Capcom originally released its take on the fantasy role-playing game back in 2012 and an enhanced version called DRAGON’S DOGMA DARK ARISEN that added plenty of new content and fixed some of the main complaints was released a year later. That port was given new life in 2016 as Capcom brought it to PC and then to modern consoles shortly afterward. Now, the series makes its portable debut on Nintendo Switch and helps buff out the console’s open-world RPG offerings beyond Skyrim and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. And it makes the transition wonderfully.
For the most part, Dragon’s Dogma is a pretty by-the-numbers fantasy RPG, but there are a number of unique features that give it a refreshing personality. First off, the player is able to summon several humanoid creatures called Pawns that will serve as their servant in battle. Making sure your crew is filled with diverse warriors is key to finding success in battles. The gameplay takes some cues from the publisher’s own Monster Hunter series, as there are plenty of huge bosses to face off against that will take some time to wear down and eventually defeat.
The story starts off rather slow, as the player is marked as the “Arisen,” a legendary figure that is meant to fight the dragon and save the world from destruction. It’s pretty generic fantasy fare for the most part, and a lot of the dialogue is ripe with fantasy tropes, but it still manages to be charming for the most part. While a lot of the narrative isn’t spectacular, Dragon’s Dogma has a fantastic ending that makes the entire experience worth seeing through to the end. It finishes on a surprising dark note that recontextualizes all of the prior events.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen Switch Review | Showing its age
Since the Nintendo Switch version is a port of Dark Arisen, that means players can use an Eternal Ferrystone in order to fast travel to a few locations. This is a major addition, as the original game only had a few one-time use items scattered about, so players had to walk long distances on foot more often than not. It also adds the end-game dungeon called Bitterblack Isle, which is a great test of player’s skills.
However, since this port doesn’t add anything new, the RPG is showing its age in many facets. The entire game is seemingly made for multiplayer (so much so that it was turned into a Japan-exclusive MMO), as players often travel with multiple allies, but they’re stuck toughing it out solo here. Plus, the limited auto-save makes it possible to lose plenty of progress if you wind up dying in battle.
Also the boring world that Dragon’s Dogma takes place in feels more dated than ever. Unlike The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Skyrim, there’s no real joy to be had in exploring the world. There are rarely interesting locales to be found that aren’t part of a story quest and Capcom didn’t manage to put its own stamp on the fantasy genre like one would hope. Even with the addition of regular fast travel, there’s still way too much time spent frequenting a bunch of generic plains and mountainsides. Thankfully, the core combat is enjoyable enough to where it never becomes unenjoyable.
The random fights against giant monsters, such as ogres or a griffon, make sure that going from one area to the next is never too much of a bore. Fending off these powerful is a fun time and helps break up the normal monotony. It’s also where the battle system really gets to shine, especially the ability to grab onto creatures and climb them à la Shadow of the Colossus. Balancing your stamina is key when mounting a foe and trying to attack its weak point. The combat is always a high point here and your pawns will learn from your own fighting style over time and try to supplement it.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen Switch Review | Portability problems
For the most part, the Nintendo Switch version of Dragon’s Dogma is a great version of the game. I didn’t experience any major technical issues while playing and the framerate holds steady during combat. An additional point in its favor is that playing portably means it’s easy to watch television during the less engaging segments, such as trekking through the world. Overall, nothing huge has been lost in the transition and it looks just like the original version that launched on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
However, when compared to the PC version (or the newer console ports) it’s clear that this isn’t Dragon’s Dogma at its technical best. While still not a visual spectacle on PC, it’s still a much more detailed and less muddy looking experience there. Players will ultimately have to decide if the portable benefits outweigh the unsurprising downgrades to the graphics when picking it up. It’s not a dealbreaker by any means, but it’s certainly worth pointing out since the options are readily available.
While the Nintendo Switch version might not be the ultimate way to play Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen if you’re worried about graphical quality, it does bring forth its own share of positives. Being portable helps lessen some of the more disappointing aspects of the aging title, such as traveling in its lackluster world. If you’ve never played the action RPG before, then this is a great place to rectify that and it provides an easy way for veterans to sink some hours into it while killing time on commutes. Most of all, it demonstrates that an actual sequel is long overdue as the core gameplay is still compelling in 2019 and no other game has quite filled that same niche. Either way, Capcom’s underrated gem is worth playing in one of its various ways and is well worth the time investment due to its fantastic ending.
GameRevolution reviewed Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen on Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the publisher.