What does it take to be a man? Bob Dylan would argue that it involves a lot of walking, Westlife never really managed to answer the question and the Vikings seemed to think it involved drinking mead from horns, getting tattoos and battering each other over the head with lumps of steel.
To celebrate the launch of Dragon’s Dogma, Pocket-lint was invited to try things the medieval way. So, armed with a sword and buckler and accompanied by a team of Hollywood stunt men, we headed off to the deep dark woods to learn more about our masculinity.
Dumped in a muddy field somewhere, we were left to search for a group of beardy muscle-bound men hulked around a fire. Stumbling across what looked something like the barbarian horde from Gladiator, we were immediately taken aback by the size of our tattooed friends.
Out from the treeline wondered a friendly gentleman looking like the real-life incarnation of Thor. He was carrying a tree trunk practically one handed and dumping it on to a fire. Ee asked him why they needed it, given it was a sunny afternoon. “You always need fire,” was the reply.
We got the impression these guys have campfires in their own living rooms rather than central heating. Either way, it was time to get clobbered up.
We were to play the role of a pawn, a sort of ever-subservient accessory to the Dragon's Dogma lead character. The pawn is a multi-purpose muscle machine for smashing up anything that gets in its way. Naturally we were thrilled that this character had been chosen for us. This was to change rapidly once our training started.
Being a pawn meant that every single person who attacked us would be doing so with the full force of their strength, or at least it felt that way. Our trainer was to be the rather unexcitingly named Phil. Or to reveal his full title, Phil the Jarl of the International Brotherhood of Jomsvikings.
Phil got us suited and booted, selecting a rather nice lightweight single-handed sword, which we draped over our shoulder, and a fetching belt that completed the outfit. For a moment it all felt surprisingly light and flexible. That was until a huge chainmail helmet got dumped on our head. Imagine trying to run the 100 metres with a breeze block Sellotaped to your face. That is what it felt like.
At this point we were introduced to the rest of the Jomsvikings, most of whom couldn’t stop laughing at the jaunty angle of our helmet. Described us as a pretty boy, our trainer then proceeded to try and knock out whatever prettiness there was left by battering us with a sword. Doing what was called "fives", we learnt how to strike and then defend in such a way that it wasn’t dangerous - or at least that was what the medieval warriors told us. We imagine a full swing of one of those axes to our head wouldn’t exactly be safe.
Learning fives was vital, as you move in such a way that it is clear to your opponent how you are going to attack him and vice versa. This stops any nasty accidents when getting a good scrap on. A buckler was then handed to us and we learnt how to defend with both sword and shield. It’s actually a lot easier than you would think, although we were doing very basic moves.
Next it was time to choreograph our fight sequence. This was when Pocket-lint’s rather hopeless coordination came into play. In order for a movie sequence to flow, the stunt needs to be rehearsed in sections and then put into one single shot. It meant remembering every single strike and parry with three separate opponents. Despite the scene lasting only a minute or so, we were, quite frankly, hopeless.
Then to filming. The fight itself saw us get attacked by a fairly big but short opponent in heavy armour. This was both good and bad. Good because we knew we could really give him a proper whack but bad because he would do the same to us. A few swings, a parry and then a punch to the face with a buckler left our opponent startled. We managed to slash open his back and the give him a hefty boot to the backside.
Next up we had to tackle an axe-wielding maniac with a shield. The choreography was particularly tough here because of a kick and head chop move we had to pull off, the end result leaving me lined up perfectly to slit his throat and then gut a man running at us with a two-handed sword.
So how did this audition for a stunt man in the next fantasy adventure go? Quite frankly, rubbish. Our puny structure and less than adept sword skills left us wondering how the final cut would turn out. God knows how they did it, but clearly the cinema screen is quite forgiving.
Dragon's Dogma launches on 25 May.
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