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May 26, 2013
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen - PS3 Review
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Enemy design in Dragon's Dogma Dark Arisin mipresses.
Dragonís Dogma was the surprise game of 2012 in my opinion. It came out of nowhere, at least from a publicity and 'buzz' point of view, and stole weeks of my life. It wasnít perfect, but it was great fun. Now, almost exactly a year later, Dragonís Dogma has been re-released with the 'Dark Arisen' moniker. Dark Arisen contains a full copy of Dragonís Dogma (with slight improvements), as well as a massive new area called Bitterblack Island that features a labyrinth full of extremely tough enemies. Should newcomers and seasoned veterans alike both pick up Dark Arisen? Read on....

If you havenít played Dragonís Dogma then your first stop should be our review here. Iíll wait for you before proceeding, honest.

Congratulations if you managed to read the whole review! As far as I can tell Dark Arisen doesnít make many changes to the main quest, i.e. Dragonís Dogma. The biggest improvement I noticed affects the travel system. Whereas in the original you had to leg it from location to location, Dark Arisen includes some static port crystals (i.e. spots you can teleport to), and makes ferrystones (the items needed to use port crystals) cheaper and easier to acquire. This is a significant improvement in my book; I found traveling everywhere by foot a bit tedious before.

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Character customisation is quite deep.
Other improvements are less noticeable, but include increased character customization options and the option to use the Japanese voice-over rather than English. Since Dragonís Dogma was released back in May last year, Capcom included a Ďspeed-runí and ĎHardí mode, both of which are included in Dark Arisen. Their names are self-explanatory, and I reckon youíd have to be a real nutter (or extremely devoted) to play on Hard mode.

For those who already own and have completed Dragonís Dogma, the real reason to pick up Dark Arisen is Bitterblack Island. You gain access to Bitterblack Island by speaking to a character on the Cassardis pier at night time. It is said that many Arisen have ventured to the island before, but few ever returned. Itís time for you to enter the depths of darkness and discover what secrets Bitterblack Island is hiding.

Bitterblack Island is an area best suited to experienced characters, though it is accessible to characters of all levels I believe. You canít explore too far without obtaining a key though, and that key is guarded by a boss who will not be easily dispatched (my character was level 75, and even then I had my work cut out for me). Thatís a trend that continues throughout your time here Ė save often! Ė you have been warned.

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Battles in this RPG can be pretty epic.
The atmosphere is reminiscent of Dark Souls Ė thereís not much light, enemies can kill you in the blink of an eye, and the music conveys a feeling of despair and futility. Initially youíll come across smaller enemies such as goblins, but it wonít take long for the large monsters to start appearing. Early on the large-scale ogres and cockatriceís are easy enough to handle, but as you proceed deeper youíll come across the tough as nails Eliminators (theyíre a bit like minotaurs), a deadly necromancer with a pet dragon and the new and improved (i.e. tough as nails!) gorecyclops. Fighting these huge beasts is every bit as fun as it was in Dragonís Dogma, though the challenge has been ratcheted up here.

The good news then, is that youíll find new and improved gear on Bitterblack Island. Unfortunately the gear is always cursed, and the only way to use it is to purify it at a shop located at the very beginning of the island. Youíll head back that way often though, so thatís not a major chore. Purifying gear, be it a weapon, armour, accessory or item, costs rift credits (RC).

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Visuals are impressive.
Players who load up Dark Arisen with a Dragonís Dogma save file on their system will be given one-hundred thousand RC, but even that gets whittled away quickly. Naturally the very best gear is located near the bottom of the island, and getting there wonít be easy. In Dragonís Dogma gear could be enhanced up to the point where it was dragon forged, but they can be further upgraded in Dark Arisen Ė if you have the money and items to do it.

Along with the superior gear, characters now have access to level-three skills, which is a step up from the level-two skills available in Dragonís Dogma. There are also a bunch of new augments for purchase, and they might just give you the edge you need. I swapped classes a number of times so Iím not sure exactly whatís new, but I think there was a couple that made it easier to climb on enemies, as well as increasing your strength when climbing.

I had a great deal of fun with Dark Arisen, and Iím glad it gave me a reason to play Dragonís Dogma again. However this leads to its one major issue - price. If youíve never played Dragonís Dogma before, Dark Arisen represents excellent value. You get the full original game plus the Bitterblack Island content for a mere $40.

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Dark Arisen includes the original game, but should have been released as an expansion too.
If youíre a returning player however, the deal is a lot less sweet. Youíre basically paying the same $40 as everyone else, but youíre only getting Bitterblack Island. $40 is a bit steep for what is effectively an expansion pack, even if the game takes around 10-12 hours to complete (and you may well play through multiple times). If Dark Arisen was available as just an expansion and cost $20 Iíd recommend it in a heartbeat, but at $40 you have to think carefullyÖ

The visuals are exactly the same now as they were one year ago when Dragonís Dogma was released. Thatís fine because they work just as well now as they did then. Bitterblack Island is a dark, intimidating place, which is just what the developers were aiming for. It does have a couple of issues though, most notably the clipping which sees large-enemies poke their head through the ceiling, or have their weak-spot disappear through a wall when they fall over. The layout of the labyrinth is also a little lazy, with many areas replicated exactly. Still, these are small issues and easily forgiven.

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Upgrading weapons in Dark Arisen
The music is great and definitely enhances the atmosphere. Your pawns chatter away happily, giving you a good idea of what to expect from the area ahead. They still tend to repeat themselves, but itís never too bad. The one knock on the music is that sometimes one tune will play throughout a fight, and when the fight lasts forty minutes or so it can get a bit annoying.

As I said during the review, I had a blast with Dark Arisen and Iím glad it gave me a reason to dust off Dragonís Dogma. If youíve never played Dragonís Dogma before I heartily recommend picking up Dark Arisen. Itís cheap as chips and has a lot of new content. However if you already own Dragonís Dogma, itís a tougher sell. $40 for 10-12 hours of content seems over-priced, even though itís a lot of fun.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSEnemy design is still great, but the clipping issue negatively impacts some fights.
SOUNDEerie tunes help set the atmosphere wonderfully, and the pawns are entertaining companions.
GAMEPLAYFighting large-scale beasts is as much fun now as it was a year ago. Like Dark Souls you get a real feeling of accomplishment when you beat the tougher opponents.
VALUEThis gets a huge thumbs up if you donít own Dragonís Dogma. If you already own Dragonís Dogma though, take off 30%.
OVERALLDragonís Dogma Dark Arisen is a fun and challenging game. Having the option to purchase it as an expansion pack would have been a wise move though.

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