Title: Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
Developed By: Capcom
Published By: Capcom | All Interactive Entertainment (Australia)
Based On: Dragon’s Dogma Console: Playstation 3 / XBox360
Genre: Action RPG
Classification: This title has been rated MA15+ for Strong Fantasy Violence
Review Conditions: Australian Edition, Playstation 3, Retail Copy
Special Thanks: All Interactive Entertainment for kindly providing me with a digital download code
Driven to seek out the Dragon. They say that the one whose heart is taken by the Dragon is forever changed; their destiny now lies with the Dragon. You have been chosen. And now, you are an Arisen. But everything is not as it seems. The choices you make will determine your fate. Make sure you choose wisely, for the path of least resistance and one requiring more courage might grant you immortality but not true freedom. The vast open world is filled with all sorts of characters you’ll encounter in addition to massive beasts you’ll need to defeat in battle. Capcom’s epic new action adventure is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before!
- Official Description
Almost a year ago now as a reward for the successful completion of my Masters thesis I picked up Dragon’s Dogma on a whim as something to pass the time playing during my days of otherwise sleeping. While the storyline was considerably lacking that “Wow!” factor, the gameplay and other aspects put up a rather good justification for its overall B+ grade. The game ended up being a surprise hit around the world, and by the end of June 2012 the game had already sold over a million copies with Capcom planning for several more titles in this surprise hit IP. The first of these releases was in the form of Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, which following the lines of White Knight Chronicles is an expansion available as an enhanced version pack of the original. For the $40 or so dollars you set aside for this release you get the full original game, all prior released DLC content and the bonus area in the form of Bitterblack Isle which has been built to be challenging and certainly post-game material. Therefore, I first encourage you to read my initial review of the title HERE. But if you are left uncertain about making the jump or want to know if this edition is worth the however many dollars extra you may have to pay…. I hope this review will help you on your path to finding a conclusion.
The storyline of the main campaign for Dragon’s Dogma remains pretty much untouched, any if you wish to progress through this quest first (and I highly recommend you do) then you can expect the same experience regardless of what edition you pick up. Whenever you decide to go on with this new content, all you have to do is head to the pier in Cassardis, where you can grab a boat to Bitterback Isle and enjoy all the challenges it holds.
You are initially greeted by a mysterious woman by the name of Olra on the pier and given a brief spiel on your new quest. She is suffering from amnesia, and as the Arisen and his/her team of pawns make their way through the deadly labyrinths of monsters and beasts, her tragic backstory along with the history of Bitterback Isle begins to unfold. As you may already be able to tell, the storyline of this added questline is very minimalistic and felt more to warrant the quest being purposeful rather than delivering much of an actual tale.
Design / Music / Voice Acting
While the XBox360 edition of the game does come with a HD texture pack with its release, there is no change to the overall visual quality of the game. That being said, while the game is not what you could call a visual masterpiece, it does well in contributing to the overall feel and setting of this pre-modern world. More importantly to Dark Arisen is the design of Bitterback Isle itself, aside from some of the corridors feeling a tad too claustrophobic or dark in terms of lighting the actual environmental design and mood generated from it suited perfectly.
Also while there are several new enemies that have been carried over or otherwise recoloured into this new area, the bosses which are the main source of challenge in this pack are overall designed very well and fitting of their challenge and the tone set by Bitterback Isle. Everything from size, shape and aesthetic integration into gameplay content was well thought out in terms of the new bosses.
The first thing you will most probably notice when loading up the game is that they have replaced the menu theme from the JPOP track Into Free -Dangan- from B’z to a softer track. Other than that odd amendment, the music seems to be a mixture of new and old – and some I found contributed to the mood of a fight nicely. The new content in this release also featured new voice acting for the new content and as an added bonus, you now have the option of switching over to the Japanese dub track. And yes… pawns still unhelpfully bicker about the obvious.
Granted you can access the Bitterback Isle content pretty much from the get go, this is meant to be high level end-game content. Therefore as a rule of thumb I would suggest testing yourself on the offline Ur-Dragon, and if you can’t hold your own against him then your hopes of getting out of this multistory dungeon are low if not nil. In my case, I carried over my level 52 Arisen / Pawn due and teamed up with a mates level 180ish Pawn and another level 70 Pawn…. and still found myself on the receiving end of more than a few Game Over screens. Level is one matter, but it is only one small element to your quest to success – with preparation, skill and luck also playing important roles.
While I have no intention on spoiling anything specific about what lies ahead – you can expect 1 hit kills, delibating status effects and surprise attacks during your journey – and enemies will not hesitate to use any of these without a second thought. That being said and taking into consideration you are sometimes left wondering if Pawns are secretly trying to lead the Arisen to his/her death – the combat system albeit frustrating truly shines in this content. While the general enemies do require some degree of strategy the bosses have been designed to offer some unique challenges with sizable health bars, different arenas from the large to claustrophobic and different attack/defense styles that make every major fight different from the last. Expect at the very least to be engaged in many occasions requiring you to scale, take a risk and use a multifaceted set of skills and strategies to pass the area.
Taking into account that Bitterback Isle is multi-routed and has hidden places throughout, offers a random selection of enemies (Including very difficult ones who are drawn to the corpses of the enemies you defeat) and a treasure trove of potential findables there is quite a lot of content in this release alone. Taking that into consideration alongside the 15-20 hour long main quest you can expect quite a few more hours on top of it for the new content – even more if you are required to grind a few levels. This holds especially true as you get closer to the end where the difficulty level that usually fluctuates can surge substantially and the epic boss fights can drag on.
Aside from this new area, there is a small selection of new gameplay content including new weaponry and armor, a new tier of skills available for character classes and a new enhancement system by the name of “Rarifying”, which allows you to extend your weapons/armors capabilities about that of the Dragonforged. Unfortunately most of this content is only available if you venture into the depths of Bitterback Isle, but is nice to see they are carrying over some benefit into other areas of the game.
For returning players, purchasing this edition will net you an additional 100,000 Rift Crystals (Which become a second currency in this release) to hire pawns or take advantage of other benefits, an armor pack of six new costumes and unlimited Ferrystones which allows the player to access a rudimentary form of world map travel. Nothing really special to entice someone to repurchase a game they already own.
In the end Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is essentially the exact same game with a few additional features and a brand new (sometimes sadistic) area for you to venture through without any real notable amendments to visuals or storyline. Challenge is evidently what they wanted to bring to the table with this pack and in that regard they have certainly ticked the box. But while if you are a newcomer to the franchise and are after a good action RPG then this a title I would recommend picking up (Especially at the reduced price), for those who are considering returning to the land of Gransys… unless you are up for the challenge you may not find much to warrant a re-purchase…. at least until Capcom decide to release it as individual DLC.
With this now over…. I hope that the recently announced Playstation Vita title is NOT the direction the series will be going (See:Dragon’s Dogma Quest Announced for the Playstation Vita – To Be A Free to Play 2D RPG).