In honour of the massively underrated Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen's release on PC today, here's a story about a girl called Orange.
She was meant to be my bodyguard. A sexy elf archer to protect me from the bad things in Dragon’s Dogma. Except I got the height wrong. Instead of a fearless warrior, ever so slightly modelled on Liv Tyler’s Arwen, I had a small girl. I called her Orange.
The name, admittedly, was deliberate. When I created my Pawn – a companion character that stays with you throughout Dragon's Dogma – ‘Orange’ stood out amongst all the mythological and heroic options as a bit different, somewhere between quirky and really bloody stupid. I thought it would give her character. Do you know what else would have given her character? About another three feet in height. It was a complete balls-up: I’d spent ages messing about with the hair and eyes but not taken a second to look her over from top to bottom. Instead of ‘warrior lady’ I’d made ‘kid sister’. I may have face-palmed. I definitely swore.
At first I did what you do with most annoying little sisters: ignore them, and hope they go away to leave you with the cool kids. I had other companions (ones I’d stood next to before hiring) so Orange was embarrassing but, you know, whatever.
Weirdly, though, as I played I started to care about her. You see, Orange is useless at everything. Almost every time I look for her she’s in trouble. Pinned under a wolf, surrounded by bandits twice her size, grasped in the big crushy fist of a troll – whatever I’m doing, Orange will somehow have found the most dangerous thing in a five mile radius and hoofed it in the shins. At one point I thought I’d actually lost her only to see her name sliding slowly down the bulging neck of a giant snake. “Oh, Orange!”
This has become an exasperated catchphrase. A weary battle cry that precedes most of what I do in Dragon’s Dogma now. At this point protecting Orange is the game for me. Whatever quest I’m on or whatever I’m attempting to do, somewhere, something is trying to eat Orange.
Trouble is, this is sort of my fault. During the character creation section at the start of the game I told her to be aggressive; to scout ahead and always attack the strongest foe. All while imagining a 5’11″ brunette with years of combat training and the first season of Game Of Thrones committed to memory. None of which is helpful when you’re four foot three and mostly made of knees.
Every time something picks her up and bounces her around like a baby with rag doll I feel guilty. I didn’t want her. I didn’t ask for her but I’m stuck with her and… Orange, NO! Leave the Cyclops alone. Stay away! NO! ORANGE! JE-SUS CHRIST, ORANGE!
I started playing Dragon’s Dogma because I wanted to have adventures and to hit monsters with swords. Now I’m a beleaguered father tutoring an unwanted daughter in the fine art of ‘please don’t don’t get killed this time’. In the game there are Learning Chairs where you can sit and talk to your Pawn and refine their behaviour. They ask questions and you chose answers to modify what they do in certain situations. It’s here that I’ve fully transitioned into dad mode. “You mustn’t run off Orange, it’s not safe” I say to the telly as I tell her not to ‘attack the strongest opponent’ anymore.
To be honest her leveling up has become far more important than my own progress. Every time she clocks up a notch there’s a little flicker of pride, mixed with the hope that she might manage a few extra minutes without being chewed. Or at least avoid prodding a dragon in the toe with daggers she can barely lift. And my dutiful care is starting to pay off. She’s got some new attacks and is starting to actually become dangerous to people that aren’t her. There have even been a couple of fights were a crackle of explosive arrows and a blur of slashing daggers have ended it all before I’ve even managed to draw my sword. I’m so proud.
There’s just one thing left that unsettles me. When you rest at an inn your Pawn magically goes off to other realms to help other people. It means she gets new quest knowledge, experience and comes back with new gear. But all I see in the morning is a list of PSN names and Orange standing there in different clothes. Of course she never says anything, just presents me with an apple and asks if she’s “done well’. I guess it’s all a part of growing up.