dragons Dogma: Dark Arisen offers the most, though, to new players.


Dark Arisen is riddled with noticeable changes from the get-go. To compliment the need to switch equipment or use items at a moment’s notice, the menu system has been streamlined and interconnected. Transportation, though still an occasional burden, has been improved by reducing the price of Ferrystones and including new Portcrystals. The HD texture pack not only does away with most of the muddy textures of its predecessor, but also reduces the game’s occasionally frustrating loading times. Don’t get me wrong—you’ll still arrive at shops about 3 or 4 seconds before the clerk does, but that’s certainly better than waiting twice that amount of time. You’re now also able to save quickly and do so at your convenience, so an unexpected death is not likely to merit the same frustrations associated with the game’s autosave system.


The true heart of Dark Arisen, though, is Bitterblack isle, which you can reach by speaking with Orla, the aforementioned specter who looms over the docks of Cassardis. She is the first part of an expectedly weak narrative that plays out as you descend deeper into the island’s deadly collection of dungeons and mazes. You’ll come across corpses shrouded in a dark mist that will trigger some cryptic speech about helplessness from a set of disembodied voices—and you soon find out that discovering what, or who these voices are, is only the first step of unraveling the mysteries of the Bitterblack Isle.


Unforeseeable evils await players in the depths of its gloomy halls, including 25 new (but sometimes disappointingly familiar) enemies who can’t wait to have a chance at tearing you and your pawns apart. These range from small threats like the Pyro-Saurians, which deals fire damage on contact, to heavy hitters like the Prisoner Cyclops, which is covered in untouchable spikes that render it un-scalable. Although these enemies can be tamed with the same strategies used in the main quest, there are some enemies, like Strigoi, that require a less standardized approach. You’ll want to mind your manners around the game’s Eliminators, too, as one devastating blow from their colossal hammer is enough to knock you and your pawns out cold.


If there’s one thing Capcom knows, though, it’s how to give a monster a unique presence. This is exemplified by your encounters with Gazers, which are more or less a cross between a Beamos from The Legend of Zelda and The Imprisoned from Skyward Sword (although in this case, you don’t have any pompadour-donning friends to save the day, and the Gazer’s toes aren’t vulnerable). Taking down a Gazer can be either excruciatingly difficult or surprisingly simple, depending on how you want to go about doing so—and the first encounter you have with one will likely leave a favorable impression of what’s to come.


Another constant presence in Dark Arisen is Death. Not figurative death, either, but the hood-wearing, scythe wielding one that will likely have you peering around every corner before proceeding through parts of the dark labyrinth. Capcom doesn’t try anything risky with his design—and the phantom is about as classic-looking as it gets. The fear comes not in is aesthetics, but his imminence; when he appears, you’ve been sentenced, and you have little time to think before the reaper takes a swing at you with his trademark scythe.


Death doesn’t have many tricks, just a reputation, and all it takes is one misstep or miscalculation to send you and your party of pawns back to the nearest checkpoint.  Death makes you think, and the most effective strategy is delightfully metaphorical: keep your distance.


My run-ins with Death were by far the most enjoyable part of Dark Arisen, though most of the showdowns with the island’s more gargantuan foes become disappointingly systematic. Once you learn to keep your distance from death, his attempts at reaping your souls can be laughable. Gazers, whose eye-lasers once created a path of destruction before you, become so familiar that you almost feel pity for them.  You know that there’s nothing under metal plates of Living Armor after your first encounter with one, and instead of fearing for your life while you wonder why your daggers aren’t damaging him, you’re sending your mages forth to dissipate the threat while you stand back and take an apathetic swig of harspud milk. If you’re bored with how you go about battling, though, you’ll likely find some solace in looking stylish doing so.


One of the most rewarding aspects of Bitterblack Isle is the assortment of cursed armor and weapons you can find throughout your journey. Many of these pack quite a punch—and you’ll deliver that punch in style. When you find a cursed item, you must bring it back to Orla, who will purify it for a set amount of Rift Crystals. You can also find scrolls that unlock new augmentations that you and your pawns can learn. I can’t say that many of the ones I’ve found have been particularly useful, though – the most recent scroll allows me to use less stamina while carrying a person or an object. Whether or not there’s some strategy that makes that a game-breaking ability, I’m not sure.


It’s difficult to treat Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen as an expansion. Its countless improvements represent Capcom’s attempt to breathe life back into an existing game. Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is more of a second chance than an expansion, and though it may not be worth the investment for veteran players, it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re new to the series. This is how Dragon’s Dogma was supposed to be played.


Food for Thought:


1. There is only one thing I was disheartened by in Dark Arisen, and it was the removal of the B’z from the start up menu. Instead, you’re treated to…the Last Story title theme? Maybe it’s just me, but the similarities were uncanny. If I’m hunting dragons, though, I want my musical backdrop to be the hypnotic vocals of Koshi Inaba.


2. Dragons Dogma is not a game for the impatient. Traveling is still a huge, huge hassle—and if you forget to put a portcrystal on some distant stadium like, say, Bluemoon Tower? Have fun making the two-hour trek back to its top.


3. Dragon’s Dogma throws quests at you left and right, and you have the chance to fail them and lose them forever. Also, it’s almost impossible to discern what’s a main story quest and what’s a side quest—you have virtually zero guidance.


4. Don’t expect to enter Bitterblack Isle until you are at least level 30 and have some solid equipment and well-developed pawns. As I said, the enemies here rely more on difficulty than diverse tactics, and it’s better to be prepared than to be flashy.

Read more stories about & & & on Siliconera.

  • Hossi Blumengaarten

    making you buy the damn game again

    • ShadowDivz

      Who else but capcom?
      *goofy music*

  • I gladly double-dipped. I regret nothing. This is an awesome game.
    I disagree with food for thought 2 & 3, but that’s just because I learned how to work around those things.

    • Robgoro

      As a veteran player, though, don’t you think there might be an aspect of familiarity at play when it comes to the transportation system? I walked into Dragon’s Dogma a new player, and it took me two very timely mistakes to learn that the most distant corners of the map need a port crystal, and I appreciate easy access to ferry stones, but I still found myself walking and running to most places. It’s a very minor complaint, but my legs got puh-lenty of exercise walking up and down the coast of Gransys!

      • Oh, absolutely. That’s how you learn! Where’s the fun in a game that auto-saves all the time and tells you every little secret trick right away…and where you cannot even die? *casual glance to the last Prince of Persia*

        Maybe it’s an “older” form of game enjoyment, but I like learning through my mistakes and…maybe it’s the mindset. Like, “Oh stupid me, now I know” instead of “Ugh this game! I didn’t know!” And please know that’s not directed at you–just a random theory!

        • Robgoro

          No offense taken! I have to admit, often times, after staring at my quest list and looking at the map, I gave myself a hearty face palm realizing I had made a horrible mistake! The Portcrystals are a really cool way to get around (you’re basically choosing your fast travel points), but I wish there were more of them.

          I would play through it again just to try the other vocations, though – I spent most of my time as an assassin. The magick archer, for example, looks like a blast. Dragon’s Dogma is, to me, a guilty pleasure XD

          • Definitely. Magick Archer is loads of fun, not because it’s a particularly major damage-dealer, but because of the things it makes easier. An explosive arrow that lights up a room? A lock-on laser that targets multiple annoying flying enemies? Yes, please!
            …Sorry, it’s a guilty pleasure for me too. I’ve had so much fun with it, and so many of those “moments” that make you feel awesome. I hope others pick this game up! Japanese-meets-Western RPG done right, in my opinion.

          • Robgoro

            In the end, and I forgot to put this in the food for thought section, I’m really glad that Japan has started to explore the “Western RPG” genre. The results have been spectacular, and the possibilities are even more exciting. Dark Souls is another great example!

            For anyone reading this, don’t expect much from the story, but the combat and combat options makes the game really, really enjoyable. It’s like a popcorn movie, but a game.

          • AJ

            I just want to add that getting to the ending is immensely satisfying. It has one of the best finales, I think. (Technically 2 or 3 finales, all of which you can get easily, without having to re-play the game forever and ever.) The lack of direction and slow pace at first are actually crucial to the end, and it is well worth the time.

  • Phantasos

    And I will because at least they’re making us buy a game that’s not yet another sequel of an existing franchise but its own, very awesome thing. At least Capcom tries to come up with new stuff, shit business practices or not.

  • Draparde

    Bought this game again, and i love the feel of the new area, it sort of reminds me of a Temple-dungeon in a Zelda game. (cept without mind-blowingly difficult Puzzles.)

    • Robgoro

      I got that vibe too! I almost wish that they included more puzzle elements into the game’s design.

      • Draparde

        same here. it would have been pretty awesome. i guess it’s a good sign if they do things like this for future dungeons for things like Dogma 2

  • Crevox

    Still waiting for a PC version Capcom! Come on!

    Besides that, I will likely pick this up soon. Didn’t play the original, and I’ve heard great things (and loved the demo).

  • LegendaryLos

    Going through Bitterback Isle is even better the second time around! The enemy placement changes.

  • I”ll plan on getting this sometime then, good that it has the original game content included.

  • Hraesvelgr

    Personally, I like the way this game handled “fast travel”, in the sense that there is no “instant fast travel to any location you’ve been to before” unless you’ve set up a portcrystal and have a ferrystone.

    The idea of fast travel itself is fine, but I’m not a fan of the Bethesda-style no gameplay repercussions fast travel that is more and more common these days.

  • Super Dragon’s Dogma 64 DS: Hyper Turbo HD+ Edition

    • Zenthos

      Comes with all the features of dark arisen plus more! Dlc? NOPE! Who needs it!? When we can just re-release the same game, with minimal features, for full price!

      • jordanbobordan

        You do realize this has way more content, tons of system changes and UI enhancements, and a better traveling system AND it is 40 dollars new for the expansion and improved original game right?

        • ShadowDivz

          They are just pissed they have to buy the same game. AGAIN.As am i.
          I laughed when it happened to people who bought street fighter and or Marvel Vs Capcom, but now that it’s happening to me it’s really not cool. You just wonder “why the hell wasn’t this in the original release?”

          • jordanbobordan

            because it didn’t exist when the game was released? Honestly I wish it was dlc to a certain extent, but take into account that download would probably be the better part of 8 gigs, and a lot of people would not feel like shelling out that much real-estate for a DLC

          • Zenthos

            No, people wont feel like shelling out for a GAME PRICE . They could have done, at most, a 20$ dlc for people who already own it. Skyrim for example, re-released its dlc as separate addons. Why cant DDDA do this? Sorry, but I see no justification for crap like this.

  • i bought it i’m just going to give my first copy to a friend. i hope whenever they make the next one they work on the story a bit more i played a female character but the dialog seemed geared toward a male pc and it was super jarring.

    • Ehren Rivers

      Hey, could you confirm/deny something for me? My friend is claiming that the disc version (PS3) is just the original Dragon’s Dogma, with a download code for Dark Arisen as an expansion. I’ve been following this game for months now and as far as I can tell that’s completely incorrect, and I was hoping to hear confirmation/denial from someone who actually own the game. None of the reviews have said anything about this, so I was a bit confused when he made the claim.

      • anarchy_panty

        No, all the new content comes on the disc, no download necessary. I have no idea why your friend would say that.

        • Ehren Rivers

          Thanks for the reply! Yeah… I think he’s trying to sound like he’s informed or something. He doesn’t have the game, either, he said this when I asked him if he was going to get it. Rang of buuuuuullshit to me.

          • yeah i own both i haven’t fired it up yet so i couldn’t tell you, thankfully your question was answered though.

        • Ehren Rivers

          And just to clarify, you have the game yes?

        • Andhika F

          Actually there’s additional item you need to download, its Fighter, Strider and Mage Ring set.

          Like mage got Grand Ingle, etc

  • Visa Vang

    Just waiting for payday… I’m coming guys. GIVE ME SOME OF YOUR AWESOME PARTNERS!!!

  • Caleb Clarkson

    does anyone know how to get the new tier 3 skills? I’m a veteran player so I am a fairly high level but I have been playing the expansion for a while and have yet to get any new skills! it’s driving me nuts! Can’t find any info any where online…

    • Draparde

      I’d like to know this too. I found some Augments. but have no idea how to get any new skills XD.

      • Christopher Nunes

        Isn’t it through scrolls? In the article it mention he/she got new Augments by getting a scroll at the Isle so I assume that’s how you get it. I’ve brought the game, but I haven’t played it yet. I’m planning on making my old Arisen LV200 and my pawn as well before I jump over to Dark Arisen.

        So don’t quote on me for this.

        • Draparde

          Yeah, you get Augments through scrolls. But those are just like “Gains small amount of HP when you kill a monster” type stuff, rather than actual new attacking skills.

          I would like to assume it’s through scrolls as well. but i recall reading somewhere about higher discipline levels or something so it made me think you may get them another way.

          i haven’t gotten too far into the expansion either. since i wanted to get to the end of the game a second time first lol.

  • Draparde

    What makes me sad is that not only did they get rid of the origonal opening…but they didint even use the vocal theme for Dark arisin as the title music either :/

  • Christopher Nunes

    I pre-ordered it months back and have the original game as well, which I loved it was so awesome though I wished there were more options with Character Creations, and though I picked up the game this week I have yet to play it.

    Trying to accomplish a few things in Way of Samurai 4 first and complete Black Rock Shooter the Game (which I love both and their gameplays are awesome, though I think BRS the Game has potential to have a better battle system in a possible sequel or another game takes on its battle system. I quite like it!). And I want to level up my Arisen and Pawn to LV200 in the original first before I take them to Dark Arisen (I forget if the levels are reset back to 1 or they’re capped at a certain level or you retain their levels when transfer).

    So reading this has gotten me to be even more excited for it! ^_^
    Dragon’s Dogma is an excellent game and I hope to see sequels for it! Though I am sad to see they changed the Title Menu music, though I remember people complaining or making note that a “rock and roll” Japanese music for a Western/European-style game on Medieval times as a Title Menu music doesn’t seem to fit.

    Apparently Capcom heard and decided to change it. Kinda sucks, though I don’t know if that’s true it they changed it because of it, but the themes are still in the game somewhere right?

  • badmoogle

    Nice review.You forgot to mention though that the pointless DLC from the vanilla game is all included for free in DA.
    And there was already an augment in the original that let you carry objects and creatures by using less stamina…

    Also i’ve heard that the monsters in Bitter Black scale level with your character…is that true?

  • pimpalicious

    I’m playing Dragon’s Dogma for the first time with Dark Arisen. I’ve mostly had fun exploring so far and haven’t made it far into the story yet.

  • ShadowDivz

    All i know is, this is the last time i buy a Capcom game DAY 1.
    Seriously, it was funny when it happened to fans of MvsC but when it happens to you it’s not.
    Next time capcom releases a game i want im waiting a year.

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

Siliconera Tests
Siliconera Videos