The past two years have been filled with change at Capcom. Ever since the legendary Keiji Inafune left the studio in late 2010, the company has struggled to re-establish their selves. They have both tried a few new things with some of their classic series and made an attempt to establish some new ones. The result shave been both good (Street Fighter X Tekken) and bad (Operation Raccoon City). Their next new game may be the most ambitious yet, and quite possibly the best they have done in a while.
Dragon’s Dogma, which will be available for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, is a step in a new direction. While traditionally known for their fighting games and classic platformers, Capcom is making a play for the action-RPG genre with the new game. After a couple of hours with a demo of the game I have to admit, they might be onto something with this game. This could be the new, breakout franchise that they have been desperately seeking.
The game feels a lot like the Monster Hunter series, which has been a Capcom staple over the past decade (especially in Japan). Actually, it feels like the next step in the evolution of the Monster hunter series. The entire experience is built upon the concept of huge confrontations with monsters and creatures of epic scale. Sure, there are going to be simple, hack-and-slash sections where you will tear through seemingly endless droves of week enemies, but it always culminates in a confrontation with a monstrous beast. This involved wrangling the creatures to different areas in order to get a tactical advantage and even using the creatures themselves.
To call these battles epic is an understatement. The two different battles presented in the demo of the game reminded me of a combination between Monster Hunter and Sony’s class Shadows of the Colossus. It wasn’t just about reading the patterns of your enemy and hitting when given the chance; it was important to read and utilize the environment and the enemy itself in order to succeed.
For example, the second battle in the demo pitted you and your non-playable crew of Pawns (which I will explain momentarily), in a battle against a Griffin in an open field. During this battle, the Griffin was a formidable opponent not only on the ground, but in the air as well. Thankfully, the game allowed me to tailor my tactics to this fact and I was able to issue commands to my crew while on the ground and able to take it upon myself to get the creature there. How did I do this you ask? By mounting the creature and forcing him to the ground of course.
The giant beast itself was as interactive and scalable as any portion of the battlefield. I found myself able to leap into the air and grasp onto the Griffin and climb onto it to take the battle to the air along with its flight. From this perspective I was able to limit is airborn attacks and drive it to the ground where my partners could assist me in dealing damage. The first time that I did this, it was an empowering experience. I wasn’t forced to simply wait for an opening to attack my foe but able to strategize and create my own opening. If this same experience continues throughout the rest of the game, and it appears as though it will, Capcom could set the standard for RPG battles.
Where the Monster Hunter series was simply a series of these battles presented over and over, Dragon’s Dogma will attempt to flesh out the experience between the battles. This is being done with the integration of a deep and rich story as well as character customization and development that rivals the industry;s most illustrious RPG’s.
The depth of the experience extends beyond that of your own character, but also includes many of the characters around you as well. Capcom has created the concept of Pawns in this game world: customizable, non-playable characters who serve as companions to you on your journey. Pawns are also much more than just your in-game companions, they also serve as your connection to Dragon’s Dogma players around the world.
While the game lacks a true multiplayer experience that pits you in the same gameplay sessions as your friends your Pawns will travel the proverbial gaming world. If you choose to, you can share your Pawns with your friends all across the world. Players can opt to use Pawns of other players online, complete with all of the traits, skills, and customization options crafted by the original player. As your Pawns make their journey through other player’s games and experiences, they will be further developed and gain new skills with which they will bring back to your game. You will also have the ability to enlist Pawns created by other players in your own personal adventure.
The Pawn concept is an interesting concept and something that could influence the single-player RPG experience in the future. It brings an entirely new level of customization to your gameworld and redefines the single-player experience. No longer will your solo adventures be static and similar to your friends; they will now have a new level of depth and customization that we haven’t seen before.
I can’t but be excited for this game. I have been interested in it since it was announced and my curiosity and anticipation has only increased since I have played the demo. Capcom has gone out and tried something new here and all of the signs visible at this point are pointing to them succeeding. Dragon’s Dogma could be the beginning of a new age for Capcom and that is something fans of the developer, like myself, have been anxiously awaiting for the past couple of years. We will find out just how well this is going to pay off when the game launches on May 22.