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PlayStation 3 Review: Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen

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It has been just short of a year since I originally reviewed Capcom’s Dragon’s Dogma.  It was a pleasant surprise since I had seen the game at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles the year before, but was unable to really get a grip on what the game was about.  Dragon’s Dogma is action RPG that falls somewhere between Oblivion or Skyrim, Demon’s Souls, and Shadow of the Colossus.  Like the Elder Scrolls games, Dragon’s Dogma gives players an open world to explore, but random difficulty spikes can really put a wrench in your plans. Like an action-adventure game, your character can jump and climb obstacles and even monsters.

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, to explain it in old school gamer terminology, is basically Super Dragon’s Dogma.  The release includes the original game with a handful of improvements and a pretty tough 15 hours of extra content in the new location.  It is not as if the main game isn’t tough enough though, and Capcom recommends players reach at least level 50 before attempting the island.  As I said last year, even regular travel is dangerous and auto-saves can be a ways apart.  This new edition does offer some extra fast travel ability.  Additionally, those who transfer their save game from the original get a huge travelling bonus.

Dark Arisen offers 25 new enemies, including Death, who I wouldn’t recommend taking on if you haven’t saved in awhile.  There is nothing more frustrating than an instant death if you haven’t been diligent.  That brings me to another point.  Dragon’s Dogma requires a lot of discipline.  You need to save often and don’t try to take on more than you can handle.  You don’t have to tiptoe through areas as in Demon’s Souls, but it’s easy to end up surrounded and in over your head.  That and a random griffon dropping out of the sky can put an end to an escort mission awfully quick.

As with Skyrim, the narrative in Dragon’s Dogma is pretty light.  That is the price we currently pay for most open world games.  This is evidenced most notably in the ending scenes of Dragon’s Dogma which lack more than a hint of context from your adventure.  The lack of purpose is remedied somewhat in the new area of Bitterback Isle.  Once you arrive, you’re given pretty good direction about your goal and there is a real story to unearth.  Once you’ve done everything, the ending stops your adventure, but the game does offer a new game-plus option to let you redo things a little differently.

Around the edges, Dark Arisen does add a little bit more to the experience.  Your character now has more customization options and the pawns that follow you around can also be augmented more.  Capcom has listed the new equipment count at over 100 pieces.  The menus are a little better and the beefy pre-install on this version includes high resolution textures, making the whole experience nicer to look at.  Western gamers also now have the option of hearing the original Japanese voice work, too.

Releasing a new version of Dragon’s Dogma was a somewhat controversial choice for Capcom to make.  There are no new trophies for PlayStation owners or achievements on the Xbox 360, and some confusion about the included DLC from the original version is also present.  That is all fine for those that didn’t play the original.  Not that this game is perfect, but if you like action RPGs and you’re looking for a challenge, you should definitely give this game a spin.  Those who played this game last year should weigh the fact that it does contain about 20 extra hours of content and there are plenty of six and eight hour games that cost more.  Additionally, It is not like there’s anything comparable coming out in the near future.

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes, Violence. This game can also be found on: Xbox 360.

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About Lance Roth

Lance Roth has over 10 years experience in the video game industry. He has worked in a number of capacities within the industry and currently provides development and strategy consulting. He participated in all of the major console launches since the Dreamcast. This videogame resume goes all of the way back to when they were written in DOS. You can contact Lance at RPGameX.com or rpgamex@gmail.com.