Thursday, 17 May 2012

Dragon's Dogma Preview

Somehow I missed this from my recent gaming post, so here's a preview of the RPG, which comes out on 25 May for the PS3 and Xbox 360.

The game, as mentioned, is an RPG, and a free-roaming one at that. The player is the Arisen, who has a destiny entangled with a rather horrid dragon. In addition, the player has a trio of minions called Pawns who help him or her out in battle. I can only assume that the Japanese word for the lowest piece in chess is not a homophone for the Japanese word for gentlemen's special interest literature.

Anyway, you have one main Pawn (which you create) who is always present at your side and levels with you, and two standardised Pawns that you can recruit or let go. So, at creation you'll make your character and then make your own main Pawn. The Pawns are not directly controlled but basic commands can be issued.

As well as finding Pawns throughout the world you can find them through Rift stones (a cross between the jobs section in a newspaper and the palantir of Lord of the Rings). Intriguingly, as well as using the preset ones you can enjoy the Pawns of other players, assuming you and they have an internet connection. You can lend your own main Pawn out this way and it'll accrue knowledge about the world (locations of dungeons, enemy weaknesses etc) and may even be given a little present by another player who appreciated your effort in creating the Pawn.

It's probably the most innovative and interesting approach to online technology (of which I'm not generally a fan when it comes to games) since Demon's Souls.

I downloaded the demo (a first for me), which is disappointingly brief. However, it does give a basic feel for combat and shows off the character creator. Unlike Skyrim or Dragon Age there are few sliders, but there are stacks of presets. As well as the ones you'd expect (hairstyles) there are the nice-to-haves of scars and makeup as well as the delightful and unexpected, including arms, legs, torso, muscularity and height.

Combat-wise, I'm unsure. There's no magic in either demo mission, but you do play as a warrior archetype and then a rogue archetype (sword and shield followed by daggers and bow). The Pawns are shown to be pretty competent (maybe even a little too much so, but then the first missions aren't going to be rock hard). Graphics are decent enough, although the limited playtime and the fact that the first mission is in a very dark place makes it hard to assess properly.

In the game proper characters will be able to pursue the typical main classes of warrior, rogue and mage, but will also be able to forge hybrid classes. It sounds a bit reminiscent of FFV's excellent job system whereby if you level enough as, say, a mage you'll get a perk you can carry over if you decide you want to try your hand at being a rogue. I think that the main Pawn's job cannot be changed (not sure though), so balance would have to be maintained by fiddling with your lesser Pawns.

The previews I've read elsewhere suggest that, broadly speaking, the game's combat has been well-received. There is, however, some suggestion that the world's a bit too generic and ye olde England.

In addition (and whilst I consider this a slight minus some may rather like it) the comedy female (and male, I think) fantasy armour makes an appearance. Not seen an actual chainmail bikini (do they wear aketon bikinis underneath?) but there's rather a lot of that sort of thing.

The demo, unfortunately, didn't feature any shopping or other interactions with NPCs so I'm not quite sure how that will go. My exhaustive research (watching Youtube videos, if I'm honest) revealed that there are over 400 voiced NPCs with 200 voice actors. Blimey. Plus, the NPCs will have regional accents, which is a nice touch (like the Celtic elves in Dragon Age 2).

I like free-roaming RPGs, and a generic backdrop wouldn't really put me off. I'm not sure I'll buy it straight off, though (particularly as I don't need another distraction from formatting Bane of Souls*).


*For those wondering, I'm making a little bit of progress each day. Not quite as fast as I'd like, but much better than hoping for a 3 hour window of peace and quiet to do it all at once.

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