Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen – PlayStation 3
Platform: PlayStation 3
Release Date (NA): April 23rd, 2013
Nerd Rating: 10 out of 10
Reviewed by Asmodeus
WARNING: This review will contain light spoilers relating to enemies, classes and locations. I will keep plot details to a minimum however.
What can I say? This is the review that I was looking forward to most, and by the end of this article, hopefully I may have convinced you to go and see why for yourself. Dragon’s Dogma received a 10 outta 10 from me, why? Because it is an absolute masterpiece. I have never played a game to date which has given me more enjoyment that this has. So, now let’s have a look at what it is that makes this game so great. Well, first of all, for those that are confused by the title, Dragon’s Dogma is a game released in 2012, whereas Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is an expansion released in 2013. This expansion included the full original game, plus a new area, new enemies, new quest line and a ton of new end-game content to keep you busy. So I am going to review Dark Arisen as a whole here, including all the features from the original. And with that cleared up, let’s begin.
Well, the game begins and you have control of the Arisen, a warrior marked by the dragon, and you have reached the temple where it has taken refuge. You are not alone, however, as the Arisen’s faithful pawn is there too, and you quickly find a strange stone, which is used to bring two more of these “pawns” through to your world. So, the four of you begin making your way through the temple, and you are a fairly balanced party to boot. You lead your pawns through the buckling hallways, scorched stone and bodies of other adventures litter the place, as you fend off all manner of creatures that want your blood. Wolves, harpies and more are scattered through this temple. Using your sword and shield, you hold off these monsters, and make it to the door leading into the inner sanctum. The end is in sight. Until something lunges at you and your party.
Straight out of a Greek history book, a Chimera blocks your path. A terrifying unison of Lion, Goat and snake, each with their own attributes. This monster has a huge amount of health compared to the small fry before it, and each part has it’s own unique health bar as well, meaning you can damage it more by focusing on one area at a time. The Lion has high strength, and so it’s melee attacks are devastating. The Goat is a spellcaster, allowing it to hit you with a bolt of lightning if you decide to jump onto it. The snake is mobile, capable of hitting you from different angles the rest can’t reach. After a slog of a fight, the beast falls to the ground, lifeless, roaring in pain. A voice then fills the room, asking you to choose, whether you will continue on, or turn tail and run, as the large door leading to the inner sanctum opens…
So, that ends the prologue, and after setting the mood, you get to create your character and start your little intro mission. Basically then setting the scene for your struggles as the Arisen. Now you get to makes one of the most important decisions in the game, which class do you start as? There are a total of 9 classes to play as, 3 basic, 3 advanced and 3 hybrid. At this point, however, only the basic classes are available to you. The choice is between the up-close and personal skills of the Fighter, the long-range prowess of the Strider or the supportive tactics of the mage. Once you have a few main missions under your belt, you’ll reach the region’s hub, Gran Soren. A sprawling city full of nobles, peasants and dark alleys. Here you have the opportunity to buy new classes using Discipline Points, earned by killing enemies.
The new classes are the three advanced classes Warrior, a ferocious battle-hardened fighter who wields massive two-handed weapons to crush his opponents, the Ranger, an acrobatic long-ranger fighter specializing in Longbows and the Sorcerer, a powerful mage who uses an Archistaff to control even more powerful magic. The Sorcerer can leech off other sorcerers in the party to cast spells faster. The class diversity is very good already, but I’m not going into the hybrid classes, because I’ll be here all day, and this’ll be far to long a review if i do!
Another area that is very diverse is the enemies. Most of the creatures that you will face look like they have crawled straight out of Ancient Greece. Chimeras, Cockatrices, Griffons, Cyclopes and more await you along the way. All of these big enemies have several health bars, and are a pain to kill, which makes this rather unique feature welcomed. Almost everyone remembers scaling a massive colossus in Shadow of the Colossus, climbing up it in order to reach a weak point where you could do some real damage. Well, this is replicated in Dragon’s Dogma. Fighting a Cyclops? Why not climb up and stab it in the eye? That Griffon looking like it will fly away? Why not grab it’s leg and stop it? The grab feature opens a whole world of options while fighting large enemies, often being necessary to do solid damage to an opponent. No matter how much you play, ripping a flying enemy out of the sky by it’s tail never gets old.
Most people will not assume that this game will be very scary, from what they have read so far. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Traveling at night is TERRIFYING. It is not dark at night, it is pitch black. Never travel without a lantern, as you never know when you will stumble off a cliff, or into a large enemy out looking for a midnight snack. The expansion adds more fear, with insta-killing enemies, and chests that try to eat you.
Now, the main quest. It is short. VERY short. During a speedrun, it took me less than an hour to complete the story, cutting as many corners as possible however. It does have many side quests, as well as areas to explore, and monsters to farm in order to flesh out your adventure. This lowered my rating of the original game, however, the original is pretty obsolete due to the release of this expansion including the full game. The rating raises in the expansion as it adds the game again in playtime. The main feature of the expansion is a new area, Bitterblack Isle, complete with it’s own weapons, armor, enemies, ambiance and story. Keeping in with the Arisen theme, that is a large focus of Bitterblack Isle, with the story being you following clues to discover the fate of another Arisen. It adds many very high level enemies, one of with, the Grim Reaper, can one-hit you and your pawn, regardless of level.
On the other hand, the story is very well written. You feel connected to your character as they struggle to stop the world being bathed in dragonfire, and in all the hundreds of games I have played, I have never seen one which links in several playthroughs like this does. Once you finish the game and start new game+, when you are back at the final levels of the story again, you’ll see what I mean! Enough said about that subject. Another thing the game has a ton of, is “End Game” content. If you find yourself sick of the story, you can grind the depths of Bitterblack for the amazing gear there, or take on the single most powerful enemy in gaming history I have seen. The Online Ur-Dragon.
It’s hard to explain exactly what this is, but you basically take on an enemy that is many hundreds of times stronger than you, with other players in real-time. You fight it separate, but all damage is added together during the Ur-Dragon’s resting period. It is impossibly hard, as you fight this monster which takes breaks every 10 minutes(which is a godsend, as it allows you to stock up on much needed curatives). The Offline version of the Ur-Dragon has 1,470,000 health, whereas the Online version has AT LEAST 10 times that, which increases more and more every time it dies and is reborn. If you battle it, and manage to do some damage, you are eligible for a reward, with a bigger reward for more damage. If you manage to land a killing blow on the Dragon, you gain a massive reward, with some of the best weapons in the game. It can be argued, however, that these rewards are now outdated, as far more powerful weapons can be found in Bitterblack Isle.
Overall, if you are new to the game, get the expansion pack Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, as it is a brilliant entry point, as you will have all this new content first time round, even though taking Bitterblack Isle at a low level is suicide, and doesn’t get much better later on! This game is a work of pure art, and WELL worth a buy, especially as you will be able to pick it up fairly cheaply now. Only a few games I have played have left even half as much of an impression as this has, and when checking release dates for my review, I found out Capcom is making a sequel, which has made my year!
Reviewed by Asmodeus
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