Here's the Thing

I Gave Up on Dark Souls to Play Dragon’s Dogma

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #116. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

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Here’s the Thing is where Rob dumps his random thoughts and strong opinions on all manner of nerdy subjects – from videogames and movies to board games and toys.

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Yes, I know, Dark Souls and Dragon’s Dogma are fundamentally very different games. I also cannot state enough just how much I adore the original Dark Souls for its world building – both physically and through lore – and rewarding sense of exploration it provides that, as far as I’m concerned, still hasn’t been matched to this day. But here’s the thing: Dark Souls pisses me off a lot and not because “it’s hard.” I just couldn’t put my finger on exactly why until I returned to Dragon’s Dogma (for like the third time).

Dragon’s Dogma is clunky and messy. Fast travel is awkward and extremely limited. Gransys feels kind of small and repetitive. The story is uninteresting, the characters are uninteresting and many of the enemy designs are uninteresting (even bosses). We weren’t given an option to make Pawns (summonable extra party members that are basically People But Not Really that fill a combat role and not much else) shut the hell up with incidental comments until the Director’s Cut-ish Dark Arisen release. It’s entirely too easy to completely miss the brief guidance given on where to go next once the story begins to kick off very early on in the game.

It sounds like I’m ripping on this game I claim to love, which I am, but that’s because while there are a lot of flaws here (I mean a lot a lot), it’s still a ton of fun to play. Combat feels fantastic no matter what class you decided to play as – and there are nine of them, all of which can be ranked up to unlock new abilities and some abilities that wouldn’t normally be available to certain classes can be used if they’ve been previously unlocked. Magic gets wild, with mages and sorcerers being able to do things like summon walls of flame or wield lightning whips or physically protect themselves with the souls of the dead. Melee combat is also a ton of fun due to how weighty and impactful many of the attacks feel. You can also grab onto larger monsters, Shadow of the Colossus style, and whack them in the face if you want.

This isn’t to say that Dark Souls isn’t fun in its own way, because it is, but the main reason I prefer Dragon’s Dogma is fairly simple: it doesn’t waste my fucking time. That’s the realization I had while I was trudging back to Ornstein and Smough for the eighth time; and hiking back to Manus of the Abyss for the seventh; and arduously making my way through Sen’s Fortress. Dark Souls doesn’t respect my time. I don’t care if a boss is difficult because eventually I can learn the patterns and pull off a win. What I care about is having to spend so much goddamn time making my way back to the boss to die after 15 seconds while I’m still trying to learn those patterns.

This isn’t to say that Dark Souls isn’t fun in its own way, because it is, but the main reason I prefer Dragon’s Dogma is fairly simple: it doesn’t waste my fucking time.

Contrast that with Dragon’s Dogma, which offers up a less compelling world, enemies and story, doesn’t reward exploration as much (but does still reward it), has far less interesting boss fights and so on. But it’s always fun. Most of the enemies aren’t very interesting but it’s always fun to climb onto a rock golem to smash the magical runes that give it life, or electrocute a cyclops so it drops its club, or use your shield to springboard an NPC party member onto a griffin before it flies away so that they can hack at its wings and bring it back down to the ground. And while the difficulty does increase as you begin to access new areas, there’s still value in even low-level fights because every experience point counts towards not just your overall character level but also the individual levels of your current class – which you can also change whenever you want by visiting an inn or most ally encampments.

So yeah, Dark Souls is a good game that I still respect the hell out of, but Dragon’s Dogma remains my favorite of the two because it’s fun and doesn’t waste my time.

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Rob Rich is a guy who’s loved video games since the 80s, and has had the good fortune of being able to write about them. The same goes for other nerdy stuff from Anime to Godzilla, and from Power Rangers toys to Transformers. He gave up on Twitter, because Twitter is garbage, but you can still find him on Instagram and Mastodon.

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