Comic-Con 2011: Dragon’s Dogma Hands-On Preview
Hioryuki Kobyashi, the legendary Capcom producer of Dragon’s Dogma discussed the brand new IP at Capcom’s panel, but I decided to try it out for myself on the show floor. What I found was game with very direct intent, but little overall appeal.
The gist of Dragon’s Dogma is this: “realistic fantasy” made by a Japanese team attempting to bridge the divide between open world exploration and steady action. How exploration is handled remains to be seen as my demonstration was limited to linear action and a super nerfed Chimera fight.
The controls take some getting used to. As the Warrior class your abilities (triggered by a combination of the right trigger and attack buttons) are variations of sword and shield attacks that would otherwise be executed through directional presses. Whereas God of War allows the player to have full linkable control of Kratos’ maneuvers, Dragon’s Dogma makes each a separate and individually selected skill. The result is a stiff and detached approach to combat.
Having up to three A.I. controlled party members, known as Pawns, adds some variety when the computer chooses to make use of combined abilities. My Mage companion regularly infused my weapon with a fire element and was good about keeping up buffs and heals. But without the ability to issue commands, I felt the success of fights was far too dependent on the whims of A.I.
And how much can you trust a teammate that has such an obsession with the player he won’t stand farther than two feet away? One Pawn is considered the leader of the bots and had a terrible habit of consistently blocking my view of the main character. While this really only applied to non-combat situations, I fear for trying to explore a constantly obscured world.
After chopping and shield-bumping my way through some generic goblins and winged foes I came upon the demo’s boss – a Chimera. The first thing I noticed was that he looked surprisingly badass. The mythical creature was slightly re-imagined featuring all three parts (lion, goat, and serpent) equally prominently. The roars of a giant lion blending with the demonic bleats of a disturbingly placed goat create a truly unsettling atmosphere.
Each part of the Chimera also contributes in a different way… almost. The lion stuns, slashes, and leaps down from high in the air while the snake blasts ranged attacks and area-of-effect spells. The goat, well, he just creeps me out without actually participating in damage dealing.
This is where the big fault of demos arises. To accommodate the variety of players at Comic-Con the Chimera posed almost no threat to my team or myself. In fact, he spent most of his time falling down, allowing me to spam my attack button without even looking at the screen. Because of this I won’t speak too much to the excitement of what the final fight might hold, but as of now, it’s completely meh.
Walking away from Dragon’s Dogma I wondered what I was supposed to be excited about. A few hours later and I still have no idea. Final judgement will always be reserved until I get to play a full build but don’t expect me to be waiting in line come its release early next year.