Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen is... is... inexplicable. I can't figure out if it would be great if it wasn't such a mess or if it is great despite the mess.
On one hand:
It has the best combat out of any action RPG that I've played--the game routinely throws huge enemies at you, which--much like many of the enemies in the game--require certain methods to take down. That might mean hanging on the back of an ogre until it tries to crush you with a back slam, then jumping off so it stuns itself... or throws itself off a cliff. It could mean scurrying around the body of a golem to strike at its magical cores, climbing up the back of a cyclops to get to his eye, dismantling a chimera head by head, or setting a Griffon alight to keep it from flying off.
There is a feel of progression. The first time I encountered many of these enemies, I spent most of my time figuring out what to do between fending off attacks from other enemies that wandered into the fight (the first time I encountered a Chimera in the wild, the fight wandered so far afield that we stumbled into a pack of dire wolves and then a group of harpies) and reviving my fallen companions. It can be hectic and brutal, but the more you do it, the easier gets.
Then you stumble across a Drake, the weakest of the dragons, and it tears you a new one with ease. Death after death, you throw yourself at it. You leave, get stronger, upgrade your everything, and throw yourself at it again. Twenty grueling minutes later, it is nearly dead and so are you... your curatives are depleted, your companions spend more time dead than alive, but you almost have it and you are sure you can take it. You rush it. It flies off, as tired of the battle as you are. You might be stronger, but not strong enough. You need to kill it faster. So you go and train more. Rinse. Repeat. Until finally, finally you take it down... and get next to nothing for your trouble.
Once you enter post-game, those enemies you've grown used to evolve and become tougher. The Chimera starts healing itself all of a sudden when not targeting you with insta-kill spells. The Drake learns to body slam you when you try to strike at its heart. The goblins that you spent so much time wasting as easy fodder suddenly tackle you to the ground and start stomping on your prone body. The agile, annoying wolves that kept you on your toes give way to Hell Hounds that might shoot fire balls at you or lunge, grab hold and drag you across the field.
The world has changed. In the wake of the dragon's death, the world has become a dark, ashen place and you are not strong enough.It is great.
On the other hand:
Story? Barely there. There is a quest line intended to be the main story sequence, but really it is just a bunch of unrelated quests that conveniently gets you where you need to be.
Quests? MMORPG Quality. You take quests from notice boards and they are all pretty much kill quests, item/ingredient collection, and escort quests. There are a few that come in from actual people, but most of those are just slightly complicated versions of the same thing.
Continuity? Ha. The Duke's wife invited me to meet with her for a late night rendezvous, which was interrupted by the Duke stumbling in, crazed, and attempting to choke the life out of her while I hid. I stopped him, she accused me of attacking her in the night to avoid getting killed, and I got thrown into the dungeons to be tortured. After escaping, thanks to the Duchess, the game continued as if nothing happened. I interacted with the Duke quite a bit and funnily enough, he never mentioned the incident. There is a similar event later on where all the guards forgot that they were trying to kill me just hours before.