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Dragon’s Dogma 2 review: Merciless but rewarding

Key Takeaways

  • Unscripted interactions make Dragon’s Dogma 2 special, perfect for dedicated role players seeking a unique experience.
  • Pawns add depth to the journey, offering unique personalities and helpful guidance throughout your adventure.
  • Dragon’s Dogma 2 eschews modern trends, focusing on deliberate exploration and challenging combat, making every moment intense.


The moment I knew Dragon’s Dogma 2 was something special was also the moment I realized it was not for everyone. I was on my way to an objective through a forest when I encountered a few goblins. No big deal. I had dealt with them easily before, and this time should be no different. However, when a random Griffin decided to swoop in, the situation became a bit more complicated. After minutes of chipping away at its health, I was clinging to its back when it decided to simply fly away. I hung on as long as my stamina would last but eventually was forced to fall to my death, undoing all the progress I had made up to that point.

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These are the kinds of stories Dragon’s Dogma 2 will deliver. Emergent, non-scripted interactions that happen naturally in the world are abundant and worthy of sharing with your friends like old war stories. However, that random nature, combined with some janky systems and old-school design philosophies, may turn some people off. This is a game for the most dedicated role players who are ready to fully invest themselves in the world and systems on offer. If you’re ready to make that investment, Dragon’s Dogma’s sequel will not disappoint.


Dragon’s Dogma 2

Become the Arisen and embark on a dangerous journey filled with monsters and men to hunt down the dragon that stole your heart.

Platform(s)
PlayStation 5 , Xbox Seires X , PC

Released
March 22, 2024

Developer(s)
Capcom

Genre(s)
Open-World , RPG

Prequel
Dragon’s Dogma

Reclaim your heart

And summon Pawns

Dragon's Dogma 2
The real joy, and the memories I will be sharing with anyone who will listen, were all unscripted.

The premise of Dragon’s Dogma 2 is simple, but narrative and mechanical complexities are quickly laid upon you. Early on, you discover that your created character is a figure known as the Arisen. This is the one person in the land who has their heart taken by a dragon, does not age, and is able to control a group of beings called Pawns. Most importantly, the Arisen is also meant to be the one true ruler of Vermund, yet someone has already claimed to be the Arisen.

The real joy, and the memories I will be sharing with anyone who will listen, were all unscripted.


Weaving in geopolitical intrigue, espionage, and betrayals, the main plot is gripping in concept but lacking in delivery. Voice performances are top-notch, though the strict adherence to Middle-English parlance may become grating for some. However, it is in the character models themselves where things fall flat. Most conversations and cutscenes lack any expression on the characters’ faces, and most of the time, they simply stand in static or basic idle animations. It’s a strong story but buried beneath a terrible presentation that dampens any potential impact. When my adventure was over, I had little to think back on fondly regarding the story beats. The real joy, and the memories I will be sharing with anyone who will listen, were all unscripted.


Part of that magic comes from the aforementioned Pawns. These are player-created NPCs, but not player-controlled, that you can summon to aid you on your adventure. You create your main one and can call upon two more for a full party of four. Each Pawn has its own personality and knowledge to bring to the table. If a Pawn has completed a quest you’re doing, they can lead you to your next objective. If one has found a hidden cave nearby, they will offer to lead you to it to explore. Their voice lines and chatter will eventually grow stale after a dozen or so hours, but early on, hearing the banter and chat helps make it feel like you’re not so alone in the world.

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It’s the journey, not the destination

Adventuring is brutal

Adventuring in Dragon’s Dogma 2 is brutal. Fast travel exists but is strikingly limited to the point of being discouraged. There are precious few places you can fast travel to in the world, and doing so requires the use of a rare and expensive resource called a Ferrystone. This design choice successfully forces you to risk traveling by foot for a majority of the game — where the game will either click for you or make it very clear it isn’t one with which you will gel.


No trip is a simple one where you can turn your brain off and just follow your quest marker. Failing to prepare will force you into situations with no clear solutions. As you lose health in combat, a portion of each hit cannot be recovered with normal healing items and can only be restored by resting at a camp or inn. Over time, you could end up with a fraction of your total health if you stay out too long or fail to rest before a journey. Dying amplifies that health loss, plus sends you back to either your last save or the last inn you rested at. As brutal as this mechanic sounds, it does result in some of the most intense and nerve-wracking situations. Barely limping your way back to town before nightfall with nearly no health remaining is the kind of triumphant feeling you typically only get from Souls games.


Combat itself is a treat once you find the Vocation that works for you. There are 10 of these classes to pick from, and all behave and play wildly differently from one another. The Thief is nimble and adept at climbing onto big foes to strike at weak points, while the Warrior can knock foes off balance with their massive swings. Each one has its own skills to unlock and buffs to earn alongside your overall player level. Each one is restricted to a class of weapons and armor, but you are encouraged to experiment and change Vocations often, so you never feel barred off from any play style. If there are two factors that will suck some of the fun out of combat, they are the inconsistent framerate and lack of a lock-on.

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The verdict

A game out of time


Dragon’s Dogma 2 does not adhere to current trends, intentionally forgoing many of the quality-of-life mechanics we expect from games of the genre, yet does so with intention. Fast travel is limited, forcing you to experience the world and create your own moments of excitement, and the health loss system means you need to properly plan every trip. Combat can be an exhilarating and rewarding experience when you topple some massive foe, but equally crushing when you get killed and sent back to your last save weaker than before due to circumstances beyond your control.

“Combat can be an exhilarating and rewarding experience when you topple some massive foe, but equally crushing when you get killed and sent back to your last save…”

If you dive into Dragon’s Dogma 2 and accept its quirks, you’ll discover an experience unlike anything else on the market.

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