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Speaking of Bad Video Game Adaptations, Let’s Talk About One of the Worst

Guts, sweetie, I'm so sorry.

The vewy angwy protagonist Ethan in Netflix's adaptation of video game Dragon's Dogma.

In light of HBO’s The Last of Us doing so well, there have been all sorts of opinions swirling around lately regarding screen adaptations of video games. Generally, I too am leery of these adaptations, so I tend to stay away from them (unless I’m drunk and just looking for a laugh).

However, I am surprised to see people discussing bad adaptations but neglecting to mention one terrible entry in particular. With this one, I actually hazarded a try, because it seemed to take on the same style as Netflix’s Castlevania. I was excited to see one of my favorite niche games get some lovin’.

But guys, if you’re looking for bad—truly bad—television, I gotta tell ya, Netflix’s Dragon’s Dogma is a heaping, steaming pile of shit. I say this both with humor and earnest intent. It’s just bad.

Where do I even begin? The original Dragon’s Dogma game was an innovative fantasy RPG, combining elements from a plethora of popular titles and resulting in a pretty unique experience, as far as fantasy games go. You play as an Arisen, someone who managed to capture the attention of the draconic demi-god Grigori. Grigori steals your heart and implores you to take up arms against him, as part of a cyclical tradition in which an Arisen goes to war against a newly-reincarnated Dragon for a battle of dominance in the realm.

As far as plots go, yes, this is fairly basic. But where DD excels is in its gameplay. For one thing, there’s the Pawn system, wherein you create your own permanent companion. These “Pawns” are mysterious beings who live to serve the Arisen, taking on a role that’s something of a mix between squire and sibling. You can also recruit the pawns other players make, which run the gamut between very earnestly-made OCs, slutty smutty nightmares, celebrity recreations (I’ve seen more than a few Danny DeVitos in my time), and monstrous abominations that are a delight to behold. It’s really fun to change and mix around your party as you explore the world of Gransys, especially since their AI is pretty curious and responsive.

For another thing, the combat is wildly fun. You can climb monsters and ride them in the air as you try to take them down. You can combine base classes to do some seriously nasty damage. The specials are super cool to watch (any Berserk fans will revel in how easy it is to just recreate Guts or Casca in this game) and the magic system is almost comically overpowered. There comes a point, around level 30 or so, where you truly start to feel like a god, and it’s definitely an earned feeling.

Bearing all of this in mind, it doesn’t really seem like a screen adaptation for this game in particular would be especially prudent, considering the real heart of the game is in the gameplay. In order to make an adaptation work, you’d need a truly creative and inspired team of writers to forge a plot that works within the framework of this world.

And what did we get, class? We got a weirdly religious “seven deadly sins” plotline. We got unnecessary sex, drug, and assault scenes that don’t fit the original game’s tone at all. We got a fridged wife B-plot. And, speaking of Berserk, we got a protagonist who was trying so hard to be Guts, only to be more of a grunting everyman in comparison. The whole appeal of Guts was his inner philosophical turmoil, and his determination to survive in spite of the horrible hands he’d been dealt in life. The protagonist of Dragon’s Dogma is just a tired, angry trope of a man.

Where the series did shine was in its exploration of the Pawn character, Hannah, who was compelling and original, because she had to be. The coolest thing about the original IP is the whole Pawn thing. It’d be truly hard to mess that up, so it’s baffling to me that they didn’t just explore more of the original lore of the game, and instead made it some horny, belligerent mess. I mean, damn, is that what these network execs think of us? So darksided.

What really kills me is that the animation doesn’t look half bad! So I’m sure there are probably some people who ended up watching it out of curiosity and came away shaking their heads, thinking the source material was equally gratuitous. Guys, I promise, there are no random drug orgies in the original game! The original game goes super hard! I personally can’t wait to hear more about the sequel! And I pray to god they don’t make yet another animated series about it!

(featured image: Netflix)

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Madeline (she/her) is a writer and dog mom. She aims to use her writing to positively represent mixed-race people like herself, and is currently working on a novel. However, when she isn't writing, she's either battling insomnia or taking too many naps. You can read her stuff at https://madelinecwrites.com/