TV Review: Dragon’s Dogma (Season 1, 2020)

Based on Capcom’s wildly underappreciated video game of the same name, Dragon’s Dogma is a 2020 Netflix series. Set in the same world, but not a direct adaption, the series tells the tale of Ethan (Greg Chun), an Arisen, who is fated to hunt The Dragon (David Lodge, the only returning actor from the video game) after The Dragon literally rips Ethan’s heart from his chest. Ethan is joined by Hannah (Erica Mendez), an empty vessel known as a pawn in his quest.

+ overall, the ‘faux-3D, sort of cel-shaded, sort of anime’ art style is not as bad as early trailers made it out to be, and it’s a billion times better than the horrendous Berserk remake
+ Ethan, Hannah and all the various companions they come across are all fun characters. Obviously they couldn’t make the main character your Arisen, because there would be an unlimited number of variables to consider, so Ethan is as good a blank slate as you could hope for (he also sort of looks like Savan, a character from the game)
+ a handful of those companions bear a striking resemblance to beloved characters from the game, albeit with different names and motivations, in a way that doesn’t contradict anything from the game

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Ethan (Greg Chun) and his pawn, Hannah (Erica Mendez)

– at times, the monster CGI is awkward, if not outright bad. You can try to justify (as I certainly did) by saying that these creatures don’t belong in the world, hence the weird visuals, but really it’s just a jarring way to show off what should be awe inspiring beasts
– I hate the way adaptions of games attempt to coast on name value. Leaving aside the subjective quality of the story telling, the game has nothing at all to do with the seven deadly sins, so even including them as a plot point goes against the grain. Story beats have not simply been altered to fit the medium, but outright contradict the established lore of the game, from small things like pawn vocations to larger things which I obviously won’t spoil here. As mentioned above, obviously they could never do a direct, 1:1 adaption of a single player RPG where character customisation is such a big part, but they shouldn’t go out of their way to crap all over that
– similar to the above, there were so few callbacks to the game. A handful of audio lines from the game have become sort of fanboy memes (“Wolves hunt in packs”, “They’re masterworks all”, “Castle walls? Or the ruins of such?”) and none of them were even joked at. The opening of the first episode features a pack of wolves, and there was not even a small, tongue in cheek reference
– for once, I almost feel like this series needed double the number of episodes. If each episode had a Part 1 and a Part 2, we’d get more time to grow attached to the characters, and some aspects of the world may be explained more. If you finish this and don’t entirely understand what a pawn was, or what an Arisen was, I don’t blame you

> even if you watch this and you hate it, tell all of your friends to watch it and watch it on as many accounts as they have. If Capcom sees this as a success, the chances of me getting a sequel to one of my favourite video games of all time goes up tenfold

Should you watch this show: Overall, yes, this was a good show. It was just not a very good adaption of a game that I love so, so much. I’ll need to have a longer piece at some point about why adaptions often fail, but I do think this is worth a viewing.

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