Over the weekend a friend showed me several segments of gameplay from the PS/3 version of Dragon’s Dogma (DD). I would characterise it as a grittier version of Kingdoms of Amalur (KoA). Like KoA it has a trio of basic classes (warrior/rogue/mage archetypes) which you can then specialise into more advanced versions or combos of the basic three. So there’s plenty of character building fun to be had as you experiment with weapon sets, spells and abilities and equipment.
The big advance for DD is the ‘pawn’ system where you can add two AI controlled temporary companions from an extra planar space called ‘the rift’. The selection of pawns comes from recent saved copies of the main characters of other players’ characters. This gives the game an ‘asynchronous multiplayer’ mode where you play with friends characters without them needing to be online. It’s a bit of a weird concept to me, as it pretty much all the benefits presented by MMOs. Sure I can play characters my friends have spent time on and rate their builds or see them grow over time, but how does that really improve on KoA or Skyrim? I still prefer to play MMOs with friends even if it means the (minor) effort of organising when to play together.
From my brief view of this game I prefer the KoA Fey-realm/Irish folklore influenced world of Amalur to DD’s gritty but otherwise standard fantasy. The BAM (big-ass monster) fights were very impressive though.
Thinking this over I read a post on Spinksville which continues the blogosphere discussion on the trend towards solo-isation of online gaming. I think it is much better if MMOs present a variety of possible playstyles (Rift, SWTOR both seem to at the moment) with group oriented content at all levels and the possibility of soloing or concentrating on non-combat activities. If developers are positively encouraging solo-only at least until the end-game then that’s a worrying and insidious trend as it will weaken communities already threatened by the sheer volume of games on the market.