Review: Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is the expansion to the Capcom game Dragon’s Dogma. It includes the original Dragon’s Dogma, as well as an all new setting, Bitterblack Isle. The game comes with two discs, one of which is an optional install disc that ups the textures and allows you to select the original Japanese voice acting.

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If you don’t have any save data from Dragon’s Dogma, you’ll have to level a bit (to level 45) before you can take on the denizens of the isle. If you do have save data, you’ll be able to export your character and all save data with new skills and augments as well as new weapons and armor sets. You’ll also get 100,000 Rift Crystals, unlimited Ferry stones, and the Gransys Armor Pack, consisting of six brand new costumes. Which was pretty awesome.

To catch you up, Dragon’s Dogma was an action RPG released last May. The setting is open world fantasy, and the combat is hack and slash. Although I didn’t finish the original game, I loved it, and only traded it in to get this one! This new expansion is sure to please those who’ve leveled their characters up past the hundreds, as the challenge is quite substantial.

Plot

“Just off the Gransys mainland is the cursed Bitter black Isle, where gamers will embark on an all-new quest to discover an underground realm, complete with new terrifying foes and incredible treasure.”

Basically, you meet a strange woman who tells you she’s not really there, but she can take you to herself. You hop in the boat and end up on the island, where you will explore, fight insanely hard battles, and then bring back items for her to uncurse. She’s very vague, just like that official plot up there.

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You can also continue the plot of the original game, which was to defeat the dragon that is terrorizing your country. The Dark Arisen story is set after the events of the first game, where you will face a new boss in a new area of that world, but if you haven’t played, it will just fold in like part of the original story.

Graphics and Music

The graphics in Dark Arisen are generally quite nice, but once in a while they just get bad. I don’t know what it is (I’m not technical when it comes to graphics issues) but one minute it will look glorious, and then you’re fighting five goblins and you’re half in a barrel and textures look funny. Sounds like my Saturday night. Zing.

Speaking of funny, watch NPCs mouths when they talk. Only the bottom lip moves! Which is better than my pawn, who doesn’t move his mouth at all.

The music is haunting and lovely. I sometimes let the game sit at the start menu just to hear the intro song. The ambiance is perfect for adventuring!

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Gameplay

Pawns

Dark Arisen is set up like most Western style RPGs, with one main difference: the Pawn system. Pawns are helper creatures. I say creatures, because it is constantly made clear throughout the game that Pawns are not people. They are expendable – you can always get rid of one and buy a new one to fit the current questline a little better. It’s a very unusual system, especially since most RPGs want you to grow attached to your companions, not consider them, well, pawns.

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Your pawns are amazing. Pawns learn skills and communicate with you in the way you teach them to. Netting a high level pawn who knows a lot of skills and quests means having constant tips and advice when you need it…and often when you don’t. They attack based on tactics you lay out, meaning I often had absolutely nothing to do with most battles.

Pawns also gather loot for you and break boxes, which is my favorite thing of all. Do you know how nice it is not to have to do all the looting by myself? You all know about me and my looting habit already though, so moving on.

Menu

In Dark Arisen, the Dragon’s Dogma menu system has been tweaked slightly in hopes of being more intuitive. It didn’t bother me either way, so I can’t say if it’s an improvement or not. I will say that it probably takes some getting used to, as it is a true RPG. You have your inventory, maps, quest area, stats, equipment, tools and curatives (potions). All of that has got to go somewhere, and I can’t really think of a better way to do it than the method Capcom chose.

Combat

There are some new enemies in Dark Arisen, such as the Elder Ogres, Pyre Saurians, and Necorphagous. Oh, and Death. Death is an enemy. And he one-hit kills you, so have fun with that.

Combat in Dragon’s Dogma was already pretty fun, with all the monster climbing reminding me of Shadow of Colossus. In Dark Arisen, combat is no laughing matter. The expansion is meant to be just that: an expansion, so expect a lot of challenging battles. The final boss has a very frustrating attack as well, but I wont spoil it for you. Suffice to say, tactics and pawns are vitally important on the isle.

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My main issue with combat is the lack of an enemy lock. It drives me crazy to be in a clump of combatants and to not be able to choose who I fight. The combat also isn’t as satisfying as the combat in the original Dragon Age was to me (I had the same complaint with Skyrim), but maybe it’s just the hack and slash aspect that doesn’t work as well for my play style.

What I do love about the combat is how you interact with the larger or more complex enemies. For example, I can grab a flying monster’s leg while my pawns attack, or my pawn can throw me into the air to grab onto the back of a griffin. Some giant monsters have to be taken down piece by piece by climbing to the appropriate body part. Fighting large monsters is very exciting, and really shows off how well done the AI system is.

But this is just Dark Souls/Skyrim/SotC!

A possible complaint some could have with Dark Arisen is that it isn’t very new or original. It’s obviously influenced by Western-style RPGs, and even seems like a love letter to Dark Souls.

However, a girl like me, who deeply loves these fantasy RPGs, isn’t going to tell you that’s an issue. I don’t need the RPG genre to be rewritten with every new game (lookin’ at you, Dragon Age II and the possibly even more different Dragon Age III). I don’t need to be wowed by how original the game is. To be perfectly honest, I love RPGs for the same reason I love books – escaping into a fantasy world. So bring on the quests and the sweeping meadows and the orc-like creatures and, yes, the dragons. Playing this game was like putting on my favorite hoodie…which tries to murder me in a nice, comfortable way.

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Final Verdict

Score: B+

Not mind-blowing or stunningly original, but this is good, solid RPG fun, with an exciting level of challenge. Dragon’s Dogma was one of the forgotten gems of last year, and Dark Arisen just builds on that.

If you’ve played Dragon’s Dogma, you will find the perfect amount of (or maybe too much) challenge for your high level character. If you haven’t played Dragon’s Dogma, this is an excellent value for your money, so get it now! I plan to spend many more hours in this lovely world.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen

  1. Nice review. FYI, the PS3 version comes on a single disc with the same content, so it must be something about the 360 hardware that had Capcom need to get it onto two discs for that system. I just got my reviewable yesterday, so i won’t have one posted ’til the weekend or so, but I’ve already spent all last night and today playing (SO.. tired.. but one more hour!). DD was awesome and yes, as you noted, one of those games that sucks you into its fantasy world perfectly.

  2. Pingback: Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen Review | REAL OTAKU GAMER

  3. Pingback: Lady Gamer’s Choice: Best Games of 2013 |

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