Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen review 
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Zoe Hawkins
May 15, 2013 at 3:30 pm

When Dragon’s Dogma was released about a year ago, it was to rather mixed reviews.  Some loved the breadth and scope of the game, while others found it overly ambitious and eventually frustrating.

I’m not going to debate the original game.  You can read the review from last year, but I’m going to focus on the new content found in the Dark Arisen expansion.

The new content takes place primarily on Bitterblack Isle, where the game becomes essentially a dungeon crawler.  The Arisen has been asked for help by Olra, a mysterious woman on the peer in Cassardis.  Olra even admits that she doesn’t know much – please just go kill tons of monsters to hopefully find out more.  Plot is kept quite light, with the focus being on trolling through the dungeon killing bigger and tougher monsters.  And then some practically impossible monsters.

It appears that Capcom was responding to players’ previous complaints that the game was not hard enough.  Not only did they take the difficulty up several notches in this additional content (level up your character to 50, or maybe 60-70 before attempting), they even embraced the “you will die” mentality of Dark Souls.  No, really – Death is one of the enemies that you’ll meet and he can kill even the strongest player/pawn with a swing of his scythe.

If Capcom listened to the requests for harder gameplay, they seem to have ignored the rest of the problems with the game.  The pawns are still irritating, making continuous redundant statements.  In fact, rather than worry about  creating the ambiance of the dungeon, they are not shy to let the pawn tell you the mood (“the full moon gives this place an ominous look”) – ever heard of show, don’t tell? 

The AI is also still strange, with pawns repeating the weaknesses of enemies over and over and OVER again, and yet they seem to ignore their own advice. And they like to put themselves in suicidal positions during battle.  Oh, and let’s not even mention the fact that your player still seems to forget which way is up while climbing giant enemies, adding to the frustration in battle.

Then there are the graphical glitches.  Yup, still there.  In fact, looking at the shadows (particularly in the main part of the game that was supposed to be fixed in this version) could make the epilepsy warning on my PS3 come true.  It’s not just a nit-picky thing either – it actually becomes a distraction during battles and exploration.

All that said, for those who enjoyed the original game, this expansion does add another 20+ hours of gameplay.  You can enhance weapons further, as well as gain new gear.  However, I’m curious if those who loved the original game will like the new path this expansion takes – can adding a dungeon truly expand an open world environment?

This brings me to the price.  If you are someone who never played the original game, it comes off at a steal – all the original content, plus DLCs, plus expansion for R350-400 (depending on the retailer).  If, however, you already played the original, and perhaps purchased the DLCs, this ends up being a very expensive expansion.

Finally, I just didn’t find it fun.  Sure, there were interesting aspects and some great visuals mixed in.  The battle system isn’t completely flawed and the added challenge of harder monsters added a certain level of enjoyment.  But I had no real desire to play the game – I didn’t think about it while doing other things, and I found myself putting off sitting down to play it.  As a die hard fan of almost all RPGs, it was a real shame.  This game had so much potential; unfortunately, it was just overambitious and fell short on too many levels to truly be enjoyable.

Conclusion

For someone who played and loved the original, I'm sure this expansion will be a welcome excuse to return to this world. However, Dark Arisen just does not deliver in the same vein, and falls short of being exciting in a new way. Instead, it seems to continue on from the original - incredibly inspired, and yet lacking in follow through.
5.0

Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen was reviewed by Zoe Hawkins on a PlayStation 3

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. I believe people should stop defining themselves and just enjoy playing games, so let's get on with it!

  • http://twitter.com/SaveTheQueenIX umar bastra

    Funny enough the story in this one is far better than the original lol ….

  • Admiral Chief Combat Engineer

    I wonder if Valshen’s trolls will be spamming here

    • http://twitter.com/Technikyle TechniKyle

      It wasn’t a 4/10.

      • Admiral Chief Combat Engineer

        the +1 might get somebody up in arms

  • Admiral Chief Combat Engineer

    I wonder if Valshen’s trolls will be spamming here

  • xdvd

    How can it be too expensive for an expansion of +/- 20 hours of gameplay (at R400) when most AAA titles nowadays run at 6 to 8 hours at R600 a pop (DMC, Metal Gear Revengeance, etc). Strange.

  • fred

    So far liking it … but never played the original. Would have liked the option of no pawns though.

    • Vaedur

      Dude, just kill your pawn, you can totally play solo. Heck an assassin gets augment for it.
      Just toss them off a cliff or into the water.

  • Skatch

    It does seem quite expensive for what it is, but I must say that I really enjoyed it. As someone above said, the storyline is actually much better in this expansion. The pawns are just there for humour as far as I’m concerned.

    “Armed bandits, Arisen!” *dies*

    Although, there were one or two level 90 pawns that I used that were actually very good.

    • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

      lol, I love the pawns, they’re so ridiculous, it’s funny, especially when they speak. But, what I really like is that their AI isn’t that bad. If you have a warrior pawn in your party that is proficient at fighting (let’s say the saurians), they’ll hold them to the ground, and wait till you chop of that fiend’s tail, or mages will apply fire to your swords.

      I never really thought the story mattered for Dragon’s Dogma, and much like Dark Souls, it’s more like an advanced dungeon crawler which is awesome. East meets west, and creates the perfect little hybrid. J-RPGs meet western dungeon crawler….

      But yeah, keen to see how this expac is. I did much of my gaming on xbox for the first game, even completed till new game + (almost new game ++), but I’m keen to see how it holds up on PS3. I bought the expac (which incidentally also includes the full game), and when I get the time, I’ll get back to Gransys.

      PS: I ran it briefly and the graphics are definitely crisper. It looks better, and the frame rates seem to have been improved. But, as I said I haven’t really had a time to play it that much. Hopefully in the next few months I’ll get some free time to play it.

    • Decembermaloy

      If your friends have high-level Pawns, then you can use then free of charge, if you have them on your friendslist.

  • Moribund Cadaver

    For those who haven’t played the game, the player is even given an in-game warning that Bitterblack Isle is difficult and unforgiving, and that you should return only after you are quite strong.

    This is expanded end-game content, basically, meant to challenge even people with a level 200 character – heavily based on being outfitted with the right gear and combination of pawn roles. Criticizing the game for being “too hard” seems to betray a lack of understanding of the purpose of the content. You’re not supposed to start a fresh game and play for 30 minutes before deciding it’s unfair.

    But to be fair, Dragon’s Dogma is an acquired taste by today’s standards. It’s still a bit of a fluke that Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls were accepted by the mainstream gaming press and a lot of players – they have a kind of “street cred” attached. If you don’t whine and learn how to play them, it’s a badge of honor.

    For most other games though, people return to contemporary standards for judging them.

  • bo

    xbox players add me to you xbox friends BoJaden and use my pawn and i will use your pawn. this way i get leveled up and you will get leveled up. I play this game about 8 hours a day so i accept friends request fast and will level you up fast. so please add me to xbox friends and use my pawn. mine is a maige with great weapons and skills with great armor..

  • Circulogi

    This is my review and loved the original game. I have loved RPG’s since they were all PC and used text instead of graphics. i think some people that never experienced that might be forgetting that things have come a long way. Console RPG’s are also not that common. We can wait months or years between good RPG’s to play on our console so maybe we are more forgiving than most.

    The Pawn AI is fine. Some pawns just suck. You can also tailor them to what you want in at least 3 different ways and even get rid of an annoying pawn. You can also play with no pawns at all if you want.

    Graphics are not everything. The graphics in this game are ok, not spectacular. The gameplay is crisp though and has a certain feel to it that most RPG’s lack. The battles can be EPIC too. Hour long boss battles that make you use all your resources and lose all your pawns. When its done though and you win and get the loot. Not much else like that feeling. Its also very stable. I have not ever had it lock up on me one time. Skyrim locks up every time I play it. Skyrim is a great game by most standards but its glitchy and the graphics in some ways are not as good. Graphically Witcher 2 was fantastic but I HATE that game. The gameplay sucks in comparison to DD and its just not a fun game to play. That is whole different review though.

    I was annoyed with the way the DLC was released I have to be honest. I got Dark Arisen used though and plan on selling my original copy so really out of pocket isn’t going to be that much. Capcoms explanation of why it was done makes sense and I do think the graphics are improved and I got some freebies for having owned the original game. If EA would do that with NCAA football I might be more inclined to go out and buy the same game every July they put out. You listening EA?

  • Dustin Walker

    Completely agree with you. I was going to buy the expansion, but for 20 hours and only one main quest. I think it would be a waste of money. I bought the original for 30 bucks/ over 60 hours gameplay. 34 bucks for 20 hours is stupid.