Dragon’s Dogma 2 Hands-on Impressions

Dragon’s Dogma 2 Hands-on Impressions

By  Martin Heath - 20th Mar 2024

Yes, almost got this boss dow- why do I hear NEW boss music?

Dragon’s Dogma 2 Hands-on Impressions

As eagle-eyed readers may have spotted in our articles of late, I could be considered a fan of the Dragon’s Dogma series in the same sense that a puppy is a fan of chasing balls, leaves, and its own tail. As such, being able to sink my teeth into this long-awaited sequel was a dream come true (we don’t talk about Online). Though my journey is far from over, I’ve gotten to experience quite a bit of the offerings; here are our first impressions!

Dragons, Pawns, and Lore Galore

Dragons, Pawns, and Lore Galore

Before we even get into the action of the game, we are given a fair bit of history on the current state of the world. In the human kingdom of Vermund, the Arisen is considered the rightful ruler, as they are a person of great power and responsibility. The title is “earned” by becoming chosen by The Dragon, an omen of the coming apocalypse,  in a slightly horrific process: the Dragon plucks out your still-beating heart, gulps it down, and flies off happy as can be, burdening you with either ending its terror or dying while you’re at it. Fun.

Being connected to a massively powerful beast of the end times has its upsides though, as you are not much more powerful than the average Joe or Jane, command the respect of a race of benevolent, but emotionless, creatures known as Pawns, and are now the rightful Sovran of a whole Kingdom! Or, well… you should be. Here’s where things get weird.

You see, the consort of the previous Sovran, Queen Disa, is not too keen on relinquishing power and has been suppressing any news on Arisen for a time. Now, however, she has given her full support to the newest Arisen, succeeding the throne to them. Problem is, it's not you. Still, the new Monarch titles themselves an Arisen, so it must be true. This is strange though, as only one Arisen should, well, arise per every generation or two. You, on the other hand, find yourself as an indentured worker far from civilisation. Having lost your memory, the only thing you know is the odd scar on your chest and the days of back-breaking work. This comes to a swift end, however,  as a voice speaks to you and sets you on your trip of self-discovery and figuring out who this pretender Arisen is!

Dagger or Sword, Arrow or Stave

Dagger or Sword, Arrow or Stave

From here the game proper begins and we get to play around with our character and their skills. Though chosen in character creation and used a bit before, this is where we really are set free to test our mettle. The beginning classes, or Vocations, are as follows: the Thief is an agile melee combatant with skills and perks favouring manoeuvrability, allowing you to zoom in and out of combat. The Archer is similar, favouring mobility, though it specialises in ranged combat with the titular bow, many different trick arrows, and exploding bombs. The Fighter uses their considerable strength to protect their allies and fling their foes, dazing enemies with well-timed shield bashes. Finally, the Mage uses magick to punish their enemies with elemental attacks, buffing and healing their allies when able. You start off with only a few starter skills and gear, but as you use your Vocation’s skills and defeat enemies, your rank will increase, unlocking more impressive and flashy abilities to use! For example, the Archer learns a multishot technique and the Thief gains abilities with which to stay unnoticed.

This may seem like a lot of options, and it is — especially since you have to pick a Vocation for yourself and your Main Pawn — but thankfully, it is easy to unlock all the others, so you can try them all out with little downside if you end up not liking your current skills. I went with a Thief and Mage combo. As a side note, the Character Creator for the game is quite detailed, allowing users to be either very creative or copy their favourite characters from other media; believe me, I ran into quite a few Shadowhearts.

With my Main Pawn created and my Vocations ready, I was ready to adventure! I ventured into a nearby city that was attacked by the Dragon, where I gained some useful information. I was then to travel to the capital city, required to present myself to the Captain of the guard, as impersonating the Arisen was a dirty crime! I was offered an oxcart to make the trip go by quickly, but I decided to get a feel for the land, going exploring into the lush forests and rocky environment!

Get on the Oxcart… or Maybe Don’t?

Get on the Oxcart… or Maybe Don’t?

Before setting off from the Dragon-torched village, I picked up a few small quests to start off with, which I decided might be fun to do, allowing me to get a handle on my Vocation and get some experience! While this would have been a completely fine idea as such, it would have required me to stick to the said plan; instead, I wandered off into the first cave I found, finding myself surrounded by bandits and quickly gaining many new wooden and arrow-shaped limbs for my troubles. On another occasion, I wandered south in search of some goblins to fight, only to notice a giant shadow fall over me, a health bar appears, and epic boss music to kick in. It did not go well.

Now, this may seem like the game is not letting me explore and is too harsh, but it was in fact the opposite! I was absolutely thrilled with how the game let me go my own way and decide which enemies to take on. The Pawns in my party often warned me about dangers ahead, counselling me to use caution. Being a stubborn man, I went in knives (literally) blazing. The sense of discovery was fantastic and being blindsided by a powerful foe made for organic storytelling. Sure, I lost to the giant shadow beast (I ran away before seeing what it was), but now I knew to keep an eye out and carried a vendetta to become stronger.

A fact worth noting, however, is that I have played a lot of Dragon’s Dogma before, so I knew the basic tactics and what to expect. If you are new to the game, I do recommend trucking along with the main questline for a while, so you can get some practise in and get some useful skills, such as elemental attacks, before taking on the wild. Oh, and don’t stay up after nightfall. It gets… spooky.

The Joy of the Journey

The Joy of the Journey

As you progress in the story, you’ll gain a plethora of quests to complete, leading you to many a location on the considerably large map. While there are ways to make the trip faster, the aforementioned oxcart being one of them, one of the main focuses of Dragon’s Dogma 2, and the franchise as a whole, is exploration. Looking through the many caves, woods, crevasses, and hills between you and your goal is often the best part of the game! The amount of fun random encounters you’ll find, along with treasures, secrets, and stunning vistas make every trip a joy. The morning sun will also fade to dark bit by bit, forcing you to weigh progressing in the dark against the risk of finding a safe campsite nearby.

If I had to summarize the exploration of the game in one word, it would be “organic”. Though quests do point out some key locations, there are multiple quest-worthy locales that are never explored unless you decide to go looking for them. Other small interactions compound this feeling, as your Pawns go for fist-bumps or high-fives after battles, comment on your play style, or just converse among themselves. This kind of organic gameplay and experience is one of the reasons I love the original and it would seem they are still going strong in Dragon’s Dogma 2.

If you aren't considering trying out Dragon’s Dogma 2 or are on the fence, I definitely recommend giving it a go. It may be a bit janky at times and a little obtuse at others, but these gripes pale in comparison to what is an absolute joy of a game to play. If you enjoy RPGs, exploring, or a surprisingly interesting plot, I say go for it! This may be a title we remember for a while. If nothing else, it’s great water cooler fodder!


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