Reviewed on: Playstation 4
There are remasters that come along to milk the very last drops from the cash cow, struggling to wring the last remnants of goodness from that dried up, wrinkled old udder. Then, there are remasters that actually warrant a return to an older title, using the best new technology to improve older releases, perhaps even making them into the games the developers originally wanted them to be. Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is, sadly, ready to chomp away on that old bit of dry beef.
That’s not to say Dragon’s Dogma on the PS4 is a bad game, far from it. On initial release back in 2012, Capcom’s open world action RPG was always a good game. Today, more than five years later, the game can stand tall against other RPGs, and there are some improvements, and some features the game always had are still fresh. As a remaster, though, Capcom has seriously shat the bed.
Featuring the vanilla game and the Dark Arisen expansion, this current-gen remaster delivers very little in the way of any new features or upgrades. In fact, the only discernible upgrade I could see are the improved visuals, and these are only slightly updated.
The game runs smoother, and the visuals can still look great in the right circumstances, but you’ll often look at the game and still see a last gen RPG starring back. I can’t help but feel the development team simply opened up the assets for the game in an editor, clicked resize, and hit OK. That’s just how little effort seems to have been put in. The audio is the same, the controls are the same, the poor voice-overs are the same. Nothing has changed. The entire game is a carbon copy with slightly improved resolution.
That said, it’s clear that Dragon’s Dogma has aged very well, and even though I was disappointed in the remaster, the actual game was just as much fun, and I quickly got fully hooked again. I remembered just how unique the game was; with a couple of systems that, to this day, other similar RPGs have not tried to emulate.
For one, the pawn system is still a fascinating addition, allowing you to create your own, permanent companion, who not only accompanies you in your quest, but can be hired by players from around the world to assist on their adventures. You can also hire up to two more pawns, created by other players to serve you alongside your own companion.
As they quest, either with you or when they’re in the service of other players, these pawns learn about the world, creatures, and quests, and can provide help to whomever they’re serving. So, when I was stuck on a quest one day, not sure what to do next, I was delighted when I came back to play the next day, as my pawn, having been adventuring elsewhere whilst I was away, provided information that helped me continue. Awesome!
It’s a great system, and in a way, is actually one good aspect of this remaster, as there are now more players online so the community is busy and fresh, making this system work to its potential again.
The other unique addition is the combat. Here the combat is more akin to a full-on action game, and eschews the usual lock-on targeting or slower-paced Dark Souls-style play in favour of arcade combat. You can even jump on and climb around larger foes, a la Shadow of the Colossus in order to target weak points and avoid damage.
The story is decent enough, if told badly, probably due to localisation issues, and there’s a ton of side quests and missions to keep you busy, not to mention the DLC, which is purely for high-level players wanting a challenge.
The world the game takes place in is one of its weaker aspects, though. As I found on the game’s original release, the world of Gransys is just a little too generic and dull. Whilst there are some superb monster and enemy designs, and some areas of the world are pretty cool, the characters and NPCs in the world, as well as the overall style is just a little bland, and I feel Capcom could have taken more time giving the game a more interesting aesthetic. Oh, and your pawns, they still don’t know how to shut the hell up for five minutes, constantly stating the bleeding obvious. “What a large tree!” One pawn exclaims, whilst another says “The road parts here, let’s make sure the road we take leads us to our destination.” No shit, Sherlock.
I may sound overly critical in terms of the remaster here, but taken for what it is, aside from slightly improved visuals and a frame rate boost, this is simply the PS3 game re-released again, so I feel justified in doing so. If you’ve played Dragon’s Dogma before, you may want to hold off. If you’re yet to try the title, however, I heartily recommend it.