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Dragon's Dogma 2 review

Title: Dragon’s Dogma II (ドラゴンズドグマ2)
Genre: Action RPG
Platform: PS5, XBS/X, PC
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Release date: 22 Mar 2024 (WW)

The first Dragon’s Dogma was released to little fanfare in 2012: At first glance it seemed to be little more than yet another game following in the footsteps of FromSoftware’s Souls series, albeit with more focus on the action gameplay, and upon release many of the players who did bother to check it out found it to be an obtuse oddity. Yet it did have many strengths: The extremely limited fast travel meant that players had to hoof it around the world to get to destinations, and the journeys they had along the way felt like true adventures, and the Pawn system, which has the player accompanied with three AI companions who would learn things and sometimes even pass on knowledge gained from their own adventures with other players in other worlds, meant that even though it was a single player game, players never really felt alone in their travels. There was something different about this game, an unquantifiable X factor that just made playing it feel good.

But though the initial critical reception to Dragon’s Dogma was relatively lukewarm, over time word of mouth from the true believers (this reviewer included) contributed to its reputation as something different and special, resulting in it and its expanded version, Dark Arisen, eventually becoming a hit that pushed a combined number of 8.4 million units by the end of 2023.

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But while the first Dragon’s Dogma was certainly a great game, fans have always been left wondering if it could have been more: Contributing largely to this was how director Itsuno Hideaki had a presentation at GDC 2013 which detailed the original vision for the game, and showed how it ended up as a mere fraction of what it could have been.

Fans thus spent years pining for a version of the game that had everything detailed in that presentation, and when Dragon’s Dogma 2 was finally announced in 2022, and what they showed of it made it out not to be a sequel or remake but rather an entire do-over of the first game, many hoped that this meant we would finally be getting the game as it was meant to be, with no cut corners.

But did it live up to these expectations?

Dragon’s Dogma 2 does succeed in expanding on some of the first game’s strong points, namely the core action gameplay and the general sense of adventuring, and the returning Pawn system is still an extremely fascinating gimmick.

The action is speedier and feels more responsive in general, and adjustments to the vocations (jobs/classes) for the most part make moving your character and fighting enemies more fun. Meanwhile, the feeling of adventuring out into an unknown world was also successfully translated to the sequel. While the player can certainly just do the main quests and go where they are told to, simply choosing a direction to venture off in can easily result in an unforgettable journey.

The player assembles a party consisting of themself and three Pawns, one created by themself and two borrowed from other players

And of course, one cannot discuss Dragon’s Dogma without talking about the Pawns. Each player creates their own main Pawn, a computer-controlled second character that accompanies them every step of the way in their journey, and hires two other Pawns created by other players while their own Pawn is hired by others. Pawns learn about enemies and quests in their journeys not just with their creators but with the other players who hire them, and bring such knowledge back to their creator to aid them in their own game, somewhat functioning like a more active, talking version of the messages in the Souls series.

The player can search for Pawns that match certain conditions, such as ones with a specific class, or even a specific skill

While Pawns have been changed to a degree, it is hard to say whether they have been improved. The ways they act are certainly different, but while they might be more useful in some situations, they annoy the players with stupid behavior in others. For example, a pet peeve of this reviewer is how mage Pawns equipped with the spell to remove status effects tend to insist on always casting that when asked for help when it is raining (because being wet counts as a status effect), even when the player is one hit away from dying. And though some effort seems to have been put in to stop the Pawns from repeating dialogue, they still do say the same things a lot: You WILL be told about that ladder above the inn in Vernworth every time you pass by. Pawns are also still as clumsy as ever: This reviewer wrote about a pawn leading the way into a back entrance into a dungeon (Trevo mine) in the Tokyo Game Show 2023 demo only to fall down a hole and die last year, and upon using that same back entrance had another pawn also fall down that same hole.

Aside from these, Dragon’s Dogma 2 also does have a much larger world, far better graphics, and generally just a lot more polish than the first game. On a technical level, it does seem like a pretty big step forwards.

It is thus quite disappointing that ultimately, despite all the steps forward, Dragon’s Dogma 2 suffers from some critical flaws which results in it paling in comparison to the original game.

While the big world might be impressive compared to Dragon’s Dogma’s at first, after spending some time with the game, it becomes clear that the world consists mostly of crafted corridors, many of which are extremely similar. Using certain skills like the mage and sorcerer’s ability to levitate, the thief’s wall jump, or getting creative with hitching a ride on flying enemies lets the player venture past the walls of these corridors, but the results are more often than not disappointing, because the game is not designed around such exploration. You might be able to find a way to climb that mountain you saw in the distance, only to find that there is literally nothing – no enemies, items, or even scenery, but literally nothing – there at all. This is especially true in the final part of the game, where massive parts of the map are seemingly unlocked, only to turn out to again consist mostly of corridors around huge swathes of absolutely nothing. The game is simply lacking in a sense of wonder.

And though the game might technically have a wider variety of enemies than the first, it really does not feel that way, as 90% of the encounters are with the same mixes of enemies, and some of the midboss type enemies, namely the cyclops, ogre, and minotaur, feel very similar. Plus some of the enemy types are exceedingly rare, to the point that this reviewer encountered a grand total of three chimeras, two dullahans, one medusa, and one lich in the first playthrough which lasted 60 hours, despite defeating around 3000 enemies altogether (the game keeps count for you).

Furthermore, the game has the player traveling to the same locations many times, and while the act of traveling itself was part of the adventure in the first game, some of these journeys in Dragon’s Dogma 2 outstay their welcome and just become tedious: For example, traveling from Vernworth to Harve and back might be an adventure the first time, and maybe the second or third times as well, but going through the same forests and caves and fighting the same enemies in the same way for the fifth or sixth time really just stops being fun and turns into a chore.

Drakes are a more common enemy than dullahans and liches

The game as a whole feels extremely incomplete and increasingly barebones as you progress through it, and this becomes very apparent once you reach Battahl. There is simply far less to do in the second area, the entire story which was being built up on in Vernmund simply fizzles out, and you can practically see where corners were cut, be it with the Beastren empress who, despite appearing on the cover of the game and being treated like an important character in promotional material, is nothing more than a side character in sidequests, or even in lines of dialogue from characters like Phaseus that (in Japanese) seem to be out of place and may have been originally recorded for entirely different scenes. And this reviewer found that the last hours – meaning the last enemies you fight and the endings – were so disappointing as to be almost enough to sour the entire experience. In the end, the story and characters of Dragon’s Dogma 2 somehow managed to leave even less of an impression than those of the first game.

There is also a huge lack of endgame content as well. While the final part of the game unlocks parts of the map to explore, the rewards for doing so are few and far between, and while it does give the player more chances to fight some of the rarer enemy types, you start to run into too many of them: It would have been nice if they had just scattered them across the game instead of focusing them in the last few hours. There is also no final challenge like the first game’s Ur-Dragon: While reaching the last part of the game also gives the player access to powerful new gear, it feels like there is just nothing to use it on.

Of course, one cannot discuss Dragon’s Dogma 2 without addressing the elephant in the room: The game saw a massive amount of controversy on release due to the presence of certain microtransactions, some of which seemed contrary to the game’s design and thus prompted accusations that the game inconveniencing the player in some ways was some sort of attempt at coercing the player into purchases. From 100+ hours of gameplay, this reviewer does not feel that this is the case.

Capcom quickly responded to the accusations regarding the micropayments for the item which lets the player redo the character creation process by adding ample amounts of them to the game as well as a start new game option for players who want to start from scratch with a new character, and it should be noted that the player can also recreate their character and pawn when starting NG+ as well.

In the case of the Portcrystals, which serve as fast travel points, being able to purchase extra ones via microtransactions might seem like a big thing to people who have not played the game, but the player does get more than enough of these via progress and quests in the game, and obtaining more early does not actually do much as actually fast traveling to a point requires Ferrystones: Different, consumable item which are not available as real money purchases and are forbiddingly rare and expensive for the majority of the game: It is only in the latter end of the game, when the player has already likely gathered and placed more than enough Portcrystals, that fast travel really becomes a viable option. Furthermore, four of the major settlements are connected by oxcarts, which serve as an alternate and far cheaper, albeit somewhat limited form of fast travel, and do not require items at all.

As for the other item DLC, the player easily gets ample amounts of all the items available for purchase, and in the case of the gaol key, can easily obtain a better version of the item with infinite uses relatively early on in the game.

Overall, the microtransactions seem to be in the vein of those found in, say, Devil May Cry V and Monster Hunter: Entirely negligible and utterly irrelevant to the experience.

Dragon’s Dogma 2, like its predecessor, is a very strange and flawed game that manages to shine nevertheless. While it expands on the strengths of the original with improved action gameplay, a captivating sense of adventure, and the unique Pawn system, it ultimately falls short in crucial areas, with the repetitive encounters and barebones second half being especially disappointing. While Dragon’s Dogma 2 does have much to offer, it ultimately fails to surpass the original’s impact, leaving fans longing for the magic that made the first Dragon’s Dogma something truly special.

The Good: Great action and fantastic graphics. The returning Pawn system again gives the game an asynchronous multiplayer aspect that is surprisingly interesting.

The Bad: The game feels woefully incomplete, the latter parts especially so. The story and characters are even weaker than the first game’s. Encounters are mostly with the same types of enemies and eventually feel very repetitive.

Conclusion: While Dragon’s Dogma 2 has improvements in the gameplay and visuals, a few critical flaws ultimately prevent it from surpassing the original’s impact, leaving fans yearning for the magic of its predecessor.

Score: 75/100

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I cleared the game with 70 hours is the first honest review of DD2 I’ve seen. There’s so many goddamn shills and fake reviewers who played like 3-4 hours max and didn’t see how it just falls apart the moment you hit Battahl. The game has no final boss and the unmoored world is just a shitshow. And I hate the vocations, why couldn’t they just use the the DDO vocations?

    And yeah I looked at my kill count and it’s at 3500 enemies of which 1500 are goblins, 500 are saurians, 400 are harpies, 300 are wolves.

    What a fucking mess.

  2. DD2 is great in vernworth but yeah the moment you step foot in battahl it goes to shit, and unmoored world and NG+ are plain dog shit

    Huge disappointment, itsuno should sudoku from the shame

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