I’m just going to go ahead and say it. Dragon’s Dogma is the worst game I have ever played.
Even my most hated of games like BioShock, Prototype, Red Dead Redemption and Might and Magic: Dark Messiah at least have some semblance of charm and character. But Dragon’s Dogma is just empty. And yes I know that those are some very popular games I just branded, so I guess that makes my opinion automatically wrong, right?
Anyway, allow me to recount my 6 hour trudge through Dragon’s Dogma. Don’t think of this as a review, more like a gaming journal…written in blood.
The Pain Begins
The game starts surprisingly abruptly as I play as some random man walking around in some ruins to apparently fight a dragon, for some reason. I see a dragon, it talks (which was pretty cool actually) and then we fight some goblins and a Chimera. So far I’m not as hooked as I expected, but that dragon is pretty cool I guess. I’m getting sick of games that just have dragons being the size of big cars.
The Chimera battle was more of a sign that this game was bad than I first thought. After six hours I’m kicking myself for not just quitting then and there.
Combat in Dragon’s Dogma is monotonous and messy. It didn’t start off so bad since I was using a sword, shield and there weren’t many enemies, but the Chimera takes a huge amount of damage and I was never really sure if I was even hurting it at all.
I resorted to climbing on its back like an overly friendly toddler and moving my body around. It kinda looked like I was stabbing the beast, but because many of the melee animations look like pieces of paper crunching up against each other, I couldn’t really tell. My allies also die very quickly, which is easily fixed by me just going over to them and pressing B, so the whole battle made me feel uncomfortably invincible.
many of the melee animations look like pieces of paper crunching up against each other
It also didn’t help that my allies were shouting “The lion is weak to magic”, despite the fact that I didn’t have anything magical on me to use.
So, some unexplained door opens and the game cuts jarringly to a character creation screen. Wait, that wasn’t my character? What the hell was the point of all of that?! Is it supposed to be a flash forward? If so, my four foot tall hobbit character really grew up.
Yes, I chose a short man as my character. I was trying to make my journey as mystical and charming as possible, so I went for a somewhat ‘Child Mage’ look. I didn’t expect it to make that much of an emotional impact, but when he was shown waving to a woman, who looks like his older sister since I look 13, I was glad that I chose this adorable character. Things are starting to look up.
I thought it would drastically change the impression many characters were giving off, since they were going to speak to a child like an adult, which may alter the themes and messages Dragon’s Dogma is trying to show. Fortunately, it kinda did, but that’s just me tricking the game into being better. That’s not a compliment to it, rather me creating fun out of a bad experience.
Dragon On The Beach
I then see a relatively awesome cinematic where a dragon plops out of a black hole thing in the sky and attacks my village…because I guess that’s what dragons do. Suddenly my character, after grabbing a sword on the ground, starts charging for the dragon.
Am I supposed to find this behavior brave or endearing? I don’t know a single thing about my character, so it just comes off as weird and genuinely stupid. What is he fighting for exactly? If the woman he waved to earlier was in danger I may understand him doing anything he could to try and save her, but he just runs at the dragon with absolutely no plan. What is he expecting to happen? Is the dragon just going to see one person running for it and fly away with it’s tail between its legs?
The dragon steps around aimlessly while I hack at its feet, until it smacks me away and starts speaking in some unintelligible language. Oh god, it’s going to be one of those “The Chosen One” stories isn’t it?
It then pulls out my heart and eats it…I can’t wait for that to be explained…
A Heartless Character…Literally
I wake up in my room, alive somehow, and the dragon has vanished…after doing nothing to this village except kill several people and scare the rest. Worst. Dragon. Ever. But now its voice is in my head, telling me to find him and get back his heart.
Okay, why do I care? I’m alive. Why would I risk my life to get my heart back when I’m perfectly fine without it? And what was the dragon even trying to do? It shows up, kills several people, eats my heart and then disappears. Is that it?
Anyway, the totally hollow and contrived quest begins!
Now I’m told to run around my village and talk to people, and that kind of objective is constant throughout my entire experience.
My character sprints at 70 Miles an hour, which never ceases to look ludicrous
You don’t know something, so you’re forced to blindly sprint around boring towns and talk to people who may give you some vague clue as to what to do.
My character sprints at 70 Miles an hour, which never ceases to look ludicrous, and I make my way to a gate and some guy tells me about Pawns.
Pawns are people who plop out of the sky and fight battles with you. That’s it. That’s not even watered down, that is literally all they are.
At first I thought they were going to have some kind of slavery theme flowing through the story, since Pawns apparently aren’t even human and essentially act as your ‘combat slaves’, but they’re just ‘people’ who fight with you. Nothing else.
This destroyed my Fable-esque decision of making my character a child, because I’m given people who will follow me everywhere, which makes the whole game one big escort mission, as well as making your journey feel depressingly impersonal.
A Pawn called Rook joins me and we venture out to some camp that I’m told is collecting people to fight dragons.
On a side note, to exit my village I had to walk up and push B on a closed gate. A CLOSED gate. That is so unintuitive. Why would I assume a closed gate would lead me out? A door I can understand since it can be opened and closed easily by one person. But this is a portcullis. Anyway, moving on.
Now we come to the combat.
I chose Mage as my class, however you can change it later so the classes become completely arbitrary, as well as stunting what could have been an innovative level up system, if there was one.
My attacks consist of swinging my staff, which is too slow and weak to ever be worth using, and shooting out several magical blue balls that shatter like tiny ice cubes on enemies. Rook can enchant my magical ice cubes with fire, which appears to do more damage, but since every enemy takes such a gratuitous amount of damage it just looks ridiculous seeing a goblin take dozens of fireballs and just keep coming. This is not engaging. You can’t just slap more health onto an enemy and make them more difficult, you have to advance their AI.
The lack of attacks wouldn’t be so bad except for the long time every enemy takes to kill. Even at level 13 it took me 30+ fireball attacks and my entire ensemble of warriors to take ONE bandit down, yet I can kill a wolf in about four seconds on my own. Apparently bandits are made out of diamonds and titanium, and wolfs are made out of tissues.
I make it to the encampment and I suddenly realize that everyone is calling me Arisen, because of what happened in my village with me and the dragon.
And here is one of the worst things about Dragon’s Dogma. There is nothing going on with my character. He doesn’t talk and is completely blank, yet everyone is praising me for something that, by the game’s own admission, I know virtually nothing about.
yet everyone is praising me for something that, by the game’s own admission, I know virtually nothing about
I don’t feel like an actual leader, just some random pseudo-hero who’s walking to some place because it has some vague connection to whatever my equally vague objective is. And the Pawns make this even more prominent because they diminish my involvement in combat by shoving more bodies into the fray.
At the encampment I stumble upon a glowing stone that allows me to make my own Pawn. An interesting idea, which I take full advantage of. Echoing my decision to make my own character a child, I make a young girl, and even named her after my girlfriend. But nothing happens with her. She’s just as meaningless as Rook and me, so what was the point of that? This game sure loves introducing ideas and situations only for them to have no consequence to anything.
After some meandering objectives like carrying stuff, hitting scarecrows and killing a Cyclops as a test of bravery (even though I did about 2% of the work) we all make our way to another camp. Here is where things start to get infuriating.
Since enemies take such an obscene amount of punishment, and I have such a pitiful attack, a single battle can wipe me out in seconds. The game seems to think I’m ready, so why are my attacks so weak?
Everything has the ability to kill me with one hit, so I keep my distance and shoot some magical balls over and over and over and over and over and over and over until one of my Pawns finishes an enemy off. It took me about six attempts to get down the path and to the next camp, especially since one wolf can blind sight me and bite all my health off in one go.
This isn’t engaging or even challenging. It’s just monotonous because I have such a limited an seemingly useless way of attacking anything and have to stand 20 feet away from the action. The Pawns aren’t much help either since each of them dies a few seconds after they get revived.
Also, my Pawns find it necessary to comment on every single thing that’s happening wherever we are and whatever we’re doing. This is slightly tolerable when they tell you about waterfalls and rivers, but during combat they keep saying things like “They’re weak against fire”, “Look out, Goblins!”, “They don’t falter with their assaults” and every variation of those, among many others.
When I eventually got three Pawns they’re voices looped over each other’s and even their own, so combat quickly becomes flooded with my allies useless battle cries.
I know what’s going on! I’m in the fight! Just because somone is shouting how difficult a fight is doesn’t make it more exciting. It just makes it more obviously ridiculous how a person can take 10 fireballs to the face and not even react.
The voice acting is also terrible, so everything they said annoyed me.
I make it to the second camp, some more generic fantasy dialogue occurs and then a Hydra attacks. Now, I’m excited.
I needed something epic and fun to wash away the tedious taste in my mouth from before. But no, fighting the Hydra is just as weirdly boring as everything else.
Firstly, isn’t a Hydra supposed to have some kind of water theme, not just be a bunch of snakes on one body? Secondly, I’m getting really sick of games having their large enemies attack in stupid and lazy ways. Over half of the time, the Hydra does NOTHING except sway its heads around and roars. Other than that, it slithers through the camp and sometimes bites me or someone else. What is it trying to do? Why is it here? Is it hungry? Because I stood right in front of it and it didn’t do anything to me, ever.
So, I start spitting my little magical balls at it…which does nothing, then someone tosses me an explosive barrel, which I throw in the air, causing one of the Hydra’s heads to swallow it. Um, why? Why would it do that?!
I keep ineffectively shooting it, and then one of its heads bursts off like a champagne cork. I guess that barrel it swallowed was totally pointless…okay. Then the Hydra randomly disappears just like the dragon. Did it just leave because we took one of its heads off? It’s a Hydra! As a fantasy nerd myself I actually find that rather offensive. They may as well have just had the Chimera from before just be a big lion and nothing else.
Just Let Me Carry It!
Now I’m escorting a carriage that’s taking the Hydra head to a city…what an adventure. This objective was horrendous.
The carriage moves incredibly slowly, so I was able to fight my way through every enemy it would have encountered along the path before it even got halfway there. I can make the carriage move temporarily faster by kicking the animal carrying it, and somehow my foot does more damage to a big Ox than 20 fireballs do to a person…wow….just wow.
Remember reader, the combat is long and frustrating, especially since if you die you get sent all the way back to a previous save which results in a lot of backtracking and wasted time.
At this point the combat is trying to be intuitive by having your allies heal you and enchant your weapons, but these moments are blessings within a constantly tedious situation. You don’t even do that much damage with enchantments and I die in 1-2 hits from anything, so when my Pawns help me it’s just a brief moment where the game becomes slightly less horrible and is on its way to becoming tolerable.
The enemies aren’t difficult, they just take a long time to finish off, so they usually end up killing me through my own boredom or by bothering to attack me at all. The only times I ever died were due to me reviving my fallen Pawns. This either resulted in an enemy rushing up to me and killing me in one hit, or my Pawns dying seconds after being revived…resulting in me reviving them…and then dying in one hit. Rinse, lather, repeat.
This isn’t good game design. You have to give the player the ability to gauge how strong an enemy is, either through engaging combat or even by their appearance. I’m not going to assume that a human can take 30 times as much damage as a wolf. How does that even make any sense?!
they usually end up killing me through my own boredom or by bothering to attack me
Anyway, after what feels like 2 hours, the carriage finally makes it to the destination.
And now, I have nothing to do. I have no quests or objectives of any kind. So, what, I’m supposed to just stand still and do nothing? Where’s my incentive?
I start running around a dull, lifeless, brown city for ages until I found some guy who told me to do some searching in the underground part of the city, because weird things are happening down there apparently.
I now have three pawns who never shut the hell up, and here is where battles starts to get pillow punchingly annoying.
Half of my team, including me, use magic, while another uses a healing spell. All of these obnoxious displays fill up the screen with nonsensically large magical circles and explosions. Combat becomes so vibrant and clustered that half the time I only knew there was an enemy nearby because my character automatically locks onto them through the shroud of green and red lasers.
Combine constant battle cries, slow charging spells, virtually uncontrollable allies, bright attacks, health bars, symbols and dull environments, and combat becomes so cluttered it’s impossible to understand what’s even going on most of the time.
We make it to the bottom of this featureless tomb and look at a light on the ground. Suddenly, red worms start coming up from the ground and I run up, leaving this place. Okay, that achieved a lot. Run down, look at a light, run back up…Again, what an adventure.
Although, granted, I did like the idea of these monstrous red worm things continuously bursting through the ground, forcing me to run away, leaving my Pawns behind to die it seems. It was also one of the only moments where what a Pawn says is actually useful. As the red worms are attacking, my Pawns shout things like “We cannot win this fight. Run!”, so I ran. It was a rather magical and creepy moment, but that’s it.
Explore? Why should I?
Because I did this random and completely unconnected objective I can now talk to a guy about dragons. He tells me to go investigate some cult called Salvation.
I venture out and walk in the direction of the objective on my map. Because the map is so small and scarcely detailed I constantly end up on pathways that curve away from the marker, forcing me to backtrack to find another opening I could travel down. And because my Pawns keep reminding me that the way I’m going is overly dangerous, it’s like the game is pushing me around just to make me hit another dead end.
By the way, the map below isn’t completed like this when you play the game. My objective marker was placed on the left of this entire map, which was totally unexplored for me. I had to keep pushing towards the marker from my every location just so I could find some gap that may lead me to the pathway I had to get on, which resulted in me reaching a dead end and/or getting ambushed and killed. And still my Pawns never shut up.
So, I end up in some waterfall cave thing, but I just give up on this and make my way back to the guy who gave me the objective. I then ask for another one, which is finding some kind of goblin stronghold.
Is this really all the game is? This doesn’t seem like the Main Story, even though there hasn’t really been that much of a Main Story in the last three hours. I thought I was looking for a dragon. It made sense at the start, since I was locating a group that were also looking for dragons. But now, cults? Strongholds? Where has the story gone?
Off I go again…
I come across some more bandits who kill me about 12 times before I just run past them (you have no idea how infuriating that is), and now I just start looking around to try and find some path that may possibly lead me in the direction of my totally inconsequential objective.
I’m totally sapped of enthusiasm at this point. I’m walking up a ledge and a bandit shoots ONE arrow at me, and I die. One arrow. Before the game even recognizes that I’m dead, I turn the console off, sit down at my computer and begin writing all of this.
- I literally feel stupider after all of that.
- The story is basically non-existent
- Combat is the dullest and most infuriating I’ve ever experienced
- Save spots are too far apart, so I was saving after anything that even resembled a fight
- There’s barely any customization for my weapons and armour
- The map is close to useless
- Traveling anywhere takes forever
- The Pawns may as well be robots
- I found no use for picking up anything that didn’t simply restore my health
- The graphics are surprisingly bad
- The text is too bloody small. I was constantly ‘see-sawing’ on my chair just to read
- The voice acting is generic and annoying
- Villages and towns look lifeless
- Enemies are monumentally durable
- Objectives are incredibly boring, if there are any
It is such a vacuous experience. I always try to finish a game before talking about it, but this just crushed me. So all I can do now is complain…
And if you want me to go into more detail as to why I class this as the worst game I have played, then be sure to check back on bagofgames.com where I will definitely plonk this on the Top Worst list of the year.