Surely the time has to soon come for us to stop getting these HD remakes of old last generation games. I mean, there can’t be many more left can there? Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen first released back in 2012 and has had a number of updated visual upgrades on the PC, but this is the first time the whole package (with all its DLC) has been released on the latest console generation. So is it a pleasant stroll down memory lane? Or have the rose tinted glasses you’ve been seeing through been snatched off your face, thrown to the floor then stamped on violently?
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, for those who haven’t played it, is an action adventure RPG set in a fantasy world of dragons, magic and warriors, with a mix of the Dragon Age games and the Dark Soul series. After a full-action prologue, the game starts with you in a nice Greek style coastal village. You’re walking around in a toga, minding your own business, when a huge dragon who has fallen from the heavens flies into the village and causes mayhem. You stand up to the dragon, but it all ends in disaster as it takes something precious of yours, which awakens something in you that makes others call you an Arisen. From there, you can then customise your character to your heart’s desire – choosing a new look, build, voice and then vocation. Do you go warrior, or should you embrace the range based fighting or magic? The choice is yours.
The controls are fairly simple to get you started and you can choose a difficulty level for combat. There is a basic attack, a heavy attack and a number of special attacks on offer, with more special attacks available to buy as you level up with experience. Some of the choices you make will see you come with a defensive shield, and other moves to master. And master you will need to do, as this game can be deviant in its difficulty – you will have to learn quickly how your character plays and then how the others around you work as team. You pick up items on the way, to trade or to use, and you have a health bar and stamina bar to keep a beady eye on. But basically, as is normally the way, you’ll find yourself with a main quest plot to follow and loads of side missions to divert you from the main path. These quests are good, revealing the story in tiny increments, but at times the side missions can feel very familiar and are occasionally dull. But there is an epic story included here and at all times you feel a big part of its narrative and huge world.
Then there is my favourite device of the game… the pawns.
The pawns are basically NPCs that join you throughout your journey and help in combat and quests. You develop a secondary character which you name, dress and design, before setting a vocation that supports your needs in combat. I initially chose to bring a healer along on my journey, but it’s okay if you change your mind, because you can change the attributes as you go along. Also you can determine the way they converse with you, fight with you, or with the decisions they make. It’s all rather clever and it really does allow Dark Arisen to deliver what feels like a party of individuals on an epic journey, with plenty of chatty quips as you progress.
They are very helpful too, rather than a hindrance like the helpers found in plenty of other games that I won’t mention here. You can have up to two other pawns in your party, choosing who they are from a kind of ether magical world of pawn ghosts. Here you can see ghosts of these pawns on display walking about, and like an upmarket supermarket, you can buy the ones you want for a quest. You can also choose other people’s pawn characters via the magic of the online world and take them with you into the adventure. Hell, there’s even a leaderboard with all the top rated pawns! If your secondary character gets chosen by someone else across the world, they get all the experience and stuff on that adventure with them. It’s a brilliant system, and a piece of inventive design that works well. The NPCs react to the changing situations cleverly too, offering advice as they progress through the battle.
With the looks and graphics on offer, Dragon’s Dogma delivers a solid HD remake of the original version. In certain aspects, like the depth of field outside and in, it is truly remarkable with some lovely skylines that capture the scale of the universe. But whilst the characters look crisp, it still feels like a last generation game and this comes into effect when dealing with the creature design and some of the interiors. Crowds pop up as you walk by and cites never feel as truly populated as a native latest generation console game would bring. But saying all that, it’s still a quality game. In the sound department you will find an JPG-style soundtrack, that is both epic and emotional, without ever being truly amazing, but the voice over work is solid, and really gives the characters an extra dimension to their personalities.
I loved my time with Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen and the many hours it offers. The pawn mechanic is great, as is that found in the combat and the huge world that you can explore. For those who have been curious about Dark Arisen and love old fashioned RPG’s, then this is a must buy. Yes, the quests can get boring and there is a big whiff of old generation about the experience, but there is tons of content for your money.
Just remember to choose your friends wisely.