During the course of Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen
, you are sent on many quests, ranging from delivering goods to braving dungeons, defending ieged forts and taking over bandit strongholds, even solving treacherous plots in court in the process and saving a little time to hang out with the ladies. However, there is one that proved to stand among them all, and ingrain itself as one the best memories I've ever had with a videogame.
Mid-game, you gain access to the Duke's manor, and enlist yourself to his service. That means being sent on quests concerning inmediate threats to grand Soren, which are handled by Aldous, his advisor. The first of these is called "Griffin's Bane", and simply reads "A griffin is stalking caravans. Join the volunteers who plan to vanquish the beast.".
Let me tell you of the tale that rose from it...
The beast had been seen on a hill on the outskirts of the city, so after grouping up with some soldiers, the Arisen marches on to take on the winged terror head to head. However, it is nowhere to be seen, and the group suggests setting up some "bait" for it. A fresh Goblin corpse from a nearby encampment seems to do the trick, and the Griffin arrives for the free snack.
With some of the most beautiful animation of this generation, the beast hovers around the group for a bit, flapping it's wings magistically with enough force to sent the less fair of feet to the ground. With a heavy thud, it landsin front of the party, sending dust all around the arena and screeching in defiance.
Swords slice the air, magic spells are cast and arrows pierce its wings, but all in vain: the beaked foe takes to the air again, making way back to its hideout on the distance, the tall and ruined Bluemoon Tower, to feast on its freshly looted sustainance.
So begins the long trek towards the beast's lair. After a long walk trough the North-Eastern lands of Gransys, roamed by wolves (which hate fire) and snow harpies, the first obstacle presents itself in the form of Windsworm Valley, a coastal bluff in which a heavy wind takes it toll on the party, slowing its movement and stating that this journey won't be an easy one.
Exhausted, the Arisen arrives as the sun sets over Pastona Cavern and its surrounding canyon passes. Suddenly, a group on bandits descends on the party, heavily entreched on old fort ruins. The battle is brutal and desperate, but the group of adventurers prevails after taking control of the fort's ballistae.
Without a moment to rest, the chosen one marches on, and stumbles upon an strange set of stones, arranged on formation in the middle of the pass. On close inspection, the earth starts to rumble heavily, and soon a heavy Stone Golem stands proud on the battlefield.
This threath proves a hefty challenge, as the mightiest of attacks dent not it's health, until the shine of a magic rune reveals it's weak points. Clinging to the hulking titan, the Arisen works in tandem with the group to cut the magical currents that flow trought it's body, not an easy task as the colossus's weight makes the land tumble on each of it's steps. Finally, on the verge of exhaustion, the flash of a fireball breaks the enchantment and the stones that formed the construct rest on the ground.
Now low on supplies,one of the pawn companions remarks the closeness of Smuggler's Pass, and the allure of getting hand on some stolen goods proves hard to resist for the fellowship. However, they find it to be well guarded by Skeleton Knights, which zealously guard the treasures of the place. The struggle ends being quite profitable, as the sword Caladbolg rested between a pile of bones.
After healing injuries, the party moves on and arrives at the feet of the imposing tower, surrounded by a deep dive into the sea. The clash of blades resounds inmediately, and the group hurries to help the Duke's forces, which had been sent days before to scout the area.
After dealing with ghastly inhabitants on treacherous terrain, always a step close to plumetting onto the abyss, finally the stairway leading to the top floor is found. The view is breathtaking, but there is no time to bask on the rising sun: suddenly, the winged menace reappears, and it's powerful blows begin to collapse the old and fragile ruins.
Making haste, the adventurers flee from the scene, but find themselves trapped by a sturdy gate and are forced to confront the beast on uneven ground. The pawns make their best to distract it, while the Arisen frantically looks for a way to open it. A good bash breaks the lock, and the party escapes just moments before the platform falls down into the sea.
Hurrying with the beast in town, and the threath of a long fall seconds away, the group manages to make it to the summit, and ready their waepons for the final showdown at the bird's nest. The foul enemy is engaged, and soon chaos erupts all around the mile high terrace. Biting, scratching and helping itself with the powerful winds made by its wings, the beast wrecks havok among the party.
The grueling conflict continues, and both sides begin to creep towards defeat. The beast is hurt, its wings scorched and pierced, while on other side supplies and strenght begin to dawndle: if the battle continues for long, it will spell doom for the party.
So, the Arisen decides on a incredibly risky tactic: the moment the beast comes close to the floor, he grabs its tail and begins to climb up to its neck. Sensing the treath, the Griffin rolls in the air and shakes fiercelty, doing its best to get rid of the clinging knight, and makes way to the edge of the arena in order to secure that he falls to his death...
However, with the last of his strenght, he manages to slit the feathery neck of the creature, and crashes along with it on the edge of the floor, centimeters away from a long dive into the clashing waves! Exhausted, hurt and bleeding, he can't resist to smile as the now rising sun bathes with his light the treasure guarded by the beast: bags and coffers full of coin and jewels, sided by the enchanted armor and weapons of mighty warriors who had fallen in battle searching for this coveted bounty.
Taking the hide of the beast as a trophy, and as a materials for a new set of armor, the party finally rests in view of the long road taken, knowing that even greater challenges wait ahead for them in the close future.
This tale is for me without a doubt, one of the greatest moments not only of the year, but of my whole life as a gamer.
When I first heard of the rise of MMO's this is what I had in mind, this was what I roleplayed as a kid on the yard after reading books about mythological beasts on the school library, what the covers of the Dungeons and Dragons choose-your-own-adventure books promised and failed to deliver. And here it was, not ruled by dice or queued commands, but guided by step by step by my hand and decisions.
The awe felt in each situations, the need to change tactics on the fly, the art of managing limited supplies and scavenging for more on the field, exploring the area for treasure, risking death in the process, the adrenaline rush at the proximity of failure.. experiences videogames appear to have begun to forget slowly.
With time, we've grown accostumed as gamers to being granted power by the developers, and dealing with huge beasts as if they were cannon fodder: a manticore, a cockatrice, an ogre are just grinding steps towards the real challenges. But here, the act of hunting a sole Griffin, had become an epic adventure, worthy of song and praise, a tale to share on camps and taverns. And best of all: it was mine! Thanks for reading.