The original Dragon’s Dogma has garnered a cult following over the years. The idea behind it is simple. What began as a niche RPG with humble production values directed by Hideaki Itsuno slowly became one of the most beloved games Capcom has ever made. And since the definitive Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen version came out, fans wondered whether a true sequel would ever come to light.
Announced in June 2022, Dragon’s Dogma 2 quickly became a dream come true for fans worldwide despite it not being released yet. With the official release date now set for March 22nd, 2024, we had the opportunity to play an early build of the game and see whether it meets the fans’ high expectations.
Dragon’s Dogma 2 promises to be a bottomless sandbox for fantasy RPG fans. It offers immersive gameplay and an intriguing story, all wrapped up in Capcom’s RE Engine. It promises hundreds of hours of replayability with different classes, skills, and party members. Emergent gameplay is at the core of Dragon’s Dogma DNA and its sequel is set to improve on everything the first game did so well in 2012.
A Story of Monsters and Politics
Similar to the first game, in Dragon’s Dogma 2, you play as the Arisen, someone destined to challenge the Dragon to regain the heart they lost. However, the game puts a twist on the narrative by introducing a false Arisen, who claims to be an Arisen instead of you.
This makes the world react to your presence and actions in various dynamic ways because people are unsure how to treat you. Are you the real Arisen or the false one? And if you’re the real one, it means the false one has taken the throne for themselves.
Dragon’s Dogma 2 leans into political intrigue and doesn’t shy away from influences such as Dark Souls and Game of Thrones in its storytelling. There are many side quests to pick up either from the towns and villages you travel through or from your pawns. These will deepen your connection to the world of Dragon’s Dogma 2 and let you, as the player, play the role of the Arisen as you’d like.
Emergent Gameplay at the Center of the Experience
The reason why the original Dragon’s Dogma became a cult classic and why it’s now getting a sequel lies in its gameplay. The series is known for its emergent gameplay system that lets you do whatever you can imagine. You can use elemental spells to control the weather, light enemies on fire, freeze them or destroy the battlefield. You can cause rock slides, turn creatures against one another, and even teach your pawns to follow your actions to learn new tricks they’ll mimic later on.
In our preview, we found a locked enemy camp we couldn’t access. One of our party members yelled out to guide us to a secret passageway in the mountains where we could drop down to the camp unnoticed. This gameplay section wasn’t scripted–it may not have happened with a different party member or if we found a different way to enter the camp alone. Dragon’s Dogma 2 is set to become a true RPG sandbox once it launches, even if you’re not interested in following its political story.
This will undoubtedly give players replayability as they try different classes (Vocations). During our preview, we had the opportunity to try out three Vocations: Archer, Fighter, and Thief. Each class plays very differently and offers unique skills, weapons, and ways to support your party. Speaking of emergent gameplay in Dragon’s Dogma 2, Archers and Fighters can have their weapons enchanted by magic, for example, expanding their skill sets and combat abilities further.
Combat Influenced by Devil May Cry
Given that Dragon’s Dogma 2 comes from Capcom, it’s no wonder the game’s combat system takes inspiration from Devil May Cry. Compared to the first game, combat feels more fluid, natural, and believable. Your hits connect with enemies who immediately react to being attacked.
You can chain different combos using various skills to keep damaging the enemy beyond spamming the same attacks again. Enemies also react differently depending on the elemental properties of your attacks, whether or not you’ve attacked from range, etc. Bosses in particular are very reactive and organic in how they behave.
A Dynamic Pawn System
The revolutionary pawn system from the first game returns in Dragon’s Dogma 2 and it’s more dynamic and immersive than ever. Your pawns are your party members, each having unique skills and combat roles but also different personalities and specialisations. Pawns can heal you in combat, guide you through hard-to-navigate areas, and grow alongside you. They can also learn special skills to act as translators on your journey as the Arisen.
Dragon’s Dogma 2 will let you swap pawns with other players online just as the first one did. This will make mixing and matching different skills for situations such as boss fights much easier. While there is no online co-op, the game will still have rich online functionality, similar to titles like Death Stranding with its asynchronous multiplayer.
Boss Fights Inspired by Shadow of the Colossus
Boss fights are where Dragon’s Dogma 2 truly shines, just like its predecessor. During our preview demo, we had the opportunity to fight several giant creatures with unique behaviours, skills, and ways to fight them. For example, a huge gryphon would swoop in and destroy a travelling merchant’s cart, starting a long, hard boss fight that would take us all across the map.
And since Dragon’s Dogma 2 lets you grab and climb onto enemies, it was easy to stay close to the creature. Since pawns learn alongside the Arisen, they grab onto the creature and follow along. The game promises to be full of memorable moments which are completely emergent and up to the player. This promises a lot of replayability and player freedom which we’re very excited about.
RE Engine Brings the World to Life
Dragon’s Dogma 2 is powered by Capcom’s RE Engine, previously used in titles like Resident Evil 4 Remake. Since this is an open-world game, the RE Engine lets the developers experiment with a different approach to creating a game. The game’s world is vibrant and full of life, both in terms of wildlife and random creatures you’ll come across, as well as the various NPCs you’ll meet.
Capcom used photogrammetry to build NPCs faces and create a much more believable world this time around. This is also reflected in the game’s character creator as you’ll have plenty of options to customize your Arisen, contrary to the first game. Although we played an early build of the game, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is shaping up to be a beautiful, atmospheric game that’ll pull you in as soon as you start playing.
We’ve had the opportunity to test the game’s PS5 version and while it was locked at 30FPS, Capcom promises a Fidelity/Performance option for console players. The game’s loading times were barely noticeable and while the AI of random NPCs and animals still needs a bit of work, we do not doubt that Capcom will have it all sorted out by launch.
Dragon’s Dogma 2 Preview – Final Thoughts
Whether you’ve played the first game or not, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is worth keeping on your radar. While it doesn’t innovate a lot compared to the first game, it refines the sandbox RPG formula that made the first game so popular and improves on all of its gameplay systems. The game’s biggest selling point remains its emergent gameplay which will allow every player to experience a unique journey through the world of Dragon’s Dogma 2. And with a world four times the size of the first game, there’s plenty here to look forward to.
Dragon’s Dogma 2 launches on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S on March 22nd, 2024.
Huge thanks to our partners at CD Media for the opportunity to cover Dragon’s Dogma 2!