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Dov
10:58 PM on 06.01.2012

I'll keep this short, because I'm kind of devastated right now (file that statement under "First World Problems"). I was 50 hours into Dragon's Dogma and had three new Dragon's Dogma Travelogue posts written up that I was going to roll out over the next couple weeks when I booted up the game tonight and was greeted with this:


No. I do not want to do that. Just fucking no. A thousand times NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO...

So, Capcom's single save-file system for this game has accomplished what the Dragon could not: Guts and Casca are dead, their universe destroyed by corrupted save data. In an effort to prevent item duping and rift crystal farming to protect their XBL micro-transactions, Capcom's save system for this game has destroyed a week of play time and ruined a recurring writing topic that was finally getting me back into writing on a regular basis.

That last part is what's really bothering me. Here's the deal: I found out in February I'm losing my job to outsourcing at the end of this year. I really have no idea what I'm going to do at that point, and one thing I've been working towards in light of my impending unemployment has been taking a legitimate shot at writing for a living. It's been a dream of mine to write professionally, but one that I've never pursued as it's always seemed somewhat unrealistic and impractical when I needed an immediate source of income to pay the bills. I'll be turning 28 right around the time I get laid off this year, and I figured it's now or never to give this a shot. I was really enjoying working on this Dragon's Dogma Travelogue series because it was getting me to write again after years of ignoring it as I struggled to find a job after graduating from college in the winter of 2008. You know, right after the bottom fell out from the U.S. economy. So, what I'm really upset about is less the fact that all that playtime was wasted and more that the story I had been working on just got smashed to pieces. It's just one more unnecessary punch in the balls after several months of bad news.

So, that's enough self-pity for tonight. I'll be restarting the game and hopefully bringing you a new chronicle with a new Arisen soon enough. In the mean time, I'll try posting some more varied blog topics other than Dragon's Dogma pieces (I swear I didn't intend for this to turn into an unofficial Dragon's Dogma blog). Thanks for all the feedback from those who've read and enjoyed my first few halting steps towards making this a regular thing. I hope to have more adventures for you soon.
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Dov
8:30 PM on 05.26.2012

Due to the unscripted nature of the vast world of Gransys in Dragon's Dogma, I decided to keep a journal of my experiences within the game to share with interested readers. I'll attempt to avoid spoilers where possible and remain vague in my description of the events of main quests, but read at your own risk if you want to avoid any possible hints as to how the story plays out. Final warning, there may be spoilers in any blog I publish with the Heading "A Dragon's Dogma Travelogue".

Enjoy.


A fine mess we've found ourselves in. Only fools travel at night...

It's been five days since Casca, Rook, and I set out from Cassardis, and we have finally reached the capital of Gran Soren. It is an impressive city, though I miss the sea. The air here is still in comparison to the salt-smelling winds that whip through the windows of the homes carved into the cliffs of Cassardis. The city's bulwarks block the drafts coming off of the coasts; the only area open to the ocean is the Duke's grand manor, from which we have been barred. The air is rank by the time it filters through the noble quarters and reaches the streets below, an amalgamation of smells produced by the many citizens of this burg. It stinks of sweat, smoke, the cooking pots of the trade district and the filth dumped in the aqueducts. The great arches and walls of hewn stone loom oppressively over me as I walk this city's streets; I find myself climbing upon the roofs of its many homes and businesses at night to rest and catch the chill breeze above the walls. It's hard not to feel as though I am caged in a prison of mortar and rock within the city's fortifications. Casca senses I am uneasy, but she is ill-equipped to do much to help me in my disquiet. They say Pawns cannot feel as we humans can. Casca has been a loyal companion since she sprang from the riftstone at the great encampment of the Corps, but I ponder what our relationship truly is. She seems a willing participant in my travels and has sworn to follow me without fail, but do the Pawns possess free will? Their devotion to me, as the proclaimed "Arisen", seems almost cult-like. I do not know why they call me that or what they believe to see in my future. I do not know why anyone sees me as important at all.


The duke's great city.

We met a strider named Ethan at the encampment outside Cassardis on the third night after the dragon attack. She was a welcome help in dealing with the highwaymen that skulked along the roads to the Witchwood we were forced to travel to find Quina, and her bow was invaluable when we were ambushed by harpies on the long trek through the mountain passes from the Waycastle to Gran Soren with Captain Mercedes and our gift to the duke, but I fear our party has outgrown her. Rook, too, for that matter. I know the Pawns do not feel the same way we do, but I could not but help but suffer some guilt as I told them both we must part ways at the Pawn Guild in Gran Soren, particularly for Rook. He was the first to join me from the void, and I will miss the guidance and aid he so freely offered on our trek from Cassardis. Casca and I have learned much, though, and Rook and Ethan are no longer safe with us. They are unable to contribute to the constant skirmishes we find ourselves in, and they have both fallen under the blows of our ever increasingly-dangerous foes. The nightmare in the Everfall proved this. Casca and I ran from that tomb when those hellish tentacles burst from the ground, cutting a swath through their slimy stalks and cavernous, toothed maws, but Ethan and Rook could not keep up. They were mortally struck again and again, forcing Casca and myself to retreat back into the depths to rescue them, suffering grievous wounds ourselves in the process, before we were finally able to flee back to Barnaby and the safety of the Pawn Guild. Should they remain with us, they would both surely perish, and Casca and myself with them.

I can say this without doubt, as we have very nearly met our untimely end since leaving the city. Reynard, the merchant I found beset by goblins outside of Cassardis, found me again within the capital's walls. He was seeking an escort to guard him on his journey to The Greatwall Encampment, a far-off outpost to which I have never been. I found two much more experienced Pawns readily willing to join us on our journey, a mage named Lea and a ranger calling himself Mad Jack. The roads have been thick with thieves and wolves, but our newly formed party dispatched them easily enough. Jack's skill with a bow is impressive, and many a lone bandit, wounded and surrounded by the freshly broken bodies of his conspirators, has met his end from an arrow to his back as he tried to flee the crush of my greatsword. Lea's healing spells and imbuements of ice and holy magics to our weapons have made the dispatching of our foes quick work and allowed for even quicker periods of recovery.

Until the cyclops.


Foul beast...

I was reckless. We had fought one before, but I had not realized what a help the soldiers of the Corps had been in our battle outside their encampment. The brute we found blocking the road to Greatwall was covered in armor; my blows rang helplessly against the protection on its arms and legs. I thought to run from the battle, hoping my foolishness would not doom us, but it was too late. The beast snatched Casca from the road and held her aloft, helpless, as he drew her towards his slobbering jaws. I lept upon his back and climbed, raining blows with the butt of my sword on his neck. Enraged, he dropped her, swatting at me with his long arms. I tried to avoid his grasp but could not evade him whilst maintaining my hold on his back. His thick fingers closed around me and dragged me from his shoulders. Holding me before his gaping maw, he roared in triumph, poised to bite my head from my shoulders. I struggled and strained against his iron grip in a panic and was somehow able to wrest myself from his hands. I cleaved downwards with my heavy blade as I fell and caught him squarely in the eye as I plummeted. Blinded and in pain, he dropped to his knees with a surprised bellow. There Mad Jack's precision with his longbow saved us. As Casca and I slashed at the giant's eye, ducking his frenzied swats to protect himself, Jack loosed missile after missile into the monster's single eye. The deadly projectiles whistled past my head as they sped to their target, so close I feared one would end up in my back rather than the monster. I worried for 'naught. Jack never missed. At the same time, Lea called down bolts of lightning that shattered the cyclops' armor. Staggered, wounded, and blinded, the beast could not regain its feet as we butchered it. It was all over, but not before all of us had received fresh wounds that will no doubt leave a trail of scars to remind me of my stupidity.

The fight with the cyclops was long, and our journey to Greatwall was barely half-done. Night was falling as we rushed up a mountain road that twisted around the forest we had just passed through. To the right of the path, the mountain towered above us. To the left, a steep abyss promised death to any who were careless enough to slip from the path. The road was littered with bones and debris, and I prayed we would not meet whatever had left the detritus there in our weakened state. We closed ranks around our charge as the sun slipped from the sky. I could see fires in the distance and hurried towards them along the path, hoping to reach this unknown outpost before the last light slipped from view. As we rounded a bend in the road, all hope left me. Blocking the path was a band of six bandits, mages and archers by the look of them, and with them another cyclops, this one with a great obsidian helmet protecting its eye. All was lost. We were wounded and trapped, with no hope to outrun them and no means to slip by with the great void and the scraggy heights hemming us in on the path. We braced for their coming, which was when luck rushed to our aid. In the fading light, the great cyclops strayed closer and closer to the edge of the path as it charged us. Its foot slipped from the road over the brink that it could not see in the dark. It scrambled to regain its balance and drag itself back onto the path, but it was too late. The great weight of beast dragged it over the edge of the cliff, crashing through the trees below until it stuck the ground with a thunderous impact. The brigands hesitated with the loss of their pet; we did not give them a chance to disengage. Volleys of arrows fell upon the fiends as I wade through them with my heavy blade, slashing their light armor to ribbons and crushing bone with its impact. One ran towards Reynard, daggers drawn in hopes of murdering our ward in a spiteful rage, but Casca deftly stepped between them and stunned the assailant with a crushing swing of her shield. Lea finished the poor woman with a bolt of lightning. Only one wounded mage was left, and she turned to run from our party but found that I had moved behind her on the path to block her escape. I grabbed her and dragged her screaming to the edge of the cliff. Her eyes were wide with terror and begging me not to do what she knew would come next; I felt no pity for her as I heaved her into the abyss. Her wailing brought a smile to my lips as she disappeared from sight.

Turning back to the road, my euphoria was short lived. As we drew closer to the fires I had seen, Jack cautioned me that the gate we approached was not that of the Greatwall Encampment but rather that of the ruins of Heavenspeak Fort and that more bandits undoubtedly waited within. Fury welled within me. So much hardship for a prize that turned out to be just another obstacle. I gripped the hilt of my sword tight, my jaw set and my will iron. We could not go back. We would pass through. Let us see if these brigands wish to be broke upon my steel.



We have come too far.
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I stood in line at PAX East to play Dragon's Dogma the first day of the convention. My wife and I had wanted to play Borderlands 2 but the line stretched across the entire exhibition hall floor at that point, so we figured we'd try out some other games and hoped to sample Gearbox's latest the next day (hah! Another story entirely). We ended up in Capcom's area of the show floor and I wanted to take a crack at Dragon's Dogma. When I finally got a chance to step up to one of the demo units, the only free one was running on a PS3. I couldn't get a good feel for the game as I'm primarily a PC and Xbox 360 player and I was struggling with remapping the controller's buttons in my brain.


This is what's supposed to happen when you hit "X". Not pictured: me in a similar situation impotently flailing my sword because my muscle memory tells me "X" is where the circle button is on a Dualshock 3.

After fumbling my way through some basic combat and getting obliterated by some low-level grunts in front of a crowd of onlookers, I walked away from the display frustrated and a little disappointed. The game seemed to have potential, but I couldn't really judge it as I didn't ever really have a handle on how it played. I couldn't fault the game for my lack of PS3 savvy, but that didn't change the fact that my playtime didn't leave me with any reason to be excited for its release.

Now that there's a demo out which I can play on my 360, I can happily say that the game hit all the right pleasure centers in my brain. The combat is surprisingly deep for what seems at first glance to be a simple button-mashing affair. The inclusion of special attacks for both your primary and secondary weapons (even shields) creates a robust moveset for you to utilize. I can see the grappling/climbing mechanics for the boss fights being a real highlight come review time, and I fully expect it to be aped in by future RPGs.


Yes, I know Shadow of the Colossus did it first. Stop giving me the sad eyes.

Being able to customize your primary pawn (the companion who will be with you throughout the entire game) is another big plus in my eyes. That level of creative control over NPCs is something I haven't seen in other RPGs for years, and I can see it really adding a level of attachment to the character that wouldn't be there if you were assigned the same generic companion as everyone else playing the game. I'm really interested to see how the rift-summoned pawn system plays out, where you'll be able to hire out pawns to other players online who'll come back with gold, loot, experience, and even information on quests and areas you haven't discovered yet.

I was worried that a Western-themed, Japanese-developed RPG would result in a really generic art style, but I love the way the game looks. It's a very dark and gritty world (marketing buzz-word alert) but it has a slight anime flavor in the faces of the characters. If you want to create a short, lithe, huge breasted female avatar with silver-dollar sized eyes to complement your otaku fetish, more power to you (you're still creepy).

The dark, realistic look of the game coupled with the anime influence was only more exaggerated when I was cycling through the pre-made character appearances and made the discovery that someone on the development team is a Berserk fan, the most badass anime/manga series of all time. One of the pre-made male characters is a dead ringer for that series' protagonist, Guts; the skin tone, hair, physique, and even the scar across the nose and missing eye are a perfect match. There's no option to give your character a mechanical arm with a cannon built inside, so I guess they're not completely identical, but I can understand that from a balancing perspective.


Inspiring murder-boners since 1990.

There were a couple things I didn't care for: when an ally performs an action to assist you such as grabbing an enemy and leaving them vulnerable to a killing blow, the game slows down and zooms the camera in to their location. I understand the developers want to call your attention to where and when this is happening, but it doesn't stop the action around you when it does so. On several occasions I found half my health bar gone as a goblin had been smashing me in the nuts while the game was trying to helpfully point out what my pawns were doing. Thanks a lot.

All in all, though, I had fun with the demo and have played through it a couple times at this point, mixing things up and trying new approaches to the combat. What's really sold me on the game is that Berserk reference, though. Any fan of the greatest anime/manga story of all time that's willing to slip a nod to fellow enthusiasts into their game has already earned my $60.


"Go pre-order this game now or I'll cut my own arm off with the dull end of a broken blade. Because fuck you, that's why."
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