Dragon’s Dogma is sort of like a marriage between a Japanese RPG and Western-style action adventure game. As an ambitious genre-bending title, Capcom’s Dragon’s Dogma features some rewarding gameplay but falls short on the strategy end.

The first thing I noticed is how easy the combat was to learn and apply to the battlefield. Primary weapons, featuring heavy and quick attacks, are set to the face buttons while secondary weapons and special attacks are tied to the bumpers, making it easy to ramp up to fluid attack patterns. The drawback to this simple button mapping is that the fighting elements come off as unsophisticated – you tend to see a lot of reoccurring animations. The real shining star in the fighting mechanism is the application of the bow and arrow as a secondary weapon. The bow was so extremely responsive that I was able to pick off birds flying through the air.

The really innovative thing about the game is the use of ‘Pawns‘. Pawns are humanoid companions called upon from the Rift. The concept of the Rift and Pawns is where Capcom really excelled in developing Dragon’s Dogma. First, I had to create my own Pawn – giving it weapons, armor and a vocation. After completing my own personal Pawn, I was able to hire two more. Dragon’s Dogma allows you to hire any Pawn you choose – either a generic AI Capcom threw into the Rift or a Pawn created by another player who also has access to Capcom’s servers.

The Pawn system is a fantastic implementation of an asynchronous gameplay option to help other people, even though I did not have any direct contact with them myself. When Pawns are hired and utilized, they earn experience and rift crystals (type of skill currency). This learning experience includes quest information: if someone takes my Pawn on a quest I haven’t completed yet, when I come to the quest, my Pawn will give me inside information to aid me.

While the idea of using Pawns is a great feature not all of the execution is perfect.  I found myself in a situation where I was suddenly attacked by these worms that rose from the floor. After killing three or four, I realized the herd was not thinning out. This was my cue for a tactical retreat. I ran as if the dragon, itself was on my tail – all the while spamming the “Come” (to me) command on my controller to also get my pawns to safety. Instead of joining me (in running away), the Pawns got distracted by some random enemy and ignored my commands entirely. I was the only one to make it out in one piece.

Back to the positives – Dragon’s Dogma has a massive size and scope!  The game rarely provides you a straight line from quest start to quest finish. This allows plenty of opportunities to explore, find treasure and slay various monsters. The best of these battles are the pop-up “Ambush” quests where a larger monster will appear, requiring you pull out all the stops to defeat the enemy. This normally involved using the “grab” feature to scale the monster and exploit its weaknesses. Capcom did an excellent job in preserving the sheer enormity of the creatures like Chimeras, Ogres and Cyclops.

Overall, Dragon’s Dogma is a fun game that attempts many new things.  Some of these things, like the Pawn system, really broke new ground while others like the combat – lack panache and gave the impression of simplicity. Dragon’s Dogma is a solid action-adventure title with good RPG elements in it, but ultimately hard to recommend as a solid ‘buy’ – for those looking to sample the game be sure to check out the demo available now online.

Related Videos:

Dragon’s Dogma Gameplay Commentary – Demo

Dragon’s Dogma Dev Diary Mutliplayer

Dragon’s Dogma Dev Diary 1

Dragon’s Dogma Official Dragon Battle Trailer