It’s been roughly 11 years since the release of Dragon’s Dogma, a cult classic game developed by Capcom and headed by creator Hideaki Itsuno. In a recent hands-on session with Dragon’s Dogma 2, I played an hour of the game in a free-form demo and walked away more than impressed.
Many of the classic Vocations return for those who have played the first game. I had the choice between Archer, Fighter, and Thief in my demo, and all feel incredibly similar to their original counterparts.
Fighting feels fast and fluid, and the environment has never mattered more. Firing arrows to knock support beams, creating a cascade of rocks barreling down toward your enemies, or chucking a fire bomb-filled barrel at a group of goblins. Dragon’s Dogma 2 asks you to play smart, but doesn’t penalize you for playing how you want.
Every encounter in the world feels meticulously thought out, like a small puzzle for you and your pawns to figure out. I often took on an enemy head first and threw their lifeless corpse at the rest of the grizzled gang. Even picking up your own teammates and tossing them around at enemies proves that Dragon’s Dogma 2 is still focused on being fun.
Of course, more challenging encounters await you. During my time in the demo as the Thief, I took on a difficult fight against a hulking Cyclops who had the audacity to roll up on my Pawns and me.
I quickly lept at the Cyclops, clung on for dear life, and began to scale it. I was immediately back in the saddle and started going to work, balancing my stamina with my attacks to ensure I was inflicting as much damage as possible while my pawns cast ranged magic and chopped at the Cyclops’ feet.
We toppled it and began to rush to its head to finish the job. I was immediately reminded of all the powerful and dangerous foes that lurked around in the original game and was excited to see what other dangers were around these parts.
However, during my demo, I kept thinking about how Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a signifier of an era of games that no longer exist en masse. It’s not concerned with being the most graphically or technically proficient game in the space. It isn’t worried about signposting everything for players to do and isn’t afraid to just be itself.
Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a weird game, and I mean that as a compliment. It retains the charm of the first game without having to sand down the edges to make it fit the mold of modern games. It doesn’t need a checklist or an easy fast travel system. It’s focused on iteration rather than a reexamining of the core principles of the game. Game design has changed pretty drastically over the time between entries, but Dragon’s Dogma 2 wears its heart on its sleeve while taking those lessons in stride.
Going out at night is still incredibly, if not even more, dangerous than the first game. I only spent some time out at night, but the vibe shift was drastic. Even with a well-lit lantern, I could barely see. I didn’t stumble upon anything particularly dangerous, but I kept thinking about how I wanted to return and find out.
Many games want to offer a grand sense of adventure but trade in the dangers and grit for a theme-park style attraction show to their worldbuilding. Dragon’s Dogma 2 reminds me that while fun, adventuring is also incredibly dangerous, and it’s best not to do it alone.
Your Pawns are new and improved in Dragon’s Dogma 2. They will offer you quests and even lead you directly to them if you’re brave enough to follow. They can mark enemy weak points, show you hidden treasures, and even help you reach hard-to-scale areas with the right abilities.
I look forward to falling in love with Dragon’s Dogma all over again as I sit and play through the original game, waiting for the sequel to release sometime in the future.