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10 Thoughts On… the Dragon’s Dogma Demo (Microsoft Xbox 360/ Sony PS3

I honestly didn’t know too much or care a whole lot about Dragon’s Dogma during its initial announcement. It’s not that it looked like a bad game or anything like that, I just figured it would be some kind of low budget Skyrim knockoff and moved on with my day. It wasn’t until my brother called my attention to it and insisted that I look into it more that I paid attention. The moment he name dropped Berserk, my ears perked up. Sure enough, in one of the most obscure crossovers ever, it was confirmed (for the Japanese release, at least) that there would be Berserk themed armor sets that would be released as DLC. Seeing as how new Berserk films will be coming out this year in English, my hopes are that this DLC would be seen as the perfect promotion for that event, though I’m getting way off track. I’m something of a Berserk fan as you might have guessed.

So, back to the game. Now that Capcom has released a demo for this title for both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3, I felt it a fitting time to get a feel for just what this game is all about. So how did it go?

1. When starting the demo, the thing that drew my eye immediately was the customization option. One of my favorite parts of RPGs, or just games in general, is designing an avatar for myself catered to my liking. Dragon’s Dogma doesn’t skimp on the options. You start out with a base figure that can range anywhere from a small boy to an old woman. Once you have the bare basics selected, you can then customize further by choosing their proportions, facial features, and other random markings, like scars. I was very pleased by these options as it let me craft a character exactly how I wanted it, but without feeling overwhelmed.

2. After you are done creating your character, you have the option to craft a “pawn.” This is basically a secondary character that can be designed to your liking and will always remain loyal to you. Again, I was stoked about the prospect of designing what was essentially my own minion as opposed to being relegated some cookie cutter character as dictated by the designers. I think I spent more time customizing than actually playing the game.

3. The first menu option was for the prologue chapter, and I quickly found out why it was listed before the customization option. Regardless of whether or not you designed your own characters, you are given a generic hero and, later, summoned pawns that were of the cookie cutter design I alluded to earlier. This chapter behaves as a tutorial of sorts to familiarize you with the controls and the different aspects of the action oriented combat. The goal is to confront a large dragon, which you end up doing right from the get-go, but end up hitting a few snags along the way. After a short rendezvous with a slew of NPCs, you fight your way through some corridors before finally arriving at, and confronting, a chimera. The chimera behaves as the boss of the stage and the chapter ends upon its defeat.

4. The atmosphere and overall feeling of Dragon’s Dogma reminded me much of Dark Souls, though the game wasn’t nearly as punishing. The character you start out with has a sword and shield, and you are given both a strong and weak attack as well as the ability to block. Using those in tandem with the bumpers will allow you to do things such as shield bash or a charging strike. I was impressed with the arsenal of moves I had at my disposal for being so early in the game and had me anticipating the possibilities that would arise from further progress or by having other weapons.

5. Many objects can be interacted with, such as barrels and other random objects that be picked up and tossed about. One feature I thought was cool was being able to restrain an enemy so that one of your computer controlled teammates can rush over and stab it, usually resulting in a fatal blow. Likewise, they will often restrain enemies for you so that you can get your licks in on them.

6. The computer controlled allies seemed fairly intelligent from what I can tell, constantly utilizing abilities that are effective on certain enemy types (weaknesses that I didn’t even know existed). They also kept me healed and assisted in ganging up on enemies. Sometimes the enemy would prove too much and they would get knocked out, but you can rush over and help them up with the B button to get them back into the game. They even have their own inventory you can manage.

7. The battle with the chimera introduced me to another mechanic that I didn’t even realize was possible. Much like in Shadows of the Colossus, any large enemies that you encounter in the game can be grappled onto and will allow you to hang there up until the point where your stamina runs out or you get thrown off. Once you latch on, you are free to stab and hack away at the foe that you have a hold of. The chimera wasn’t actually all that big, but damn if it doesn’t make me excited to fight a dragon.

8. The final chapter on the menu dumped me in the midst of a field that I had recognized from one of the gameplay videos I had seen. At first it was business as usual, fighting random foes that I had encountered, by this time around, I actually got to use the characters I had customized. My other major realization was that they made me an archer, which forced me to have to adjust my tactics a bit. Instead of putting my arm up to block, use of the left bumper brought up crosshairs in which to rain arrows down upon my enemies. If they got up close, I also happened to be carrying a couple of daggers that could be used to melee them into submission. It was a way different style than the sword and shield set I was given earlier and was a lot of fun to experiment with.

9. The boss this time around was a giant griffin that swooped down on me from above. Being an archer, I had the option to shoot at it, of course. However, I also noticed that my pawn offered to lift me up into the air using her sword. In doing so, I was able to latch onto the bird and stab at it while it was in the air. This was exhilarating, especially when the bird was grounded and could be pounced upon by my party.

10. One thing that was introduced in the beginning, but was never really explored in the demo, was the addition of a lantern. There are areas with low lighting (though again, very few in the demo) that required the additional light in order to see. I find this feature fascinating, since it adds to the sense of dread that I experienced during the game and makes me wonder how the final product will make use of it.

For a game that I had little care for up until recently, I had a blast with the Dragon’s Dogma demo. I really enjoyed the customization, the combat shows promise, and I’m actually looking forward to the final product. This title will release on May 22nd, 2012 for both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

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