Dragon’s Dogma 2 Review: And the Pawns We Meet Along the way

Written by Allen

April 19, 2024

So like every other family this year that can manage to afford it, we recently went on a trip to Japan. I was the one tasked with planning and putting it together, so one might be able to imagine what it was like to try to manage and plan around the needs of 8 other very different individuals for a week. It took a lot of time and effort to put together, and when we were finally there, it was almost a disaster. The weather took a turn for the worse, one of us got sick, and a lot of the attractions were either harder to visit, see, or just couldn’t operate. So was it a week wasted, where the plan entirely went to fall apart? No, when I was at a point of breaking, the family came through and just helped me and each other in any way they could. Sure, things didn’t pan out the way I had hoped, and we didn’t get to see everything I had planned, but we ended up seeing a lot. Everyone also got a great experience or two out of it, and I’m happy about that.

Now, I could enjoy all the sights and attractions on my own, and in fact, do everything I wanted if I had just gone by myself. I can then summarize a solo trip in a series of selfies and videos. But the people I met, and journeyed the country with, and the moments we shared is something I don’t think I can really properly capture or fully talk about. But I’ll never forget them.

Like a merry band of adventurers, you’ll journey across land, seeking fame, fortune, or just a good time. And while the destination is worthwhile, the journey towards it is truly what makes it meaningful. Sorry, this is a review for Dragon’s Dogma 2, and I couldn’t shake off how my recent experiences seem to overlap with how I feel about the game. Because of how it’s designed and how it plays out, you’re going to end up exploring the world in whatever terms you set yourself up for. So, it’s a lot like planning out a trip.

 

 

The summary of how it plays out is something between Dragon Age: Inquisition and Red Dead Redemption 2. Having to plan and play combat according to my party’s capabilities and their roles feels pretty unique against the industry’s current offerings. Then how the game handles your journeying from one area to another, where you are likely to encounter a whole assortment of friendlies and foes, or even end up on completely unrelated quests or boss fights, is also something I haven’t experienced in a while. So here we are with me trying to describe Dragon’s Dogma 2 with some games from beyond yesteryear.

I think that’s within expectations, considering that the first title came out approximately a decade ago. Where its unique mechanics were about the dynamic shift between exploration and combat, as well as the capability to climb on larger monsters. This was the primary reason I liked picking the fighter class. So, after so long: Is the smash or parry still great? Is acting like a black company that constantly hires and fires pawns still satisfying? Is accidentally ending up in inappropriate places against a troll just as fun? Let’s break it down.

 

Production (4 / 5)

 

Man, I was excited to boot up this title with my PlayStation 5. Expecting to be pretty blown away with how it looked, based on my experience with the previous installment. But the truth was, I wasn’t. Now I wanted to make sure I wasn’t just fooling myself with the good old nostalgia lens here, so I went on to check screenshots of the Dragon’s Dogma 1 on the older consoles (PS3 and PS4). And clearly, there is a vast improvement here and there. Back then they would use textures for certain pieces of clothing and armor rather than fully modelling it out. Which is what we get in Dragon’s Dogma 2. Faces are more detailed, dynamic lighting is also helping with the environment. A lot is going on with graphic improvements for the title as compared to its predecessor, but I just couldn’t feel impressed by it. Somehow the game just continued to look dated to me.

Despite it being on the RE Engine that we know a lot of Resident Evil games benefit from including Monster Hunter Rise, the game looks old school by how it’s made. You can see a lot of older techniques used to create the environments. Not that it looks bad, but it doesn’t do anything for me. Nothing more than background items that I don’t even have to bother acknowledging. Then there’s the water being a texture effect on a surface. A lot of these things tell you that you’re in a game, which is pretty counterintuitive if you’re trying to make this an immersive experience.

 

 

The worst offender I would have to say is the inconsistent frame rate. Look, I don’t mind having to play on 30 fps if the game isn’t the twitch-action-reaction sort. But I do take issue if it just can’t seem to decide what frame rate it wants to play at. It’s very jarring to experience and immediately inform you of the optimization issues of the title. I tried looking up graphic options about improving the frame rate, and I was probably blind when I did because I couldn’t see anything to lock it to 30 or any way to at least keep the frame rate consistent.

Maybe the RE Engine is a lot like the Dragon Engine and isn’t designed to create wide-open, systems-based worlds, and is much better suited for dense, compact spaces. Admittedly, when it comes time to swing swords and sling spells, I don’t recall running into the frame drop issue much on the PlayStation 5, if it happened at all. What I did encounter was my brain forgetting to hold the block button.

Now I feel like I have to remind people that I think the models look fine the way they are because I’m about to complain about the graphics again. Particularly how characters talk to each other during cutscenes because of the inconsistent quality of the animation. There are times when they are completely fine, properly expressive, and well-framed. Then there are times when it feels like I’m watching a scene from Mass Effect Andromeda and the relevant characters are switching between emotion toggles while talking, leading to some really awkward and stiff acting. It was rather annoying to be showered with the poorer quality stuff at the start of the game, but it wasn’t as noticeable as I pressed on.

Moving onto the audio side of things, the voice performances of pretty much everyone, English or Japanese dub, gets approval from me. There is the point where the voice variants tend to just be pitch edits of one voice actor, but considering there are a lot of unique voice lines through the campaign and side-content within Dragon’s Dogma, I’m more inclined to be understanding of this choice. Not a fan of it, but I’m free to ignore it. I’ve chosen to stick with the English dub since there are a lot of voice-overs thrown out during travels and combat which could be hard to catch in the heat of the moment. And well, the English voices do a good job anyway. Except when they remind me for the 100th time about crafting and how the party is full of women. Look, if the players mostly want to make female pawns, that’s not my fault, ok?

 

 

Music does a proper job of creating an atmosphere, though I mostly didn’t notice it playing in the background. It was more like completing an ambiance rather than setting the mood for the moment, which I think does a great job. However when it decided that it was time to kick it to high gear was when you’d encounter one of the boss types, where it would dynamically change at the start of combat, change again when the monster becomes vulnerable, and conclude when it’s eventually slain. This stuff makes moments more accentuated and exciting. 

The audio design is also probably your best indicator for what’s going on out of sight during combat if your attacks are hitting properly, or if something may be amiss. Honestly speaking I wish they did more than this to give me a better idea of my surroundings, but this appears to be the choice they have made for the intended experience. In other words, get good, signed: Capcom.

Despite all my complaints though, I find that Dragon’s Dogma 2’s presentation, while feeling like it could use some improvement, has a unified and disciplined approach towards the player experience. Refusing to make it easier to understand, and expecting the player to keep up and take notice of what’s around him on his own. This is an approach that few developers take these days, and even fewer properly succeed with. I don’t agree with it all the time, but I understand the intention and respect their efforts toward this goal.

 

Mechanics (4 / 5)

 

So as mentioned before, I recall two things that are pretty unique with DD2’s combat. Latching onto larger monsters and mounting them to target their weak points, and throwing rocks at their faces. To be honest, I’m not even sure if grabbing and throwing objects, enemies, and allies was a thing in the first game. Everything else feels pretty standard.

So, of course, you have your standard adventure hack-and-slash setup. A weak and strong attack, the ability to guard and parry, and a stamina bar that universally works as your resource for doing special actions, from running to casting spells. I don’t think I have to go into detail for these since they pretty much work as you’d expect if you’ve played anything similar.

One thing that I found pretty unique Is how Dragon’s Dogma 2 actually factors in the environment. You can throw enemies off a cliff and have them suffer fall damage or just get them to disappear completely into the brine. The nature of encounters changes as you get into dark caves, and you can end up dealing with more enemy types during the night. There was a time I didn’t realize I could destroy a bridge while fighting a monster on one, and well, I had 2 fewer pawns the rest of the way thanks to that.

 

 

Another thing that’s unique about this is how limited each character is, requiring you to play as a 4-man party to keep your bases covered. In most games that have this single-player setup, the player character is expected to do all of the heavy lifting while AI allies generally play a support role. For Dragon’s Dogma 2 though, every member is expected to perform to a higher capacity. You can’t just tirelessly wail on your enemies and expect to get a favorable result. It’s far better to wait for a good opportunity to unleash your attacks. However, this isn’t as obvious for Frontline-type vocations such as Fighter or Warrior. Magic types can contribute great damage or support spells and archers can knock enemies down from a distance, provided that they can maintain that distance. Thieves can throw even the most guarded of foes into a vulnerable state, provided that they aren’t the center of attention.

You, your main pawn that you design yourself, and two other pawns you draw out of the ether are what make up your party. Note that the extra pawns do not level up with you, so you’ll have to eventually rotate them out with stronger pawns regularly. It’s not a problem, and I think it encourages you to mix and match your setup or even invites you to switch out vocations. It makes you want to be creative with your party, making even repetitive encounters feel fresh. Maybe it’s time to stop hitting monsters and bandits with the brute force bludgeoning from my shield and start trying pointier arrows instead. It certainly changed how I looked at combat. Playing as any other vocation is vastly different from the one you currently have, keeping you on that learning curve that motivates you to keep looking for fights.

Once you understand how your party formation should work and how to respond to various threats, it’s pretty easy to get through most enemies without suffering much damage. However, you can play recklessly and deal with the consequences rather quickly. Damage received is mostly recoverable, mostly. Much like in tag fighters, characters can recover from damage but not completely. How much is permanent depends on a few things, but generally, you simply want to avoid getting hit. Even if I’m a heavily armored warrior, just blindly running into an encounter can quickly get me surrounded. Even if they’re rather minor threats, like goblins, enough of them, say 4 or more of them coming from multiple angles will be impossible to guard against. They could very easily stunlock me and possibly take down my party if I don’t try to change the situation.

There was also the time that I decided to explore a cave that inevitably led me to an encounter with a chimera in this very cramped space, the caveat being I just left the tutorial village of Melve. I’ll leave it to your imagination how fighting an optional boss with little to no preparation may have played out. I could try again, from the latest save, but that will be an auto-save and you get progressively reduced HP the more you die. Also, while you get a rather convenient auto-save to where you can restart if you get killed, you have to note that there’s only one save slot. Your alternate save slot is the last city inn you stayed in, which costs money every time. However, resting at inns or at camps you set up, also lets you recover your party’s HP completely. However you slice it, I had to pay for my bad decision, by either making future fights harder until I find an inn or losing all my progress until the last time I stayed in one.

At the bottom of it all, I can see that Dragon’s Dogma 2 wants you to think about how all of your actions matter, that you have to pay attention to the details of your surroundings to keep your party safe, and there’s a price to pay if you try to push through destinations and challenges unprepared. So the only thing that kept the game harder than it had to be was my impatient self, who ended up abandoning a pawn one time because they wouldn’t get on the gondola.

 

Content (4 / 5)

 

If there was a statement that I would use to encapsulate pretty much all of this title’s content. It would be “hiding in plain sight.” If you want to find something in this game, you’d have to find it, discover it, or like me, look up a guide when you feel completely lost.

There are 4 base vocations you can immediately make use of at the start of the game, whereas the extra and exclusive vocations are something you’ll have to find on your own by visiting various NPCs or completing certain tasks. Though it’s completely possible to finish the game without even seeking these out because that’s what I accidentally ended up doing. Accidentally running into a boss, starting a quest line, or wandering around a dungeon was certainly the theme of my run with Dragon’s Dogma 2. You see, I never really intended to look for maybe more than half of the content I ended up playing through. On one hand, that’s great, the gameplay feels emergent, and the roleplay part of the RPG is essentially natural. And the story that plays out is something you can truly call out to be your own. On the other hand, I have no idea what I’m doing half the time. I don’t even know if I’m going in the correct direction, let alone finding the correct NPC to talk to.

Let me give you two examples. Also, sort of spoiler warning. Not going to go into any real details but I will be talking about two quests. First would be how you were supposed to understand the Elves. First of all, unless you actively were looking for elves, or trying to uncover as much of the map as possible, you probably wouldn’t notice this one pointy-eared person in the city of Vermund. He’s just hanging in front of the weapon shop, and talking to him is the one way you were going to have an Elvish interpreter with you save for maybe hiring a pawn that can do that for you. However, nobody takes notice of him, no in-game event helps you single out this man. So unless you were going through the city and taking in the little details, or did the old-school method of talking to every NPC you pass by, you are more likely than not to start his quest line at all.

 

 

The next case is the rescue quest, where you have to save a kid before harm comes to him. Finding him involves some information that you may or may not find involved with the case. Talking about it further will likely give too much of a hint, but when you find out what you have to do. I hope you can agree with me when I say “How was I supposed to come to this conclusion?”

Now, it’s not that the game completely leaves you out to dry as you desperately seek out information about what you’re supposed to do or where you’re supposed to go. You can look at quest logs which usually give you some idea of what’s next. Sometimes a pawn can also help you out with your selected main quest if they have finished the same quest line with another player. You are free to follow or not, because they will always take you to said destination on foot, and it’s not always the best route to take. So it has this dynamic hinting system that you can engage with if you want. I did not listen to the pawns when they kept telling me I needed to be an archer to do the archery quest, so guess who had to double back just to get the quest going? I honestly thought having a pawn with being an archer would be good enough, but clearly, that is not the case.

I also feel like they went with this approach because, to be honest, the story and content of Dragon’s Dogma 2 are pretty bare-bones. It’s hard to feel like caring about anyone save for maybe one or two NPCs considering how little you interact with them. The twists and turns of the main plot line are very few and underwhelming. And if you look at all the quests together, many of them are just getting to a destination, fetching an item, or finding or potentially killing something. There’s just so much that can happen between point A and point B that keeps it from being an issue.

 

 

What I do have an issue with is the bestiary, I don’t think it has changed much from the first game. You get wolves, harpies, goblins, lizard men, then humanoid giants. The ones that feel very different are Chimeras and Griffins. But well, all of them were also present in the first game. I recall fighting a Cockatrice in Dragon’s Dogma 1, and I never saw it here. There are variants between all of the monsters I just mentioned, but it hardly changed how I fought them. I mean Capcom is responsible for Devil May Cry and Monster Hunter. I did encounter two very different boss-type monsters during the post-game. But as you can see I was expecting a much better line-up to fight than this.

I wasn’t a huge fan of how often you had to go into a fight either as if the game was afraid I’d get bored if there wasn’t a goblin I could one-hit at the next turn. It might have been better to have them at varied densities across the map, so I have time to take in the surroundings without being worried about getting ambushed so often. And perhaps have areas where enemy encounters can be more often and denser, like having patrols around an encampment, or at the very least not have them hanging out right in front of a town gate.

Finally, getting around the map felt natural and seamless. I would have liked it if new methods of traversal would be made available, like maybe having a rope handy could let me get across bridges that are broken, or have a raft that may give me even just limited mobility over water. I feel like this could’ve been a good opportunity for Dragon’s Dogma to show that it’s innovative in making an experience closer to a natural D&D campaign that can reward those who prepare beforehand.

 

Features (3 / 5)

 

Dragon’s Dogma 2 has one save slot. Which your auto-save also overwrites. There’s also the possibility of restarting from the last inn you rested at. But do throw away any concept of having alternate characters let alone the possibility of save-scumming, as I don’t think that’s possible at least without having to take extra steps outside of what the game allows you to.

One thing I do believe deserves high praise is how detailed the character creator can be without making it feel overwhelming. I managed to create a legally distinct Frieren, and somewhere down the line, I met Kratos and we had a camping trip to a volcano. Honestly, having a good character creator can go a long way should it give you enough options to please the community that will be using it.

Apart from that there is an NG+ mode that the game will force you to do if you unknowingly finish the true ending of the title. Which is exactly what I ended up doing.

 

Conclusion

 

Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a lot of walking from point A to point B, fighting things along the way, and repeating. And this is an oversimplification but it is kind of the point. You venture out into the unknown teaching you how to be better prepared for your journey with every encounter. You’ll meet new people, a lot of the same kind of foes, know when it’s a good time to fight or not, and even run into surprises on the terrain. Sometimes a bridge is destroyed, and sometimes you spot a cave that can lead to treasure, powerful foes, alternate routes, or a combination of these things.

It’s a push and pull between making the game nearly overwhelming and impossible when you’re lost and clueless to simple and satisfying as you figure out what to do next. I found myself chasing after whatever quest line I could activate with the hope of finding the next necessary steps to advance the main story and unlocking more locations. And let me tell you, it can get pretty annoying when so many things you’re trying to do are locked behind a game event that you’re not quite sure how to trigger yet.

There’s also the problem of how there is a lack of variety in terms of where you’re going or what you’re fighting. Once you’re capable of taking down drakes, almost every other encounter feels trivial, which unfortunately makes further journeying seem trivial to do. Your stats just stack up so much that some enemies just stop mattering to you, and with a game that tries to deliver a meaningful journey that is certainly a problem. I also wish that Dragon’s Dogma 2 would have more set-piece moments or bosses, as battles alongside allies or more unique moments with NPCs beyond pawns would have made me care about them when the game tries to get me to.

So bottom line time, did I like the game? Yes. Would I recommend the game? That answer will be a bit more complicated. Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a game well-executed but lacks a lot of ideas. As if listening to an old boss at work who insists on the old way of doing things because that’s what has worked for them and their customers for so long. To be honest it does work, but it fails to become something more than its predecessor. I think with the cult following it currently has, it might have done well to explore where the game can go further.

If you want to experience what a good Dungeons and Dragons action game might look like. Dragon’s Dogma 2 is probably one of the best examples out there. But to truly appreciate it, you must walk in the paces it has intended for you, and get to know the world, the people in it, and make it about the journey rather than the destination.

 

Dragon’s Dogma 2 are the pawns you meet along the way. Scoring a 4 / 5.

 

Available on PC, PS5, and XBOX X/S.

 

Facebook Comments

0 Comments

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Articles

Akuma, Master of the Fist is Now Available in Street Fighter 6

Akuma, Master of the Fist is Now Available in Street Fighter 6

Unleash your inner demon with the release of Akuma, the fiercest warrior to hit the streets in Street Fighter 6, available to play now across PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via Steam! Akuma is now live across all three game modes with players...

Enotria: The Last Song’s Demo Out Now

Enotria: The Last Song’s Demo Out Now

SEGA is thrilled to announce that up-and-coming Italian Studio, Jyamma Games, has released the PlayStation 5 and Steam demo version of its Soulslike action RPG, Enotria: The Last Song. Pre-orders for the full game through the PlayStation Store is also being accepted...