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Dragon’s Dogma 2 Review

In this Dragon’s Dogma 2 Review I will be sharing my experience following my extensive time with the game after completing it, with over 100 hours of gameplay time. There’s a lot of talk online about the game’s performance, and I have played the game on all 3 platforms, so we’ll be getting into how it plays on all 3 a bit later in this Review. If you want to know what the game has to offer, how it measures up to its predecessor, and how it holds up against other modern RPGs – this review is what you need.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 Review

Genre: Action Role-playing Game
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: March 22, 2024
Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
Reviewed on: PC, Playstation 5, Xbox Series X (Codes provided by Capcom)
Price at the time of Review: USD 59.99 on consoles

DD2 Review: Story & Setting

As always I’ll begin the review by covering Story and Setting, because your motivation can really affect your enjoyment of an RPG. A common question that I get is whether you must play the first title to enjoy this one, and the answer is no, but knowing some of the wealth of lore of the Dragon’s Dogma universe certainly adds to the experience. The medieval setting of the game is as always very appealing, and its concept of a cyclical approach is well conceived and will feel familiar to those of you who enjoy Pillars of Eternity or The Wheel of Time (The books ofc, the show is horrible).

The story of Dragons Dogma 2 seems to be the typical RPG hero. You start from a prison, make your escape thanks to the help of a mysterious figure, and set off to find your place in the world, eventually involving yourself in all the possible troubles of the land. In this regard, I feel the game is very well done. With over 80 unique quests that are by no means “go fetch 10 healing items”, the game shines in its capacity to adapt to your decisions and actions. Most quests seem to have multiple endings or ways to go about them, and their progression affects other quests, NPCs and even store inventories. I found myself enjoying discovering the characters and their motivations, and exploring the hidden lore and nuance of the world at large.

All in all, without giving any spoilers, the story is superior to that of its predecessor, and a worthy investment of your time. Now, your time is something very valuable, and one thing that the game doesn’t always respect – which brings us to Gameplay.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 Gameplay Review

As a stoic and nuanced action rpg, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is the kind of game you must approach armed with determination and patience. This is by now very familiar to me, as I very much enjoy discovery and exploration of both world and mechanics. I am no stranger to obscure quest objectives, disappearing NPCs and uncertain checkpoints, but if you are looking for a straight forward and guided experience, this is not the game for you.

Having completed and loved the first game, I thought I was well prepared for whatever challenge the new mechanics may give me. What I was not prepared for was the fact that the world is so large, that a simple mistake or a small npc bug would mean my second hour of the game would be spent tediously running a very long way to a large town because the intended oxcart was lost to a bug. You may remember my humorous story about Jim from the beware pre-launch video? Well, it was that all over again in that I was very ill-prepared for such a long journey, already feeling the stamina exhaustion of all my stocked curatives, and of course it became nighttime and was promptly besieged by armies of skeletons that I was in no way of appropriate level to tackle. Welcome to Dragon’s Dogma 2!

Some times you just need to let out a little frustration…

This set a rather frustrated tone to the start of my adventure, but I made it to the objective determined to get back on track. It took me some time to get used to the new questing system, as there’s no quest board or markers for quests, and they seem to mostly appear from NPCs approaching you or when you talk to someone almost at random. This made me feel like I was missing a lot of quests, but I soon realized the futility of attempting to hit up a conversation with the 1000 NPCs of the game, and accepted that it would just work out…if I just let it happen.

From here the next step was readjusting to the lack of streamlining on travel and weight mechanics. I must report they are not just like the first game but perhaps they are now even more tedious, as the world is so much larger. Adding to this, quest directions are so very vague that I often got confused or lost on what to do or where to go, and ended up doing pointless round trips to far away locations and wasting hours of my time. I felt that some of this was my fault for not thinking things through, but there is also some blame to be assigned to poor design choices that do in the end take your time for granted.

Regardless, I learned my lesson and pressed on, until Dragon’s Dogma 2 “clicked” at a point somewhere around the 20-30 hour mark. Riding this momentum, I started tackling harder foes, ventured to undiscovered zones, found new vendors with exciting and expensive gear, and uncovered more insidious plots. This is the point where the game got me, and somehow made me forget that I had spent 20 hours killing goblins, harpies and saurians while out of stamina.

It would take another 20 hours or so to reach endgame and find the “true” Dragon’s Dogma 2 – that feeling you get when the credits roll but you know there’s more to discover and find the developers put a very fun endgame for you to stick around. Needless to say, much like my original experience, the game won me over with its endgame.

Of course, that’s a rather high number of hours for something to click or reach its full potential, and many people will not want to spend that time or effort when they are uncertain that they will enjoy that as much as I do. So let’s delve into the specifics of gameplay.

Questing and Exploration

The game’s quests are well done and I found them very enjoyable due to the multiple scenarios and approaches that can happen. That said, they were also very confusing at times, and you may end up relying on pawns to tell you where to go or what to do next. Fortunately there’s a system for you to select pawns who have quest knowledge and direct them to act as your guide. This also applies to exploration, where the pawns you have hired will mention that they discovered something nearby when in another world, and offer to show you.

This is a good mechanic because it’s optional for those who rather not use it, but can be a huge timesaver given the scope of the world. Vastness can be very appealing in an open-world game, but it does get VERY tedious when exploration is interrupted every 2 minutes by yet another band of goblins that you’re going to faceroll anyway and have no good loot to give you. And the lower levels of the game have honestly 4 daytime enemy types: Goblins, Saurian, Harpies and Wolves. It got boring very fast, and I was just so glad on the rare occasion a Cyclops would attack me instead, rejoicing while it bashed my brains out.

Something that really offset some annoyance and helped make me feel immersed though was the addition of camping. You will find many campsites around the world, and they allow you to set up with your companions and chit-chat around a fire while you grill some of the food provisions you have gathered. You will get bonuses to your stats and regeneration based on the type of steak that you use, just be careful to stay away from rotted meat or you will blight your entire party. The camp also allows you to change skills, which is very convenient if you are planning on tackling a nearby monster and must swap some elemental buffs. And, of course, camping lets you rest and recover all your HP and clear all blights.

With the assistance of camping, I was able to truly lose myself in exploration and it became almost a different game and allowed me to feel the reward of exploring. I searched around bushes to find rare items, discovered cleverly hidden collectibles, climbed steep cliffs to reach unique chests, and delved deep into caves filled with monsters. While most gear seems to be bought in shops, there is still a lot to be found around including Rings, Armor and Weapons, and some enemies even dropped me some equipment, adding to the joy of discovery.

Character Customization & Combat

Since so much of exploration ends up being enemy encounters, combat is an important part of Dragon’s Dogma 2 right away. You don’t really have big epic battles for the first part of the game, so you aren’t forced to optimize your equipment or party. This can mislead people into thinking the combat is too simple, but the reality is that it’s actually very methodical and rewarding.

This is not a skill-based game (for the most part), it’s a preparation and knowledge game. So when you play you will spend a lot of time checking shops for gear for yourself and pawns, optimizing your curatives and spells, and checking hired pawns for desired traits and skills. This means by the time you enter a battle, you’re “rolling the dice” in a board game and seeing your efforts preparing play out.

You can learn skills from highly trained NPCs…

Sometimes you may do skillfull actions and apply your strategies as in-combat tactics, but most of the time the win or lose of a battle is decided before it starts by things like your party’s buffs, curatives and damage capabilities. It is also noteworthy that the debilitation and elemental damage systems are deep and fun to tinker with in a way that few games manage to do – many players enjoyed using Topor to overwhelm even the hardest of enemies in the first game, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what crazy approaches the community will come up with.  

Adding to this fantastic feel of customization, Dragon’s Dogma 2 has upgrade styles, and each style is found in a different location, so you can only use the balanced ones first until you have traveled far and found the rest. To make your life easier, I have taken the time and effort so you will be able to find EVERY weapon, armor and ring in the game on the wiki with its full upgrade paths and material requirements on day 1.

Fortunately there is a good variety of weapons and very fashionable armor to be bought and tried out, and the basic upgrades are very affordable, so you can tinker with your gear and your party as much as you like. Leveling up was quite quick and smooth, changing Vocations was simple and ranking up pretty fast – I maxed out two vocations for myself and my pawn before I got to endgame, but you can easily do more. Your level ups are not tied specifically to one Vocation either, so you can freely come and go as you wish and retake a Vocation midway later without losing any progress.

Certainly looks like that armor would protect you…

In this regard, combat can remain fresh as you can swap to a completely different class and have medium level gear or even high end skills ready for that new vocation. However the most unique classes are unlocked rather late in the game so you’ll probably cycle through the basic ones first. This is well-worth doing as the passive skills called Augments are unlocked on one vocation but can be used for any other, so you can use a fighter passive on your sorcerer after unlocking it.

Lategame & Endgame

Anyone who loves Dragon’s Dogma knows that the payoff was very late in the game. Dragon’s Dogma 2 has the same approach, with more classes and equipment opening up as you reach the late stages of the game. Enemy variety, difficulty and drops increases, drakes populate the landscape, and your experience becomes all in all a lot more rewarding.

This carries on after the credits rolls, with multiple endings and post-game content to explore and complete, including new currencies and shops that feature really awesome equipment. Here is where the game truly grabbed me, as I started wanting to really optimize my party and had to set off to hunt specific and challenging foes to gather the materials for the gear and upgrades I wanted.

These guys suck…seriously…

There’s something just very satisfying about those hunts, and about sending off your Pawn and seeing it come back with gifts and thanks from other players. I became addicted to exploring, I developed a hatred of Dullahans, and I became a true pro at slaying drakes. I certainly feel like I can stay in that endgame for a long time, and it has recolored my entire experience, much like High Rank of Monster Hunter.

Design, Visual & Audio

A big part of open world RPGs is the experience you get from the world. That experience is heavily affected by the world design, the graphical fidelity and the music score. Dragon’s Dogma 2 has very good art direction, with interesting monsters, unique and fashionable armor and weapon concepts, and a stylized interface that gives it more of a tabletop RPG feel. There were some UI misses in the design of menus and the lack of frontend visualization of important mechanics, but overall it’s quite well done.

Graphically, the game is pretty, but not very impressive. There are some really nice touches such as light sources – like your lamp and distant torches or enemies with ghostly effects are very distinguishable at night, and it really adds to overall immersion. I also found some ancient ruins and structures that took me to breathtaking vistas, and found the density of forest paths to be very well done.

I was also very glad to see that there wasn’t obvious copy-paste in the landscape, which is a very real problem for most large open world games. That said, and while monster models and some environments are gorgeous, there was no graphical wow factor for me in the landscape at large. If you’re looking for eye candy you are more likely to be enticed by the flashy effects and animations for certain vocations and spellcasting, as well as the detailed movesets and effects for some of the larger monsters. NPC models are ok but you’ll encounter stiff face animations and awkward movements more often than not, which can be forgivable if you consider they actually customized a huge number of those characters so you aren’t always looking at the same person in different clothes.

But graphical fidelity is only a portion of the equation, and there has been a lot of talk about performance. In this point, we have had a lot of discussions among ourselves about how to explain how this works. We played the game on all 3 platforms. On an Xbox Series X, a Playstation 5, and a relatively high end PC with a 3090 graphics card. FPS performance was subpar in all of them. Xbox seemed to be the worst of the lot with some dips under 30FPS, Playstation looked somewhat smoother hovering around what looked to be 40-50 FPS most of the time, and PC ran the best with about 80 FPS at 1440p on max settings in most areas with some slowdown when entering a large town that dropped into the 40 FPS range. The game also has some “faint” pop-in, which means things appear and disappear translucently rather than just completely pop into existence, so it’s not as noticeable as other games.

Now, many  people will hear about the FPS and immediately cancel their preorder and go leave a review of 0 of metacritic, never having played the game. I feel like there are some disclaimers that need to be brought alongside that low number. Yes, it’s an unacceptable issue for a modern game on next-gen consoles, and its really hard to understand why when the game has been in development for so long. BUT if the proof is in the pudding, the reality is that even with the low FPS… I just kept playing, and didn’t notice it all that much.

We shared the game among ourselves to test our reactions and overall we all arrived at the same point “well it sucks but its not ruining the game”. So, while this is going to heavily impact the score of the game, it will eventually be your decision whether this is something that stops you from playing. I don’t know if this is something they can fix, as I don’t quite understand why the performance is so lame, but for me personally if I heard they will never fix this I would still buy and play this game, because it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.

On the music score side, I was a bit disappointed as I have not been moved by the game’s main tunes. I was expecting the banger opening of Dragon’s Dogma 1 that simply never happened, and there was never a crescendo to tug at my heartstrings. Not to say it’s bad, it just simply wasn’t memorable.

Voice acting is quite good, I enjoyed the NPC voice actors, who I think did very good jobs and really add to the feel of the game when everything is properly voiced and given convincing emotion.  My only complaint in this regard is that the pawn voice selection is quite limited based on their inclinations. For example a “simple” pawn has one feminine and one masculine voice type with different levels of bass. So you’re listening to the same person just distorted version of their voice, and when you have multiple pawns with the same inclination you really notice. All in all, music, effects and voice acting balance out to be on par with expectations.

DD2 Game Length & Replayability

You are probably wondering just how big Dragon’s Dogma 2 is, and what kind of playtime you can expect. I can confidently say that Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a massive game with a lot of unique content and exploration options. You will have vast landscapes to explore, many caves and subzones to adventure in, and many unique quests to do. You can easily expect 50 hours of content and 100 hours for completionist content, plus untold time spent in endgame and doing specific hunts with pawns to participate in the asynchronous online. I really need to point out that questing never felt like a filler, and I very much enjoyed doing even small tasks to see how things would turn out.

In terms of replayability, you can get a lot out of the vocations thanks to the instant swap and individually tracked progress, so you can actually experience all the playstyles with one character. You can also go into New Game Plus and discover new solutions or outcomes to your previous quests, which means that despite the game’s landmass, there’s still an incentive to go over to a new cycle and experience it all anew.

Multiplayer by Proxy: The Pawn System Is SO Much Fun

I also want to highlight that the pawn system is a really fun asynchronous feature that has its own charm. It is a rather unique concept that is often misunderstood or underappreciated, because it’s seen as a poor replacement for actual multiplayer elements. First of all, I actually appreciate not having to gear up four characters – call me lazy but being able to have an entire community coming up with optimization ideas and being able to invite those into my game is very welcome. And yes this could have been a person, but I like that I have the option of having online elements in my single player game. I quite enjoy hearing the stories my pawn brings back to me about the other Arisen that he adventures with, including the one time he returned traumatized from having died so many times, but bearing an equipment gift from the other player.

This limited visibility into the experiences of other players adds to my own experience in the same way that the limited communication in Souls made gestures all the more important and expressive.

Pawns make the game interesting!

It also helps that pawn mechanics have been streamlined and improved, so managing your party, hiring pawns, and even getting directions and help from them is fun. You will also find out that there are some new and scary mechanics at play with pawns, which will feed into the fun of community discovery and add to the longevity of the game.

Final Thoughts & Pricepoint

Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a unique experience and a rollercoaster of emotions. I was incredibly annoyed when my oxcart was destroyed and I had to run 10 minutes to the nearest village, but was incredibly satisfied when I prevailed against a Drake while very under-leveled. The small little things that nag at you from “quality of life” of other games eventually become the reason why the highs feel so high.

As you advance past midgame and have a proper grasp on mechanics and objectives, you will find yourself addicted to the entire experience, unwilling to let it go, and stuck farming loot and trading pawns in endgame.

Offering a very good amount of content, rewarding exploration and a myriad of secretive mechanics and lore for the community to discover, this game will be another polarizing entry where the people who like it love it, and those who don’t appreciate those mechanics deride it.

Despite some streamlining issues and unfortunate design choices, and very much despite the framerate, I feel the overall experience is more than the sum of its unpolished parts, and I would recommend to buy this game now and enjoy it with everyone else so you can participate in the communal discovery that plays such a big part of the playerbase bonding, particulary via the pawn system.

8.8

Great

Story & Setting 9
Gameplay 9
Design, Visual & Audio 8
Game Length & Replayability 9
Pricepoint 9

Summary

Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a fantastic adventure of exploration, discovery and learning that truly engages the player with a rewarding and nuanced combat system that carries well outside of combat. Brought down by small but impactful design choices and unfortunate poor performance on all platforms, this is the game of the year that should have been, but will likely never be…

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