If you thought Dragon's Dogma looked like Capcom trying to make its own Dragon Age, you are correct. And from what I saw of the game yesterday (and given people's reaction to Dragon Age II), that may be a very good thing.
This is partly due to the game's imagery, of course. Strip back the visuals and a lot of these kind of RPGs look the same, no matter where they're from: create a character, complete quests, battle in quasi-turn-based combat (there's action, but there are cooldowns). But in adopting Western fantasy designs for this game (and aggressively marketing the game outside of Japan), Capcom isn't aiming at the White Knight Chronicles of the world: it's got Dragon Age in its sights.
During a demonstration from the game's development team, I was shown three distinct areas of the game: the character creation suite, a town "hub" and a boss battle against a giant Cyclops.
So You Want To Be A Hero
The game's character creation utilities are surprisingly impressive, with a massive variety of preset options available for all aspects, and once those are selected, you can adjust things like size and shape on a slider. The customisation ran so deep, in fact, you could add little moles to the character's face.
What was impressive wasn't just the options, though, it was the quality of the model generated at the end of it, the features coming together to make a character that looked the equal of anything speficially built (indeed, the developers mentioned that the game's NPCs were built using the same creation system).
The changes aren't just cosmetic, though. The bulk of a character affects things like balance, and in perhaps the coolest touch, you could adjust their posture as well. Sounds naff, but it actually influences the animation and "character" of your, well, character: if you want to be an evil wizard, you can stoop them over and they'll shuffle around. Straighten their spine, meanwhile, and they'll bound around like Mr. Invincible.
Most of what I'd seen of Dragon's Dogma to date involved linear battles, trudges trough artificial corridors of grass and trees. Yesterday's demo showed us a large town "hub", which was full of quest-giving NPCs, each of which was fully voiced. It looked a little empty in places, in terms of both buildings and characters, but to their credit Capcom has really nailed the look of a "Western" fantasy town.
The third section of the demo, a battle against a huge Cyclops, was your typical RPG affair. Party combat, spell cooldowns, little numbers flying everywhere, etc. Actually, you know what: it looked a lot like Monster Hunter. That's probably just the fact we know this game is made by Capcom, and has been made after Monster Hunter hit the big time, but hey, that's the vibe I got from it.
A few more points of interest from the presentation:
- The game will allow, in certain situatons, same-sex relationships, showing the extent to which these guys have been taking notes on the competition.
- It's got a kind of new game plus, where upon completing the game you can start again retaining your experience.
- The developers were very intent on showing us the extent to which you could adjust the bust size of female characters.