I liked this a lot, overall, though not without its wrinkles. An RPG that’s somewhere between the Western and Japanese traditions, maybe. Kind of Skyrim meets Dark Souls without the loopy scale of the former or the loopy difficulty of the latter, and a little less atmosphere than either. It reminded me somewhat of the open-world wandering and slightly strange pacing of the Gothic games, which I really enjoyed but don’t necessarily have a high profile, shall we say. Where all those games give you in effect a single character against the world, Dragon’s Dogma offers you a faithful pawn follower, who you can design and equip with the same loving detail as your main character, instruct to behave in certain ways, and teach to fight different monsters more effectively as you go. You can then take on two other pawns designed by some other denizen of the internet, and later let them know what you thought of their creations, while other players might make use of your pawn. Quite a neat way of making you feel connected to the wider community without, ahem, having to actually relate to them in any way.
My enjoyment level was a bit patchy – way high initially and as I first started to explore the land and work out how things worked – dropping off somewhat as the plot lurched rather haphazardly towards its culmination and I found myself doing a lot of rather dull running around – then shooting up in the excellent final battle with the dragon – staying high as the weird post-game played out – and finally scratching my head in mild bafflement at the somewhat bizarro ending. So often the way that as long as the possibilities are infinite it seems fascinating, but as the map is gradually revealed and you see the shape and extent of the world there’s a slight sense of – ah, that’s it? In many ways there’s not that much going on outside of a few key locations, though to be fair there’s a nice curve-ball at the end. Things can unfold rather strangely, though, little is done by way of explanation so stuff just … happens, really, sometimes leaving one tantalised by the mystery, sometimes bemused by the inscrutability. Incidental characters get very emotional about things and you’re left thinking – did I miss something? Should I know what the hell’s going on here? Better than a lot of infodumps, though, I guess. And combat is pretty cool with a big range of available character styles, techniques, and equipment, and clambering up a cyclops to stab it in the eye never gets old. Overall not quite in the league of Skyrim or Mass Effect, but a lot to like. I’d play another.