Japanese publishers have always inspired a cult following among gamers in the know – and perhaps none more so than Capcom. Known primarily in recent years for three franchises – Resident Evil, Street Fighter and Devil May Cry – it has understandably been characterised as a purveyor of action-adventure and beat-'em-up games.
But it's about to enter the competitive but potentially rewarding field of open-world role-playing games with Dragon's Dogma, which conspicuously eschews the typical Japanese RPG blueprint that marries turn-based gameplay with anime-style visuals. Indeed, Dragon's Dogma's real-time action, giant game-world and medieval fantasy setting put one more in mind of the likes of Skyrim, and the ability to climb up bigger adversaries to target your attacks adds a hint of Shadow of the Colossus. We caught up with Dragon's Dogma's producer, Hiroyuki Kobayashi (best known for being a leading light of the Devil May Cry games), on a rare visit to London.
So, Mr Kobayashi, where did Dragon's Dogma – an undoubted departure for Capcom – come from? "First of all, I'm glad you think it doesn't sound like a regular Capcom title. We wanted to try something new, and break into this open-world RPG genre, but of course include all the Capcom elements that we have in a lot of our games. The idea first started off with Hideaki Itsuno, the director of the game, and right around the time when Devil May Cry 4 finished, we started talking about what the next big game we wanted to make would be.
"Itsuno-san really likes the Lord of the Rings series, for example. And when he was in elementary school, he read lots of choose-your-own-adventure books. So that was one inspiration. Another one was going back to the Lord of the Rings, the way that a lot of the fantasy movies are represented – we wanted to create epic battles. There are a lot of games where you fight bosses and hack and slash at their feet, but we wanted to add to that, where you can actually climb onto these enemies and aim for their weak points. So you can climb on a Cyclops and aim for the eye – that kind of stuff. We really wanted to create that realism of being able to take down those giant enemies, just like in the movies.
"In the story, the main character is called the Arisen, and at the beginning of the game, he or she – you can choose – is in a town which a dragon visits, and takes their heart out, rips it out of your chest. So the Arisen becomes more of a hero in this world, and is on a quest to get his or her heart back. A lot of the questions that people have – like why did the dragon take your heart rather than someone else's, or why is it beckoning you to come on and defeat it – these are mysteries that you will figure out as the story progresses."
Creating a new open-world RPG franchise undoubtedly makes sense for a publisher like Capcom – such games can be fantastically popular. But they also require huge teams and costly resources, so represent a bit of a punt. It's vital, then, that they sport unique features, and Kobayashi-san singles out the "pawn" system, which lets you assemble a party of fellow-adventurers with complementary skills, via rift-stones in the game: "It is, I think, the first of its kind. A lot of open-world games like this are multiplayer, but we specifically chose to make this a one-player open-world game – with network functions. The pawns are a sort of legion of not-quite-human people: they don't act under their own volition, but they follow. As you play the Arisen, you can command them at your will. There are plenty of pawns you can choose from as your support pawns, and your main pawn will be with you throughout the game. The reason for the existence of the pawns – why are there pawns in this world, and why aren't they human? – will also be answered as you play the game."
The pawns add a hint of multiplayer, or at least community-style gaming, as you can make your favourites available to other players via the game engine, Facebook or Twitter. Kobayashi elaborates: "You can reach the pawn community from the main menu, so you don't have to go through Facebook. It will open up two options: you can either share your main pawn or do a pawn search, which will show all the main pawns that are up on Facebook and Twitter. And you can narrow down your search – look for a Mage, or search by skills and gender. You might find a message from the owner. And if you note their online ID, you can search for that pawn in the rift."
Action-wise, Kobayashi contends that Dragon's Dogma, despite being a first stab at an RPG, preserves the ethos that pervades Capcom's other, more action-focused, franchises: "For example, if you grab onto a gryphon, and the gryphon flies off, as long as you're still holding on, you can continue that battle in the air and bring it down that way. And you can do things like hold an enemy while your pawns attack them. You can grab enemies and throw them off cliffs. That action element, I think, separates Dragon's Dogma from a lot of the other fantasy games."
The levelling-up system, too, is unconventional, placing unusual emphasis on the weight of the objects you collect, and letting you expend XP on upgrading them. Kobayashi explains: "Basically, there are two different ways you can level up your character – by accepting quests and completing them, or by fighting random battles. By, for example, exploring the world, you can find different items and, of course, money; with that you can buy weapons, or upgrade them and level up your character. So if you buy a better sword than you had before, it will raise your strength. Also, each weapon and item of armour can be upgraded up to three stars. So you can make weapons stronger, and make them lighter as well – weight is an important concept in the game, and if you make equipment lighter, you can move a lot more freely."
http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/ga ... a-producer
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJEnNOlj ... ature=plcp
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gm-HYqq ... re=related