While at E3 I had the opportunity to spend some time with the floor demo of Capcom’s upcoming open-world action RPG Dragon’s Dogma. This isn’t the first time that Capcom has tried to enter this genre — Monster Hunter is absolutely monstrous in Japan. For some reason though, it really hasn’t made as big of a hit here in the US, so Capcom has responded with Dragon’s Dogma, developed by some of the minds who gave us Devil May Cry 4 and Resident Evil 4.
What we know is that you play an ‘enlightened one’ who was rescued after you had your heart ripped out by a dragon. Your quest, at that point, is to find the dragon to see why he stole your heart. Three different characters have been announced (melee warrior, a mage, and a speed-based strider) with a fair amount of character customization for both gender and look, as has become somewhat common of late.
The E3 floor demo had two different quests where I took over the warrior class, with one companion. It starts out dark, as is expected so the first thing I was instructed to do was to light a lantern. This both allowed me to see, but also showed off some of the lighting effects the game boasts. The light flickers off the walls and the characters themselves, shadows move realistically and it looks very nice. Granted, you aren’t given long to admire the scenery, as apparently we’re here looking for the dragon that caused our issues to begin with.
It isn’t long before we find him, but since this is fairly early in the game, it’s not time to attack the dragon, but more time to avoid fire and run for our lives. After escaping, dungeon exploration was the order of business as the game focused on combat for a while. The combat in Dragon’s Dogma is fairly easy to pick up, with the game using three buttons for light attack, strong attack, and grab. You also have a shield as the warrior that you can use to block attacks, and with use of a bumper can unlock a number of special attacks, including dashes and upward swings.
The early monsters are standard fantasy or mythological fare, featuring both goblins (or orcs), harpies and others. Once I and the NPC companion made it through the initial monsters, I had the ability to summon two ‘pawns’, or NPC companions with various abilities. This way, the game allows you to have a party of characters assisting you without having to micromanage them in the process.
Escaping from the caves led us to a valley and more monsters (mostly harpies this time). Coming to the end of the valley presented us with the boss for the demo: a chimera. The pawns were quick to alert me to the difference in abilities from the chimera’s three parts. The lion’s head was a melee attacker, using the front legs and teeth, the goat’s head was a magic-user with the ability to paralyze you or your pawns, and the snake’s head could poison you, draining your health rapidly.
While the pawns are meant to talk to you or shout advice during the battle, a lot of it was a senseless jumble of people shouting repeatedly. I quickly figured out that the goat head needed to be stopped because of the magic, but targeting a particular head was easier said than done until I realized that you could actually climb the beast.
I managed to climb atop the chimera once, whaling at both the goat and lion heads, but after being knocked off, I seemingly was only able to climb up one of the lion’s legs, slashing and beating on it for a time. Still, doing this allowed me to continually do damage to the beast while my pawns did the same and we were able to take out the lion’s head first, then the snake, and finally the goat.
One thing that stood out was that the boss battles are absolutely epic in scope. The chimera was easily two to three times as tall as my character and about four times longer. Each head would move and act independently of the other two, and while at first it seemed they shared a common health bar, it was obvious that each had their own, layered atop each other. Killing the first head revealed the health bar for the next, and so on.
While the combat was easy to pick up, there’s definitely going to be some mastery involved for performing special attacks, combos, and probably to find the most effective way to end the game’s bosses. Admittedly, the E3 build is early as the game doesn’t launch until 2012, but from what I saw, Capcom has the makings of a very solid action RPG here.