The cycle continues

I was re-reading the review I wrote for Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen about eight years ago and noticed something interesting on a meta level. The fate of the series seems to be tied to Dark Souls and soulslikes, just as the protagonist's fate in the game is inextricably linked to the dragon that haunts him. It was the huge success of the Dark Souls port many years ago that gave Capcom the impetus to bring Dark Arisen to our PCs, and now it was undoubtedly the huge sales of From Software's games that "forced" Capcom to return to the Dragon's Dogma series by funding a sequel. So what remains to be seen is whether Dragon's Dogma 2 is both a worthy sequel and also of high enough quality to give Capcom another successful franchise.

The world of Dragon's Dogma 2 await the daring adventurer.

Let us first try to answer the first question. Is Dragon's Dogma 2 a worthy sequel? The answer partly depends on your expectations because in general the game could be mistaken for a remake of the first one! The world and the map have certainly changed, as has the way the story unfolds, but the broader storyline and much of the gameplay is similar to Dark Arisen. So if you really liked the first game and want more, you'll find in Dragon's Dogma 2 exactly what you were looking for. If you were still annoyed by some elements of it and were waiting for the sequel to see big changes, DD2 isn't going to cut it.

The map has changed but not the general setting. It's fantasy all the way.

To be fair, I have to point out that this repetition is also justified by the script, given that in the Dragon's Dogma universe events are cyclical: At some point, a powerful dragon appears that threatens to destroy everything, and the dragon himself chooses the champion who will face him, in a rather... macabre way: He steals his heart and eats it! After this strange ritual, our protagonist has a predetermined fate and mission: Either he will defeat the dragon and sit on his throne as ruler of the Dragon's Dogma world, or he will be defeated and the dragon will choose the next one. The cycle of these events repeats over and over again without end, at the behest of a Greater Will that determines the destiny of all creatures. So this is what will happen now as well, for as we know destiny is impossible to escape... Or is it?

Character creation gives players a choice between four classes initially, with more unlocked on the way. You can change class very easily in game so experimentation is encouraged.

Before we go into a detailed analysis of the game's individual elements, a brief summary: Dragon's Dogma 2 belongs to the open-world fantasy action-RPG genre. The player assumes the role of Arisen, the warrior who is destined to face the dragon. In this difficult quest, however, he will not be alone: he will have the support of the so-called pawns, humanoid creatures that by birth have no other purpose in life than to support the Arisen in his divine mission. At the start of the game and through the detailed character creator you will create both your own character and the main pawn that will accompany you throughout your journey. At the same time you can recruit two additional pawns to your party for a total maximum of four members. The player only has direct control over their own character, while the pawns are controlled via AI and fight based on certain key personality traits and of course the class (or vocation, as they are called in the game) they belong to.

The graphics engine produces beautiful results, if not particularly 'next gen'.

As in the first game, pawns and the way they work in a form of asynchronous multiplayer is one of the most original and interesting elements of the gameplay. You see, in Dragon's Dogma's lore there are multiple parallel universes in which the same story takes place and which we can partially interact with via the Riftstones scattered throughout the game world. Touching a Riftstone takes us to the Rift, a place between the various universes, and from there we can recruit new pawns, the vast majority of which have been created by other players! So the two additional pawns that will complete our four-person team are the main pawns of other players who, according to the lore, travel to our universe. But since these pawns don't level up like the main character and his main pawn, we should make sure to refresh the party with stronger pawns when they fall behind in power level, while having the option to leave a like for another player's pawn that we decide to release, sending along an in-game thank you gift!

A riftstone, the gateway to the rift and the... pawn flea market.

The second very interesting element of Dragon's Dogma 2, again just like the first game, is the battles. While the combat system lacks any particular depth in the sense of endless options, it is tremendously fun due to the fast and intense action, the spectacle produced and the various unforeseen events that can arise from the nature of the game that encourages emergent gameplay. The ability to fast travel that the game provides is intentionally quite limited (oxcart rides between specific destinations and placing a port crystal at a point you want to return to quickly, kind of like the Mark/Recall spell in Morrowind), so 80% or more of the gameplay will have you merrily traveling through the game world encountering various enemies on the way to the destination where the main quest or side quest continues.

The limited fast travel means that you will often find yourself outdoors. fighting various enemies like these lizards.

If you keep one single thing from the review, keep this one because I really want to emphasize it: The essence of Dragon's Dogma 2, the main gameplay loop is wandering the mountains and valleys of the open world and fighting small, large and sometimes huge enemies. The other elements that traditionally complete an action-RPG such as dialogue, quests and plot are just the framework that surrounds the action and not equal parts in the gameplay of Dragon's Dogma 2. I would describe most quests as rather simplistic, the interactions with NPCs are very limited, while the storyline and the superficial plot are nothing special either, in fact I think there is a lack of proper pacing in its development. The real meat of the game's plot lies in its well-hidden depth and the metaphysical/philosophical implications it has, but you understand that I can't expand on it due to spoilers.

The party may feel confident but some of Dragon's Dogma 2's more powerful enemies will mop the floor with you in seconds if you are not powerful enough.

So far I wouldn't blame you if you were left with the impression of "interesting-sounding game but not great". It is, but also not! As was the case with the first Dragon's Dogma that became a cult favorite of sorts, the final impression you get from the game depends almost entirely on whether you're willing to go with the flow and accept its quirks in order to enjoy its virtues. If the gameplay with all its pluses and minuses clicks with you, as it did for me even from the first game, then you won't be able to stop playing until you've explored every corner of the map, tried all the classes, found all the side quests and seen all the alternate endings.

Dragon's Dogma 2 encourages exploration by hiding valuable items and interesting easter eggs in every corner of the map.

The addictive nature of Dragon's Dogma 2 relies on the wonderful chaos that any battle can turn into, especially against the huge bosses that are everywhere. You're in a battle with goblins and suddenly a cyclops appears and starts blasting people left and right with his club. Wizards fill the screen with fancy spells, archers rain arrows from afar, warriors in the middle of all the chaos take the beating, thieves climb on the cyclops to hit its weak spot, its eye. And in all the panic, a griffin that happened to be flying overhead lands with a thud in the middle of the battle and starts fighting everyone. The spectacle, sheer fun and unpredictability mean that every battle in the game can start out as a routine skirmish and grow into a spectacular do-or-die epic that you will tell the tale of to other players for a long time.

Orcs, golems, griffins, mages, archers, fighters, a free for all and let the best man win!

Unfortunately, and I mean this in every sense of the word, the pure fun that Dragon's Dogma 2 offers is affected to a not insignificant degree by its performance issues. At launch the game suffered from erratic frame pacing and large framerate drops in cities, settlements and generally at any time when many characters were gathered on screen. With the first patch the first problem was fixed but the second problem remains. No matter how powerful a system you have, you're not going to escape the big framerate drops in cities, and unfortunately Capcom didn't make sure to integrate some of the existing frame generation options to solve the problem, so you'll have to resort to mods. Hopefully the developers will address the issues and add frame generation via upcoming patches, but of course we can't know if they will actually do so. The good thing is that due to the nature of the game ( mostly wandering around the countryside and fighting outdoors) the problems in the towns don't generally affect the battles, but still the inconsistent performance does spoil the overall impression somewhat.

Hey cyclops, you have something in your eye. Specifically, a thief.

So now I have to rate a game that I'm pretty much addicted to, to the extent that I started a New Game as soon as I finished the previous playthrough, but also one that its problems are clear and obvious. On the one hand the very fun combat, the nice system of pawns and the hidden depth of the story and plot. On the other hand the completely basic and mediocre RPG elements, some questionable choices by the developers and the rather boring development of the (apparent) plot. I could give a score based on how I feel about Dragon's Dogma 2 purely as a gamer ane give it a 90+ , however I must not. I have to factor in both the subjective element and the objective issues. The score you see at the end of the article was determined using this method and I believe it reflects how I feel about the game as both a player and a reviewer.

We would like to thank CD Media for providing the review code.

Go to discussion...

RATING - 80%


A very fun game but with various idiosyncracies and also performance issues. Fans of the first game should definitely buy it, others might want to think about it a bit more.

Αλέξανδρος Γκέκας

A dedicated PC gamer, Alexandros plays everything depending on the mood of the moment, but shows a preference for turn-based strategy, RPGs and considers UFO: Enemy Unknown as the best game of all time. Otherwise, he tries to hide his turtle-like reflexes by avoiding competitive multiplayer because, as he says, "it doesn't suit him" and is looking for ways to get the "Church of Gaben" recognized as an official religion in his country.

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