Dragon’s Dogma Is Still Amazing

A Rough Around the Edges Masterpiece

2011 was a banner year for action RPGs. That year saw the release of two of the most influential games of all time, Dark Souls and Skyrim. Fans were still besotted by both games when Capcom’s Dragon’s Dogma appeared in 2012. The game was quirky, janky, and original, but bugs, player misunderstanding, and the long shadow of Skyrim and FromSoftware kept Dragon’s Dogma out of the reach of real appreciation. That began to change when, in 2013, Dragon’s Dogma Dark Arisen was released. Adding a ton of new content, fixes, and major improvements, Dark Arisen was a rare do-over success story. Fans of the genre paid attention. Now, 10 years later, it’s safe to say that a large number of ARPG players have hoisted Dragon’s Dogma to the top of their lists of personal favorites.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 is only a few weeks away. The hype is near-Dark Souls intense. From what we’ve seen — and a few lucky folks have played — the sequel is an amazing leap forward. Now’s a great time to appreciate what the original game did so brilliantly. Aside from graphics that have understandably lost some luster, much of Dragon’s Dogma Dark Arisen remains an absolutely compelling experience.

Moving Pawns

Obviously, AI-controlled NPCs were not invented by Capcom and Dragon’s Dogma. However, Dragon’s Dogma elevated the role of a player-controlled NPC to a whole new level in the form of Pawns. In a real sense, Pawns were a precursor to Elden Ring’s Mimic Tears. In Dragon’s Dogma, a player’s main Pawn is a controllable ally with unique gear, skills, and an upgrade tree. The Pawn levels up with the player and shares most of the main character’s potential to explore and fight.

Adding another original mechanic, online players can hire Pawns belonging to other players. The hired Pawns come with their own gear and skills, and the player can add to their equipment in the form of permanent gifts. Pawns can be rated, Uber-driver style, and players can see their ratings. Overall, the Pawn system is fantastic and is making a return in Dragon’s Dogma 2, undoubtedly with even more depth.

Take a Welcome Vocation

A staple of fantasy RPGs is some sort of class system. You know, sometime early on you decide on a preferred play style — or maybe two — and you roll a character that’s a mage, tank, ranged fighter or healer, or some combo platter version. In Dragon’s Dogma, classes are called Vocations. There are nine of them, and, as long as you have enough Discipline Points you can swap to another at any time. Your Pawn can switch vocations, too, though only to the basic versions.

In games like Elden Ring, trying to fully develop more than one build often results in being a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none. The game rewards focusing on one or two stats and sacrificing others. That’s why the Vocation system is so appealing. You can switch your Vocation to counter a specific enemy or situation. There’s no pressure to be exclusive or fail.

Climb Aboard

When it comes to combat mechanics, Dragon’s Dogma both innovates and honors established ideas. There are light and heavy attacks, a pretty awkward dodge roll, and the ability to block with a shield. Long before Lies of P, Dragon’s Dogma introduced the term “perfect block.” Tied to a specific skill called Deflect and choice of gear, perfect blocks knock back enemies, add I-frames, and briefly slow time.

FromSoftware’s games still don’t generally allow players to mount enemies for deadly attacks, but doing so is a core mechanic in Dragon’s Dogma. From the exciting tutorial on, players are encouraged to jump onto boss monsters and attack vulnerable spots, Monster Hunter style.

Get Started Now

While the game’s detail and textures don’t exactly scream 2024, Dragon’s Dogma still has a fantastic, classic-fantasy art style, excellent music and sound design, and well-written and voiced characters. The story is engaging and the gameplay remains stellar a decade later. Available on every platform and including all DLC, playing Dragon’s Dogma Dark Arisen remains a compelling and enjoyable experience. While we wait for the sequel, now’s a great time to try the original.

Thank you for keeping it locked on COGconnected.

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