‘Dragon’s Dogma 2’ review: You gotta get on its level
13 mins read

‘Dragon’s Dogma 2’ review: You gotta get on its level


Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a game about feeling like the coolest guy on the planet after winning a 20-minute fight against an asshole dragon. Conversely, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a game about stumbling around like an idiot as a cyclops pummels you into oblivion because you didn’t adequately prepare before going out at night.

It’s also a game about throwing your friends off of cliffs, trying to work around questionable AI, and relentless inventory management. But most of all, it’s a story of redemption for a cult classic that finally, finally found a way to hit it big with a mainstream audience without compromising on its hilarious, friction-filled ideals.

If you’re willing to get down and dirty with Dragon’s Dogma 2 — and accept the game on its own terms — you’ll find one of the most satisfying, spirited open-world experiences in years.

What I like about Dragon’s Dogma 2

Dragon’s Dogma 2 may not be the best game of 2024, but it’s hard to imagine another game being more committed to the bit. From its emphasis on exploration (with a challenging travel system adding depth to gameplay) to dynamic and unpredictable encounters, Dragon Dogma 2 is a refreshing departure from conventional open-world mechanics.

Running back and forth has never been so fun

Beastren in Dragons Dogma 2

Like a rhinestone catboy.
Credit: Capcom/Steam

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess at least a few people reading this aren’t really familiar with Dragon’s Dogma’s game. Let me fix that.

Put simply, it’s open-world action RPG that zigs where a lot of other games in the genre zag. The narrative premise is thin (you are a very special boy or girl out to prove that they are the true monarch of the kingdom), none of your party members are real characters per se, and the simple act of getting around is kind of a chore — on purpose.

That last part is important. You can only warp around using consumable items that are expensive in shops early on and otherwise very rarely doled out as quest rewards or in chests. A cheap oxcart system offers a quasi-fast travel option between major hubs. However, there’s a considerable risk of your journey being disrupted by an ogre, resulting in the destruction of your cart, leaving you stranded in the wilderness after dark.

The functional outcome of these design choices is that you’ll spend a lot of time running between towns, often traversing paths you’ve explored before. In another game, this would be tedious backtracking. Here, it’s part of Dragon’s Dogma’s thesis statement. No two trips are ever exactly the same. Sometimes, it’s smooth sailing, but other times, a chimera will ruin your day. There’s also an abundance of side paths leading to bespoke dungeons or other areas filled with treacherous enemies and worthwhile loot.

All of these ideas and systems work together to produce an experience that feels decidedly refreshing in this age of frictionless, sanded-down open-world games. You’ll never climb a tower to unveil icons on a map in Dragon’s Dogma. The map does a good job of communicating where you can go, but it’ll never tell you what you’ll find there. That’s for you to discover.

The funny thing is, the first game was exactly the same way. All that’s changed here is that everything is a little bit better. Tutorials are more straightforward and readily available. It only takes a couple of hours before you feel powerful, as opposed to the 8 to 10 hours with the original game. This, in many ways, feels like a reimagining of the first game more than a sequel, as Capcom has had an extra dozen years, and presumably a much larger budget, to fine-tune the experience.

Taking down big monsters rocks

Griffin being killed in Dragon's Dogma 2

Everyone remembers their first time slaying a griffin.
Credit: Capcom/Steam

And fine-tune it, Capcom has. Combat in Dragon’s Dogma 2 is, in a word, thrilling. Whether cutting your way through weak goblin doofuses or fighting one of several big boss monsters that require you to physically climb on them to strike weak points Shadow of the Colossus-style, this is a game about patience and focus. Each of the game’s several playable classes uses unique weapons and has distinct abilities, and fitting into your role is tantamount to success.

Thieves, for example, are at their best when being maximum annoying. They can dart around the battlefield using a dash move that no other class has and inflict huge damage without taking hits. Mystic Spearhands, on the other hand, are all about carefully using magic to stun enemies and support teammates before moving in for the kill when an opportunity arises. And finally, as an archer, your job is simple: stay the hell out of the way.

Point being, you can’t just button mash your way to success here. Doing so will get you punished severely, whether it’s by strong enemy attacks or just dumb physics luck. Dragon’s Dogma 2 distinguishes itself from its contemporaries by adopting a realistic bodily physics system, so characters will stumble around and get knocked down when a boss strikes the ground nearby. Sometimes you’ll get picked up and thrown off a cliff, and all you can do is laugh.

Once you get a grasp on Dragon’s Dogma’s combat, all of that feels natural, even when it doesn’t work in your favor. There’s a good deal of randomness here that elevates things, too. Sometimes, you’ll engage in simple combat in a flat, open area. Other times, a boss monster will want to scrap while you’re on a precarious cliff. One time, I was midway through killing a cyclops when a griffin descended upon us, turning it into a stressful fight against two mean monsters. 

Learn to accept failure

While it’s very easy to feel awesome in Dragon’s Dogma 2, I want to emphasize that failure is built into the game’s design ethos. You will stumble and fall, failing to complete quests on time (yes, some quests have time limits) or failing to find them at all. It won’t always be your fault, either. That’s just life, man.

It’s this aspect of Dragon’s Dogma 2 that ultimately won me over more than anything else. You really have to give yourself over to the idea that your adventure won’t go perfectly. I failed quests and ruined relationships with certain characters by accident. I wasted fast travel items and burned through all of my curatives — only to run away from the fight I was trying to win, run out of money, and accidentally sell important quest items trying to get that money back. 

Failure as a built-in feature of game design is part of what drew people to Baldur’s Gate 3 last year, and Dragon’s Dogma 2 gave me what that game gave its millions of fans. It just does it without putting an on-screen 20-sider. 

Pawn Stars

Magick Archer class in Dragon's Dogma 2

Archery can be crucial.
Credit: Capcom/Steam

I’d be remiss not to take a moment to talk about Pawns, the stars of the show in Dragon’s Dogma. Your adventuring party is made up of your custom protagonist, as well as a second-created character who can be any class you choose. That’s your main Pawn, and the other two slots in your party are made up of other player’s main Pawns that you can pluck out of the online ether.

Pawns are just funny, man. They love chatting about rumors they’ve heard and other parties they’ve been in. If you fall off a high surface, sometimes they’ll catch you and save you from dying. You can also throw your main Pawn off a cliff as many times as you want without really suffering any consequences for it, if you so choose.

The only downside to all of this is that Dragon’s Dogma is so focused on letting the player tell their own stories that it doesn’t really bother to tell much of one by itself. People who like traditional RPGs might bemoan the fact that Pawns aren’t authored characters with deep backstories and satisfying narrative arcs. 

That said, you learn to love them all the same. Especially when you find out another player made a sorcerer modeled after Shrek and you can put him in your party. 

What’s ‘eh’ about Dragon’s Dogma 2

While Dragon’s Dogma 2 introduced an unexpected microtransactions store, it doesn’t feel like the game’s design was anchored around it. The scarcity of in-game items isn’t artificially engineered to push purchases; rather, it’s a design choice consistent with the franchise’s history.

Yes, there are microtransactions

Shockingly, the previously unannounced microtransactions store was a surprise even to many people who got the game early for review. You can use it to buy helpful, game-changing items like fast travel crystals. It sucks, plain and simple.

However…this is kind of an own-goal on Capcom’s part. There is absolutely zero reason to believe that the developers made these items artificially scarce in-game to encourage you to buy them with real money. The items are rare because that’s how the game works. It’s how Dragon’s Dogma worked 12 years ago, too. 

In other words, you can safely ignore the microtransactions store. I don’t want to absolve Capcom here because even knowing that it exists does change the player’s relationship with the game to some extent. But functionally, this stuff doesn’t affect the game at all, and frankly anyone who spends money on fast travel crystals is a sucker.

What I dislike about Dragon’s Dogma 2

The unpredictability of Dragon’s Dogma 2’s gameplay, while intriguing, sometimes leads to frustrating moments where the game’s mechanics seem to fail rather than challenge.

Flying too close to the sun

The player only has so much control over what happens in Dragon’s Dogma 2, which is by and large a good thing. However, a game with this many variables in play at any given moment is eventually going to buckle under that weight and produce friction that isn’t especially fun.

I’m really talking specifically about a time I was escorting a character from one place to another for a quest and they just … jumped off a cliff and died in the middle of a fight. Of course, I failed the quest and couldn’t try it again. It was frustrating because it was clearly the game breaking instead of an intentional choice by the developers.

That’s the kind of thing that can happen at any time, and it’s impressive that it doesn’t happen more, but that doesn’t mean it’s enjoyable. Again, though, failure is part of life. All you can do is move on to the next quest.

Is Dragon’s Dogma 2 worth it?

I’m fully aware that not everyone is going to vibe with Dragon’s Dogma 2. You simply cannot play this game expecting it to be like Skyrim. You will experience moments of frustration as you realize you have to run all the way back to a place because you can’t fast travel there. Much of it might feel like wasted time, even.

But I promise that it’s not. You just have to let Dragon’s Dogma 2 drag you down into the mud with it. Everything that feels tedious or annoying is there for a reason, and once you see the bigger picture, you’ll learn to appreciate those things. Not every game needs to be like Dragon’s Dogma 2, but I’m happy as hell that at least one game is like this.





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