Year:  2024

Director:  Hideaki Itsuno

Rated:  MA

Release:  Out Now

Distributor: Capcom

Running time: 25-80 hour campaign

Worth: $15.00
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… at times an excellent game. It’s original and brimming with secrets, it has fascinating mechanics and an engaging minute-to-minute gameplay loop.

Fans of epic fantasy RPGs have eaten well in recent years. Back in 2022, we had arguably one of the best games ever made, FromSoft’s Elden Ring – a beloved title awaiting an expansive DLC in a few short months – and just last year, Larian Studio’s Baldur’s Gate 3 – possibly the best Dungeons & Dragons title to ever exist – rocked the industry to its core. And even the also-rans like Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth are still pretty bloody good.

That brings us to the latest iteration of the genre, Dragon’s Dogma 2, an unlikely sequel to a fascinating (but flawed) original that improves upon its predecessor in almost every way but also brings an exciting new host of quirks and niggles that some gamers may find a challenge to push past.

In Dragon’s Dogma 2, you, the player, step into the character-created boots of the Arisen, a heroic being who has a weird codependent relationship with a dragon who has stolen your heart (literally) and has you pencilled in for a fight behind the bike sheds at a later date (figuratively). To help them on their quest, the Arisen has the ability to summon and order about a bunch of Pawns, who are sorta interdimensional dogsbodies who assist in questing, combat, resource gathering and making the same half dozen inane comments as they cheerfully walk off cliffs.

Your main Pawn will be created by you, but the other two can be summoned from a massive pool of player-created versions, many of them with names alluding to pop culture, dick jokes or random internet nonsense. It’s easily the game’s most interesting system, even if the AI sometimes makes baffling decisions, and gives you a sense of playing in a party even though Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a single player game.

You may have noticed that we skipped past the story and that’s because Dragon’s Dogma 2 barely has one. Oh sure, there’s the main quest and moderately interesting side missions, but the narrative here is genuinely threadbare, making it hard to get fully immersed in the game’s world. Even Elden Ring, a game not exactly dripping with overt story beats, managed to convey way more with its minimalist cutscenes and lore dumps from random NPC. Dragon’s Dogma 2, by comparison, feels unfinished, like it needed another draft or two. This feeling extends to other aspects of the game, like the choppy performance, limited enemy variety and an overall jankiness; a lack of polish, that will irk some players. The game’s defenders claim this is simply a “throwback to when games didn’t hold your hand”, but the lack of consistent or convenient fast travel doesn’t make DD2 better, it just means casual gamers without a lot of time on their hands will simply not explore the massive map to avoid having to spend hours backtracking or taking a risk with an ox cart. And if your sprawling fantasy RPG actively discourages exploration? You’ve got a problem, friend.

Oh, and if you want to get the most out of Dragon’s Dogma 2, you’d better be willing to play with a Youtube guide or Wiki handy, because going in blind you’re very likely to miss 60-70% of what this game has to offer. Talk about obtuse design!

All that being said, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is nonetheless a fascinating proposition. Once your team of Pawns is singing along, it does feel great to wander out in the wilderness, battling beasts and finding treasure. The night is fantastic, when you literally need torches to see anything, and you’ll be on the edge of your seat during some encounters, desperately trying to make it to a campsite before the things in the darkness close in.

The first time you fell a massive dragon? Thrilling. When you stumble across the perfect piece of gear? Brilliant. But DD2 insists on putting multiple barriers in the way of your enjoyment (don’t even get us started on the horrifying, buggy save system), and after a while it can wear you down.

So, here’s the thing: Dragon’s Dogma 2 is at times an excellent game. It’s original and brimming with secrets, it has fascinating mechanics and an engaging minute-to-minute gameplay loop. But if you’re going to take a chance on this one, just know there are a staggering number of hurdles you’ll have to leap and a bunch of design choices that range from the bizarre to the downright perverse. If you’re willing to engage with these mechanics, and spend the time to learn and utilise (or work around) them, you’ll likely have a good time in this fascinating but flawed epic fantasy. If, however, you don’t have the bandwidth to learn a bunch of counterintuitive systems and fiddly rules, you might want to avoid this dogma, at least until they iron out some of the kinks.