Dragon's Dogma • Page 2

Scale away.

As it flies about, slamming into the ground and diving into your pawns, it seems best to sit back and aim for the griffin's wings with your fire enchanted arrows. That's what the mage advises we do, anyway. Time and time again.

Eventually the beast's wings catch fire and it tumbles to the ground. A quick sprint and we're up close, hacking and slashing with our daggers. But with a press of the R2 button we can grab the beast anywhere, then cling on for dear life, climbing, pulling at its feathers, stabbing frantically, eking down that boss life bar.

Grabbing onto and climbing around bosses is one of Dragon Dogma's most impressive features , and certainly the most thrilling one we've been shown so far. As the griffin flies into the air we hang on for dear life, moving about its body with animations that link together in a silky smooth, realistic fashion. We move from the tail to the back, seeking out weak spots, to the point where we're almost riding it. And stabbing it, of course.

"In a lot of action games, with big enemies the tendency is just to have you hacking away at the shins. You don't get the full effect of fighting a giant boss," Itsuno says. "With this game you can climb all over it. If it has a body part, you can attack it."

The grab attack levels up our interest in Dragon's Dogma. On the ground it lets you pick up smaller enemies and chuck them about, and enables you to come up behind them and hold them in a grip, allowing your pawns to kill them. But it is when used against the game's huge monsters that the grab shines brightest.

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Certain enemies only come out at night.

In another boss fight, shown only in video form, the main character attacks the mythical hydra. Cut off its head and it grows another. If one of your pawns gets too close, it'll get gobbled up. As we watch the giant hydra spit and hiss we wonder how best to take it down using the grab attack. Where should we grab? Where should we climb to? Where could its weak points be? It's at this point that a third potential influence springs to mind.

"Yeah, I love Shadow of the Colossus," Itsuno admits. "That's a great game. But I don't know if it had a direct influence or impact on this game. It wasn't like we set out to say, 'Oh, let's do Shadow of the Colossus.' It was more, we wanted to create these great creatures, these monsters in the game.

"As we did that we asked, what would be cool about fighting them? I want the players to be able to do what they want, give them the freedom to fight like they want to fight. It was more a result of the way we produced the game that that style of fighting presented itself to us."

Perhaps inevitably for a game due out in 2012, and despite multiple playthroughs of the griffin boss fight, we're left with plenty of questions. Dragon's Dogma surely features multiplayer, or at least a system that replaces pawns with real players. "We will put a spin on the multiplayer facet with this game," is all Itsuno will offer on the subject.

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Talk to NPCs to convince them to join your party as pawns.

Is there a dialogue system, with conversation trees and the like? "There are multiple endings depending on the path you choose and the decisions you make. There are areas you can choose to fight or not to fight." You're able to fill the game world with NPCs that are "dependent on the style of game you want to make". But what this means, exactly, remains a mystery.

And then there's the inevitable question: can you ride the dragon? "You're asking me to reveal all the secrets before I'm ready to," Itsuno laughs. "You can run and walk, but there will be features in the game that allow you to cover great distances in a short time. Just know they will be available."

The development team working on Dragon's Dogma is the largest Capcom has ever assembled and it includes many action game veterans. Development began in earnest two years ago, but planning began three years ago. With Devil May Cry stalwarts Itsuno and Kobayashi at the helm, and the game engine that powered Lost Planet 2 and Resident Evil 5 igniting the visuals, it's clear Capcom has high hopes for Dragon's Dogma. It wants this game to be a big deal.

But will it? It has elements designed to appeal to a wide variety of gamers. Action game buffs, fantasy fans and loot whores should all get something out of it. And perhaps those who idolise Shadow of the Colossus will find something to like, too.

Dragon's Dogma seems to be something of a mashup, a game inspired by an eclectic list of rival titles. As always, it's hard to know whether these different influences will come together to create a unique whole. But it'll be interesting to find out.

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