Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen is out, which means thousands of newcomers who haven't experienced the game yet are itching to finally try out the franchise for the first time. Once you get the hang of things, Dragon's Dogma as a whole isn't that tough, but there's a ton of concepts to grasp before you get to that point.
Here's some tips to help ease you into the dragon-slaying state of mind.
Capcom recommends that you level to at least 45 before you begin the new Dark Arisen content, the Bitterblack Isle. You actually will need to be around level 70 before you really start to feel comfortable. As a side note, it is possible to go in the first few areas, run around, and find items well below level 45.
If you deploy a Portcrystal (an expensive item that lets you return to a point on the world map with a Ferrystone) in your first playthrough, it will remain there in New Game+. You can deploy up to 10 crystals (even in your first playthrough, as the one crystal limit is gone in Dark Arisen) -- use this to your advantage if you want to level up to 45-70 through New Game+ to tackle the Dark Arisen content. Remember, Dark Arisen gives you a free infinite-use Ferrystone if you have a save file from the original game. Once you boot up Dark Arisen with an old save file, you'll find your new bonus items at the inn, in a chest. Only one save per account can make use of these bonuses, so if you play in a household with multiple gamers, have them save a generic file before you sell/trade the original game in.
Take every Notice Board quest ever. The quest system in Dragon's Dogma is pretty awesome. You can take a ton of quests at once and not worry about overcrowding. A ton of the board quests are "kill x amount of enemies" -- you'll do a lot of these automatically by just playing the game. In Dark Arisen, a lot of the DLC quests are hidden in random boards.
Switch Vocations (respec classes) frequently. Augmentations, skills, and core skills carry over to other classes, and can help create unstoppable hybrid characters. Augmentations can be used across all Vocations, but some will limit you in terms of skills that are attached to equipment -- a dagger ability will not work with a staff based class, for instance. Switching between Vocations is free once you buy them. Oh, and if you want to change Vocations, learn skills, and so on, you do that at the Gran Soren inn.
Save frequently. If a Pawn says something like "this would be a great opportunity to ambush us," you are probably going to get attacked soon. The way saves work is the game holds two types of saves on one file -- a quicksave (usually room-to-room checkpoints or by actually hitting "save" on the start menu), and a hard save at the inn. If you find yourself in a terrible spot, you may want to completely reload an inn save -- to do this, pause the game and select return to last checkpoint. If you want to load a quicksave, you have to quit the game entirely without saving, or just simply die and select the top option. Confusing, I know.
Speaking of the inn, make sure you actually pay the 500G to rest frequently before heading out. Not only does this reset your maximum health bar (the white space degrades over time as you take damage), but it also can reset the time of day to "Morning," which means less deadly enemies roaming the world map, and an easier exploration experience.
Remember to constantly cycle your support Pawns as they do not level up. You can limit your Pawn's abilities to customize them down to the exact tactics you want him to use. You don't have to have a Pawn fill every single ability slot. Compliment your own playstyle with your Main Pawn -- if you're heavy on physical damage, make him magical, and so on. If a support Pawn dies, all of the items will go back to your inn's storage chest -- the game will warn you before you offer up a gift to the Pawn's owner, which cannot be returned.
Pick up everything, ever. Don't be afraid to use your Pawns as pack mules, as all items will go back to your storage if they die. You never know when a seemingly useless item will come in handy for a weapon or armor augmentation/enhancement. Speaking of enhancements, use the armory near the inn in Gran Soren for that. Like Demon's/Dark Souls, weight matters. Make sure your character is light in terms of what they're carrying -- again, pack mule Pawns are great for this.
Pawns can use restoration items if you give them the right ones. For instance, give them Secret Softener, and they will automatically heal the stone condition when fighting an enemy like the Cockatrice.
Deck out your Main Pawn in cool gear, name him something catchy (a pop culture reference will earn you lots of summons), and even-out his skillset. You'll find that other players will hire him more, which will earn you extra RP to spend on new items in the Dark Arisen content.
The best way to farm experience/loot if you're looking to boost to level 70 is to use the Everfall dungeon. You'll encounter part of the Everfall in one of my first quests in the game, but the real dungeon doesn't open up until after you've completed the main quest -- it is essentially a giant post-game dungeon that lets you fight various bosses over again, Mega Man style. You can farm Wakestones to sell to merchants -- use the Sorceror's Suasion augmentation, equipped on both yourself and your Main Pawn and sell Wakestones to make mad easy cash during these runs. Don't turn in the 20 Wakestones required to end the quest before you're sure you want to start a New Game+ run -- you will not be able to return to the Everfall dungeon to farm until you've beaten the game again.
Want to farm Everfall items the extreme way? Save right before you're at a group of chests in the Chamber of Hope. If you don't like the items, use the Godsbane item to kill yourself, and restart from your last quicksave point.
Are you having trouble doing damage? Buy buff charms from Fournival (make sure you acquit him in the trial!). You can use up to four buff charms at a time, and Fournival sells an infinite amount. Another tactic to dealing more damage is to stack one type. If you're a hybrid class that uses physical or magical attacks, try stacking one over the other -- you need to reach a certain threshold. This works especially well on Death in the new content.
Dagger Vocations can use the double jump ability to get to some hidden areas in the new Arisen content.
Want easy healing items to take to the new content? Buy tons of empty flasks, and head to the Wellspring near Gran Soren. You can fill these up and heal your entire party with them.
Are you a fan of the manga/anime Berserk? You can get Guts and Griffith's armor and weapons in the core game (same with the original Dragon's Dogma for that matter). Go to the Ancient Quarry, talk to the NPC in front of it, and complete the two quests involved. The merchant will set up shop near the room where the thieves ambushed you, and he'll sell both pieces of armor. You should be around level 20 before you tackle the monsters within.
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destructoid's previous coverage: Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen