From my three or so hours played Drago's Dogma: Dark Arisen is an excellent PC port

I'm going to divide this article in to two parts, the first will be related to my gameplay experiences after 3 or so hours of playtime while the second part will be a port analysis, so if you're just looking for information on the quality of the port click here.

Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen is an action RPG originally released for the Xbox 360 and PS3 back in the distant past of 2012, a savage time where some people actually believed the world is ending. It features an incredibly well realized combat system with plenty of spells and skills to chose from and most importantly, the ability to climb all over your foes and stab them where it really hurts.

 

After you go through the very short tutorial you will be presented with the character creation screen which is fairly in-depth as far as the visual aspects go. You are able to fine-tune almost every attribute of your physique and create some truly unique characters, or monstrosities if that's your thing. I have to give special mention to the hair styling options as there are over forty of them and they don't discriminate based on gender.

If you want a dude with giant ponytails that's up to you, the same goes if you want your female character more of a tomboy. Its such a simple feature when you really think about it but it means a lot for personalization.

Another thing that surprised me is that your physical attributes actually matter, even if its a very slight difference. For example taller characters are able to climb higher ledges while shorter ones are capable of squeezing through tighter passages. In the end I'd imagine both options are basically equal but its a cool addition nonetheless.

Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen PC has some silly hairstyles

I'm a pretty princess

The one area I feel Dragon's Dogma is a bit lacking is directly after the tutorial when you are dumped in to the world with no direction or idea what you're supposed to be doing. Given that this is the earliest section of the game, one that's supposed to grip you in to the world and never let go, its a bit strange that Dragon's Dogma allows you to run off in completely the wrong direction with no payoff at the end of the trip, other than more sand.

But once you finally stop faffing about and head out in to the world Dragon's Dogma quickly picks up the slack by having you fight not one, not even two, but THREE giant mythical creatures in a span of an hour. Now that is how you get players excited!

So how exactly does the combat work?

First of all, unlike similar ARPGs such as Dark Souls in Dragon's Dogma you travel with a group of allies called Pawns, a race of human-like constructs which help you out by filling roles you can not. Since I initially chose a Fighter class I opted to roam around with a strider (a ranger/rogue hybrid) as well as a mage whose healing and buffing abilities proved invaluable.

While I was initially skeptical about the system the Pawns proved to be fun travel companions as they had plenty to say about the scenery, the quest you're on or just how much they hate goblins. But perhaps the biggest feature is that they are just as loot hungry as you are so if you run across a bunch of herbs out in the wilderness you don't have to loot all of it alone, the Pawns will be more than glad to help you pick it all up.

After you're done with the first little area you will be able to create your very own Pawn who besides simply being your BFF functions as your connection to other players. There are no invasions or co-op multiplayer in Dragon's Dogma, instead you are able to hire Pawns who come from other players and use them to help you out in your adventures. If you hire a Pawn that has a ton of experience battling gryphons for example he will use his knowledge to help you out by giving specific tips and aiming for weak spots.

Dragon's Dogma PC - my main pawn Valykrie

Meet my primary pawn Valykrie who managed to single-handedly fight off 5 bandits that I completely missed in a loot-fueled frenzy

As for your actual main character, the Arisen, you have access to the same spells and attacks as your Pawns of the appropriate class though you will need to train them at local trainers. The first few talents are rather basic, for me it was a shield charge and a back-step attack but from what I've seen in the list they definitely do get more interesting as you go on.

The combat, from what I've experienced so far feels pretty damn good, especially against some of the bigger monsters out there where you need to crawl all over them like an angry ant as they try to swat you off. Overall it has a nice balance between weight and style though I will say that the warrior's early skills are far less flashy than those of the strider or mage but that will hopefully change as I level up further.

Once you finally assemble your team of pawns you will for the first time be allowed free roam of the map and let me just tell you right now, there are things you do NOT want to piss off, namely the 5 meter tall troll that has a habit of using humans as toothpicks. Don't take that as a complaint though, I love the idea of there simply being monsters too powerful for you to take on as a low level character because it adds real weight and danger to the world.

Dragon's Dogma PC dangerous creatures in the world

There are some creatures in this world that don't appreciate you greeting them with a sword to the shins

Speaking of danger, do not leave the city walls at night unless you are truly prepared to face what lurks in the shadows and I'll give you a hint, you probably won't be early on. Nights and caves can get pitch dark so you'll have to carry oil lanterns with you and if those start to run out in the middle of a fight, well, let's just say it doesn't end pretty.

A much smarter idea is to take the nights off for a little bit of rest and relaxation as fatigue is a thing in Dragon's Dogma and it affects your maximum amount of HP. As you run around the world and take hits from everyone and everything your maximum health decreases making you much more likely to die. You can stave this off through the use of herbs, potions or simple rest and while the mechanic is a bit arbitrary its a good way to know when to take a break and re-stock.

After my 3 or so hours I'd say I'm more than happy with Dragon's Dogma. I might be slightly biased as I was waiting and hoping for it to come to PC for a couple of years now but even so it is a very solid game with interesting mechanics and a novel take on the party system.

Its also worth mentioning that even in the early game you have plenty of diverse choices to make and a lot of content available to you so replay-ability is going to be high. Perhaps the best way I can offer it praise is to say that I'm looking forward to playing it as soon as possible and that my money with it so far feels well spent.

Port Analysis

I'd suggest watching the video version of this analysis as it will better illustrate my points and give you a general idea of how Dragon's Dogma looks and runs. (The video is embedded up top)

General Options & Video Settings:

First of all I have to commend Capcom for supporting seamless transitions between controller & keyboard. The moment I plugged in my controller it instantly started working and the game recognized it without a hitch. Not just that, you also have six different pre-set control schemes for your controller to use, a feature not seen often these days.

The only annoyance here is that plugging and unplugging the controller kicks you to the main menu but that doesn't matter much as you'll have to deal with it once and never again. As for the keyboard itself you can rebind everything so if you don't like the default controls its all good, you can change them.

Dragon's Dogma PC port has great controller support

These  types of options really should be more common

Audio is a bit tricky however. The in-game voices are far, far quieter than the music and combat noises so you're either going to deafen yourself or miss all the dialogue if you go with the defaults. I'd recommend raising the system sound but lowering music & sound effects to achieve a nice balance.

The gameplay options tab is well equipped and will allow you a good degree of customization. I however went with the defaults here and I haven't had the need or reason to change anything just yet.

Finally, the video options. For the most part all of these are reasonably standard settings with nothing to really complain about. I'd recommend setting the anti-aliasing to FXAA3HQ as that one proved to cause the least amount of blurriness and in general worked pretty well. The FPS is initially set at 60 but with even a remotely powerful rig you can just put it on variable and reap the benefits of triple digit FPS without much trouble.

Dragon's Dogma PC video settings

The settings are fairly extensive

A feature most people probably won't even notice is that when you're maxed out on some setting the arrow on the right side disappears! I'm betting this is something that only interests me as I like to mash the button which often results in the setting just reverting back to ultra-low but its one of those small features that make you realize the developers do care.

And oddly enough, there is a FOV slider for a third-person game, you don't see that very often. I personally went with the default here as well because I like to really get in to my character but I'm very glad the option is there as even FPS games these days seem to slack off on adding FOV sliders.

Graphics:

The graphics are a bit of a mixed bag, as you might imagine they would be given that Dragon's Dogma originated on consoles that were fairly old even back then. Don't get me wrong though, the game looks really good and is most definitely stylish enough to overcome any of its flaws but the poor textures are a fact.

Characters, armor and buildings are generally done quite well but the rocks, shrubs, mountains and ground textures were not so lucky. Unfortunately some rocks are just a blurry mess and most of the ground based grass is obviously a 2D sprite bolted on to the floor.

But the biggest issue by far are the pop-ups. Taking a few steps forward and backwards, even with draw distance maxed, can spawn/despawn entire stretches of forest which just looks terrible. The problem is especially apparent when you're running down a flat meadow as you can clearly see where the draw-distance ends. 

Dragon's Dogma PC has issues with pop up terrain

That coastal cliff straight ahead is actually filled with trees and even has a ruined house on it. It will appear as soon as I take one more step forward

Don't worry though, it doesn't affect gameplay in any way but it is however Dragon Dogma's greatest weakness. On the positive side the performance, stability and FPS are without complaint. I've locked myself to 60 FPS just as a test and I have very, very rarely ever dropped even a few FPS below that and in my 3 or so hours I have also never crashed or suffered a single stutter either.

Dragon's Dogma definitely has a few issues when it comes to the graphical department but are they enough to sour the entire port? I'd say that's a definite no because while the textures and pop-in might be annoying you're not gonna be paying much attention to random background rocks as you're climbing a Chimera now will you? On the other hand, everything related to smooth combat such as FPS, stability, creature & player textures are well done so honestly, despite me going on a bit of a complaining spree the situation is not actually that bad.

Controls:

So which is better, the keyboard and mouse or controller?

You'll be happy to know that both are equally viable and come with their own strengths and weaknesses so whichever you chose you'll be perfectly fine. The controller is slightly better when it comes to precise footwork in battles, especially against smaller opponents while the keyboard is far superior when it comes to inventory management as you can keybind up to 5 items for easy use, something you would can only do through menu-fiddling with the controller.

Other than those small differences I'd say they're pretty much the same given that you can rebind or change almost all of the buttons and keys on both of them.

Verdict

You have plenty of choice when it comes to how you play the game. Both the controller and keyboard/mouse combo are viable options and offer a good degree of customization each. The graphical options are fairly extensive and give you the ability to tweak everything that matters from FPS to FOV with ease.

So if it wasn't obvious so far allow me say it out loud, Dragon's Dogma is a good PC port. It suffers from some issues that are caused by its console upbringing as you really can't upscale low quality textures in to HQ ones like its CSI but overall its a nice looking game with a great style to it and some rock solid performance.

I certainly enjoyed my time with Dragon's Dogma and while it might not be perfect I do look forward to playing more of it.

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