Capcom takes a shot at an open world action RPG. Can it stand up to the likes of Skyrim and Fallout?

Dragon's Dogma is an open-world, action RPG, developed by Capcom. It features an expansive medieval world to explore, customizable action based combat, and a long main quest. Players can choose between a wide range of appearances, classes, skills, and equipment. Just about any class is viable and there is a variety of ways to engage in combat as a warrior, rogue, mage, archer, or something in between. You'll also find the usual RPG features like crafting, upgrading, and a New Game+.

You can recruit up to 3 Pawns, which are customizable NPC companions that will join you in battle. According to the game, pawns are creatures identical in shape to humans that lack free will and emotions, perfect for following any order. While they usually dispense combat advice, sometimes they make expressions that sound like opinions, you can alter their personality and combat behaviour; somewhat. You create a main pawn that can be customized in almost the same way as your hero, then seek out two other non customizable pawns. Connecting to Xbox Live allows you to seek out and recruit other player's main pawns, providing a neat bit of meta-gaming as you run into more than the usual assortment of NPCs wandering the world. If playing offline, an assortment of pre-made pawns can be found instead.

Combat feels responsive and accurate for the most part thanks to the developer's action game chops. Playing as a melee class is fairly straightforward, but the auto-targeting for spells could use some work. Auto-targeting seems to fail at ranges that it should work, and it's difficult to adjust the camera mid-battle to switch to the target you want, especially when facing large enemies with multiple target points. One of the coolest aspects of combat is being able to climb on top of larger sized enemies to disorient them or attack their weak points, or being able to grapple and pin smaller enemies.

Just about any class, skill, and pawn setup is viable for the main story quests, but if you decide to take on side quests or just wander around the world, you may find yourself hopelessly outmatched. In fact, the difficulty of Dragon's Dogma is higher than your usual sandbox RPG, especially when using a weak party setup or travelling off the beaten path and encountering large beasts like Chimeras that will kill a low level and ill equipped pawn in one attack.

Quests range in variety from the mostly exciting main story, to a large number of kill, escort, and gathering side quests. Quests involving running around Gran Soren tends to be the most boring, as it's a very large and dull looking city with few shortcuts. Enemy variety is good, but could be better. Most of the overworld is populated by the same basic groups of wolves, goblins, lizardmen, and bandits, occasionally found in upgraded form. Sometimes you'll run into larger foes like Chimeras and Griffins, but their count is even fewer. In a game that takes a good 25-30 hours to complete the main quest, let alone explore every nook and cranny of the world, you'll probably grow tired of facing the same weaklings along the open roads. There are a few large 'Monster Hunter' inspired bosses to be fought, though.

Dungeons seem to be mostly hand crafted, which means you're not going to find a lot of them. The dungeons you do run into are very well designed, atmospheric, and lots of fun to kill through. Don't expect much in the way of puzzles or mind games, though. The use of light is particularly impressive, using a darker lighting atmosphere at night and in caves than in most RPGs. If you don't bring a light source into a dimly lit cave or area of the wilderness, you might find yourself completely lost if it weren't for the map and mini-map.

Transportation in Dragon's Dogma is highly limited and you'll find yourself having to run just about everywhere, whether it's inside the large main city of Gran Soran or to far off points of the world. Quick travel is limited to rare ferrystones and even rarer portcrystals, neither of which you'll have much of until a New Game+. While unlimited quick travel would probably be overkill, Dragon's Dogma could have at least used carriage based travel between encampments to lessen repetitive travel. In the end I felt like Dragon's Dogma didn't value my time when asking to spend hours traversing the map mainly to mow down endless packs of the same enemy weaklings.

The theme and setting is heavily medieval, almost oppressively so. The "ye olde" theme is laid on so thick that you might end up wishing for relief from it, but even the loading screen hint text doesn't relent. It feels like rather than search for its own identity, Dragon's Dogma rigidly adheres to its medieval theme out of fear of losing sight of their core market audience of open world RPG players, even though games like Skyrim aren't remotely as stodgy and "old tyme". It's an acquired taste so you'd better be sure you love it before you dive in. Music is
disappointingly absent or brief most of the time, so don't expect to hear much of it. That's somewhat typical of open world RPGs, but especially so in Dragon's Dogma. Voice acting and sound effects are solid, but probably won't stick with you.

Where Dragon's Dogma starts to feel a bit rough around the edges is when they try to copy certain features found in other open world RPGs and end up feeling empty and half-hearted as a result. Crime, for example, is only possible when you attack or threaten a friendly citizen in a major encampment, yet there's no reason or reward for doing so, so the only players liable to be punished are ones who hit an NPC on accident. There's no complex bribe, favour, resisting arrest, or morality system in crime, either. Once you're locked up you have to pay a bribe, use a skeleton key, or rot in a cell forever. They may as well have left crime out of the game given how much of an undeveloped loose end it feels like.

On a bright note, Dragon's Dogma nails the technical issues that other open-world action RPGs typically flounder on. It's refreshing to play an open-world RPG where you don't have to worry about game breaking bugs and glitches or having your save game ruined because it grew too large. Bugs are found here and there, but not at the level and quantity that Bethesda's RPGs typically carry at launch. So hats off to the Dragon's Dogma team for creating an open world RPG that won't have you making a thousand saves out of fear and paranoia.

Dragon's Dogma is a solid open world action RPG with responsive combat, lots of customization, and plenty to do and see. It's a little rough around the edges, but worth the effort to see the story through.

  • Large world to explore with a long main quest
  • Combat is solid and responsive
  • Many customization features
  • Almost no bugs, glitches, or save game issues
  • Limited or no quick travel
  • Quests can get boring quickly
  • Wandering away from the main story can be very dangerous
  • Limiting sandbox freedom
  • Limited enemy variety and only a few dungeons
Quote: "Dragon's Dogma is a solid open world action RPG with responsive combat, lots of customization, and plenty to do and see. It's a little rough around the edges, but worth the effort to see the story through."
Reviewed by Matthew Emirzian | 06.21.12 | Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360

Similar Games: Nier (7.2) | Dragon Age II (8.6) | ESV (9.6) | ESIV: Oblivion (10)


Dragon's Dogma



Action Adventure

US Release
June '12


X360, PS3

Players 1
5.1 Surround
HD 720-1080p
D/L Content