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Page 4 of 6This effectively means you'll have to switch your support pawns often as you level up, and offers plenty of opportunities to experiment with different parties and tactics. While this need can be partially circumvented by hiring high-level pawns, it's worth noting that it requires an amount of rift crystals (a secondary form of currency used only for pawns) proportionate to the difference between their level and yours, making it a non-trivial prospect.
Whether you choose to go for a full-party or ignore the pawn system completely and go solo (a legitimate possibility the game offers and, in some case, even rewards) though, combat is essentially an action-based, fast-paced affair.
You and your pawns have three weapon skills available for both primary and secondary weapon respectively, with the exceptions of the Mage and Sorcerer vocations, that get to equip six skills to their magic staff, and the Warrior that only has one two-handed weapon with three skills at their disposal. Skills encompass a wide series of abilities, including crowd control functions, damage dealing, status ailments, buffs, dodging, and even a few non-combat abilities such as stealing from an enemy, and offer a good range of options for the various combat situations the game presents. Most of them consume stamina which, when finished, renders the character unable to perform any action for a small time frame.
Aside from those skills every vocation also gets a light and heavy attack that doesn't consume stamina, can grab certain items from the ground or from their inventory and throw them (for example, a bottle of oil makes enemies more vulnerable to fire), hold enemies down for other pawns to attack, and scale big ones such as cyclops to attack their weak points. Mix all these elements together and it's easy to see how the combat might get rather chaotic and confusing, but Capcom has done a remarkable job in making it feel approachable and intuitive most of the time, with only a few problems coming from the awkward handling of the camera in small spaces and when you scale monsters, and that's largely thanks to the well-done AI of the pawns.
Pawns prioritize actions based on their "inclination", which might mutate based on the orders you give them during battle, and can also be changed with the use of a certain potion or special "Knowledge Chairs" placed at inns and rest camps. For some reason Capcom decided to obscure what the various inclinations do by offering unclear description, and made it needlessly complicated to change your main pawn's inclination, which can lead to frustrating situations, such as a pawn grabbing the corpse of a fellow unconscious pawn and brining it next to you instead of attacking an enemy's weak spot. A simple menu-driven system such as Dragon Age: Origins' tactics would have probably served the game just as well, without being needlessly convoluted.
Overall, despite a few stumbles here and there, the game strikes a nice balance between action, fast-paced combat and party-building, which makes for some rather interesting battles. Those who love to be in control all the times won't like the chaos that can ensue from Dragon's Dogma busiest encounters, but there's an undeniable sense of satisfaction in felling a drake after a long, arduous battle.
Character Development and Loot
In keeping with the title's philosophy of letting you experiment with character building and party formations, Dragon's Dogma's character system is a fairly forgiving one, featuring very few permanent choices. While at the beginning of the game you're asked to select a vocation, by no means that means you have to keep leveling up with it for the rest of the game, and doing so might even be counterproductive.
The game rewards experience and discipline points when you slay monsters or complete quests. The first are fairly self-explanatory, while the second are the currency that is used both to acquire new skills and change to a vocation for the first time. Both of these actions are only available at inns or rest places, and switching to a vocation you've already used is effectively free, making the use of discipline points close to the notion of "buying" a vocation.