Preview: Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
There are three reasons why this preview is completely superfluous given our coverage of Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen so far, and will therefore go completely unread. The first reason is quite simply because not enough people care about Dragon’s Dogma to want to read this. It’s a good reason if you’re not really one for this type of game or it just never grabbed you in the year or so that it’s been out. The second reason involves the world’s waning faith in Capcom as both a developer and publisher, after some absolute abortion-level games in recent times as well as just bad business decisions overall. The third reason, of course, is that nobody actually trusts previews any more because, let’s face it, Aliens: Colonial Marines.
But you know what? I’m going to go ahead and do this preview anyway and if you opt to read through it, then you have my sincere gratitude for that. If you’re on the fence right now, teetering towards either side but looking for a reason to commit, I urge you to keep reading this because I believe with Dark Arisen we have, not just Capcom’s saving grace (or at least the shining light at the end of a dark tunnel), but also something that might just nudge Dragon’s Dogma into full-on A-grade territory. And I need to tell the world about it.
Are you in?
Name: Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
Multiplayer: None (Sort of…)
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
Release Date: 22 May 2013
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is not a full game. Let’s get that clean out of the way. It will be releasing in a retail form, sure enough, along with a downloadable version, but it is not a full game in its own right. Rather, it is a standalone expansion the likes of Diablo II’s Lord of Destruction, Warcraft III’s The Frozen Throne or Dungeon Siege II’s Broken World. If you’ve ever played any of those, or you have an idea of what I’m talking about here, much in the guise of those strategy and RPG games of old, Dark Arisen is an expansion pack which converts the original (vanilla) experience and brings a whole host of changes with it, while also adding new content of its own.
Before we get to the new content though, let’s first talk about how this game improves on Dragon’s Dogma. If you’ve not yet seen it, or you’d just like to know more about Dragon’s Dogma, you are more than welcome to read our review from June last year, and find out what we thought about the game. In short, it was a borderline good RPG which was held back by some flaws which were difficult to ignore, but overall it was a shining example of what Capcom are capable of when they stop fishing for our money and try to just make a decent game every now and then. And it worked.
In our review, we stated that Dragon’s Dogma was at its heart a JRPG masquerading as a western RPG, and there is one other game which is similar to this, called Dark Souls. Now that similarity, coupled with the epic, large-scale monster battles and the initial difficulty and slow beginning have earned Dragon’s Dogma more than a few comparisons to Namco Bandai’s tough-as-steel-nails spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls. Unfair comparisons in my opinion since they are both perfectly capable of co-existing and catering to different crowds. It didn’t help things when Capcom put out a patch last year which introduced an ‘Easy’ mode to Dragon’s Dogma, for those who were suffering with the game’s quite brutal early levels, where you were woefully unequipped for properly dealing with some situations and were forced to use trial and error and just get lucky at times, in order to make progress. People called it Dark Souls on easy… and it just isn’t.
In any case, with Dark Arisen that has been addressed and it really seems as if Capcom is throwing down the gauntlet to the Dark Souls hardcore critic, introducing not just a ‘Hard’ mode which significantly increases the difficulty while awarding extra loot for boss kills, but also a ‘Speedrun’ mode which rewards players for beating the game in an allotted time. You wanted that extra challenge? You’ve got it. You’re not going to appreciate it when venturing through the Everfall in New Game Plus, but it’s your funeral.
Further additions to the current formula include, at last, an improved system for fast travelling. This was another criticism of Dragon’s Dogma, where after a fair ways into the story you unlocked these crystals which you could place in the world, then travel to or from thereafter, but you had to venture to that place and find a valid location to drop a crystal and once you did, each time you travelled you would use up a port crystal, meaning you could only fast travel so many times before it started to burn a hole in your pocket. Not exactly a desirable system in any RPG, right? There is, after all, a reason we have fast travel. Incidentally, I started a Skyrim playthrough wherein I never used fast travel. It took me eight hours to get to a point that previously took me three.
Also improved are the menus which were never really a source of complaint for me. Sure they were a bit confusing at first but half the fun of any RPG is learning all of the menus. Remember The Witcher 2’s menu system? I speak specifically of the PC version, not the far more refined Xbox 360 version. These additions though, they address all but one of the criticisms laid at the feet of Dragon’s Dogma. Unfortunately there has been no word yet on how talkative your Pawns are, whether they will be just as irritating or more reticent in future.
As far as brand new additions go, there are new skills promised, which adds a whole lot more depth to the current formula. But for the most part, it just means more cool things to play with, and more ways to mix up your current party. I’m looking forward to trying some of these out. There are also new enemies to test those skills on, and finally new equipment to purchase and put onto your characters, and admittedly some of these look far better than the paltry regular equipment from the vanilla game.
There is also what Capcom are calling a “massive” new realm to discover, but not much has been revealed on that just yet. In fact not much has been revealed on most things including the story for this expansion, only our assumptions based on the title. Is it a continuation or a separate tale? Capcom are keeping very hush-hush about it for the moment. I’m inclined to advise caution in this respect but at the same time, I can forgive them on account of all the much-needed changes they are bringing, which leads me to my final point, and why I think this is an expansion worthy of your purchase.
Priced at around R300 for the physical retail copy, this game is cheap. And it features all of Dragon’s Dogma’s content, admittedly a year old now but still quite meaty in and of itself, as well as all the expansion content. What I love about this is that it addresses so much of fan complaints and criticism, and seeks not just to improve on the existing concept but also introduce more to what we already know so that it feels fresh enough to vindicate the purchase.
Capcom could just as well have thrown up a middle finger and said ‘fuck you’ to fans, but they haven’t. They could have not implemented a single change and put this expansion out as DLC with minor cosmetic changes and a little bit of story. They’ve already been doing that anyway, with all of their DLC episodes for the game, which annoyingly pop up each time you start it up. Whether or not those are included in the expansion I cannot say, but even without, the asking price is quite low for a game which can easily clock to upwards of a hundred hours plus, and it has new content, and it fixes almost every issue with the original game. How did Capcom go from alienating fans with DmC, completely destroying their franchise with Resident Evil 6, bastardising the concept of DLC with their on-disc shenanigans, to bringing back what gamers have been clamouring for, for ages? Remember how many people called for the return of old-school expansions? Well here you go, kids.
Suspected Selling Points
- Its price, certainly.
- It’s a proper expansion like you’ve always wanted.
- It fixes so much of what was wrong about Dragon’s Dogma, which was a great but flawed experience.
- It’s still not going to appeal to everyone, given its JRPG-esque nature.
- Not having any details about the story does seem suspect.
- This is Capcom we’re dealing with…
I will forever be fascinated by how Capcom continue to treat this game as amazingly as they have. And with Remember Me coming up in a few months, it gives me that little bit of faith that the developer-publisher is not completely lost. If you already own Dragon’s Dogma, then you should really look into getting the downloadable version of this game. It should be cheaper as well, and you can just import your save afterwards. The game itself has already been converted to ‘Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen’ on game lists. If you’re new to the series, or haven’t played Dragon’s Dogma before but are curious, you need to check out Dark Arisen’s physical version. It has everything you need and is quite affordable, given the amount of play time you get. Wait for reviews if you’d like, but use our Dragon’s Dogma review and this preview as the basis for your decision. The additional story is, after all, not going to be as important for you as the vanilla story. But you get all the much-needed improvements as well.