The lights are on
Note: While I do not believe I ever actually officially reviewed Dragon's Dogma here on GIO, I have created a pretty definitive, if unfinished achievement guide and 1000ed the game shortly after its release last year. With the new release of some long-anticipated DLC for a game that is quickly becoming one of my favorite adventures beside the likes of Dark Souls and Skyrim, I've had an excuse to dive back into the game, and I like what I'm seeing. You'll notice, if you click the guide link, that I gave Dragon's Dogma around an 8.75 for my quick little scoring after completion. You may have also noticed that I've given Dark Arisen a 9.0 as a final, official, score. No, this is not a mistake. I am quite enjoying my time back in Gransys, and the areas now open to me are quite something to behold. Dark Arisen deserves every bit of this score, and more. Now, onto my reasoning behind this...
I'm not going to rehash my entirety of my thought process on 2012's Dragon's Dogma, but I will say this: the game was an awesome departure, both from Capcom's normal venues in terms of the slowly going stale of Resident Evil and the zombie menaces presented in Dead Rising, as well as from traditional western or even eastern RPGs. Dragon's Dogma is in a league of its own, in that it brings the best of both worlds together for a solid, satisfying effect. An adventure unlike any other, Dragon's Dogma offers an interesting story that will literally take your heart (hehehe), as well as memorable mechanics, swift and challenging foes and combat, and an epic overworld to explore. With the launching of Dark Arisen, players not only have an excuse to either dive back into or newly roam the world of Gransys and its surrounding lands, but they also have the time and effort to enjoy new content and never before seen moments.
Dragon's Dogma started off as a tough journey, although comparatively, nothing near as tough as Dark/Demon's Souls of course. Dark Arisen successfully continues this trend by offering up some challenging new enemies to battle, interesting new pawns (which, if you do not know what they are, you should read Cork's reviews), and embellishing upon some of the mechanics set by the previous version of the game- namely, making them work better with less noticeable effort. I respect the fact that, while it was easy by any means to get into, or even to enjoy for some people, Dragon's Dogma- as well as Dark Arisen, didn't and don't compromise their goals to stoop to lower levels for noobs or the unworthy. Yeah, sorry you guys who suck at adventure RPGs, but this is an expansion for the experienced and RPG vets only, so tough luck. It may seem as if not much has changed and only a few strategic additions have been made, but in a game already fitted with fluid mechanics and a well-written story, there's not much else you can do.
Thankfully, we have an excuse to leave the dear island home of Gransys, which was the location you traveled through for the duration of the standalone game itself, and instead you will find yourself spending time on the dreary isle of Bitterblack this time around. I wouldn't recommend adventuring into the dark until you are well leveled and experienced in DD's temporal and earthly means, however, if you wish to begin a suicide mission on par with Commander Shepard's...then by all means, go for it. You will encounter many new and challenging foes, as aforementioned, and even have the (luck?) chance to meet with the incarnation of Death proper. Or, face death many times and most likely die as well. (But seriously, you will encounter the entity called Death. I'm not joking.) Also something that was fixed this time around, in addition to a few small matters, was the convoluted and often crappy waypoint/fast-travel system of the original game alone. Gone are the moving locations to warp to, and in their place are a few main areas where you can warp to at will, which will save you a little bit of trouble. Many people had issues with having to walk virtually everywhere in the original title, so that's been fixed with a few additional portals here and there, so nothing major.
While the bulk of the new materials and quests take place or can be found on Bitterblack Isle, some of the newer enemies and enemy types do make the transition to Gransys as well, and can be encountered on the mainland. Although I'd already played through twice originally in order to fully beat the game, Dark arisen adds enough neat little extras and adventures to warrant another true playthrough, and a fun one at that. Despite all of the game's hijinks and hilarity, Dark Arisen offers a slightly more serious and ominous title to what is an equally intimidating and difficult expedition into a dark, evil dungeon on a foreign island. What more could you ask for out of this DLC?
Concept: Release the original game with loads of new content, malicious enemies, and a heck of a fun time on a new island with some incredible dungeons.
Graphics: You aren't just trotting down the same, well-worn paths that you adventured along before. Now, you're in a new locale with respectably new dangers as well as architecture, and it all looks great.
Sound: The dialogue is about the same as before, and your minions still get as annoying as ever when they try to chat you up in the middle of combat. Other than that, all is well.
Playability: The game's mechanics are still fairly tight, the deep upgrading and customization abilities and menus continue to offer new surprises and elements that I had not previously known about, leading me to believe that Dragon's Dogma is the first game to magically update itself with content sporadically.
Entertainment: Again, lightning strikes twice with equal if not more measures of success, as Dark Arisen provides an excellent cover for bringing the best of two worlds together as one. Dragon's Dogma has been cemented for sure as a go-to new IP, and I hope to see a true sequel in the future to augment the DLC it deserves to receive in abundance.
Replay Value: High.
Overall Score: 9.0
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