The Capcom game Dragon’s Dogma had an ending that came out of nowhere to knock me sideways. Here’s why…
WARNING: There will be SPOILERS - so if, for some reason, you don't want to know what happens, stop reading now.
An action-RPG adventure set in a Tolkein-esque fantasy world, the main bulk of the game’s setting and story is as generic as they come. You start off in a small fishing village where one day a dragon flies down and steals your heart (literally!) branding you as the chosen one or ‘Arisen’, thus setting you on an epic quest across the lands to slay monsters, gain new weapons and equipment, level up and so on. Pretty standard so far and as expected the whole thing culminates in a grand showdown with the big red beast himself (incidentally called Gregori and can speak) in which you slay him and reclaim your heart.
After the credits roll you find yourself back in the small fishing village where you started. The evil has been vanquished… but something seems wrong. The sky is now permanently dark and strange new monsters are lurking about spots you had previously felt so familiar with.
Making your way back to the capital Gran Soren, you are shocked to find that coinciding with the dragon’s death, half of the city has collapsed into the ground leaving a huge gaping hole leading deep down in to the earth. Having spent the majority of the game with this place as your hub this is a huge change and slightly worried, you make your way to the Duke’s palace.
…Except now he is all old and shriveled and attacks you, accusing you of making a pact with the dragon and plotting to usurp his rule. He swings his sword at you feebly and you defeat him with ease, until guards rush in and chase you out of the grounds and back into the city, where eventually you end up falling down into the big hole. This is where the post-game really starts - in ‘The Everfall’ – a new dungeon previously glimpsed only briefly in an earlier quest you undertook.
Once you finish all that – then you get to the real ending. You find yourself in a cloudy space with nothing but a hooded figure sitting on a throne in front of you. This is the ‘Seneschal’, the ‘steward of the world’ – pretty much a god-like figure and he goads you on to defeat him and take his place. After beating him/her (the voice is both male and female) for two rounds they finally reveal their true form. It's the guy from the prologue! After playing as him for the first 10 mins in the tutorial section at the very start of the game, you never saw anything more of him. So he too must have been an ‘Arisen’ that preceded you!
On his defeat, he gifts you the ‘Godsbane’ sword - the only thing that can kill him and release him from his role as the Seneschal. You use it on him and take his place. Now as the new Seneschal you get to wander the about the fishing village and Gran Soren as an invisible entity. Sure, you can mess with people but you can’t actually leave these locations and you are not told what to do at all. Jheeze… being a god is kind of boring…
And then it eventually twigs… You look in the inventory, select the Godsbane and select the command ‘use’. As you plunge the blade into your own chest, your faithful pawn (who has accompanied you throughout your entire journey) cries out in anguish, “Master!....”
The cloud floor opens up and you both go tumbling down through the sky. Your pawn reaches out for your lifeless body as you continue to hurtle downward before eventually splashing down into the sea.
Then you wake up on the beach alone, the cry of “Master!...”, once again escaping from your lips. What’s that? Your lips? Your pawn has become you? Then it all falls into place as you remember what was mentioned only in passing in the story: Pawns aren’t human – they’re function is only there to serve you and fight by your side. But legend has it that they can become human if they have fulfilled their duty to a high degree. So in this case your pawn has human - become you - as they find themselves deposited back on the beach where it all started – ready to play through the whole story again… in which you get chosen by the dragon to be an Arisen, choose a pawn to serve you and go off on a grand adventure – just like before.
The Ever-turning Wheel. The Endless Cycle.
Such a bitter-sweet denouement - a great ending, one that also makes perfect sense when going into a New Game +, both in terms of story and game mechanics (you retain all your stats, equipment and items from your previous playthrough).
A further interesting thing struck me as I got to the end of the game a second time. The Seneschal this time was not the guy from the prologue but the previous incarnation of my character, complete with the weapons, armour and vocation they had equipped way back at that point in the game!
My mind was blown – it truly was the representation of how the tale would repeat itself for all eternity. A reminder of how we are all just part of the big organic mechanism - how we all simply play out our roles in the endless cycle.
8 Dec 2012