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Dragon’s Dogma 2 Review

Dragon’s Dogma 2 Review

Reviewing the newest entry in a franchise you’re personally invested in is always a frightful experience, as many uncomfortable questions arise (pun intended): would I like the game just because it is more of the series I love, will I be overly critical to balance it out, and how would a newcomer feel about this? It was with these questions weighing on me that I set off to experience what Dragon’s Dogma 2 had in store.

However, before we get into the game proper, there are a few bugbears I’d like to address, mainly the hotly discussed topics of microtransactions and performance. Yes, the microtransactions were an unwelcome addition to the game, though I would argue they serve some purpose regardless of my stance. The game does receive a demerit in my book for having them, but I won’t be referring to them in the review after this paragraph. The performance is another factor, however, as its presence was an occasional annoyance and prevalent enough to warrant addressing further.

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My handsome cat-guy, ready for adventure!

When in the major settlements, the game can become unbearably slow to play for small periods. While not the best on the market, my computer is still good enough to make me feel a bit disappointed when the jitters hit. However, I rarely had this issue when it mattered, i.e. in combat. While in town, save for the occasional event or rampage (player-instigated or not), you rarely see any combat, meaning the FPS drops mainly hit while I was shopping for gear or exploring the corners and towers looking for coins and tokens. This is still not a good look for a new release, but the impact of it on my experience was not too big. I had one crash in my 40 hours, which I count as a win. Much like the microtransaction issue, a demerit is given, but I don’t feel mentioning the FPS droppage further is necessary from here on.

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Assassin's Dogma or Dragon's Creed?

Now, onto the story we venture! I’ll be keeping this as spoiler-free as I can and will warn if we’re dancing near danger. Dragon’s Dogma 2 is one of those sequels that feel more like a soft reboot than a continuation. If you’re caught up on your Dragon’s Dogma lore, you should know the true ending of the first game left us in a bit of a quandary on how the story could continue. Much like Mass Effect: Andromeda, the sequel decides to not bother and begins somewhere completely detached. Set in the neighbouring lands of Vermund, the human kingdom, and Battahl, the nation of the leonine Beastren, the game has the same basis that we are used to: you play as an Arisen, a warrior that has been chosen by the Dragon.

The mark of the Arisen is a large scar on their chest, as the title is earned when the aforementioned Dragon plucks the person’s still beating heart out of their chest and munches it down as a well-deserved snack. Being Arisen may seem like a pretty good deal: you are now the de facto ruler, or Sovren, of Vermund; you gain the allegiance of the Pawn Legion, a race of emotionless humanoids that are dedicated to serving you; you are basically immortal as long as the Dragon lives; and you can become very powerful. However, as some insightful readers may guess, this role is not all coronations and cake: the appearance of the Dragon, which happens every few generations or so, is a sign of the coming apocalypse, and the only person who can stop it is, you guessed it, the Arisen! So, no pressure.

Excuse me, oh Dragon, but I kinda... NEED that!

Your career as the destined hero of legend starts off about as roughly as one could imagine, finding yourself as a slave without memory in a mining camp far from home with a nasty wound on your chest. After creating your character on the dizzyingly detailed character creator and doing a few tutorials, you are greeted by a spectral berobed person who basically asks why you’re messing about here when the plot is way over yonder. Epic fantasy hijinks ensue, and you are well on your way to the town of Melve, which can be considered the start of your adventure. You quickly learn that an Arisen, of which there can be only one at a time, already sits on the throne of the capital city, Vernworth, making your claim suspect, to say the least. However, the Pawns seem to like you, and that is usually a surefire indicator of the title's bearer. From here, you set forth to discover what the deal is: why is there another Arisen around, why is the previous Sovran’s wife, the current Queen Reagent, suddenly supporting them, and why is there a weird sickness showing up?

This quest takes you from one edge of the world to the other, encountering many people, cultures, and factions with their own goals and motivations. Unlike the prequel, Dragon’s Dogma 2 features a plethora of different races to interact with: there are the humans of Vermund, naturally, but you also have the leonine Beastren of the Battahl canyons, in addition to Elves and Dwarves, of all things! While the difference in the races is mostly superficial on a person-by-person basis, each of the cultures does feel distinct, with the elves living in a secluded arbour you can completely miss if you don’t explore!

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You'll also need a translator

The narrative in the sequel is very much like its predecessor in that it can feel very stop-startish, with many quests requiring you to wait for a while or even simply sending you to a far-off location with little more than a pat on the back. The story is nothing special, but honestly, the surface-level plot in Dragon’s Dogma games has never been; it does what it needs to keep the player engaged and exploring the major areas of the game while also building an interesting intrigue in the background players can engage with as much or as little as they want. In terms of lore, I was not left disappointed. In fact, I found myself wishing someone else played the game so I could spend a few days arguing about what it all means! Where the story did fail, however, was in Battahl.

Vermund is very similar to the original’s Gransys in that it’s basically forests, hills, streams, and caverns ruled over by a human authority. I was very excited to see what the vastly different land of Battahl would offer, but as soon as I got my feet onto the desert sands, the game had me going back to Vermund. While there are a lot of cool places to see and interesting secrets to find in the canyons and crags, I wish we had had more time to learn about this land with its unique customs and religion. The Beastren worship the Lampent Flame, you see, but after playing as far as I did, I still have no idea what that actually means. What is included in the religion, how do they view the Dragon’s coming, and how does this affect their perspectives? Wanting to learn more about a game's inhabitants is probably a good problem to have, but it is frustrating nonetheless.

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Battahl is a gorgeous locale, I just wish there was more to do there!

Thankfully, whenever the plot had me scratching my head, everything else quickly helped me forget what my issue was: this game looks absolutely stunning! Everything in the world feels very organic — the forests feel dense and often hide old ruins, the caverns and caves all feel natural and seem to “make sense” in relation to the environment around them, such as a small seaside town having a crevice nearby seemingly eroded into the stone by the sea itself or abandoned mines having a mix of natural formations and worked surfaces. Though they may seem like little things, they added immensely to both immersion and variety, making each new discovery a tiny story all its own. Added to this is the well-implemented day and night cycle that slowly changes the land from a collection of vistas and routes into deep darkness filled with nasty monsters.

The monsters and beasts themselves look great, with fun little details and variations in their designs. Where one single band of goblins can have soldiers with nothing but shields to keep you busy while their mates lob stones or stab you with spears, the next one may employ a warhorn to call for backup. The game does use a fair bit of palette swapping to signify different variants of the same base monster, such as goblins and choppers, but the differences in look and tactics are very clear and make telling them apart easy enough.

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Whenever you cook at camp, you'll be shown an honest live-action clip of meat being seared on a pan. I don't even.

Where Dragon’s Dogma 2 shines, however, is in the design of the larger mini-boss monsters you may find yourself facing on your journey! Ranging from lumbering cyclopes to charging minotaurs and spellcasting liches, each one of these encounters feels unique and requires a different approach. One cyclops may be easy to take down, only to be followed by another that had the genius idea of tying a grate to its face to protect its vulnerable eye, adding a new layer of tactics to the fight! I do wonder if they actually know how to tie a knot…

Adding to the wonder of these encounters is the sound design: each monster sounds distinct with unique roars and stomps, and they even have a dedicated battle theme for each different gigantic foe, making them stand out from the normal combat. Each hit and blow has the appropriate oomph behind it, and once you get the enemy to a low level of health, you’ll be spurred to victory by a shift into a triumphant medley familiar to fans of the series. I admit, I grinned like an idiot the first time it happened!

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One of my favourite Pawns I ran into

The combination of beautiful scenery, a multitude of points of interest to find, and many different foes to encounter and battle make exploration feel very rewarding and satisfying. Honestly, with the way the game is designed, adventuring is the biggest selling point. Here’s an example of a day in the life of the Arisen: you start off in town, where you rest up, restock, and prepare, after which you leave on a trip to whatever goal you’ve set. On the way, you may encounter someone being attacked by an ogre, the chasing of which leads you to a cave you haven’t seen before. After exploring said cave, you find yourself on the other side of the forest in the dark of night, suddenly helping a pointy-eared fellow study for his bow exam! The game somehow manages to make every outing feel like its own epic journey with organic twists and turns, all without a quest marker or exposition dump! The powerful loot and fun sidequests you can unlock while exploring help, too. If nothing else, experiencing this is worth the price of admission.

As you may have gathered from the above, travelling is the name of the game; getting anywhere takes time. Thankfully, the game does offer a few ways to cut on the travel time between locations. The first, and most unreliable, are oxcarts. These ye olde taxies run at set times between some (not all) of the main villages of the game. For a small fee, you can hop on back and rest your feet while the cart rumbles through the land. From here, you can either watch it go in real-time or you can nod off and wake up at your destination. At least, usually. You see, the unreliability of this form of transportation comes from the very real chance of being waylaid during your trip! Be it wild animals, bandits, or cyclopes, these sudden attacks may interrupt your pleasant journey, requiring you to hop out and take on the threat. While this may be simple enough, if your cart happens to be damaged during the fight, you may have quite a bit of walking to do.

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Wake me when we get there...

I employed oxcarts quite a bit, as they were quick and cheap ways to faraway villages, which I could then use as a base of operations for exploration and questing. However, during my diligent use of public travel, I did note a few gripes: first, never watch the cart go, no matter how soothing it is. The amount of enemy encounters is much higher when you actively roam the roads, making it an almost surefire way to get your cart destroyed! Second, and more importantly, always make sure to lead any battles away from the cart! If a cyclops even sneezes on it, the cart will be smashed, and you will be in the middle of nowhere, facing the reality of a long and arduous hike you were not planning for. Personally, I never minded too much when this happened, as it was another excuse for organic storytelling and exploration, but I can imagine this being annoying when you just want to go to the bloody town!

The other, more expedient method is using a Ferrystone. These magical stones are capable of teleporting you to any Portcrystal you’ve discovered in the world. This is great because there are situations where time is of the essence, so being able to cross vast distances in a blink can be a lifesaver. However, Ferrystones are not too common, so using them carelessly can be a recipe for a long walk in the woods. Equally restricting are the Portcrystals themselves: only a few places in the game have a crystal to teleport to, making the method useful in only a handful of situations. You do gain deployable Portcrystals later, but you only get a few, making their placement a hard decision!

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Travel by Big Bird was not a pleasant experience, 1/5 stars

I found the Ferrystone system to be a good compromise between emphasising the exploration and size of the world with the modern need to get things done quickly; if you’re smart with your Portcrystals, you should be able to get almost anywhere on the map without too much bother. The scarceness of Ferrystones is also only a “problem” in the early game, as most merchants and shops do stock one stone for around 10k gold. It’s expensive no matter where you are in the game, but if you feel the need to hop around, it’s not too difficult to buy, loot, and find a bunch to feed your speedy lifestyle! I admit to being a slave to the ease of fast travelling, so having the option off of the table is a refreshing change and effectively gives each stretch of distance an appropriate sense of scale.

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My favourite Pawns vol. 2, a cameo?

So, we’ve discussed where we are, how it looks, and how it feels. But how do we actually interact with the world? Well, you, as the Arisen, have a Main Pawn — made with the same character creation tool as the Arisen — that is loyal to you. In addition to your buddy, you can hire up to two other Pawns to create a team of four. While you are free to alter your Pawn’s skills and equipment, the others are a bit more complex. You see, each and every recruitable person is the Main Pawn of another real-life player, meaning they have the looks, skills, and gear said player has given them. While you have a limited say on their build by changing up gear, you cannot alter their skills or Vocation. Each character can have one active class, or Vocation, which defines their role in the party. In the beginning, you can select between the speedy Thief, the ranged Archer, the durable Fighter, or the magick-wielding Mage. As you use each Vocation, you will slowly rank up, gaining new skills, passive abilities, and Attributes. If you feel so inclined, you can make a party full of Thieves or Archers, though it is recommended to have a balanced team with both magical and physical skills.

Having the right skills for the occasion is important! And all kinds of fun.

Each teammate can have a total of four skills assigned along with their basic attacks and special Vocation-specific abilities, such as a Fighter’s ability to block with a shield and a Thief’s dodge. As you progress in the game, advanced and Arisen-only hybrid Vocations can be unlocked, all with new skills and approaches to combat! You can learn new skills and even change your class in larger towns, making it relatively easy to try out each option before deciding on which one fits your style. I loved the Vocation system, as each choice required approaching battles very differently: taking on all comers as the Fighter was great fun, but the Thief’s zippy combat and flashy moves were an absolute joy! Trying out different combinations kept me engaged, and the Pawns seemed to be somewhat smarter than their prequel counterparts! Sure, they still repeat themselves incessantly, but they seem to be able to act more reliably in and out of combat, being able to lead you to points of interest and giving helpful hints with quests and foes alike.

As I mentioned before, you often wind up battling with gigantic creatures that act as mini-bosses, theme music and all. It’s in these fights where I feel Dragon’s Dogma 2 shone, as each role seemed to be equally important: the frontline tank could draw attention and hamper the foes' movement while magick users could either rain down damage, boost allies or heal the wounded. More dextrous members of the team, on the other hand, clamber up and down the large enemies, finding and exploiting weak points to both cause massive damage and confusion! I mean, you try focusing when an ant keeps biting your eyelid. The feeling of teamwork and accomplishment was amazing, though sometimes the Pawns were less stellar in their performance. One memorable fight with a griffon had my beloved Pawn swingin' his heart out at the most despicable of enemies, the empty air, while the rest of us fought tooth and nail to keep the giant cat-bird from making us its evening meal. Thanks, Marith; love ya, man.

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Favourite Pawns vol. 3, this guy seems familiar... hmm

From the text so far, you can imagine I was very much taken with the game and to a certain degree, you are correct! However, a perfect experience this was not; far from it. While I won’t say more on the FPS stuff, it is not the only bug I happened upon: I’d frequently lose my Pawns — they’d suddenly be absent from my team — when I exited a separate area, such as a cavern. Often, my Pawns (even with their improved AI) would run in circles before remembering they were supposed to be guiding me somewhere, only to end their guided tour early to go look at a cool rock they found. I can relate, but I’d have liked to go to that campsite you promised… While never more than a nuisance, the bugs did dampen my mood in a few situations. At its best, the game can be amazingly immersive; you always have something to explore or a quest to finish up. At its worst, however, the bugs and glitches can really pull you out of it, if not actively ruin your fun. For example, I had invested Rift Crystals, the in-game money, into a powerful companion, only to have them go MIA within the first 15 minutes! Rift Crystals well spent.

Speaking of small but irritating niggles, the combat can also be aggravating sometimes. While the encounters are usually evenly paced, fun, and balanced, I sometimes felt I could not catch a break! While not true for every battle of monster type, I sometimes felt combats seemed to blend into each other where the small group of goblins I decided to fight were suddenly joined by stronger hobgoblins, a pack of wolves, an angry cyclops, and even a gang of bandits! This is especially annoying when it happens right after leaving town or camp, as your health point maximum drops a small amount when you take damage, meaning you will be weaker little by little. I remember two distinct times I broke camp, walked a few steps, got harassed by the aforementioned conga line of pain, and then promptly turned right around to go back to sleep to recover the health I had just lost.

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Sometimes, the game can be a bit too realistic with its giant monsters and their... leftovers.

In a similar vein, while I do adore the encounters with large monsters, there may be a few too many of them running around for my liking: running into one chimaera on a jaunt is an epic encounter, running into three during the same encounter is just busywork. This may have been bad luck on my part, but it's never a good sign when your epic mini-boss is received with a resigned “not you again”. Despite these issues, the sometimes unfair combat, and the bewildering quests, I came out the other side loving Dragon’s Dogma 2 for one reason above all others: it does such a tremendous job with how the world feels!

It’s often the little things that seal the deal, and this is very much the case here. I adore small features in games that have little mechanical benefit but exist purely to add depth, emotion, and life to a game. For example, merchants and oxcarts roam the land, citizens go about their daily lives, broken bridges are slowly rebuilt in a matter of in-game days, and after a fight, your Pawns may sometimes go for a fist-bump or high five to celebrate, which you can accept or ignore (or miss completely… sorry fellas) at your leisure! These teeny tiny interactions just make the game feel so… wholesome! You can even buy a dwelling in some of the larger cities, which friendly NPCs will visit from time to time! If they happen to miss you, they’ll leave you a letter and a little gift.

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Favourite Pawns vol. 4, apparently some kind of Dragon expert?

Dragon’s Dogma 2 feels like one of those “overwriting” sequels, such as Left 4 Dead 2 and Hand of Fate 2, which take the setting and mechanics of the original, fine-tune them, and make the original somewhat redundant. While I’d argue the two Dogmas are different enough to not discount the first game altogether, the sequel does feel like a more complete experience. Sure, there are bugs, some microtransactions, and FPS issues, but I found the game to be a blast to play regardless. I’m planning on playing this again to see what I missed, try out some new ideas for quests, and max out all of those Vocations! If being excited to play a 40-hour game again is not proof of its quality, I’m not sure what is.

8.50/10 8½

Dragon's Dogma 2 (Reviewed on Windows)

This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.

What Dragon’s Dogma 2 does well is the wonder of exploration and adventure. The world is beautiful, the Vocations are flashy, and the fights are bombastic. A hearty recommendation for old hats and fresh faces alike!

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Martin Heath

Martin Heath

Staff Writer

Professional Bungler

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Zachary Carr
Zachary Carr - 11:03pm, 14th April 2024

The game is pretty awesome though after about 6hrs I started getting terrible pop ins. Also not to forget it can be beyond difficult

Thejakman - 05:11am, 15th April 2024 Author

Hey Zachary, thanks for the comment!

Sorry to hear you had pop in issues :/ did you notice if they were more frequent in some areas?

Yeah, the difficulty can really fluctuate as well. I don't know why, but the saurians always gave me trouble with their multi-hit combos!

Zachary Carr
Zachary Carr - 02:58pm, 15th April 2024

The pop in was mainly around Vermund. Anyhow the saurians kinda piss me off with their stun locking attacks lol. Playing starting as a mage and now sorcerer and got to be honest the staffs also annoys me as they deal very little damage the only thing that really works well are the fire and lightning attacks especially the lightning bolt attack that is an early mage unlock; the sorcerer only lightning ball thing seems worthless to me so far though as it has very little range and not much more damage than the lightning bolts you can call down.

Thejakman - 03:11pm, 15th April 2024 Author

Yeah the Vermund area can be rough to render. Sad to hear your not having as much fun as you could. Have you tried the other Vocations? I really liked how the spells looked, though I agree some spells seemed more situational than others. I hope you manage to find some joy in the game! I

Zachary Carr
Zachary Carr - 03:16pm, 15th April 2024

I tried the archer class so I could get through the training an elf quest thing. Also I disliked the archer more than the magic vocations. Anyhow I am having a lot of fun with the game just it seems a bit unrefined after the first few hours. Have yet to make it to the giant cat people area though that is my next two quests region and I have seen that the area has very little to offer compared to the areas around Vermund.

Thejakman - 03:28pm, 15th April 2024 Author

I'm very glad to hear you are having fun regardless of the few rough spots! Battahl is an interesting locale, though you are right that the game doesn't give you much to do there. I recommend exploring, though! There are some cool areas to find.

Zachary Carr
Zachary Carr - 03:36pm, 15th April 2024

I just find it sad from what I have seen online that it really does not explain the backstory of the Beastren cat people. It would be interesting if they explained their religion etc better

Thejakman - 04:26pm, 15th April 2024 Author

I agree! I'd love to learn more about the Lampent Flame. Maybe in an expansion?

Zachary Carr
Zachary Carr - 04:30pm, 15th April 2024

Maybe they can make a sequel where you are the Messiah of the kitties lol

Zachary Carr
Zachary Carr - 03:01pm, 15th April 2024

Also it is weird that the pop in did not start until like 6hrs into the game kinda like the devs wanted to keep you enthralled for the first few hrs then kinda started slacking with their work and said "F it".