Dragon’s Dogma has me in a mental pretzel right now in terms of loving/hating it. Well, I’m still actively playing it, so I do like it overall, but it does so many things infuriatingly bad while at the same time doing some things so well that it’s a really hard game to pin down or say whether I would fully recommend it.
Let’s start with the bad. The UI is a goddamn train wreck. It’s a console port, and a super lazy one at that. You can open your inventory with the I key, but you can’t open the map with M. To open the map, you have to hit escape, which brings up the main menu, then click on map. Why? No idea. For the inventory, the I-key view of it allows you to see what you have (in nested menus, which are also terrible), combine items, or view equipable stuff. You can’t actually equip anything though. To do that, you have to go into a different inventory view. Why? No idea, and I don’t think there is a way to go directly into equip-stuff mode.
Speaking of going directly, or in this case not going, you can’t quit out of the game without returning to the main loading menu. On a console you would just turn the thing off, but you don’t turn your PC off every time you are done with a game, so this is actually really annoying. Again, super-lazy port.
You can also assign items like healing potions to hotkeys, but you can’t seem to do that with stuff like bombs. Unless I’m doing it wrong (totally possible), you have to go into the inventory and manually select to hold a bomb (which are stored in the same section as healing and buff items, so that whole section gets pretty large), and once you throw a single bomb, that’s it, even if you have multiple copies. It’s so cumbersome and time consuming I don’t bother with it unless I’m facing a super hard challenge, but that’s also problematic because a decently-large focus of the game is finding random components to craft all these buff items and consumables.
The graphics overall aren’t great, but at the same time some of the dungeons or landscapes just have this fantastic feel to them in terms of style. Like each individual texture or graphic effect is poor, but put them all together and you might stop and marvel at the sights. It’s really weird. The same goes for characters; technically they are low-poly and meh textures, but something about the design of your characters and the monsters you face just works, and some of the bosses are again jaw-dropping for some reason.
The combat is good, though could be great if the UI and controls weren’t getting in the way as often as they do. This is actually the first game ever I’ve honestly considered getting a controller for, because I think that would really smooth out the experience. A lot of the encounters will be stuff you button-mash over, but then you can easily run into something that either almost insta-kills you, or has you reloading over and over to eek out a victory, a victory that feels really rewarding.
Quests and monsters don’t have visible levels, which is actually kinda nice. Sure, it can lead into a situation where you set off to do a quest, travel (run) for 15 minutes, and show up only to find out the monsters are outright impossible for you to kill, but it also means everything feels more open-ended, rather than a given list of “do this, then that, and finally this”.
The whole pawn (companions) system really is interesting, and fiddling with group composition and how best to tailor it for different area/encounters is fun. There is a lot of depth to almost everything in the game, and while you don’t need to take advantage of it at all times (meaning the game isn’t a constant slog), it does come into play often enough to feel important and worth investing effort into.
As I said at the beginning, the game really has me a bit confused in terms of enjoyment. I’ve had nights were I absolutely hate it because I’m fighting the UI more than monsters, but then it has nights were I can’t pull myself away from a dungeon or certain encounters. If you are looking for a unique RPG experience, I’d say it’s worth grabbing during the next Steam sale, just know you are going into a flawed experience.