Capcom’s open-world fantasy RPG, Dragon's Dogma, was released in 2012. Despite mixing elements of Monster Hunter, Dark Souls, and Elder Scrolls, it never gained the success of its inspirations. Still, it did received an update, Dark Arisen, which took fans to Bitterblack Isle - a challenging new area.
Four years on, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen has arrived on PC. The move has delivered performance improvements, gameplay tweaks, and more options - but otherwise brings little extra to the table.
Dragon's Dogma was a departure for Capcom. Rather than the company’s usual controlled corridor game experience, it moved the action into a massive open-world.
This move made Dragon’s Dogma an expansive game, that attempted to capture the magic of Skyrim. But, while it did manage to create an open-world filled with exciting fast paced combat, it lacked emergent narrative hooks to draw players in. This was due to the landscape often feeling empty, technical issues, and plasticine faced NPCs offering aimless quests.
The Dark Risen expansion did little to improve these core issues. It even took steps backwards in some ways, with the additional Bitterblack Isle area feeling more linear than the main world. But the update did deliver bug fixes, new abilities, and items.
While this new PC release does little to improve the gameplay - you still have to pay to fast travel - or the fiction’s shortcomings, it improves every technical element. And this is a genuine achievement because Dragon's Dogma is, at its best, stunning.
Higher resolutions really show off the care that Capcom poured into the game and its visual effects. You and your team of Pawns - summonable warriors created by you and other players - are able to nimbly navigate the huge environments with ease, areas load quickly, and the transition from exploration to nibble squad based combat is seamless.
Combat is where Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen excels. Whatever mythical beasts you are battling, from tiny orcs to towering chimera, you are forced to use all of your skills. And, with three primary classes of Mage, Fighter, and Strider - representing magic, strength, and agility respectively - alongside nine hybrid classes, you have plenty of options.
With your squad of Pawns, you must have healers, ranged attackers, armored warriors to distract your quarry, and agile killers to physically clamber atop beasts to target weaknesses.
It's an exciting system that provides lots of combat versatility. All you have to do is decide which role you want to play. Personally, it's hard to think of anything more satisfying than crawling up the back of a cyclops to plunging your daggers deep into it eye as a Strider.
A shiny new coat on the same old dog
The move to PC has certainly improved Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen’s performance and added some nice additional options - like turning off the constant chatter of your Pawns. If you have never tried it, and are interested in the game’s unique combat, then I heartily recommend it.
That said, it adds little to the original Dark Arisen release. So, if you have already enjoyed the game on console, don’t expect any surprises.