With the release of Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen we see a little deeper into the growth of console RPGs. So I intended to continue this review a while ago, I moved to playing another game: Atlus’ PS2 game Persona 3: FES. This game had been on my Sunday playlist for several months, and in a few weeks I finally finished the experience. That lead to me hitting up Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, and finally the last 2 days where I’ve been playing Vagrant Story. Long story short, I now think Dark Arisen needs to be appreciated in terms of where console RPGs are.
One merely has to look at TV Tropes laundry list of “Console RPG Tropes” that there is definitely a history here that should be appreciated, and much of it comes from Japan. With Japan not quite getting anything similar to a gaming PC revolution, more a retro move towards handhelds, their developers were not afraid of creating primarily for consoles. While the current state of the nations developer population might be questioned their past is not. And in my estimation progression of the system is really key to this history.
Dark Arisen is a pocket of energy. Good, bad, Dragon’s Dogma was definitely a mix of fun combat and repetitive backtracking/dull storytelling. Dark Arisen is more focused by leagues. While the story behind Dogma seems to be that development realities only allowed a portion of the planned game to materialize. However, Dark Arisen actually used a stripped down experience to accentuate the experience. Using text to get atmospheric stories of pawns and arisen from the past, all called to the dungeon and finding themselves trapped on this evil island.
I guess I jumped past a few facts. Dark Arisen, the re-release of Dragon’s Dogma with a new dungeon is Capcom going back t the console RPG space. The game is unique, in that the new content isn’t really useful until you’ve leveled your character up enough in the original content. That original content so polarized people that it instilled a strong fan-base. Those that could play past the main quest and its fairly cliché sequences were able to open up the final dungeon and when the awesome monster fights were now constructed one after another the game created a unique tension and challenge most games inhabiting this sector, or genre, couldn’t match. This particular aspect is what fans demanded, and Capcom’s Dark Arisen is the answer.
With a dark sense to the new landscape new gear also arrives. While the addition of new skills was in reality just skill rings, the new weapons and armors continue the issue of power-creep in late game RPGs. The real problem with the original game was that eventually everyone leveled past any difficulty. Even with the new content’s inherent difficulty once I finished my first run through the dungeon’s 3rd stratum I didn’t have any problem progressing through all 3 stratum a second time. The new weapons and armor are all way more powerful than what the game had in before. While all the games gear has the same upgrade balancing, the better gear always requires more rare items from more dangerous areas with the new additions requiring players attempt many kills of the most powerful enemies in all of the game, the very act of getting the upgrade materials will level your characters up.
Granted, I like the ease to which players can advance with the new content. Where the original game would have players going on 20 minute hikes across the entirety of Gransys looking for a particular creature, like a dragon, the new content just introduces dangerous enemies randomly. The idea is that the air is heavy and monsters can smell the blood from fresh kills, but the reality is every kill slowly changes the probability that a monster appears. If one wants to just run past the enemies if the spawns are causing trouble.
The game, while not perfect, is an attempt to draw some fresh blood, see what I did there, into the console RPG scene. While many developers are attempting to create bigger worlds this team has instead focused on going deeper, creating an environment that requires players to explore and adapt to the subtleties inherent within the combat system. With this release I hope this team has cemented how to leverage environments to test mechanics because any further releases could surely be impressive. Lets just hope along the way their storytelling grows some too.