Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen

Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen

Written by Sean Cahill on 7/18/2013 for 360  

I love a good adventure game, no matter how it’s broken down.  Whether it’s first person, third person, a hack-and-slash with RPG elements, it does not matter to me.  I want to play them all and I want every last one of them to be good.  Last year, Capcom took the jump into this ever-growing pool of this genre with Dragon’s Dogma, which was a very good game that had some flaws to it.  One year later, Capcom elected to build upon this title by releasing a combo pack of sorts, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen.  Is this new package deal better than the original?  Let’s find out, shall we?
 
It must be stated clearly:  This package deal includes the original game with plenty of add-ons, new adventures, etc.  Those looking to do every last possible quest for this game will be looking at an extra 15 hours of gameplay on top of the original adventure, which is a solid amount of time to enjoy the world around.  The style has not changed, though, and those who are diving into the game for the first time will not feel lost at all, which is rather unique, considering that this seems like an expansion pack, even though it isn’t.  Considering that we have already covered the first game, I’m going to focus on the extras in this title.
 

The bulk of the added gameplay comes from an island that appears right outside of the starting area, which can be a major lure for new players.  If one decides to venture to this island as a new player, they will find out very quickly that it was not meant for new players.  The real funny part about this, though, is that I thought my carried over character was plenty strong enough and found out that I still had some grinding to do as I was wiped out pretty quickly.  However, getting that opening taste of defeat just made me want to get stronger and take it on.
 
The real lure to Dark Arisen is the difficulty.  This extra island, known as Bitterblack Island, is incredibly tough.  I put the difficulty level somewhere between dealing with the hoverjet stage on the NES version of Battletoads and The Dark World final dungeon on Final Fantasy III.  It’s that hard, especially if your character is only borderline strong enough to work into the island itself.  Now, I know that some retro games out there just saw those two comparisons used in the same sentence and maybe ran as far away from their computer as possible, but rest assured, the game is rewarding.  If you have ever gotten through that blasted stage filled with 108 obstacles (Yes, I have counted them) on a hoverjet without slamming your toad into roadkill or managed to not snap your controller in two on your 29th attempt at climbing up to the Cloud of Darkness and not get Flare Waved to death, then you know the feeling of gratification by completing something that is just ungodly difficult.  While I don’t think it’s as difficult as The Dark World, it isn’t fun at first, and it’s much longer.
 
Nothing has changed with the roots of the game, though.  If you are a veteran , you’ll find the same familiar controls at your fingertips, though some of the real fun stuff is when class-combining takes place.  My character was a mage, through and through.  I have a tendency to play games and enjoy setting various enemies/animals/houses/dragons/people on fire and watching them explode.  The nice little change with this title is combining two class skills and getting the best of both worlds.  Let me tell you how fun it is to be a magic warrior, dropping down your spells and deciding to just hack something up.  The real point behind this, though, is that only the strongest move on in this difficult traverse, and learning how to utilize both sets of skills, however you decide to go, will prove to be a colossal payoff.  Enemies are harder in this world, and you will earn every last kill if you manage to survive long enough.
 

The game still does have some of the flaws from the last title, though.  When playing the original game, I remember how painfully simplistic the storyline was and how aggravating it was to try and actually care about what the plotline was.  This, unfortunately, has not changed.  In a good RPG or adventure title, I want side characters to come to life.  I want to have a story that builds as it goes.  Most importantly, though, I want to care about every single decision my character has to make.  I didn’t get that with Dragon’s Dogma, and I certainly didn’t get it the second time around.  If some of the quests start to feel like garden-variety “go kill ten things and come back to me” style quests from MMOs, then there’s a problem with the storyline.  I want each quest to mean something and to get progressively harder.  Granted, with Dark Arisen, if you are carrying over a character, you’re getting thrown to the wolves anyways.
 
That being said, the world is still beautiful and enjoyable to traverse through, even with the new area seemingly trapping you into an endless pit of death and despair.  Enemies, even when they are trying to kill your character, still make you take notice with their detail.  The setting really was the strongest part of the title from last year, and it seems to have been cleaned up a bit with this combo pack release.  I do love the battle system as well, and even with the higher difficulty of this title, the game doesn’t seem to suffer or hold you back, even if you feel like you have your hands tied behind your back throughout most of the extra area.  There are highs and lows all around, but the game is still worth picking up, especially at the reduced price and if you have never picked up the first title.
There's no getting around it: Dark Arisen is difficult. There are moments when playing it that it may even feel like it's impossible and completely unfair, but the feeling of beating this title makes the incredibly tough adventure well worth it.

Rating: 8 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

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About Author

I've been writing about games and entertainment since 2006 after starting out at Xbox Ohio.  Since then, I have made the jump to Gaming Nexus and have enjoyed my time here.  I am an avid gamer that has a solid old school game collection that includes the likes of Final Fantasy games, Earthbound, Gitaroo-Man, MvC2, and a whole slew of others.  I have a primary focus on Xbox 360 games and PC peripherals and accessories.  If you ever want to game against me, you can look me up on XBL with the gamertag GN Punk.
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