The newest sprawling adventure epic released by Capcom, Dragon's Dogma manages to present the typical fantasy setting blessed with a fresh coat of paint and a looming sense of desperation that really helps to establish the atmosphere. In the game, players control a person known as the Arisen, a being who appears once every generation, born when his or her heart is stolen by the incarnation of ultimate evil, the Dragon. The Arisen is then the only person who can slay the immensely powerful beast and must embark on a quest to bring down the dragon as its very presence causes monsters to crawl out of the woodwork and devastate the land.
As far as the plot goes, it seems pretty cookie-cutter until you begin to reach beneath the surface. One common complaint from other reviewers is that it's difficult to tell which quests are part of the storyline. I, on the other hand, enjoy this fact because many side quests will either give you an advantage down the road or further advance the plot, revealing more of the storyline. The other boost to the plot is the addition of beings called pawns, humanoid creatures from another dimension. Everyone has one pawn that always follows them, which they can design just as they did their own character through an extremely in-depth character creation system, and can then "borrow" two other pawns. This borrowing is an amazing part of the game, as you are actually taking other players' pawns, their stats recorded at the last inn they saved in, and using them to fight alongside you. The pawns can offer advice on quests that they have previously completed with another player, give suggestions or utilize advanced tactics against monsters with which they are familiar, or simply make idle comments that grow more versatile with experience.
Graphically the game is impressive, though not necessarily as astonishing as some other big-name titles. Human designs can feel a bit lacking next to the painstaking level of detail bestowed on the titanic monsters. In general, though, the game looks very good. The cities and surrounding areas all look rather shoddy, even the capital, which lends to the aesthetic that this is a land barely holding itself together from generation after generation of nigh-endless monster attacks.
Gameplay is where players may split in their opinion of Dragon's Dogma. Combat is fast and hectic, but perhaps a bit too much so. Unlike in the original Prototype, where the chaos and carnage lent to the depth of the experience, Dogma requires a more precise hand. Drawing from games like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta for the flowing combat system, Dragon's Dogma can get a bit overwhelming at times, having to manage your character plus up to three others in precision-based battles against legions of enemies supplemented by hulking colossi several stories tall. Control of your character is fluid, for the most part, though I have experienced a couple hangups particularly when climbing on monsters, where pushing UP doesn't necessarily make you climb higher on the beast due to your character's orientation on the monster. Control of the pawns, though, can get a little spotty. Overall the AI is very good, the pawns undertaking their actions as instructed and helping to overwhelm enemies, but precision control can cause a few hair-pulling moments. In addition, while the lack of a fast-travel option can help with immersion - and such an option could make many side quests a joke - in a world so massive and dangerous fast-travel would be a nice feature to have. Items called ferrystones can take you back to the capital, but since they're one-use items and only direct you there until much later in the game when you can set up a single beacon of your own, I doubt much would be lost in making the ferry option a free, unlimited-use mechanic.
Overall, Dragon's Dogma is an innovative little romp that can grow tedious at times, requiring it to be switched out for another game on occasion, but it never gets irritating enough to call it a detriment. For anyone who enjoys fantasy games and ever wanted to scale a cyclops to skewer it in the eye or ride a dragon into the clouds for a massive midair battle with the beast, Dragon's Dogma comes highly recommended.