Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen Review

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When one thinks of a Nintendo platform, one wouldn’t think of epic, open-world action adventure RPG titles; but the Nintendo Switch isn’t like other Nintendo systems. In fact, the Switch has become a haven for the genre and Capcom’s newest Switch release, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, is looking to join the console’s ever-growing open-world action adventure RPG sanctuary. Previously released for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen has seen its share of re-releases, but this marks the first time the game has ever graced a Nintendo platform and it remains as enchanting as it did when it originally released six years ago.

Whether a curious newcomer or seasoned veteran of Dark Arisen, Dragon’s Dogma on Switch is a captivating action-adventure RPG that lures players in with an interesting fantasy setting in the world of Gransys. However, it is the gameplay and masterful combat system that will keep you engrossed for dozens and dozens of hours. Offering a hybrid mix of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim meets Monster Hunter, it is every bit as epic as it is action-packed and addictive. Fortunately, we can now take Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen wherever we go and the journey never has to end.

The tale in Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is typical fantasy fare and doesn’t break any barriers in a narrative approach, but it is more than serviceable. The world of Gransys does a fine job at conveying a sense of a thriving and living world. Towns are populated with townsfolk willing to chat, there are stores to visit, quests to accept, and the world outside the city gates are filled with wild beasts, goblins, traveling merchants, and mysteries waiting to be discovered. The player feels as though they are a part of the world of Gransys as it invites you to explore it in its fullest. Whether it be the coastline, forest, or a tundra, the environments of Gransys will entice players to explore and search them for treasure, loot, and other secrets.

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Now, before your quest begins, you must first create and customize your character and choose a vocation – Fighter, Mage, or Strider. Each vocation has a unique skillset – a Fighter offers balanced combat and is adept with swords and shields, a Mage uses magic as a primary means of attack and has an aptitude for healing spells, and a Strider uses daggers and bows to attack close and from afar.

While these three introductory vocations are rudimentary, the game evolves them to new heights by introducing the player to advanced and hybrid vocations. Advanced vocations are, as the name suggests – more advanced. For example, a Fighter becomes a Warrior, a Mage a Sorcerer, while a Strider grows to a Ranger. Hybrid vocations are a combination of two vocations. The results are Assassin, Mystic Knight, and Magick Archer. By merging two vocations, you gain access to their skills, spells, and unique talents. If you want to feel all-powerful, you’ll want to advance to a hybrid vocation.

Combat in Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen can best be described, once again, as a fusion of Skyrim and Monster Hunter. You battle large beasts like the previously mentioned games, but the game lends the player a greater sense of mobility and the skill to perform powerful combos that quickly dispose of powerful foes. The combat is fantastic, and this is further highlighted when it shows the strengths and weaknesses of each vocation – forcing the player to adjust their approach to combat based on the vocation they have chosen. Whether you are battling a Cyclops or just a middling goblin, each will require you to approach the battle in a different manner. Such a change of pace keeps the game feeling fresh and each enemy encounter feeling like a new experience.

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The game’s combat reaches its zenith with the Hybrid Vocations, as you’ll perform high-end skills and abilities that will leave you in awe and demonstrate how much you have grown since the start of the game. Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen’s combat is fast-paced, strategic, and fun. You’ll never tire from using magic to light your sword ablaze and burning your foes in battle.

To assist you in battle and your journey are the Pawns. These helpful companions are important allies that will aid you throughout your adventure. Pawns are party members that you can assign a vocation, equip with weapons and skills, instruct how they approach combat, and even chat during downtime between missions. Within the opening minutes, you’ll be assigned a main Pawn and then be able to recruit two additional Pawns to join your party. Powerful supplementary Pawns can be recruited online, but the price is considerable.

Pawn recruiting and creation requires some careful thought, though. You’ll want to add Pawns that complement your own vocation. For example; if you are a warrior then you’ll want a mage that can heal you after a battle, but also augment your sword and weapons to inflict greater damage. You’ll want to balance your party. Leaning too heavily in any direction – be it aggressive or passive, will create challenging combat situations that could easily be resolved with a simple Pawn vocation swap.

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Often, you may feel at a disadvantage when you rely on ally AI in and outside of combat scenarios; however, that is not an issue you’ll face in Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen. Pawn AI is conducted well and shows signs of intelligence as they heal, attack, and lend other forms of support that best suit the situation. This doesn’t mean the AI is perfect, as there are instances where you’ll wonder what they are doing. Nevertheless, you can give the Pawns some in-combat direction and they will obey your orders.

Whether played in handheld or docked, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen performs splendidly on the Nintendo Switch. Visually, the game is detailed and will impress, though pop-in is more noticeable while playing in handheld than in docked mode. Pop-in mostly occurs with random items like boxes and non-important objects. Another quibble exclusive to handheld play sessions is the size of the text. While shopping and reading descriptions, the text is too small and may cause some eyestrain.

Even after all these years, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is still an incredible game. The amount of content provided, and the freedom offered to the player remains unrivaled. The Switch has been graced with a lot of quality releases in 2019 and Capcom’s latest can join the ranks of the best of them. If you are looking to take an epic adventure on your Switch, then look no further than Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen. It has legendary battles against mythical beasts, an amazing combat system, loads of content, and is available at a budget price.

Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Capcom

Total Score
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