If I were a Dragon, I’d probably be expecting some royalties right about now. The winged beasts have become such a staple of the fantasy genre that it probably seems ludicrous not to include them in at this point. That said, don’t be fooled; Capcom’s upcoming Action-RPG hybrid Dragon’s Dogma has a lot to offer in addition to fire-breathing beasts, and promises to be a unique and engaging adventure that treads ground both fresh and familiar. Draw your swords as we charge into this preview.
The story goes that a dragon attacks your character’s fishing village one day. He doesn’t stop there, however. Eventually he finds you and starts talking to you. This being a fantasy game, he takes it upon himself to call you the chosen one and blabber on about a prophecy and stuff. All well and good, until he tears a hole in your chest with his claw and steals your heart. Well, that’s… different. Despite being totally heartless, you wake up eventually to find that you’re inexplicably alive with your wound healed. Naturally, you attract the attention of the King as well as special humans named Pawns who serve the chosen one; you in this case. From there, you set out on your quest to hunt down the mysterious dragon as well as vanquish all the other beasts running around out there.
Of course, what would an RPG be without role-playing? Dragon’s Dogma has a pretty extensive character creator and class system. You’re able to choose gender as well as attributes of physical appearance in order to create your ideal persona, as silly or serious as it may be. After that, you get to choose a class, or vocation as they call it in this one. There are 9 vocations in total: Fighter, Warrior, Mystic Knight, Strider, Ranger, Assassin, Mage, Sorcerer and Magic Archer. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, though you can always rely on your companions for help in areas beyond your mastery, which we’ll get into a little later.
The setting of Dragon’s Dogma is more than a little familiar. Capcom has emphasized that they want to marry the cultures of Western and Eastern gaming in order to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. The character designs resemble western fantasy archetypes like mages, warriors, and archers while still allowing glimpses of the exuberant fashion styles of JRPG characters to shine through. The results should be quite pleasing and unique. As for the environments, they’re generally varied. While grassy fields and hills do dominate the landscape, you’ll also see caves, dungeons, forests, mountains, and other locations perfect for your monster-hunting exploits. The day and night cycle is designed to change the atmosphere of the game regularly, with nighttime providing a more survival-horror feel than daytime; time will tell how different the environments will truly be (double meaning, eh?). A city hub is included, with 200 NPCs that all perform dynamic actions and routines.
The general gameplay isn’t too far removed from what you’ve come to expect in a Western RPG, but there a quite a few twists to the mechanics that should keep thing engaging. The combat mechanics will take on a form similar to Capcom’s own Devil May Cry and Monster Hunter, with all sorts of weapon types at your disposal. An in-depth crafting system will also be featured, in which you can gather materials you find from exploration and hunting and combine them into all manner of items. The bosses are some of the highlights of the game and will undoubtedly make for great set pieces. Some of these include Griffins, Cyclops’, Hydras, and of course, Dragons. While there are traditional story-based bosses, there are also ‘stray bosses’ that randomly roam the landscape, though don’t be fooled; many of these will be as fearsome and challenging as the ones faced in the primary narrative.
Where Dragon’s Dogma really comes into its own is in its Grab System and Pawns. Allow me to elaborate. The Grab System is specifically designed to add depth and options to combat. It allows the player to grab any of a beast’s body parts and perform contextual actions pertaining to it. Some of the scenarios you can create with this are quite inventive; for example, you can hang from a winged harpy’s legs and use it to fly over a Cyclops, at which point you drop onto its head and do your dirty work. You can also grab many environmental objects such as barrels and throw them at enemies. Finally, the Pawn System. In the game’s world, Pawns are humans with special powers that recognize your status as the chosen one and will help you in battle. You can give them commands, customize their appearance and class (sorry, vocation! Happy, Capcom?) and use them to help with grabbing. They’re AI-controlled in single-player, though Capcom is boasting that their AI is excellent and will be just as reliable as that of human player. Given the developer’s previous efforts at friendly AI I wouldn’t hold my breath, but anything is possible.
Capcom is looking to push 10 million units of Dragon’s Dogma worldwide, which is being optimistic to say the least. Those kind of sales are usually reserved for games with the words Duty or Skyrim in them. It wouldn’t be the first time they had high hopes; Dark Void was predicted to sell like hotcakes with pictures of lolcats on them but only pushed half a million. Perhaps the inclusion of a Resident Evil 6 demo will help this one move copies? Until we find out, stick around here at OnlySP for more loot from the Dragon’s Dogma vault. It comes out on May 22 for PS3 and Xbox 360.