If you've still somehow missed Dragon's Dogma or its complete package Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen, you have another chance to play it now. Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen is an excellent underrated game from Capcom that originally released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 back in 2012. The title was developed by a team led by Devil May Cry steward Hideaki Itsuno, taking inspiration from western RPGs, while still providing something wholly unique. It debuted to solid sales, and since then the publisher has been steadily porting it to other platforms, including PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and now Nintendo Switch.
What is Dragon's Dogma?
Dragon's Dogma is a little bit of everything, to be honest. Its vast open-world was inspired by Western titles like The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion. The action-RPG combat is precise, given it shared a lot of development staff with Devil May Cry. The tight action combat and application of a Japanese lens to Western fantasy tropes results in a game that feels a lot like FromSoftware's Dark Souls, despite the latter game coming less than a year before Dragon's Dogma.
There's also shades of Shadow of the Colossus or Monster Hunter, with your character being able to scale huge enemies to strike directly at certain weakpoints. This tends to make boss fights a mix of ground combat, misdirection, and slow, steady climbing to reach the proper spot to drive your sword home.
In Dragon's Dogma, the player is cast as the Arisen, an average person who survived an encounter with a dragon and is given powers that will ultimately help them stop the mythical beast. You can choose various classes-Fighter, Strider, Mage, Warrior, Mystic Knight, Ranger, Assassin, Sorcerer and Magic Archer-to match your playstyle. With your new powers, your customizable warrior is shoved out in the world of Gransys, but you're not alone in your endeavor. A major key to Dragon's Dogma is the Pawn system.
Pawns are other soldiers who join you on your journey. Your party consists of yourself, your Pawn, and two Pawns crafted by other players, drawn from an online pool. The Pawn system is a rough learning artificial intelligence: the player can give basic orders to their Pawn, but your personal Pawn also watches how you fight and learns from it. You can throw out your Pawn willy-nilly, but part of Dragon's Dogma's meta-game is watching what you're teaching your Pawn and guiding them properly. Think of them like shareable humanoid Pokemon; the difference between downloading a poor Pawn from somebody else and one developed with purpose is vast.
Together, you and the Pawns wander across the world of Gransys. In the rough center, there's the city of Gran Soren, which is teeming with citizens who go about their business day or night, and seek your aid for specific tasks. These days, this isn't anything special, but back in 2012, it was stunning. (Yes, there's only one major city due to budget concerns.) And surrounding this bustling metropolis is a wilderness full of a wide variety of mythical monsters to stab and explode. It's a harsh world, to be sure, but it feels so real. When night falls, the forests, plains, and caves of the world become completely shrouded in darkness, with only your lantern to light the way. It adds a sense of tension and foreboding to exploring at night with your party.
Dragon's Dogma unfortunately ended up being overshadowed by Dark Souls and The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim. I wouldn't say it's a niche favorite, given that the original sold one million copies worldwide, but it definitely doesn't have the esteem of those other titles. It lives because of a fervent fanbase, and Capcom's commitment to re-releasing it again and again.
How is it on Switch?
Fantastic, actually. Let's be clear: you can tell this was a PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 game that's been ported over to the Nintendo Switch. Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen lacks the visual bells and whistles of the PC, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One versions. But I generally play my Switch in handheld mode only and Dragon's Dogma looks great. The textures are solid, the models look good, and despite some definite pop-in, it captures the vast landscape of Gransys well. From the opening scene, I was stunned how good Dragon's Dogma looks undocked. (Though, it feels a little brighter than its PC counterpart.)
It runs great too. There are some performance drops when the action gets too heavy, with your character dodging around and a Cyclops trying to crush you as a magic-using Pawn drops spells on its head. But this is Dragon's Dogma on a portable platform, and no matter how many times that hits you, it's always impressive. You can play Dragon's Dogma wherever you want now, and no one can stop you.
Part of my problem with some of the ports to Nintendo Switch is the lack of thought about the undocked mode when it comes to UI elements. Generally, the onscreen text is too small to read comfortably in undocked mode. I didn't have that problem here, though I believe that's because the text was already pretty big on the original version. Regardless, you can pick this up with no worries if you're a portable player like myself.
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen on Switch cements a feeling that I've had for a long time. If you're a third-party developer with a classic PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 title, it behooves you to bring that game to Switch. The little hybrid console is powerful enough to pull off those games with little issue. Yes, you can bring modern titles like Doom, Wolfenstein 2, and Mortal Kombat 11 to Switch, but I personally dislike the loss of image quality to make that transition.
Look back at the best of the PS3 and 360's libraries and ask yourself if you wouldn't want them on a portable platform. Red Dead Redemption, the earlier Assassin's Creed games, Batman: Arkham Asylum, the Mass Effect Trilogy, BioShock, Dead Space, The Witcher 2, XCOM, Dishonored, Burnout Paradise, and more are just waiting. Games like Dark Souls, Skyrim, and L.A. Noire have already made the transition, with Saints Row: The Third coming soon, but the only thing holding back publishers is making the call. The Switch can be a fantastic home to titles from a generation ago, and sales have shown that players are ready to pay the piper for the chance to revisit certain games. That's not to say that publishers shouldn't focus on making new games for Switch, but being able to hop on public transit and still enjoy a game like Dragon's Dogma is a chance that's too good to pass up.
Also, Capcom made sure the price is right, with a cool $29.99 price tag. If you love Dragon's Dogma, pick it up on Switch. If you're new to the series, give it a shot. And hopefully, we'll be seeing a proper sequel now that Itsuno and team are done with Devil May Cry 5.