Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen review for PS3, Xbox 360

Platform: PS3
Also On: Xbox 360
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Medium: Blu-ray
Players: 1
Online: Yes

Over the course of reviewing Dragon?s Dogma: Dark Arisen, I learned a valuable lesson about why you should always keep track of flash drives with save files on them. Assuming that?s what happened to my original Dragon?s Dogma save, which I?m not entirely sure is the case. Either way, I?m pretty late on the review train, but that?s because I literally had to replay the entire core game included in this release, along with a chunk of the post-game Everfall content. While you can access the new area of Bitterblack Isle early on, it?s certainly not recommended.

If you haven?t had a chance to check out Dragon?s Dogma yet, there?s no reason to not buy this edition. You?ve got the core game, the post-game content, all the DLC for the core game, and Bitterblack Isle as a new area. There?s not a lot of changes made to the original game via Dark Arisen, there?s some slight adjustments made with items available in shops (no more buying Airtight Flask?s), but by and large the changes aren?t so significant that those outside of the hardcore base will notice any change.

dragons_dogma_dark_arisen_01Bitterblack Isle, a new area accessible via the initial town your hero originates from at the start of the game, is an area comprised of a number of locked off sections filled with the toughest enemies Dragon?s Dogma has to offer. It?s very gear dependent as far as progression goes, and if you haven?t effectively farmed Everfall for post-game gear and weapons, you?ll hit a progress wall in BBI pretty early. You?ll face most of the harder enemies introduced in The Everfall, like the Gorechimera, Hellhounds, and so on. And a few new enemy types like the Gorecyclops will appear exclusively in Bitterblack Isle.

Other additions come from new weapons and augments, including a purification system that requires you to take cursed loot found in BBI and purify it in order to discover what you actually have. Purification costs are paid through rift crystals, giving a little more purpose to the currency than just buying higher level Pawns for use from other players. There?s also a new upgrade system for Dragonforged equipment, allowing you to upgrade marked items to a silver or gold level, further enhancing existing gear.

dragons_dogma_dark_arisen_2I found myself enjoying Bitterblack Isle quite a bit, at least what I?ve managed to uncover so far. There?s a lot of challenge in the new area, you?ll come across some ridiculously difficult combinations of bosses, but I found this area to be a massive improvement over what Everfall offered as far as post-game content. Everfall was a great idea marred by an awful navigation system, wherein you fell through a pit and needed to latch on to different entry points for various levels of the pit to explore. It was annoying and difficult to remember which level was which, until you already landed on one, making it a little more frustrating to explore than was necessary.

Bitterblack Isle, on the other hand, plays out like a better connected, and vastly larger dungeon area. You?ll be able to explore mostly at will, occasionally avoiding difficult encounters to snag keys that?ll let you get past previously locked doors. I have a ways to go before I finish this bit of content, but I really love the exploration angle that Bitterblack Isle provides. It also smartly employs the use of unlockable shortcuts, allowing you to quickly backtrack to safer areas as you advance deeper in. And then there?s a series of quests you can partake in for added incentive, available by a specific quest board once you arrive at the Isle.

dragons_dogma_dark_arisen_3There?s also some incentive to double dip for previous Dragon?s Dogma owners with a significant save file boost. If the game detects a save file from the original game, you?ll get 100,000 rift crystals up front, and six full outfits for your main character and created Pawn. These outfits can be extremely useful throughout a significant portion of the main game, often outclassing most gear you?ll find or uncover. So if you?re like me, and don?t have your original completed save file, rent the original game or download a save file to use for the boost alone, and start a new game from there. It?ll make retreading through old content go by a whole lot faster. Another big addition is the eternal Ferrystone, which has unlimited uses, making quick travel less of a headache here.

I highly suggest checking out Dragon?s Dogma: Dark Arisen, whether you?re a Dragon?s Dogma superfan or someone that missed out on the game the first time around. The core game is one of the best fantasy-themed RPG?s of this generation, and despite some flaws like forced letterboxing and far too frequent framerate drops, it really stands out against other well-loved releases like Skyrim and Dark Souls. The additional content provided by the Dark Arisen add-on is significant enough that fans shouldn?t feel the sting of re-purchasing the core game, as the new content and worthwhile additions made to the core game are well worth the asking price.

Grade: A-