E3 2011: Dragon's Dogma Hands-On Preview – Killin' the Griffin
Written Sunday, June 26, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
At first sight, Dragon's Dogma looks like Lord of the Rings in all but name with wide open grassy expanses, mythical creatures and the main character able to adopt the role of a fighter, strider or mage. In short, it seems to run the gamut as far as fantasy genre clichés are concerned, but before you go ahead and write off Dragon's Dogma altogether, there are a few things that you need to know first. Creatives working on the game include Devil May Cry alumni Hideaki Itsuno and Hiroyuki Kobayashi who are on board as Director and Producer respectively, the game has echoes of Capcom's own Monster Hunter in its open-world and it's built using the company's ever-reliable MT Framework Engine, which never fails to shine in producing stellar visual fidelity. Just look at Resident Evil 5 or Lost Planet 2, for instance.
Locked into the strider class - who's the Aragorn-esque ranger of the bunch - we're accompanied by a male mage enrobed in a cloak and cowl - who is able to heal and provide enchantment spells – and a female ranger and archer type, who's not entirely dissimilar to our character. These two ally characters are controlled by the game's AI and they'll happily fight independently against enemies, while repeatedly and constantly shouting information about what's happening on the battlefield, which we must say, does begin to grate a bit after a while.
Capcom insists that it's not going to announce co-op for Dragon's Dogma, which is a shame given how much more fun it was playing Lost Planet 2 in co-op mode. However, it seems to be horses for courses in Dragon's Dogma, as the single-player gameplay works well and the open-world nature of the game's environments should lend itself more to solitary exploration. Your allie's AI seems sharp enough to look after itself too, although you're able to issue basic commands, such as 'go', 'stop' or 'help', if you like. So when a band of vicious goblins ambush us out in the open, our mage friend is quick to react with fire spells from his sceptre, while the female ranger starts pinging arrows into the goblins' unctuous hides.
Drawing our dual daggers, we get stuck into some of the goblins who attempt to bludgeon us with their clubs, while the mage heals us and the femme ranger restrains some of the goblins in a sleeper hold for us, providing the perfect opportunity to aim an arrow and thunk one into its cranium. With the goblins duly take care of, there's loot to be gathered before the main event in our hands-on demo decides to show up. Circling overhead, the griffin casts a menacing shadow over the lush green field below, while its silhouette grows larger as it gets closer and closer to the ground. He's reluctant to engage in battle though and to be perfectly honest, we feel somewhat guilty as we have to goad and attack the griffin to anger it enough to attack us.
Slinging a goblin corpse over our shoulder and dumping it into a clearing in the field to act as bait, the griffin slowly descends to feed on the still-warm goblin flesh, giving us the chance to thump some arrows into its feathery wings and stab it up with our daggers. The mage offers up a flame spell to enchant our arrows with fire and as the griffin takes to the skies again to evade our unprovoked attack, we try to bring it down by pelting its wings with flaming arrows. With the griffin returning to its circling flight pattern in the air however, hitting it proves difficult and takes a fair bit of time. Yet after a few fire-tipped arrows, his wings set alight and the griffin is forced to land as it spirals into the ground, before getting to its feet to face us toe-to-toe.
Grabbing onto it's smouldering feathers, we're able to get a purchase on its body and get stuck in with our daggers, while our faithful pawns back us up with arrows and magical attacks. Lashing out with its tail and sharp talons, we have to use a few evasive diving rolls to avoid incurring excessive damage from the griffin, but before long, the poor creature soon falls under the duress of our all-out assault. With the griffin vanquished, the Monster Hunter and Lost Planet 2 comparisons hold up, albeit in the fantasy genre mould, so fans of those games will likely find a lot to love in Dragon's Dogma.
Set within a sprawling open-world where you can stray from the path defined by the game's story at any time to go monster hunting, set off on side quests, chat to NPCs or go shopping for weapons and items, Dragon's Dogma will have you facing other huge mythical beasts like the legendary Chimera and Hydra. Of course, there'll be a whole load of dragons to take on too, but with a name like Dragon's Dogma, what did you expect? All of the open-world staples are present and correct in Dragon's Dogma too, with exploration aplenty, a full day/night cycle, various settlements to visit with numerous NPCs to interact with and the potential for tens of hours worth of gameplay. There's the requisite RPG elements too, with new skills, upgrades and weapons to discover, and the combat is intuitive and accessible, with the ability to climb onto creatures to attack them proving a welcome touch somewhat reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus.
It may seem a tad derivative based on first impressions, but Dragon's Dogma plays like a good adventure game should. It's story might be complete hokum, but at the very least, Capcom's game should be an involving and enjoyable fantasy yarn. It's just a shame that co-op isn't on the agenda, as it's the kind of game that seems made for it. Still, what we've seen of Dragon's Dogma is encouraging and it could well satisfy your need for yet another action-packed fantasy pilgrimage.
Dragon's Dogma will be sharpening its blade in time for release in early 2012.