Released during a time where The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was still being lauded as one of the greatest Action Adventure RPG’s of the generation and despite lacking in the visuals department, Dragon’s Dogma still proved to be a highly enjoyable and successful game, with an interesting “Pawn” system and an all-around decent storyline. Irrespective of how aesthetically pleasing a game looks in the final product, the joy of a Design Compendium is that they grant you a look at the nitty-gritty elements of world-building or character design that may not always appear in the final product. One book where this becomes clear is Dragon’s Dogma: Official Design Works, recently localized and published by Udon Entertainment as a 312-page full-colour softcover compendium of official artwork, concept designs and more.
The first 36 pages of the book are dedicated to artwork, split up into four simple headers which feature the different stages of development – from Early Drafts and Concept Art to finalized illustrations that have been used to promote Dragon’s Dogma in various ways. With the game taking place in a typical previous-century, fantasy world with small rural downs, daunting dungeons and dirt roads connecting them all together, much of the artwork is dark with an emphasis on pitting the Arisen and his/her chosen pawn companions against monsters of great size. What’s on offer in this section is of a high standard, and it is kind of a shame they didn’t have more to show. Some, although not all, of the artwork is marked with annotations – something which is always a welcome addition, and localized accurately.
The remainder of the book is split into four sections – “Characters”, “Monsters”, “Weapons & Armor” and “Stages & Items”. Each of these sections display artwork from various stages of development ranging from concept art / unused illustrations created during the planning stages to final or near-final concept art, all marked according to a colour code, with many also including staff comments from one of eight different development team members. The concept artwork in particular is much more interesting to look at than the actual end works, and is one of the more detailed design compendiums I have personally read in quite some time.
There is unfortunately no additional interview tagged on to the end of the book, but with so much artwork crammed into the 312-page book and commentary provided by the production team throughout, there didn’t really seem to be a need for it. If there were one thing that was lacking however, it would be that Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen doesn’t seem to be covered in the book, which was released a year after the original as a standalone re-release of Dragon’s Dogma with a new dungeon, weapons, armour and more.
First and foremost, the value of any design compendium as always comes down to just how much you enjoyed the actual game. But for those who did enjoy it, there is plenty to love in Dragon’s Dogma: Official Design Works, with a detailed look at the world of Gransys from its early stages to final designs, and a few pieces of really nice artwork to sweeten the deal.