Review – Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen (Switch)

As of now, there’s very little excuse to not experience the action RPG masterpiece that is Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen. First released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, then later ported to PC and current gen consoles, this criminally underrated RPG has finally been ported to the Nintendo Switch. At it’s budget price, it’s perfect both for a Nintendo enthusiast who missed out on the game until now, and for those like me who froth at the mouth upon the idea of taking this behemoth of a game on the go.

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That’s Dragon. He’s the bad guy, just in case the game was too subtle.

At first glance for the uninitiated, the story and gameplay may seem extremely generic. The story is about a dragon (helpfully named “The Dragon” in-game) who literally steals your heart and brands you as the chosen Arisen who is destined to defeat him. Gameplay revolves around you leveling up and customizing your general D&D classes while fighting the most standard fantasy creatures ever. On paper, there’s nothing stand-out about this game whatsoever. In practice it’s one of the best in it’s genre, and what sets it apart is the extent to which this game lives up to these generic ideas.

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In addition to your main character, you get to take along an AI controlled party of fully customizable mercenaries called “Pawns”.

Your characters may be class based, but your class choices aren’t permanent. Using a system similar to Neverwinter Nights‘ multi-classing, you are free to switch between classes as much as you desire and you will retain all progress from each class. This allows you to mix and match between the game’s three core classes, three hybrid classes, and three pure classes in order to build your character exactly to your specific desires. Supplementing your class is your equipment loadout, which can be further enhanced at blacksmiths as well. There are only a few RPG’s that allow more customization than this and none of them feature Dragon’s Dogma‘s real claim to fame: its glorious monster fights.

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That eye is just BEGGING to have a fire arrow lodged in it.

Dragon’s Dogma‘s bestiary may be borrowed from games you’ve seen everywhere else, but you’ve never fought them like this. Not only are fights much faster than something like Dark Souls, but fights are far more dynamic. In addition to standard combat, you have the ability to jump onto and climb around a monster. This allows you to more easily attack specific parts of a monster, such as the poisonous tail on a Chimera, the wings on a Gryphon, or if you’re really brave, the eye of a Cyclopes. What’s awesome is that this accurately affects each fight. Clip the wings off of a flying monster and it’s grounded and can’t take off. Cut the legs off of an ogre and its mobility is severely reduced. Every monster has its own range of things that can be chopped off, burnt, or shot with arrows and it’s glorious gory fun to learn them all. You don’t just learn X monster’s moves and how to counter/avoid them; you learn their anatomy, their weaknesses, everything the actual monster and how to kill it. That first time you shoot a Hydra’s head off with a bow and arrow, you’ll be instantly hooked.

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This is the riftstone which allows you to access the Rift, from which you can hire other player’s customized Pawns for your party. Expect to see plenty of Lord of the Rings characters.

Sometimes though on the Switch, no matter how great the game actually is, technical limitations severely hinder the enjoyment of the game. Fortunately that’s not a factor here as this is just a great port. Few to no framerate drops even in demanding situations, some texture pop-in for foliage heavy areas, but nothing that detracts from the game. Overall the game just looks great, even in handheld mode. All the content and features from every other version is here in all its glory as well. This is the full game, neither downgraded in graphics or content.

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Capcom even went as far as to remake the digital manual specifically for the Switch version. That’s dedication.

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is an amazing game that never really got the credit it deserved. Between being overshadowed by other games that managed to stand out more and overlooked due to superficial comparisons to other games, it’s just had a bad run of it. For those who decided to take the plunge though, they were rewarded with a game that took the best parts of Dark SoulsMonster HunterDungeons & Dragons, and shoved them all together into an unmissable experience. Which you can now take with you on the go.

Graphics: 7.5

Landscapes look great, monsters fantastically detailed, and spell effects appropriately epic. Character models are mostly terrible however and there is some texture pop-in.

Gameplay: 10

Fluid melee and ranged combat, the best magic system in any game to date, near unlimited build possibility, and an expansive roster of titanic fantasy creatures to butcher.

Sound: 7.0

The blend of orchestral and rock music is pretty unique as far as RPG’s go and used to great effect. It may not be the most memorable soundtrack, but it just makes the game better overall.

Fun Factor: 10

Dragon’s Dogma on the go. It looks great, runs great, has all the content and features of every other version: this is as good as it gets. This is the kind of game we all bought a Switch for.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is available now on Steam, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

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