When Dragon’s Dogma was released about a year ago, it was to rather mixed reviews.  Some loved the breadth and scope of the game, while others found it overly ambitious and eventually frustrating.

I’m not going to debate the original game.  You can read the review from last year, but I’m going to focus on the new content found in the Dark Arisen expansion.

The new content takes place primarily on Bitterblack Isle, where the game becomes essentially a dungeon crawler.  The Arisen has been asked for help by Olra, a mysterious woman on the peer in Cassardis.  Olra even admits that she doesn’t know much – please just go kill tons of monsters to hopefully find out more.  Plot is kept quite light, with the focus being on trolling through the dungeon killing bigger and tougher monsters.  And then some practically impossible monsters.

It appears that Capcom was responding to players’ previous complaints that the game was not hard enough.  Not only did they take the difficulty up several notches in this additional content (level up your character to 50, or maybe 60-70 before attempting), they even embraced the “you will die” mentality of Dark Souls.  No, really – Death is one of the enemies that you’ll meet and he can kill even the strongest player/pawn with a swing of his scythe.

If Capcom listened to the requests for harder gameplay, they seem to have ignored the rest of the problems with the game.  The pawns are still irritating, making continuous redundant statements.  In fact, rather than worry about  creating the ambiance of the dungeon, they are not shy to let the pawn tell you the mood (“the full moon gives this place an ominous look”) – ever heard of show, don’t tell? 

The AI is also still strange, with pawns repeating the weaknesses of enemies over and over and OVER again, and yet they seem to ignore their own advice. And they like to put themselves in suicidal positions during battle.  Oh, and let’s not even mention the fact that your player still seems to forget which way is up while climbing giant enemies, adding to the frustration in battle.

Then there are the graphical glitches.  Yup, still there.  In fact, looking at the shadows (particularly in the main part of the game that was supposed to be fixed in this version) could make the epilepsy warning on my PS3 come true.  It’s not just a nit-picky thing either – it actually becomes a distraction during battles and exploration.

All that said, for those who enjoyed the original game, this expansion does add another 20+ hours of gameplay.  You can enhance weapons further, as well as gain new gear.  However, I’m curious if those who loved the original game will like the new path this expansion takes – can adding a dungeon truly expand an open world environment?

This brings me to the price.  If you are someone who never played the original game, it comes off at a steal – all the original content, plus DLCs, plus expansion for R350-400 (depending on the retailer).  If, however, you already played the original, and perhaps purchased the DLCs, this ends up being a very expensive expansion.

Finally, I just didn’t find it fun.  Sure, there were interesting aspects and some great visuals mixed in.  The battle system isn’t completely flawed and the added challenge of harder monsters added a certain level of enjoyment.  But I had no real desire to play the game – I didn’t think about it while doing other things, and I found myself putting off sitting down to play it.  As a die hard fan of almost all RPGs, it was a real shame.  This game had so much potential; unfortunately, it was just overambitious and fell short on too many levels to truly be enjoyable.

Last Updated: May 15, 2013

Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen
For someone who played and loved the original, I'm sure this expansion will be a welcome excuse to return to this world. However, Dark Arisen just does not deliver in the same vein, and falls short of being exciting in a new way. Instead, it seems to continue on from the original - incredibly inspired, and yet lacking in follow through.
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen was reviewed on PlayStation 3

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