Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen Got Right
- + Super challenging for hardcore fans
- + Great value for new players
- + New boss fights
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen Got Wrong
- - Strange that it's not just DLC
- - Some poor AI
- - Dark environments become bland
“Take a smattering of Capcom’s finest games -- a dash of Monster Hunter, a pinch of Breath of Fire and maybe a seasoning of Devil May Cry -- and you’ll begin to picture just what Capcom’s latest game, Dragon’s Dogma, really is,” is how Tom Robinson opened his review of Dragon’s Dogma last year, and it still stands with the re-release. Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is an expansion with a budget price. If you never played it the first time, now would seem like the obvious choice, but I can’t help but feel Dark Arisen is a little misguided.
Dark Arisen includes the massive original adventure, but the initiated can skip to the new mysterious Bitterblack Isle. Here you’ll meet a ridiculous woman named Orla and fall into a quest to figure out what in blazes has possessed the island.
It’s a solid expansion, but one we’ve grown to expect from DLC. Dark Arisen isn’t going to sway anyone who didn’t play Dragon’s Dogma last year, and the fans are entitled to feel a little ripped off with the $38 “budget” asking price, when most of that is assuming you’re a first time buyer.
The brutal difficulty will even win the respect of players who have clocked Dark Souls and actually feels as if it’s been designed for them.
The small minority willing to replay the entire game will benefit from player suggested improvements, including a much appreciated fast-travel system and redesign of the menu, but those too could have been added via patches.
Dragon’s Dogma veterans prepared to reinvest will enjoy an even more challenging RPG fraught with danger. You’re free to explore the entire game as you wish, but Bitterblack Isle has been designed assuming your character is at least level 50, and ideally closer to 60 -- unless you’re happy to face constant death. The brutal difficulty will even win the respect of players who have clocked Dark Souls and actually feels as if it’s been designed for them (or maybe I just suck).
Bitterblack Isle’s design feels claustrophobic in contrast to the wide open landscape of the main game, but you’ll soon learn to adore the dark and gloomy narrow corridors, searching for hidden secrets.
The pawn system, which has you team up with AI companions, benefits from the new setting not only as an aid in tight spaces, but in the reassuring knowledge that someone else is by your side -- yes, even in a game I don’t even want to walk down a scary passageway alone. While it works as an expansion, the environments do start to blur together after a while and it wouldn't have worked as well in the main game.
Your pawn chums will aid in fights against an array of terrifying new enemies, but upon closer inspection, most of them are reskinned more challenging foes from the original game. The boss fights are largely unique to the expansion and they too are much harder than anything you’ll stumble across in the main game, which brings me back to the underlying conundrum with Dark Arisen.
Who is this expansion really for? New players will need to play through the entire story to have a chance of success in Dark Arisen, and even then, only the most hardcore will appreciate the spike in difficulty. Everyone will benefit from the minor tweaks in gameplay, but they should have been a patch months ago.
The Final Verdict
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is a brutally difficult expansion for hardcore fans who beat the original long ago. As a budget re-release, it’s also appropriate for those who had the best intentions but never got a chance to delve into one of the finest RPGs of 2012. As for additional content: only the toughest will survive, as Dark Arisen’s Bitterblack Isle ramps up the difficulty and is one strictly for the utmost fans of the genre.
NOTE: Score is based on Dark Arisen's additional content. Our original review still stands for the main game, which is included with the Dark Arisen re-release.