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15 June, 2024
Dragon's Dogma 2

Dragon’s Dogma 2: Fantasy, Frustration, and Friendship

Developed by Capcom, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is probably the most unexpected banger of 2024. The first game was released in 2012, and despite some good ideas, Dragon’s Dogma was met with mixed responses due to its unforgiving difficulty and unintended jankiness. Now, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is here, and unlike most sequels, it flat-out refuses to streamline the experience for newcomers. While this might be seen as a major detractor, the frustration and head-scratching give way to a modern RPG unlike any other, where immersion and personal accomplishment are king. In a world where most big-budget games incessantly hold your hand while spoon-feeding content at a palpable pace, Dragon’s Dogma 2 demands that you learn quickly and “get good” or suffer the consequences, and it’s all the better for it.

Capcom Doesn't Care If You Suck

Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a third-person action RPG that is set across two new fantasy regions, Vermund and Battahl, where you play as the Arisen, a warrior of prophecy who must become the rightful ruler by slaying an evil dragon. Before you can dream of lordship, though, you’ll have to complete the trying task of learning the ropes. While the bones of Dragon’s Dogma 2‘s RPG system are easy enough to understand, with familiar combat, leveling, and inventory management, a notable lack of guidance will surely pose a challenge for newcomers. Almost every mechanic in the game is a proverbial trial by fire, where you must experiment constantly to learn what works and what doesn’t, with very few safety nets to prevent utter failure.

For example, let’s say an important NPC character dies during one of your quests. Well, you’ll have to travel to one of the capital cities and find their corpse in the mortuary in order to resurrect them. Oh, and you also need a special item called a wakestone. Does Dragon’s Dogma 2 tell you any of this? Barely. Traveling to a major city will also take some time, since fast travel is limited, making oxcart rides the fastest mode of transport.

Dragon's Dogma 2
Dragon's Dogma 2 RPG

Time itself is an obstacle to overcome as well, as the world will continue to trudge on, independently of your actions. If you wait too long, that NPC corpse might be missing from the mortuary, rendering your side quest incomplete. Time can also wreak havoc on essential recovery items like meat and vegetables, which spoil if you leave them in your inventory, so you can rarely rely on a stash of quick consumables during battle.

Luckily, you’re not alone in your quest to become king. Every player is accompanied by an AI-controlled companion called a Pawn, which are fully customizable and are automatically shared to the Capcom servers. Using Dragon’s Dogma 2‘s online features, you can also recruit other players’ Pawns to join you, further filling out your party. Pawns are invaluable during exploration and combat, and if you set them up correctly, they perfectly balance out your weaknesses. Since I chose the Fighter class for my Arisen, I picked the Mage class for my Pawn, to provide some much-needed healing. Changing yours and your Pawn’s class will help you learn new skills and become more well-rounded warriors, but like many things in Dragon’s Dogma 2, it might be hours until you learn how to do that. Just like in the first game, the Pawn system is a standout feature that offers substantial companionship, as you’ll likely feel a bond to your personal Pawn as you share victories and hardships together. Best of all, Pawns are just one of the many things that make Dragon’s Dogma 2 so special.

How RPGs Were Meant to Be

Although learning the nuances of Dragon’s Dogma 2 is slightly frustrating (and time-consuming), once you get in the groove, it’s hard to put the game down. It would be easy to pass off the stubborn design as lazy, but Capcom knew exactly what they were doing by making Dragon’s Dogma 2 a bit obtuse. By putting the bulk of the work on the player and rarely holding their hand, failure can feel exceptionally punishing, but the victories are that much sweeter in turn. When you don’t have tutorial tips popping up every 10 seconds or yammering companions that blurt out puzzle solutions, rewards feel earned, no matter how small the success. Things that might seem minor in other RPGs, like reaching a safe campsite or clearing out a small cave, are enormously satisfying in Dragon’s Dogma 2.

Dragon's Dogma RPG
Dragon's Dogma 2 RPG

This loop of learning, experimentation, and observation leads to a hefty amount of immersion, where each new quest or encounter is packed with cool and unique moments. The world of Dragon’s Dogma 2 is big and begging to be explored, with authored surprises seemingly scattered around every corner. Quests are barely signposted and you’re encouraged to think outside of the box, so like Baldur’s Gate 3, there are many ways you can go about completing a given task.

When you stumble upon a valuable item, secret area, or optional objective simply due to your sense of curiosity, the discovery is entirely your own. Conversely, having too much courage can be a bad thing, as real threats to your life are constant, and play convenience is mostly disregarded. Dragon’s Dogma 2 is more than willing to drop a massively overpowered boss on your head at any given moment, and if you aren’t prepared for the fight (and you rarely are), death is almost certain.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Will Be Underrated

In the same way that Dark Souls broke the RPG mold by embracing difficulty and prioritizing player discovery, Dragon’s Dogma 2 applies these concepts to a more traditional RPG setting, while applying its own creative spin. Both games call back to a forgotten era of RPG, when adventures were more about survival and bravery than fueling the player with dopamine. Some of the most influential RPGs of all time, like Wizardry, Baldur’s Gate, Fallout, etc., harbor very similar design philosophies, which are usually accompanied by unforgiving difficulty. Classic RPGs were not created to baby the player or help them win at every turn, but to provide true challenge and foster growth, creating memorable moments of triumph and storytelling along the way.

Dragon's Dogma 2
Dragon's Dogma 2

By staying true to the ideals of the Golden Age of RPGs, while also propping up innovative features such as the Pawn system and unrestricted class swapping, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a resounding success. It might not be an accessible RPG like Skyrim, making it tough to recommend to genre newcomers, but making the game easier to play would be a mistake. You have to put some work into the game to get the most out of it, but like the best things in life, a little effort goes a long way. Dragon’s Dogma 2 is one of those rare, love-or-hate games that will split audiences down the middle. For the most part, critiques and celebrations from both sides of that debate will be equally valid. Don’t be intimidated by its complexity or refusal to bend for beginners, because Dragon’s Dogma 2 rivals Monster Hunter World as Capcom’s best modern RPG.


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