The Beginner's Guide To Dragon's Dogma
Over the years, your options to play Dragon’s Dogma haven’t exactly been limited. It originally came out in 2012, followed by the Dark Arisen expansion a year later – and that complete package eventually got ported to PS4, Xbox One, and PC. However, if Capcom’s unique open-world RPG has been in your backlog all this time, you’re in luck! Dragon’s Dogma is available today on Switch, which means a new wave of adventures and their allies will be exploring Gransys for the first time.
If you want to start your journey off right, this guide will help you focus your attention and sort through some systems that might seem confusing at first. That way, you can avoid a few early mistakes and get the most out of your adventure. As someone who has played through Dragon’s Dogma multiple times across several consoles (including the main story of the Switch version), my goal is to provide you with spoiler-free pointers that are helpful without ruining the thrill of discovery.
1. You can change your hero later (sort of)
Lots of people (me included) spend too much time agonizing over the details on the character creation screen. You can do that here if you want to, but you are able to make adjustments later to different degrees. For instance, you can eventually change your hair, skin color, and voice at the barber shop in Gran Soren for a small fee. You can also buy a one-time option to redo the whole character creation process, including physical traits and gender. Beyond that, once you finish the main story, you can buy an item that lets you change these details as many times as you like.
2. You can change classes
As soon as you gain control of your character, you need to pick a weapon that determines your vocation (i.e. class). Beyond the three basic vocations, you soon get three advanced vocations and three hybrid vocations, and part of what makes combat in Dragon’s Dogma so fun is playing around with the different styles and seeing which ones you like. I have my personal favorites (like assassin), but no one vocation is broken to the point that it offers an unfair advantage or disadvantage. So don’t worry about it, because your weapon choice isn’t set in stone.
3. Don’t make an awful pawn
The introductory hours give you a second chance to go through character creation, this time making an A.I.-controlled pawn who will be by your side for the entire game. However, other players can add your pawn to their party (and you can add other people’s pawns to yours). Here’s my biggest piece of advice: You want other players to hire and use your pawn in their worlds, so whatever you do, don’t make something terrible. It may seem funny in the moment, but don’t give your pawn a stupid voice or a vile name – that kind of thing can get your pawn kicked back to the Rift before they can earn any good rewards, and you won’t be laughing then.
4. Hire pawns often
After you and your pawn, you have two additional party member slots to fill. You do that by entering the Rift and enlisting the pawns that other players have created. It’s an asynchronous online interaction with copied data, so you aren’t actually taking a pawn away from other players, and they aren’t taking yours. Instead, you benefit from the skills and experience the pawns have. When you dismiss a pawn, it returns to its owner with any additional knowledge (enemy weaknesses and behaviors, the next steps in quests, the routes to certain locations) it gained traveling with you.
When a pawn comes back, it also brings back Rift Crystals depending on its feats while away. This special currency has uses like purifying items in the post-game and buying certain cosmetic options. You also use them to hire pawns at higher levels than you; if your hero is level 20, you can hire a level 30 pawn, assuming you have enough Rift Crystals to cover the cost. However, hiring pawns at your level (or lower) is always free, and because visiting pawns never level up when they are with you, you should be cycling through them regularly to ensure you are ready for tough fights.
You want your pawn hired because it comes back with Rift Crystals and knowledge, and you want to hire other people’s pawns because they make your party stronger in battle and their knowledge helps in quests. Everyone wins!
Some extra help
If you want a late-game pawn to carry the load while you figure out how Dragon’s Dogma works, here’s an option: Use my pawn! She’s a mage with solid gear and skills balanced toward offense and support. Plus, having basically played through the whole game, she has a lot of useful quest knowledge to point you in the right direction. This also brings up an interesting exception to the “hiring high-level pawns costs Rift Crystals” rule: If another player is on your system’s friends list, you can hire their pawn for free, regardless of the pawn’s level. So, send me a friend request on Switch, then enter my Pawn ID in the game and let me know how it goes!
Friend code: SW-1364-2202-5538
Pawn ID: 5F08-D589-8E7C
5. Give pawns good ratings and gifts
When you send a pawn back, you have the option to give it a rating, add a comment, and choose a gift. Why not use this opportunity to put some positivity out into the world? If you had a good experience with a pawn, take the extra few seconds to bump those default 3-star ratings up to 5-star ratings. Choose a nice message. Don’t send trash gifts like a rotten apples or small nuts. Make other players feel proud of their pawns when they return! Unless, of course, the pawn has a stupid voice or a vile name (see point 3 above).
6. Get to Gran Soren soon
Gran Soren is the capital city, and it’s where you find most of the merchants, quest-givers, and other items of interest for your journey. The sooner you arrive (through the quest “Off with its Head”), the sooner you can dig into the meat of Dragon’s Dogma. Though you shouldn’t necessarily rush to get there (see my next point), don’t feel like you should finish 100% of the activities in Cassardis or the encampment before moving on.
7. Quests can expire
If you’re a completionist, you should consider playing Dragon’s Dogma with a guide that lays out where and when to complete various sidequests. That’s because your optional tasks eventually expire (and automatically fail) as you cross different thresholds in the main story. For example, a few early sidequests you pick up in Cassardis might be gone forever if you advance to Gran Soren without completing them. Even if that happens, don’t sweat it; you can enjoy this game without getting every little reward. But if you’re planning to clean up all the quests you missed in the post-game…well, that won’t work in Dragon’s Dogma. You need to finish them as you go or not at all.
8. Store, don’t sell
You’re going to find a lot a weird stuff in Gransys: monster parts and sour meat and plants and skulls and other questionable loot. How much of that stuff should you sell off? To be safe, you should just keep it all. A lot of that seemingly useless junk is used to enhance weapons and armor, and you have plenty of room to keep it in storage. Plus, you never know when you’ll pick up a random quest like “collect 66 skulls.” If really need the money, the first things to sell are any gold weapons – they aren’t great in combat, but they fetch a lot of coin.
9. Check your storage
Once you make it to Gran Soren, you will find a variety of items already waiting in your storage (just talk to the innkeeper). Several of them are powerful bonus items added to the game after its initial release, like the set of queen’s clothing, or the vagabond’s armor. You can choose to equip these or not; they are more powerful than anything you will find during most of your first playthrough, so be warned that you will rarely get the thrill of opening a chest and finding gear better than what you are wearing. However, one item in storage you absolutely should not ignore is the eternal ferrystone. The next point is all about how to use that.
10. How fast-travel works
The eternal ferrystone is how you fast-travel around Gransys, and you use it like you use healing items or a lantern; you press “–” to open up your item menu, the select the eternal ferrystone from the Tools category and choose “use.” This lets you warp to any portcrystal placed around the world as many times as you want. However, when you start, only two portcrystals are available – one in Gran Soren, and one outside Cassardis. To make other areas of the huge map more easily accessible, you need to 1) find additional portcrystals, and 2) place them manually at the places you want for fast-travel points. This convenience puts portcrystals among the most desirable items in the whole game, but they’re also rare. Finding and placing them as soon as possible will cut down on a lot of frustration later.
As a side note: In the original version before Dark Arisen, you didn’t have one ferrystone you could use infinitely. Instead, you expended single-use items that you needed to restock. These vestigial ferrystones are still in the game, but you should never need to use them; you can safely ignore, sell, or store all of them.
11. Don’t go to Bitterblack Isle…yet
Bitterblack Isle was the new area added in the Dark Arisen expansion. Even though a quest points you there early on, you can’t actually do anything useful or interesting there until much later. If you’re curious, go ahead and check it out, but don’t feel bad if you can’t make progress. It’s intended for late-game characters.
12. Long load times on Switch? Try going offline
Generally, the Switch version of Dragon’s Dogma performs fine on the technical front. My only major complaint is how long it takes to access the server – something that happens every time you stay at an inn or enter the Rift. During that time, the game is uploading your pawn’s current data (level, vocation, skills, etc), or pulling down other players’ pawn data. If you’re sick of sitting through the long wait every time you rest, you can just play the game in offline mode. Press “+” and go to Options, then go to the Gameplay tab and change the Connectivity to “offline.” That fixes the “Accessing server” problem, so your inn stays are essentially instantaneous. However, trading pawns is a big part of Dragon’s Dogma, and going offline robs you of that fun, because it means you only get computer-generated (not player-generated) pawns. So, I suggest only being a part-time offline player, getting connected again when you want to upload your pawn’s new data, hire new allies, or collect rewards from your pawn’s adventures. In those cases, you can set Connectivity back to “online,” take care of your business, and then go offline again to keep things moving.
Believe it or not, all of this is only scratching the surface of things to do and discover in Dragon’s Dogma. Advanced strategies, surprising quest outcomes, and the joys of item-forging are just a few of the things to check out once you get familiar with the unique systems and gameplay. And then you can take everything you’ve learned into new game+ and do it all over again!
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is available today on Nintendo Switch for $30. The game is also available on PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.
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