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The Curse of the Arisen and the World of Dragon's Dogma, a Summary

The Curse of the Arisen and the World of Dragon's Dogma, a Summary

The launch of Dragon’s Dogma 2 is creeping ever closer, and both my excitement and dread grow with each passing moment! Being a massive fan of the first game, I am hoping the sequel can deliver and build upon the world I so enjoyed. I was originally going to wait it out and see how the game fared in reviews, but then a lovely friend of mine actually pre-ordered the game for me, turning my half-formed plans into being able to dive in right away! What followed was a week of immersing myself into the lore and story, reminding myself why I adored the way the world and the Arisen worked. If you’re not bothered with playing the original or want a refresher, here are the broad strokes of the Eternal Return! Please excuse my horrid drawing skills. NOTE: this article contains heavy spoilers for Dragon’s Dogma.


The Dragon Emerges

Let us start off with the titular Dragon, the harbinger of destruction. In the world of Dragon’s Dogma, the appearance of the Dragon is seen as a sign of the end, as the colossal beast vents their fury onto the land. Additionally, the emergence of the Dragon is followed by the appearance of fearsome creatures, such as Harpies, other Dragonkin, Chimerae, and Griffins, to name a few; if nothing is done, these monstrosities will overrun the populace and snuff out humanity as we know it.


An Arisen is Forged

Thankfully, all is not lost, as with the appearance of a Dragon comes the marking of an Arisen. While doing its fiery death thing, the Dragon eventually runs into a human they consider “worthy”. Once chosen, the Dragon plucks out the target's heart, gulps it down, and flies off to the top of a mountain. While gruesome, this act ties a bond between the newly minted Arisen and the Dragon, meaning that the Arisen cannot die so long as the Dragon lives, in addition to gaining the potential to grow very powerful. This may sound like a pretty good deal except for one tiny little niggle: the Dragon will continue to terrorise the countryside until you hop to and defeat them in combat! Taking on a death-breathing lizard taller than some houses is a job not many will take, meaning the Arisen is pretty much alone in their quest. I say pretty much, as there is one thing they can rely on, their Pawn.


The Hero and the Pawn

Pawns, as they call themselves, are a race of otherworldly humanoid beings that care for only one thing: serving the Arisen. Emotionless and loyal to a fault, these allies will join the hero on their journey, providing what aid, wisdom, and company they can — like it or not! While up to three of the pleasant fellows can join the party, one is assigned as your personal Main Pawn, never leaving your side, whereas the others will eventually return to places unknown. Pawns live in a world between worlds called the Rift, being able to cross between them with the use of Rift Stones. Remember this; it will be important later on, I promise! Like the Arisen, Pawns can learn many powerful skills and grow in power, though never quite matching their charge.

So, we have a hero, a mission, and a party! Nothing left but to go show that mean old Dragon what for, surely? Well, here is where things get interesting and the eternal cycle of Dragon’s Dogma rears its head. You do indeed climb a foreboding mountain, take on a plethora of challenges, and meet the vile serpent in his lair! However, before your battle can begin, the Dragon presents you with a most cruel choice: battle them to the death or sacrifice your loved one — pre-captured for your convenience! From here, we continue down three paths: you face the Dragon and win, you lose, or you accept the deal.


Decisions, decisions...

Let’s start off with the nicest one, the Arisen heroically defeats the Dragon, fulfilling their role. Game complete, right? Wrong. What is supposed to be the climactic end of this journey turns out to be the middle point, as the dying Dragon both congratulates you on your victory and laments things to come. This was only a test, you see, and not the final one by far. As the Dragon takes his last breath, he gives you one final gift: the Godsbane blade, an odd sword that can “guide the chosen to true freedom”, whatever that means. The world then shudders as a gigantic hole leading into a portal rips open smack-dab in the middle of your local large city. Oh dear.


The Arisen, Victorious

Returning to the land you thought you saved, the area is now rife with much stronger variations of common enemies to the point where even lowly goblins can now juggle you like they're trying to impress their goblin date! Uh… oops? Traversing to the aforementioned gigantic vertical corridor, you will find that jumping into the depths of the portal will simply have you appearing above it, ready to plummet yet again! After some exploration of the nooks and tunnels found in the hole and a few rounds of free-falling fun, you will face numerous foes more fearsome than even the Dragon, such as horrid Evil Eyes and a ferocious undead dragon. After you gather several Wakestones, magical items with the power to return life to those deceased, you are able to open a portal into the Rift and enter… the Seneschal’s chamber.

The Seneschal is basically the guardian of this world and the one keeping it running at the cost of their essence. Robed in a resplendent raiment of radian light and sitting upon a stone throne, they greet you. Here’s the kicker, though: the Seneschal is an Arisen, like you, and not the first or last to hold this seat. Upon entering, you (plus your loyal Pawns of course) do battle. This is then followed by other gruelling challenges, both physical and mental, culminating in you taking on the Seneschal and their Pawn again one final time.

After being bested, the Seneschal explains this was all a test to make sure the current Arisen was indeed worthy of their title and also allowing our hero to ask some questions about the world, the universe, and everything. After the Q&A, the previous god pleads with you to pierce him with the Godsbane blade so they can be free of their duties. Upon doing this, he thanks you for finally releasing him from this devastating cycle. You take your place as the next Seneschal, completing the cycle and allowing the world to keep existing. Well done! But before we go forward, let us look at some of the alternate endings an Arisen can run into in a segment I like to call the Eternal Failure.


A Battle of Heroes and Pawns

So, first off, what happens if you fail right at the finish line facing the Seneschal? This is actually the reason I fell in love with this world and its lore! An Arisen dying while combating the Seneschal becomes the next Dragon. In a short cutscene, the hero falls through a portal, only for us to be presented with the opening cutscene of the game showing a newly born Dragon flying over to a little fishing hamlet, starting the same cycle yet again. If that sounds harsh, the fate of those who fall to or before facing the Dragon is even worse!

As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, the coming of the Dragon is oft followed by the appearance of horrid monsters, such as the Dragonkin. While these lizards are formidable foes in and of themselves, they don’t quite reach the power or grandeur of the Dragon. If an Arisen fails in their quests before regaining their heart, they become one of these beasts, destined to challenge the next saddled with the title. The best thing about this fate is how it implies the characteristics of the fallen Arisen shape the kind of Dragonkin they become! The magickally-gifted become spellcasting Wyrms, strong and hardy Arisen become powerful Drakes, and the quick and deadly become the range-utilising Wyverns. No Arisen is safe from their destiny, it seems.

Now, what if an Arisen is the pragmatic type and decides, yeah, letting someone else die is fine as long as they can keep on living? If you accept the Dragon's bargain and sacrifice your beloved to a fiery demise, the Dragon is as good as their word and leaves! You come back a hero and are elevated to the position of Duke; life is good. However, semi-immortal though you are, another Arisen need only kill the Dragon during its next appearance for you to fade into dust. But hey, you have a few decades before having to worry about that… right?


Mighty Cosmic Powers and Nothing to Do!

So, that should be all of the loose ends tied up, yes? Well, there is one more alternative we should explore: refusing the Seneschal. While this may seem like an easy route to becoming the next big scaly lizard, there actually is a unique ending for Arisen, who walk the walk but refuse the talk! In these cases, the Seneschal does indeed allow the hero to leave, moving them back to their sleepy village sans the giant Dragon-made hole in both the town and hero, allowing them to live their life in peace until generations later, another fire-breather is spawned into the world.

Now, let’s return to the path proper; our hero sits upon the throne of the Seneschal, now bearing the title themselves, with only their loyal pawn for company. Being god, it turns out, is not as great as it seemed on the tin; you can explore some areas as a ghost-like being, having the ability to interact with the world in a limited capacity and… that's about it. Now you sit and wait until your divine battery starts running low, sending in another Dragon to start things afresh. The Eternal Return is complete. Or it would be if not for this nice little sword you kept with you. Yes, the Godsbane blade’s ability to “guide the chosen to true freedom” is still prevalent, as the Arisen-now-Seneschal can decide to plunge the blade into their own heart and break the cycle!


Om Nom Nom Delicious Freedom

This act, beyond all others, is one I found to be the most profound. By taking their own life, the loop closes, and the world, as it is, becomes free to “progress” beyond this constant cycle of Dragons, Seneschal, and Arisen. While we never find out what a world like this would look like (at least for now — looking at you Dragon’s Dogma 2), there is another factor I found fascinating here: your Pawn! During the game, we are told time and time again how Pawns are emotionless beings but are given proof of the contrary as our companion shows a plethora of different emotions at times, such as fear of a powerful foe, worry for a comrade, or simply grief due to a companions death. Interestingly, this is not a case of narrative dissonance but an actual phenomenon in the universe called the Bestowal of Spirit. What this means is simply that the more time a Pawn spends with the Arisen, the more of the hero’s “soul” rubs off on their companion, slowly but surely granting the loyal labourer a sliver of humanity in the process. What severing the cycle does, in turn, is a bit more meaningful.

As the new Seneschal plunges the Godsbane into their chest, their Pawn reacts by trying to stop them, pleading with heartbreaking sincerity. Both Pawn and the deceased hero are pulled into a familiar portal, dropping them off over the fishing village this all started in. Trying desperately to reach their friend and master, the Pawn reaches out and is engulfed by a ray of light… only to wake up in the Arisen´s bed looking exactly like them! The Pawn is finally completely human and allowed to live a normal life, which is amazingly sweet and wholesome. Fittingly, this is also the ending that unlocks New Game Plus! Fun fact: if you play through NG+ (and are not playing online), your previous Arisen will appear as the next Seneschal! If playing online, it will be the latest Arisen to sit the throne, whereas the first Seneschal is always the same.


A New Life, Earned

The breaking of the cycle is a beautiful end to the game, but with Dragon´s Dogma 2 on the horizon, it bears asking, how can this be? Since the cycle is broken, there cannot be a game! Well, this is where the lore of the game is quite clever. While it is not explicitly stated, the existence of Pawns and the cycle itself hints at an answer: there is more than one reality in which this Ouroboric pattern is repeated. The same loop of Dragon - Arisen - Seneschal is running in multiple realities at once, providing the Arisen of any reality with enough Pawns and monsters to keep them sufficiently challenged. With this multiverse, it is possible Dragon’s Dogma 2 takes place in a world where the cycle was never broken or some other hijinx occurred. I, for one, cannot wait to find out!


Eternal Return

And there you have it, the more or less abridged lore of Dragon’s Dogma! While it is hard to say how relevant this will be in the coming sequel, it is always good to know what came before. Maybe the rules have stayed the same, or maybe the Dragon will actually kidnap someone we care about this time; who knows? What I do know is that 22nd March cannot come quickly enough!

Martin Heath

Martin Heath

Staff Writer

Professional Bungler

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