It's been almost a year now since Capcom first released Dragon's Dogma. Now, the complete game augmented with new content is available as Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen.
Note: See my original review for some additional thoughts.The Xbox 360 version of Dark Arisen comes with an Install Disc that gives players the option to install a high-res pack and Japanese voiceover work to their hard drives. This takes around 4GB of space, and then you're off to explore what was probably one of the most under-rated RPGs of last year. In my original review, I thought highly of Dragon's Dogma but was letdown by some of its clunky design and interface, as well in part to its shortcomings in presentation. Frankly, most of these points have not been addressed with Dark Arisen, but playing the game again that I had not in some ten months was somehow refreshing. There are still lots of graphical glitches like objects and characters clipping, dated texture quality, things like that, but none of it's game-breaking. The controls and interface felt somehow slightly better this time around, oddly enough, making them plenty comfortable after an hour or two.
Bitterback Isle is the name of the new area that is home to most of the new content. Expect at least ten hours of gameplay from this new area alone. It's a cavernous, three-part area is host to some twenty-five new monsters, including hordes of undead, Dark Bishops, Goblins, Eliminators, Wargs, Gorecyclops', Skeletons, Knights, and Death itself. Some of these enemies were certainly inspired from ones in the original game. The new enemies are pretty awesome though, and I especially thought the Dark Bishop was cool. This new area is not for the weak, with challenges around every corner and massive bosses keeping you further engaged.
Fortunately Dark Arisen also opens up new skill trees for your characters and Pawns. Pawns, if you aren't familiar with the first game, are characters with various attributes that you can essentially hire. You can keep them as long as they live and provide them with new equipment, etc. The online component allows players to essentially swap and hire out Pawns. This is somewhat similar to Demon's Souls in a roundabout way. With Dark Arisen, there are also fourteen new
augments that can be used on your character and Pawns alike. Your mileage with Pawns may vary, though. Annoying problems with their AI routines at times will have them inadvertently killing themselves or refusing to pitch in during a fight. Finally, over 100 new items are available for purchase and discovery, but much of what I have found so far hasn't been exactly game-changing.
With that, let's get to the summary...