Dragon’s Dogma 2 Review – Death By 1,000 Gripes

To think we would see a Dragon’s Dogma sequel. I have a soft spot for the series since the original, so when Capcom announced it, I was excited to see what the sequel would bring to the table. And after playing it? Well, let’s just say that if you’re a fan of the original, you’ll already love this sequel. But more on that in a bit.

Teared up when I first saw this

Arise, Traveler…

You begin Dragon’s Dogma 2’s story as the Arisen: humanity’s savior as chosen by the great dragon. However, you have been a slave for some time now and some unscrupulous knave has taken your rightful place. And so, you must venture out into world, build your party, forge your relationships, gather your strength, and rise as the one true Arisen so that you may save the world. Clich√©, but I don’t care!

There are 10 classes called vocations to choose from, but only 4 are available to you immediately. The rest have to be either discovered or uncovered. Initially I was one of the people who was disappointed that there were only 10 vocations, which is just one more when compared to the original Dragon’s Dogma, but that fear went away immediately.

Instead of nerfing the old classes, they’ve just buffed everything. Every class was already broken in the first game once you had the right gear, and now it’s all just been ramped up even farther. No game has ever made magic feel this powerful. No bow has ever felt this impactful and this fluid. No thief class has ever felt this agile. Honestly, Capcom has perfected the formula and nobody does fantasy combat like Dragon’s Dogma.

When compared to the original Dragon’s Dogma, which had a fairly anemic map, this sequel cranked everything to its natural limit. The map is both bigger and denser, and I haven’t felt this sense of anticipatory exploration since Elden Ring. That being said, this game is best experienced without guides and without spoilers, but don’t worry–I’ll keep those to a minimum to the best of my ability.

Beautiful, rancid motion blur

The Wonderful Gameplay Experience

Dragon’s Dogma 2 has the best gameplay I’ve ever seen this year. I’ve leapt on griffins which have fled and carried me hundreds of meters away from my pawns, I’ve dodged minotaurs at the last minute only for them to stun themselves on boulders, used ogres as bridges, tricked trolls off of cliff-edges, and I’ve grappled with drakes and dragons in 15 minute, field scorching, death-defying battles. Honestly, words cannot do it justice.

Furthermore, the quest design has gotten a huge upgrade since the first game. While most side quests still consist of going somewhere and killing something, some (as well as almost all main quests) are built like actual quests. The game refuses to babysit you, as it will always tell you what to do and where, but never how. This further supports the emergent gameplay because it feels as though there is something new to be discovered.

Whenever you level up, the game calculates your stat increases in accordance with your vocation. So for example, if you were a sorcerer, you’d get more magic defense; if you were a warrior, you’d get more strength, and so on. Still, I honestly did not realize this until I noticed my character had mish-mashed stats and was forever tainted.

Thankfully, stats still increase with your current vocation, but even then, they re-distribute themselves to what they would have been when you switch vocations, and I’m psyched that this is the path they took for game balancing. Furthermore, the level cap is a whopping 999, a number that is attainable, sure, maybe in 2+ years, but what a goal to work towards.

The party quests again.

The Baffling Mechanic that is Dragonsplague

In Dragon’s Dogma 2 you can create your main character as well as your main pawn. Pawns act as your other party members throughout the game. Much of the fun of the early game comes from selecting the party composition that works best for you.

With this being one of the tentpole features of Dragon’s Dogma, it’s interesting then that they would attempt to ruin it as efficiently as possible. Well…not so quite. Meet Dragonsplague.

Dragonsplague is a disease which can affect your pawns. This disease, which seems to be contracted either randomly or by battling a dragon, causes your pawn to disobey your orders. At first, it seems like a minor thing, but… if you ever rest at an inn while a pawn in your party has Dragonsplague, they will kill the ENTIRE population while you sleep, effectively nullifying any side quests that rely on the NPCs in there.

And how do you stop Dragonsplague, you ask? By killing the pawn that is afflicted with it, or having them pass over the disease to another pawn. …Yeah. Pawns are such an integral and reliable part of the gameplay experience, so the fact they made this so that they can effectively softlock your progress unless you kowtow to the insane amount of micromanagement that is demanded from you is beyond me.

You can revive lost NPCs using Wakestones. But these are pretty difficult to come across naturally, so good luck if you lose an entire main city and have to spend a few hours hunting them down instead of just playing and enjoying the story. Personally, this mechanic is far too punishing, and there’s no upside. The best that can possibly happen is that you never see the effects of it. This needs to be removed or at the very least, reworked.

Mystic Spearhand is even more wonderful than I ever imagined.

Dragon’s Dogma Did it Better…

The original Dragon’s Dogma game had this feature which I never though of until right now: when your weapon is sheathed, if you then attack, that input will come out immediately. Either that basic attack or that skill will be used immediately. In Dragon’s Dogma 2 however, the first attack input just unsheathes your weapon. You can’t immediately attack if your weapon is sheathed, which is…strange, to say the least.

And also… your pawns talk. All. The. Time. While not a big deal, since you can turn their voices off, this doesn’t affect their subtitles. So either you mute them but still have to read the subtitles, or you mute them, turn off the subtitles, and now NOTHING else in the game has subtitles. This is baffling, considering the original Dragon’s Dogma had a proper built-in way to handle that problem.

And ah, hello there, motion blur. How I…did not miss you. I could have sworn this was long dead, but this seems to be a remnant of the fact that the game has an unlocked framerate. It’s supposed to help people from feeling ill when they whip the camera around as the game jerks between 20 and 45 FPS, but to have no way to turn it off here…let’s just say I had many headaches. The developers plan to add a toggle for it, and I strongly encourage waiting for the patch.

Magic Archer is just a beautiful as I remember, though!

The Inexcusable Technical Issues on Console

Speaking of optimization…on PlayStation 5, Dragon’s Dogma 2 runs at an uncapped frame rate, and frequently dips below 30 FPS for me. Otherwise, the game runs fairly smoothly in combat sections, but it absolutely tanks in areas crowded with NPCs.

These sorts of seemingly poor optimization jobs make me feel like I’m at the tail-end of the PS5’s life cycle. Like, despite just getting a PS5, I’ll now have to get the PS5 Pro (assuming that will even exist) if I ever want to have a good time with any AAA game ever again. This is another issue that the developers have mentioned they’ll fix, however.

And you also can’t overlook the terrible microtransactions which they only revealed at release. Yeah, they suck, but they’re all superfluous and can be attained in-game. And, while I was disappointed, I expected as much from Capcom. They’ve been doing this for every game since Devil May Cry 5.

A Sequel I Love and Hate at the Same Time

Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a game you will love if you loved Dragon’s Dogma 1, but it also provides an experience like no other. This game is said to be Itsuno’s ‘complete’ vision for what Dragon’s Dogma should be, and yeah, I am inclined to believe it.

This game is so immaculate that even admitting to some of its problems pains me. I guess that can happen when you become personally invested in a series, regardless of how great the team may have been, or how perfect a lead Hideaki Itsuno may have been.

I doubt any patch could properly address the number of issues I have with this game. Still, if you have ever wanted a game which truly makes you feel as though you are a steadfast adventurer on a seemingly endless series of quests with your stalwart crew, then you need to try this game.

It is THE best fantasy action game I’ve ever played…with a few caveats. From the microtransactions, the odd quality of life regressions from the first game, and the frankly absurd performance dips I experienced on console…yeah, until they address the many technical issues, I’ll just go back to playing the original Dragon’s Dogma.

Joys

  • Perfect Combat
  • Emergent, engaging quests
  • Unparalleled bosses and character progression

Cons

  • Absurd performance issues
  • Odd quality of life regressions
  • Absurd mechanics that shouldn’t exist
  • Rather stupid microtransactions

Dragon's Dogma 2

7
Good

Very disappointing launch for an otherwise marvelous game. Hopefully the developers manage to address the current technical issues.

Dan
PS5 version purchased by reviewer for review purposes.