Dragon’s Dogma is an action RPG set in an open world fantasy universe. It is ruled by a giant dragon heroes attempt to challenge. After an army fails, a chosen one dubbed Arisen becomes the one to defeat the creature. The game starts many years before the events of the game following the Arisen chasing after the dragon. After the sequence that acts as an interactive tutorial, the dragon disappears only to return many years later attacking the fishing village Casadeis. The player starts as one of the common townspeople and the player can define the general appearance. The character is however killed and the dragon rips out the heart to eat it. Instead of dying the character awakens as the new Arisen. At that point a vocation can be chosen, which determines basic attributes, equipment and skills. The choice includes Fighter, Strider or Mage. These are then developed into advanced versions and eventually three hybrid classes such as Assassin or Magic Archer. Experience is gained by completing quests and defeating opponents, and it is spent on skill points. Class skills also provide perks out of combat, such as the ability to roll and duck for fighters, or to levitate as a mage.
The player can freely explore the environment and gather quests from NPCs. The combat is fast-paced with a combination of blocking and different attacks hack-and-slash style. Large enemies often need to be grabbed or climbed in smaller variations of the enemies in Shadow of the Colossus to reach and hack away at weaker parts. The character’s abilities are further defined through various items, weapons and clothing that are found as loot, bought or earned. The player is able to assemble a party with up to three computer-controlled characters called pawns. These can be issued basic orders and will for instance hold enemies to have the main character finish them off. One is a primary pawn that can be fully developed by the player. The other two are hired hands that are acquired and fired quickly according to the situation as they do not gain experience or level up. They can be hired from the Rift through riftstones and chosen based on their skills and vocation as the situation requires. Next to the pawns offered by default, pawns created by other players can also (optionally) be hired through a seamless online network option.
Many of the creatures roam and appear freely causing dynamic battles with a new mix of enemies for most occasions. Regions can never be cleared completely as monsters eventually respawn. There are large cities where citizens have their own schedules and the character is able to interact with them. There is also a love interest who is always a woman, regardless of the main character’s gender chosen at the beginning. Despite the pawn-party system there is no multiplayer option. It however contains a number of opponents such as the Ur Dragon that are too strong to be defeated by a single party. Instead, damage done to the beast becomes permanent and is shared across all versions of the game logged in. That way it offers asynchronous cooperative gameplay with a certain amount of persistence as if in an offline MMORPG. The player to deal the last hit gets the largest reward, but there is a share for everyone who participated.