More than just meat-shields, these CPU-controlled combatants hold their own on the battlefield and even handle the heavy lifting when allowed to. Their very vocal strategies are also helpful, often providing the key to downing a difficult threat. It's especially satisfying to return to the site of a previously failed encounter with the right pawns in tow, prepared to turn the tables. The mechanic isn't a tacked-on feature or optional part of the experience either. In fact, if you hope to reacquaint your heart and chest cavity, you'd better learn to play nice with the pawns. While more than enough of these helpers are randomly generated in-game, they can also be borrowed from other players. Like an extension of Dark Souls' anonymous hint system, this feature doesn't require any interaction, just an online connection. If you're having trouble silencing a specific baddie, another players' pawn--who's already skinned said beast--can join your game with the necessary intel to finish the job. Conversely, if your pawn gets recruited into another game, they'll return to your virtual world with any knowledge they've gained while battling abroad. Coupled with the fast-paced combat, this inspired party-building system refreshingly separates Dragon's Dogma from the hack-and-slash pack. That said, some will find frustration long before discovering the game's groove. (It took me about six hours to feel comfortable with the mechanics and around 10 before I entered battles with any degree of confidence.) A generic high-fantasy presentation, some mundane quests, and an open-world that's too easy to get lost in won't help the uncommitted conquer the learning curve. Still, seasoned dragon-slayers with an appetite for hardcore adventuring will overlook the game's dull edges while they relish the spoils of the last battle and fret over deciding which pawn to take into combat next.
Plenty of big creatures to fight here
[This Dragon's Dogma review is based on an Xbox 360 gold master version of the game provided by the publisher.]