One year ago, I knew next to nothing about Dragon’s Dogma. If I was aware of it when it launched in 2012, I’d long since forgotten about it amid a decade’s worth of games. Who could blame me? Capcom didn’t exactly turn the fantasy-action RPG into one of its go-to IPs despite some impressive sales figures.
Flash-forward one year later and the series is unexpectedly at the top of my mind. When Capcom formally announced the long-awaited Dragon’s Dogma 2 last summer, a quiet cache of fans rushed out of the woodwork to affirm their long-held love for the series. As successful as the original was, it’s clear that the sequel is going to launch under a much brighter spotlight. The pressure is on as a once-niche RPG prepares to become a hyped-up mainstream sequel.
The good news is that Capcom doesn’t have much to sweat over. I played an hour of Dragon’s Dogma 2 and I already feel like it’s poised to deliver on fan expectations. It’s not too drastic an improvement over the first game, but some recent RPG successes should make some of its complicated systems much easier for newcomers to follow.
Like the original release, Dragon’s Dogma 2 combines hack-and-slash action and traditional RPG systems. It’s a sprawling open-world game where players trek around with a crew of party members and cut down any creature in their path. The original’s vocation class system returns, as does its unique “pawn” system that allows players to issue commands to their companions. And of course, players can still grab enemies and toss them like ragdolls or scale enormous enemies. It’s pretty much more of the same, and that’s probably exciting news if you’ve waited over a decade for a sequel.
I’d test all of these systems out when dropping into my hourlong demo. Starting as a level 15 fighter who specializes in melee attacks, I was dropped into the open world and given full freedom to explore. My only quests were a series of cleanup missions scattered around the map. I’d spend my demo traversing long stretches of land to find caves full of lizards and goblins in need of slaying. And slay I did.
The real focus of the demo was on the sequel’s familiar combat system. In addition to basic light and heavy attacks, I can hold L1 and press a face button to perform special attacks like a shield bash or aerial strike. If you’ve played something like Final Fantasy XVI recently, you know exactly what to expect here. Battles are fast-paced, with lots of visual flair coming from each party member’s big moves, though there’s still nothing more effective and satisfying than picking up a goblin and throwing it into a river.
Vocations can entirely change the game, too. I’d briefly try out an archer at the end of my demo session, letting me pull off ranged shots with my auto-aiming bow. With four skills accessible at once and seemingly more available to each class, there should be a lot of room for experimentation here.
As I freely adventured from town to town, I couldn’t help but think of how fortunate Dragon Dogma 2’s timing is. Even just a year ago, I could imagine mainstream audiences getting a little overwhelmed by its encumbrance system or its tabletop-like rests that have players spending camping materials in order to heal or cook meals. All of those ticky-tacky, systems-heavy ideas seem much more familiar and approachable now in the wake of Baldur’s Gate 3. For those who enjoyed that game but want a more active combat system, Dragon’s Dogma 2 could act as a next logical step.
Even with some promising action, newcomers should keep their expectations in check: a game with its design so rooted in 2012 can indeed feel a bit dated. No idea feels terribly new here as the sequel only doubles down on its predecessor. Pawns seem a bit more useful, as I was able to follow them to quest markers with ease, but changes are subtle overall. It very much feels like Capcom is picking up exactly where it left off, as if it were releasing a sequel a few years after the original. That seems reasonable enough considering that fans are just hungry for more Dragon’s Dogma, but it may leave some wanting a little more.
Then again, I feel like I barely scratched the surface in an hour. While I hunted for treasure in caves and tossed goblins around, other members of the press in attendance were climbing trolls and taking down Minotaurs. I didn’t encounter either in my demo, which makes it clear that there’s a whole lot of world to discover here. I know that there’s way more waiting for me beyond the horizon. I’m just getting started.
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