Dragon's Dogma E3 2011 Hands-On Preview -- Dungeon Crawling and Chimera BattlingBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Jun 17, 2011
Like Bethesda’s somewhat high profile RPG slated for release later this year, Capcom’s fantasy action-RPG Dragon’s Dogma centers around the awakening of a long dead race of dragons and the brave warrior, aka you, who shares a special connection with said winged beasts. Our last hands-on session with the game gave us a chance to engage in an open field showdown with a massive griffon, nicely showing off the scope of the battlefields and encounters players can expect in the game.
What We’re Seeing Now: For E3 2011, we played through a more classic RPG setting: a stony, skeleton laden, torch lit dungeon from the Prologue Quest. Unlike the field setting from the previous demo, the confined spaces of the dungeon show off some of the nice lighting and environmental effects that bring the world of Dragon’s Dogma to life. Sure, it’s nothing you haven’t seen in any number of similar fantasy RPGs, but it’s also the opening of the game, so I have to believe more diverse environs await further along in the adventure.
When we drop into the dungeon, the first thing we do--and by we I mean me since I was playing alone, even though the game will support co-op play--is equip a lantern and latch it to our belts to help light our way through the darkness. Doing so gives us a look at the inventory system, which looks to be deep and capable of satisfying the whoriest of the loot whores out there. Emerging from the snaking corridor, the path opens on a cliffs edge with a massive dragon standing perched on a distant rock pillar. As if to say, “Here. Let me get that for you,” the dragon unleashes a wicked fire ball that blasts apart a large barricade made up of random debris that was blocking our progress. We push on, as the dragon flaps his enormous wings and ascends out of view. Nothing gets across scope and scale quite like a hundred-foot-tall dragon hovering in front of your face, and that’s certainly the case here.
We get our first taste of combat further along the path when we encounter some medium sized trolls. While the animations on the characters looks smooth, there were some strange stutters whenever my sword would actually hit an enemy. It actually reminded me a bit of how punches and kicks feel in a Street Fighter game, only here it feels a little off, assuming it was intentional. You do have a wide variety of attacks though, as both your weapon and shield come equipped with normal and heavy attacks, each of which has a special charged version as well. It can be a little overwhelming at first, but the controller layout helps ease some of the frustration.
The next big fight took place in an open-air portion of the dungeon where we met another enemy type, harpies, aka devious birds with shriveled, exposed breasts that you might remember from the God of War series. These enemies require you to use an upward swipe attack to knock them out of the sky so you can then slice and dice them on the ground. The only problem is that the birds, rather smartly but also annoyingly from a gameplay perspective, like to hover just beyond your reach, so actually hitting them can often feel like pure chance. And since you can’t move and slash up at them at the same time (cough…Resident Evil…cough), you have to try and position yourself perfectly underneath them and hope they don’t decide to move. Needless to say, it wasn’t a highlight.
After finally clearing the room, an enormous chimera crashes into the room, eating a stray NPC to show he means business. With its serpent tail spitting fireballs at us, we tried to get a good angle of attack on the beast, but because you can’t move all that fast and the creature can turn on a dime, it was a while before we even had an opening to even attempt taking a shot. One of the game’s core mechanics when it comes to bosses and mini-bosses is the ability to climb them, ala Shadow of the Colossus, and attack them from there. In this case, and assuming the rest of the game’s baddies follow suit, because the chimera has such devastating ranged attacks and can close gaps in a heartbeat, you’re only option is to hop onboard.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to pull this off before I died and my hands-on time came to an end, but I did playthrough the griffon battle from our previous preview, and found the climbing mechanic to be serviceable. There is a slight delay between when you hit the grab button and your character actually grabs, which makes it especially hard when you want to get off, because you’ll hit the button, not see any movement from your character, and just as you hit the button again, he climbs off but then grabs back on as soon as he lets go because of your previous button press.
Like the stuttering combat, this is something that could very well be ironed out prior to launch, and by that I mean I hope it is, because with games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, and Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning on the horizon, the action-fantasy-RPG landscape is a crowded and demanding one. Whether Dragon’s Dogma has the chops to face off against these seemingly immovable juggernauts remains to be seen, but if even a fraction of the Monster Hunter fanbase takes a liking to it, it’ll do just fine.