‘Dragon’s Dogma 2’ Is a Fun but Stagnant Throwback: Video Game Review

If you had told me that “Dragon’s Dogma 2” was a remaster or remake of the first game from 2012, I’d believe you. When I played this game, memories of my teenage years flooded back into my head. The unique side quests and fun real-time action combat were just as I remembered, but I also recalled all the problems I had with its lack of quality of life options.

“Dragon’s Dogma 2” follows the Arisen, a hero who is destined to rule over the kingdom of Vermund and bring peace to the land. When the Arisen discovers an imposter, their goal is to expose him and convince others that they are the rightful heir. It’s a really simple story, but that allows the game’s side quests to shine, adding complexity and color to the open-world RPG.

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One of the Capcom title’s greatest strengths is that its side quests unfold organically, often popping up when you’re just strolling through town. When I reached the beast nation of Battahl, someone greeted me as soon as I stepped into the palace. Apparently, one of the servants discovered a plot to assassinate the empress, and I agreed to try and find the killer.

To my surprise, I failed to sniff them out in time despite having a physical description, and the empress perished. Emergent moments like these add strong world building and keep you excited about what could potentially come next in your adventure.

What really wears you down, however, is the asinine amount of backtracking between different locations. The game’s main fast travel options are oxtail carts and ferrystones. The former only seems available in larger towns while the latter are consumable items that let you return to those towns from anywhere on the map — but they’re expensive.

This was exactly how it was in the first game, and while this provides a level of immersion, it gets very old, very fast, especially if you’re trying to complete side quests in smaller regions.

What makes traveling on foot incredibly frustrating is that the Arisen’s stamina meter depletes rather quickly when you’re running. Annoyingly, I would always have a brief burst of speed, followed by a period of brisk jogging while waiting for the meter to fill up again. I just wish there was some sort of improvement there from its predecessor: perhaps the stamina meter only depleting while running in combat?

Dragon's Dogma 2
Dragon's Dogma 2

Speaking of combat, while it hasn’t radically changed from the first game, the real-time action is still as engaging as ever. There’s a diverse range of character classes, called Vocations, to choose from for the Arisen, such as an archer and thief. I chose the mage myself, and I immediately noticed how striking its magic spells looked. The crackling of my lightning bolts and the flow of my frigid winds looked spectacular as they obliterated goblins and bandits throughout my journey.

There are some new Vocations as well, such as the Mystic Spearhand. This class wields a double-bladed magical spear and pulls off some cool acrobatic moves like jumping into the air and slamming the spear into the ground. It’s really fun to switch Vocations every once in a while to experiment and find one that best fits your playstyle.

The series’ Pawn system still works great too. Pawns are AI controlled teammates to accompany and fight alongside the Arisen. You get to create your own Pawn as well as recruit two others for a full party of four. Pawns can be found walking past you during the game, or you can even call upon the ones that other players have made, including your own friends’ pawns. While there’s no direct multiplayer or co-op, this mechanic is a great way to encourage camaraderie amongst other players.

Unlike the first game, Dragon’s Dogma 2 features a truly seamless world, with the only loading screens appearing when you open up your game or reload to a previous checkpoint after dying.

The increased power from PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S definitely helped out here, but the game sometimes looks like it belongs to the previous generation of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

While there’s spectacular graphical details in a giant griffin’s wings or a dragon’s scales, as well as the pre-rendered cinematic cutscenes, the environments and character model graphics aren’t nearly as impressive as Capcom’s other recent releases like 2023’s Resident Evil 4 remake or even 2019’s Devil May Cry 5. Sometimes, technical issues occur and textures are missing, making the game look uglier.

Dragon's Dogma 2
Dragon's Dogma 2

I do want to give a shout out to the game’s soundtrack. As a very western-inspired game, Capcom’s Japanese origins make it stand out. From soothing pianos in the main menu to energizing electric guitars and epic chants during its biggest battles, the game has a very eclectic array of songs curated by sound director Ryo Yoshi and lead composer Satoshi Hori.

“Dragon’s Dogma 2” feels stagnant in ways where I thought that I was playing a game from the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 era almost 15 years ago, not one from the current generation of consoles in 2024. Certain mechanics haven’t evolved from the first game and the graphics are sometimes disappointing. Still, the side quest structure and combat hold up after all this time. “Dragon’s Dogma 2” simultaneously kept the strongest aspects of its predecessor while failing to remedy the shortcomings.

“Dragon’s Dogma 2” launches on March 22 for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S.

Reviewed on Xbox Series X|S

Score: 7/10

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