Going underground with Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen

Tuesday, 9 April 2013 08:12 GMT By Dave Cook

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen isn’t a full sequel but it is an incredibly smart release, argues VG247’s Dave Cook. Director Kento Kinoshita has also warned it’ll kick your ass sideways.

DD: Dark Arisen

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen launches on PS3 and Xbox 360 in the US from April 23 and across Europe on April 26.

The expansion is set on Bitterblack Island, a hotbed of fierce new creatures. Check out a handful of them in this gameplay trailer, courtesy of Capcom.

Rift Crystals will be used in many new ways throughout Dark Arisen, check out our report on these new mechanics here.

Capcom announced a project called ‘Deep Down’ at Sony’s PS4 showcase earlier this year. They say it’s a new IP, but my money’s on a spiritual sequel to Dragon’s Dogma. It’s probably wishful thinking, but still, the clip’s lovely isn’t it?

I remember when I first met Dragon’s Dogma director Hideaki Itsuno. He was giving an introductory speech about why he chose to pitch the game to Capcom and explained that he had the base concept in his mind since childhood.

He seemed genuinely thankful to be standing in front of the press talking about what – in his opinion – was a dream come true.

The game eventually launched in May 2012, and just a month after releasing in all territories it had sold over 1.05 million units.

The numbers weren’t astronomical by any means but here was a new IP loosely inspired by old-school Capcom games like Dungeons & Dragons, developed in Japan, and enjoying relative success in the West.

It could be considered something of a modest triumph, and there was a certain warmth that came with seeing Itsuno’s work pay off.

But why has it proven to be so popular among a certain sect of gamers? It’s certainly not RPG-heavy like The Witcher, or as action-packed as Capcom’s own Devil May Cry series, yet it treads a strange, uneven line across the company’s history, pinching ideas here and there.

I’ve always viewed it as a cluster of disparate concepts that gelled perfectly around Itsuno’s clever ‘Pawn’ system. The idea that all players allow their Pawns to be hired by others is fascinating, and reminded me of Dark Souls’ messaging and co-op summoning mechanic. In the end everyone is helping each other to beat what is effectively a very difficult game.

Or you could do what I did and hire your friend’s Pawn – in this case an elderly midget woman – and hurl them off a cliff for a laugh:


I know, terrible right? But I gave her a few well-cooked steaks and sent her back to my friend as an apology, but only after taking the above image in-game and sharing it with the in-built Facebook app for the world to see.

Dragon’s Dogma is a clever, socially integrated and best of all, very fun game. It came at a time when sequels were dancing on the grave of creativity and the West was lapping up Dark Souls like hungry kittens on a saucer of milk. Said milk is poisoned by the way.

Capcom announced Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen last year, an expansion that takes players to Bitterblack Island just off the coast of mainland Gransys. It’s massive, includes the first game in full and retails at a budget price.

In the days of $60 releases with five-hour campaigns, this is a great way for the studio to raise awareness of the Dragon’s Dogma name, considering Capcom has made no secret that it now wants to turn the IP into a full franchise. My money’s on Capcom’s PS4 game ‘Deep Down’ being a spiritual sequel. Just you watch.

But why do an expansion at all? I spoke with Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen director Kento Kinoshita and asked that very question. ” I have been longing to expand the world of Dragon’s Dogma and so to provide it as early as possible we chose this route rather than a fully-fledged sequel,” he replied.

“At the same time, we wanted it to have a fresh, distinctive look and atmosphere, hence our use of a different colour palette to deliver a more foreboding tone. To further this we have added more enemies that possess magical abilities which will provide players with a whole new challenge and add real tension to the action.”

It certainly does look darker than the core game with dank caverns, grim underground lairs and – again just like Dark Souls – a penchant for the death, as seen in the game’s new undead enemy types. I asked Kinoshita what new monsters players can expect to fight.

I wasn’t expecting him to say you fight Death himself, but yeah, he’s totally in there. “He provides a real threat as one touch from his scythe and it’s all over”, Kinoshita explained. “However, if you manage to defeat Death then you will be rewarded with an extended health gauge, so players might want to make this one of their goals during the game.

“Secondly we have the Necrophagous class which consists of a number of different beast types that appear to feast on the rotting remains of defeated enemies. They appear at random so just when you think you can take a rest they burst onto the scene, dramatically altering the flow of the action.

“Amongst the Necrophagous foes I would highlight the fearsome Cursed Dragon and the Garm which attack in packs. Finally I can’t forget Daimon. Like a character in a fighting game it possesses real strength in its standard attacks, but also has the ability to use powerful magic which can be unleashed after only a short enchantment.”

I’m already intimidated as hell. Dark Arisen certainly won’t be easy, so I dared to ask Kinoshita how he felt about the game being compared to Dark Souls. “Both “Dark Souls” and “Demon’s Souls” are fantastic games, so it is a real honour that Dragon’s Dogma has been compared to them,” he replied.

“That said the game design of Dragon’s Dogma is very different from these two titles so, for me, I would always hope that Dragon’s Dogma was viewed as a great game in its own right. Taken as a whole, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is harder than the first title.

“However we’ve taken a gradual approach for the difficulty level with the new content – the upper level being easier than the middle and lower levels of the underground realm. While any player new to Dragon’s Dogma could access Bitterblack Isle after about an hour, though we would recommend being at around level 40 before you venture there.”

Kinoshita explained that it would still take about 20 hours for veteran Dragon’s Dogma players to fight from the top of the Bitterblack Island area, right down to the lowest level. That’s massive when you consider the scale of the core game, underlining Capcom’s smart approach to value.

I’m well aware that many gamers don’t like the way Capcom charges for micro-DLC in its fighting games and so on. But bear in mind that Dragon’s Dogma is made by a bespoke team that has been generous in the content department, so it’d be refreshing to see Dark Arisen enjoy similar success to its predecessor at launch.

In closing Kinoshita wanted to express his thanks to Dragon’s Dogma fans and anyone reading this piece, “I’d like to express my big thanks to all of the Dragon’s Dogma fans out there. Because of you, we are now able to deliver Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen.

“Even now we still receive a lot of comments from players many opinions from users. Looking ahead, I still plan to keep my ears open to the comments from players of Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen so I can take them into consideration when creating new content.”

Nice, but my money’s still on ‘Deep Down’ being a Dragon’s Dogma game, seriously.

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen hits PS3 and Xbox 360 across North America from April 23 and across Europe April 26.