It's the week before the big E3 show, but you wouldn't realize it given this week's edition of Famitsu magazine in Japan. That's because the big reveal for the week isn't some previously-unheard of AAA title from one of the publisher giants over there, it's Dragon's Dogma Quest: a free-to-play sequel to Capcom's Dragon's Dogma that's exclusive to the PS Vita.
"In the beginning, it was a product to see if we could make an RPG in a short time," executive producer Hideaki Itsuno told Famitsu. "But since nearly the entire team was involved with production on Dragon's Dogma, we saw the game as a new Dragon's Dogma game as we approached completion."
"Since we were releasing this on a portable system, we had to make an approachable RPG to some extent," added director Masanori Komine. "Still, we didn't want a game you could proceed through easily; we wanted something that made you think and enjoy the experience as you played. As we thought about that and came up with material, we realized that Dragon's Dogma was a good fit, and that's how it settled into this format."
Dragon's Dogma Quest is a downloadable Vita release with 2D graphics and gameplay that features more of a straight RPG bent than the original's action-oriented battles. It's set in a new world, the kingdom of Latania, but otherwise the plot is similar to before, with the player controlling an "Arisen" with the power to control AI-controlled party members called "pawns" as he adventures around before his fated battle with an evil dragon.
"We decided to go with downloadable and free-to-play at an early stage," Itsuno commented. "A lot of games in that genre haven't featured much gameplay or made money purchases feel like the whole point of it. We wanted a game where it was fun to think, where it was fully playable and addictive. This is a serious, full-on RPG, and it's built to play seriously. However, there may be people who don't have much time to play or don't want to spend a lot of time in this or that part of it. For that, we have [purchasable] items that might help out people."
Quest's battle system allows for parties of up to eight pawns, four of your own, combined with four from your friends' parties, and the way Itsuno puts it, figuring out how to combined these pawns and their jobs provides a lot of the game's fun. "With this game, the Arisen himself doesn't have a job," he said. "It's the pawns that are fighting, so he focuses on issuing commands. However, the Arisen levels up as well, and doing so boosts the 'Soul Points' that serve as party HP and the 'Cost' that pawns use when taking action. Pawns consume cost to do actions, so having more lets you unleash stronger attacks and makes battle easier."
"I think there is a deeper strategic element than there was with the action-oriented Dragon's Dogma," Komine added. "If the familiar griffin shows up, you'll start thinking 'If I use this job and that ability, maybe this fight will go well'. Before you realize it, you'll be approaching fights with the same kind of strategic process as with the original game. We've got lots of monsters that encourage this kind of gameplay."
The game is due out as a free download this fall in Japan, with regular content updates scheduled after launch. "This is the first game I've developed for portables," Itsuno said, "and it's been a fresh and novel experience. This title is meant to be the first part of a new concept to have Capcom overall try to challenge itself on a lot of new things."
Update: A spokesperson for Capcom has told Polygon that the company is considering bringing Dragon's Dogma Quest to the U.S, Europe and other non-Japanese markets. The statement reads, "At present Dragon's Dogma Quest is only confirmed for release in Japan and we are currently evaluating if the title will be released in pan-western markets."