I havenâ€™t played an RPG on PC in, well, I donâ€™t know how long. Imagine my surprise then to find one on my PS3 in the form of Dragonâ€™s Dogma: Dark Arisen.
Dark Arisen is an expansion for Dragonâ€™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 youâ€™re anything like me, youâ€™ll constantly be singing "My luck in the BitterBlack / I guess Iâ€™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 hadnâ€™t progressed very far at all.
Weâ€™ve reviewed the original Dogma, but Iâ€™ll just quickly add my thoughts:
The guide that came with Dark Arisen warns that itâ€™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 â€śstriderâ€ť (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 â€ślabyrinthâ€ť. I use quote marks around the word because, despite everyone calling it so, the â€ślabyrinthâ€ť is fair from labyrinthine. In fact itâ€™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 wasnâ€™t a pop-up telling me where itâ€™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 isnâ€™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 youâ€™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 youâ€™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...
The Good: Hack, slash, fireball, letâ€™s climb that cyclops!
The Bad: No fast travel? Iâ€™m playing a videogame, donâ€™t make me walk!
The Ugly: If you pawns donâ€™t shut up, Iâ€™m turning this party around!