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Critical Reception: Capcom's Dragon's Dogma

This week's Critical Reception examines online reaction to Capcom's open-world RPG Dragon's Dogma, described as "a game destined to find an audience among that rare action junkie with extensive patience."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Capcom's open-world action-RPG Dragon's Dogma, which reviews describe as "a game destined to find an audience among that rare action junkie with extensive patience." Dragon's Dogma currently earns a score of 75 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Game Informer's Jeff Cork scores Dragon's Dogma at 8.5 out of 10. "Dragon's Dogma is one of those rare 'have your cake and eat it, too' games, where the inspired designers take elements from several different genres and mash them together," he explains. "It's not perfect, but its arsenal of unusual party mechanics and combat flourishes make it worthy of any virtual sword-swinger's time." Combat proves to be one of the game's strengths. "Dragon's Dogma provides a rich and satisfying combat system," Cork praises. "Some of the team members from the Devil May Cry series worked on this game, and that pedigree shines through the action-heavy encounters. Players have access to a wide array of combos, juggles, and other deadly tools." "One of my favorite parts of the game is how Capcom expertly layers skill progression, loot upgrades, and the pawns to sell the feeling that you're a powerful force in a brutal world," Cork continues. "I was pleased to see how regularly my skills progressed throughout my journey, and they went far beyond the simple “+2 damage” type improvements I've grown accustomed to." "Dragon's Dogma is an unconventional game for Capcom, and action/RPGs in general," Cork asserts. "I left the game feeling that I made my mark on Gransys the way I chose to, instead of being escorted from plot point to plot point. When you're talking about an open-world game, I can't think of higher praise." Alex Roth at Games Radar rates Dragon's Dogma at 7 out of 10. "Dragon's Dogma is an attempt to breed the open world exploration of Skyrim with the fierce combat of Capcom staples like Devil May Cry and Monster Hunter," he notes. "While Dragon's Dogma gets off to an awkward start, we recommend you power through it, since the good stuff isn't far off," Roth assures. "More importantly, being able to swap vocations easily is a boon, because each of Dragon's Dogma's specializations plays in a spectacularly different manner." The game's "Pawn" AI teammate mechanic is effectively implemented. "Making sure that you and your primary Pawn complement each other is essential to winning battles," Roth warns. "Combat is built around the relationship between you and your AI team. It replicates the standard tank, healer and DPS structure of any MMO, but Dogma's slick, real time combat gives it an immediacy other games lack." In addition: "Dragon's Dogma has an online feature that we used to select Pawns other gamers had designed. Our own Pawn was loaned out as well, but we were never without them. Other players simply used a copy of them, which synced with our own whenever we rested at an inn. Our Pawn would often come back with knowledge of a quest we hadn't tried yet, eager to offer advice that was sometimes actually helpful. It's an excellent feature." "Dragon's Dogma is a fascinating and odd game," Roth summarizes. "It's a game destined to find an audience among that rare action junkie with extensive patience, or Elder Scrolls fans who are tired of swinging swords in the first-person. If you're someone who falls in that category, jump in." Joystiq's Jordan Mallory gives Dragon's Dogma 2 out of 5 stars. "I have felled the beasts of the forest with arrows and steel and pillaged their leavings for aught," he recalls. "I have died, thousands of times, as have those who have adventured with me. And, in the end, I think back on almost none of it with fondness, or the nostalgic recollection given to hard fought, hard won battles. I am no hero." Despite a strong opening, Mallory notes disappointment with the game as a whole. "The rest of the game's plot is unable to live up to the high dramatic bar set by its first five minutes," he writes. "Dozens of hours pass between plot points, if you can even call them that, and when something finally does happen it is often a confusing, clumsy exchange between unfamiliar characters without context or explanation. Subplots are established and almost immediately abandoned, if they take the initiative to establish themselves at all." "I may have cared more about the quests had I cared more about the characters giving them to me, but Dragon's Dogma has no characters as such," Mallory continues. "Rather, the game is filled with lifeless cardboard cutouts, bereft of any semblance of personality, dryly parroting ludicrous faux 'ye olde' rhetoric." Mallory also finds the combat lacking. "The difficulty inherent in traversing the world evens out at around level 30 or so, but even becoming level appropriate for the random goblins and wolves scattered about Gransys' landscape doesn't save you from the tedium of actually fighting," he warns. "Camera problems also plague most encounters. While [Mallory's AI partner] became transparent if she obscured the camera's view, the same can not be said for set pieces like trees, shrubs, etc, which made fighting outdoors even more of a chore than it already was." "I did have one or two of genuinely fun experiences in Dragon's Dogma," Mallory admits. "Exploring the temple to the water god was atmospheric and exciting and the Gransys countryside occasionally provided some fairly interesting vistas, but any brief flickers of fun I came across were consistently extinguished by the game's oppressive flaws."

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