I've got quite an odd relationship with Dragon's Dogma. When it was originally released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 way, way back in 2012, I was fresh off the back of Dark Souls and was hungry for a similar swords-and-sorcery experience. With its grim fantasy setting and frenetic third-person combat, Capcom's brand-new IP seemed like the perfect successor to sate my thirst – but it proved to be a very different game in terms of mechanics and challenge, and while I didn't fall as head-over-heels in love with it as I did with FromSoftware's often punishing epic, it certainly left a mark.
So much so that when Capcom released Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen (the 2013 expansion to the original game) on the PlayStation 4 in 2017, I decided it was worth making a second trip to the wilds of Gransys to fight goblins, zombies and griffins. To give you some background, I rarely replay a game as convoluted as this; Dragon's Dogma requires tens (if not hundreds) of hours of commitment from the player, and I simply don't have many hours to spare these days. Yet here I am, already tens of hours into Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen on Switch, and I'm still not entirely sure how the game has sunk its hooks so deeply in me.
I'm playing it for the third time, and, as before, I literally can't think of anything else when I'm not playing it
I'll save my deeper impressions for the full review, but Dragon's Dogma is exactly how you'd expect a video game from 2012 to look and feel. It has moments of true visual splendour which are counterbalanced by basic character models and obvious pop-in, while the repetitive nature of many of its quests can become bothersome, especially when you're a good few hours in.
Despite its obvious shortcomings as a game, Dragon's Dogma somehow manages to entertain in a way that few other action RPGs can – as is evidenced by the fact that I'm playing it for the third time, and, as before, I literally can't think of anything else when I'm not playing it. Family mealtimes are now ruined by me absent-mindedly thinking about which of the nine vocations to switch to next so I can expand my character's move-set, and in the evenings I gently encourage my wife to 'have an early night' so I can get back to my important work around the bustling city of Gran Soren.
Of course, this addiction is made all the more worse with the Switch version because now I can play it anywhere. With the previous versions, the massive land of Gransys was tethered to my television, but now I can explore its lush forests, rocky mountains, sandy beaches and dank dungeons wherever and whenever I like; of course, there are other Switch ports which have liberated home console games in this manner (it still amazes me that Skyrim can be played on a portable system) but Dragon's Dogma has special significance to me; this is a vast, sprawling world that I've already spent well over 100 hours exploring on other consoles, yet the fact that I can now take it with me anywhere I like means I'm finding stuff I'd missed the first (and second) times around.
Given its age, it should come as no great shock to learn that Dragon's Dogma runs like a dream on Switch
Given its age, it should come as no great shock to learn that Dragon's Dogma runs like a dream on Switch. In handheld mode the resolution drop doesn't really impact things massively, and while there are moments of slowdown, they're no worse than they were on the PlayStation 4 'update'. There's been a slight change to the way in which Pawns – your AI helpers – work, no doubt necessitated by the fact that you don't need a Nintendo Switch Online subscription to exchange them between players. You can use your Nintendo ID Account to swap them instead, but it's no longer possible to send them away with a gift and comment when you part company with them; a minor change, but one that feels significant to me, at least. I used to like the 'human connection' of sending a player's helpful Pawn back to them with a thank-you note in tow.
But as I said, I'd best save some detail for the full review, which I imagine I'll take great pleasure in writing. Dragon's Dogma isn't the perfect action RPG – far from it. It's flawed in many ways and, when you break down its mechanics, is arguably out-done by many other examples of the genre. However, it has that special something – hence this being my third enthusiastic visit to Gransys – and being able to play it while sitting on the toilet is an early contender in my personal list of 2019 highlights (sorry for sharing).