Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen


By: Hadyn Green    On: PlayStation 3
Published: Tuesday 12 Mar 2013 10:00 AM
 
 
 
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I haven’t played an RPG on PC in, well, I don’t know how long. Imagine my surprise then to find one on my PS3 in the form of Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen.

Dark Arisen is an expansion for Dragon’s Dogma - a game that came out almost a year ago. It adds to the already large and explorable world, with an island off the coast from your hometown fishing village called Bitterblack. This means, if you’re anything like me, you’ll constantly be singing "My luck in the BitterBlack / I guess I’m running back / to you".

The expansion does come with the full original game as well, and having not played Dogma before I set about making a new character and getting a feel for this world. Somewhere in the region of six hours later, I was shocked to discover that I hadn’t progressed very far at all.

We’ve reviewed the original Dogma, but I’ll just quickly add my thoughts:

  • Wow there are a lot of things in this game. Things everywhere! My items list is just full of junk that I don’t know if I’ll ever need (and after checking online guides for combining objects the answer was “I’ll never need them”).
  • The pawns are very cool and I like that you can let them go off on their own online to pick up extra equipment and experience. However, it would be nice if there was an option to turn off their voices, because they do not shut up. Contrast this with your character who never says a word, which is also annoying.
  • Dogma also suffers from RPG busywork where I, the new Arisen, who saved the village from a freakin’ dragon and had their heart eaten by said dragon, now have to collect flowers for someone. Seriously?
  • But the fighting is very cool. The larger creatures you battle can be climbed, too. In my first big battle I found myself hanging from the butt of a cyclops, hacking at its back.
  • The map is empty when you first start and you have to explore the settlements to find things like inns and equipment sellers. I liked this as it forced exploration of areas, rather than just relying on a mini-map.
  • You could spend hours and hours tinkering with your character and pawn in the creation menus. You can make anything from a massive Hodor sized goon to a tiny childlike elf.

The guide that came with Dark Arisen warns that it’s recommended that your character be level 50 before you attempt to conquer Bitterblack Isle. I did not have time to grind through 50+ hours of gameplay to get to that, but thankfully we had codes for some pre-made characters. I chose a “strider” (daggers and bow) with a mage as my main pawn.

To get to the island you need to meet a strange woman (Orla) on the docks of Cassardis (the town where you start out in the original Dogma), who only appears at night. This is another thing I quite like about Dogma, it is very sensitive about the time of day. Certain plants only appear at particular times, the number of creatures increases in the dark, and wandering alone after sundown is a surefire way to die.

Once you are at the island, you chat to Orla and start your way into the “labyrinth”. I use quote marks around the word because, despite everyone calling it so, the “labyrinth” is fair from labyrinthine. In fact it’s essentially a long series of rooms with some branches coming off. In this way, Dark Arisen (which I assume has you finally battling an evil version of an Arisen like yourself and probably a dragon) is a nice old school dungeon crawler.

You run into all kinds of new creatures on Bitterblack including giant Gore Cyclopses (what is the plural of cyclops) covered in spiked armour, making climbing difficult. There are also tougher goblins, tougher ogres, and tougher bosses. One particular boss killed me multiple times: a giant floating ball with multiple spell-casting tentacles (not unlike the Beholder of D&D).

One of the things I really enjoyed about Dark Arisen was that a minute into a battle there wasn’t a pop-up telling me where it’s weak points were. Yes, my pawns would occasionally yell stuff and sometimes there are pop-ups telling you what spell the bad guy had just hit you with, but these were more aids than telling you how to solve the problem.

You may also encounter Death, with a capital D, as in the Grim Reaper. This mini-boss is super hard to beat and if he kills your pawns they stay dead and cannot be revived.

I have a gripe about fast travel, because there really isn’t any. You collect liftstones that let you travel instantly back to the entrance of island (where you will need to go to have cursed items purified by Orla and just generally regroup), but once you arrive there is no way to instantly travel back. Instead you have to travel through the tunnels again (with most of the monsters removed). I know people who are fans of this sort of gameplay, but I am not one of them.

Also remember to have the brightness up high on the screen. Lots of the monsters are dark in colour and often fast (like the wargs you’ll encounter first), which makes them almost impossible to see in the dungeon. Dark Arisen (and Dogma) do not show enemies on the mini-map and only show their health bar after you have hit them. This means an enemy can be standing beside you and you’ll never know until they stab you.

I didn't get to play the whole thing (only around 25% of it is present in this preview build), but what I saw looks to be a good extension to the core formula - even if it does shy away from the open exploration side of the game a little bit. The full expansion is due at the end of April, leaving plenty of time to add fast travel...


At a Glance

The Good: Hack, slash, fireball, let’s climb that cyclops!

The Bad: No fast travel? I’m playing a videogame, don’t make me walk!

The Ugly: If you pawns don’t shut up, I’m turning this party around!

"An old-school dungeon crawler with lots of monsters to hunt"


 

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Comments (8)

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Palmn8or
On Tuesday 12 Mar 2013 10:58 AM Posted by Palmn8or
You seem to miss the point of Dragon's Dogma... "turn the brightness up on high" - the game is made in such a way that when its dark, it actually is dark and requires u to pull out a torch or use a spell to see. Its not supposed to be a straight forward RPG, they wanted points of difference like no easily achieved fast travel and the realism of going out at night is dangerous.
 
 
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nimrod76
On Tuesday 12 Mar 2013 11:57 AM Posted by nimrod76 NZGamer.com VIP
You meet the Beholders in Everfall, they suck until you figure out how to take them out. Really looking forward to getting my mitts on this.
 
 
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LoftyDog
On Tuesday 12 Mar 2013 12:07 PM Posted by LoftyDog NZGamer.com VIP
Im still really tempted by this game - can anyone tell me if its actually worth picking up? BTW im on console (if that makes a difference) - also is the standalone worth it or does a bundle exist that would be more worth my funds?
 
 
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nimrod76
On Tuesday 12 Mar 2013 12:23 PM Posted by nimrod76 NZGamer.com VIP
12 March 2013, 12:07 PM Reply to LoftyDog
Im still really tempted by this game - can anyone tell me if its actually worth picking up? BTW im on console (if that makes a difference) - also is the standalone worth it or does a bundle exist that would be more worth my funds?
Well worth picking up, I played it on PS3 and I love it. You may as well wait for The Dark Arisen that way you get both games for the price of one.
 
 
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strawpeople
On Tuesday 12 Mar 2013 12:41 PM Posted by strawpeople NZGamer.com VIP
April is too far away ;_;
 
 
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hadyngreen
On Tuesday 12 Mar 2013 12:42 PM Posted by hadyngreen
12 March 2013, 11:57 AM Reply to nimrod76
You meet the Beholders in Everfall, they suck until you figure out how to take them out. Really looking forward to getting my mitts on this.
After posting this review I went back and played more of the original and encountered the "beholders". It's nice to meet them first time around as a level 50 character :P
 
 
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hadyngreen
On Tuesday 12 Mar 2013 12:44 PM Posted by hadyngreen
12 March 2013, 10:58 AM Reply to Palmn8or
You seem to miss the point of Dragon's Dogma... "turn the brightness up on high" - the game is made in such a way that when its dark, it actually is dark and requires u to pull out a torch or use a spell to see. Its not supposed to be a straight forward RPG, they wanted points of difference like no easily achieved fast travel and the realism of going out at night is dangerous.
Even still I found the darkness a little too dark and on a PS3 aiming a bow and arrow wasn't so easy. The no fast travel though... OMG it makes the game dull.
 
 
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nimrod76
On Tuesday 12 Mar 2013 12:56 PM Posted by nimrod76 NZGamer.com VIP
12 March 2013, 12:44 PM Reply to hadyngreen
Even still I found the darkness a little too dark and on a PS3 aiming a bow and arrow wasn't so easy. The no fast travel though... OMG it makes the game dull.
Magik Archer solves the aiming issue, it's by far my favorite class, as for fast travel it gets better in post game or second play through because you can buy port crystals.

I didn't really find the lack of fast travel that much of a drag, I tried to plan my quests and do things as I was heading to a big quest then go back and collect all the rewards at once.

The darkness scared the pants off me, which I thought was fantastic. When I was starting out I would run to a safe(ish) place at night and wait for the sun to rise. Not so much now I'm a much higher level.
 
 
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