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Dragon's Dogma 2: A Masterclass in Exploration and Adventure

The Story of Pawn Quixote: Navigating the Pawn-tastic World of Dragon's Dogma 2

Garrick Durham-Raley Posted:
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Throughout my gaming history, few titles have offered the sheer scope and ambition of CAPCOM’s Dragon’s Dogma 2. Set to release on March 22, 2024, this highly anticipated sequel is currently poised to be one of the biggest RPG releases of the year – if not this generation. However, as a continuation of the 2012 cult classic Dragon’s Dogma, newcomers may find themselves grappling with several aspects that are deeply rooted in its predecessor’s niche appeal. Here’s our review of Dragon’s Dogma 2.

Setting the Stage: The Legacy of Dragon’s Dogma

The original Dragon’s Dogma garnered a dedicated following over the years, particularly among fans of CAPCOM’s other franchises. Despite its cult status, it never achieved mainstream success on the level of behemoths like Skyrim or Elden Ring. Part of this niche appeal stems from Dragon’s Dogma’s unique blend of open-world exploration and action-packed combat, drawing inspiration from CAPCOM’s own titles such as Devil May Cry and Monster Hunter

However, players criticized the original game for its obtuse mechanics and seemingly unfinished content – such as the exclusion of an Elven village only hinted at in dialogue – leaving much to be desired for fans and developers alike.

With Dragon’s Dogma 2, CAPCOM appears to address the shortcomings of its predecessor while staying true to the vision that made the original so beloved. While the sequel still retains the same open-world RPG framework of its predecessor, it expounds upon it in such a way that offers both a more polished and complete experience, with a greater emphasis on accessibility and player engagement. The easiest – and most noticeable – example that demonstrates this is the improved combat, which has refined and polished its systems to deliver fast-paced encounters without feeling clunky like before.

Character Customization and Progression

The journey begins (as all good RPGs must) with the creation of your character – the Arisen. Dragon Dogma 2’s new character creator affords a level of customization that rivals even the most intricate character creators in gaming, including Black Desert Online and Cyberpunk 2077. Yeah, I said it! From the broad strokes of body type and facial features to the minutiae of eye color and scar patterns, every detail contributes to crafting a truly individualized character. This robust customization fosters a personal connection to its narrative and sets the stage for a deeply immersive experience.

While as impressive as these new character creation tools may be, it’s an entirely different story if you cannot properly utilize them (like myself). I’ve seen some examples online from creators using the Character Creator and Storage tool where they’ve made Pawns that look like Todd Howard of Bethesda, Shaggy from Scooby Doo, Geralt of Rivia, and even the popular WoW streamer Asmongold. These avatars bear such an uncanny resemblance to their inspiration that it makes you believe you could even create yourself in the world.

So naturally, I had to make my own visage as accurately as possible. Unfortunately, I was not successful. Even with my wife’s assistance, my creation ultimately wound up looking like a Neanderthal out of the Palaeolithic period, but with a huge badonkadonk that Tiny Tina would’ve been proud of. While perhaps more accurate than I’d care to admit, it just wouldn’t do to stare at it for the length of the campaign. Word of advice: just don’t let your significant other help design your character.

Luckily, there are a plethora of pre-made face types to choose from. Dragon’s Dogma 2 even goes further by offering additional sub-options for each face. This makes it feel as though I had some modicum of creativity and customization to display. In addition to Humans, there is a new playable race you can choose called the Beastren. Other races, like Elves, still aren’t technically a selectable race. Yet the robustness of Dragon’s Dogma 2’s Character Creation system allowed me to easily customize my character to be as Elven as I’d like – like having long, pointy ears. Anyone else who wants to experience the fantasy of playing an Elven Archer is able to do so – you just can’t read or write Elvish, which can be necessary for some quests.

Likewise, you can make a stocky, short character to be a picturesque Dwarven Fighter; or an even shorter, lean and nimble Halfling Thief – whatever stereotypical Lord of the Rings-inspired fantasy race you want to be! Suffice it to say, those who love to get down into the nitty-gritty for customization details can spend hours in this system alone; for everyone else, the pre-made face types will do just nicely.

The Power of Companionship: The Pawn System

You also create your own Main Pawn using the same Character Creation system. The Pawn system in Dragon’s Dogma 2 has received much-needed improvements over its predecessor. It’s more than just a mechanic this time around; it’s an opportunity to exemplify the power of camaraderie in the face of adversity. 

Thanks to the different personality types and increased VO recorded for the Pawns, I never felt alone during my Arisen’s journey through the vast and dangerous world of Gransys. In particular, my Main Pawn offered invaluable support in both combat and exploration. Their presence was a constant sign that I was never truly alone in this sprawling fantasy realm, and the different interactions between the Pawns themselves reminded me of the camaraderie between Noctis and friends in Final Fantasy XV.

The significance of the Pawn system extends beyond mere assistance in battle, as they can also point the way to hidden treasure chests or mark points of interest on your map. Pawns are like dynamic companions; they learn and adapt to player tactics as they progress and can even take on roles called Specializations outside of combat, such as a Logistician that combines materials to create potions or curatives or the Woodland Wordsmith that can interpret Elvish for you (very handy). This adaptability added an extra layer of depth to my experience, as I had to strategize and coordinate which Pawns had certain Specializations I wanted in my party depending on the situation

One such example is a quest I picked up inside the Elven village of Sacred Harbor. I had to find an item for someone who only knew the Elvish word for it – which meant that I needed someone to translate the item's name for me. 

After hours and hours of searching around – visiting different merchants and traveling salespeople, thinking that undoubtedly one of these business-savvy individuals would’ve picked up a word or two of Elvish names for things – I was randomly approached by a Pawn just wandering around. His elevator pitch to recruit him? “I can speak Elvish for you, Arisen. Have you need of my services?” 

Finally, I could take him and translate the item's name. So I dumped Liliana, my party’s Mage (thank you for your service), and picked up Musashi. Musashi eventually became my best friend, and we developed a super-secret handshake.

While Pawns can be versatile companions, they have their limitations. For instance, they can’t access hybrid vocations like Mystic Spearhand or Magick Archer, which can create a wrinkle in your plans when considering the party’s composition and balance. Such was the case when I picked up Musashi, who was a Fighter. My own Pawn was also a Fighter, but being Mage-less from losing Liliana meant that I couldn’t access Healing spells or Enchantments that imbue the party’s weapons with elemental properties. So I had to use one of my precious few Ferrystones – one of the only fast-travel methods available – in order to warp back to town and change my Main Pawn’s vocation at the Vocation Guild. 

This limitation added an additional strategic element to party planning, as each time I wanted to swap out one Pawn for another I had to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of them. It’s important to strike a delicate balance between offense and defense, ensuring that the party is well-equipped to handle many different challenges.

The Heart of Combat: Vocations and Abilities

At the core of Dragon’s Dogma 2’s combat system are character classes known as vocations, each offering exclusive weapons and abilities that cater to different playstyles. Four basic vocations are available at the outset: Fighter, Thief, Archer, and Mage. Within only a few hours, I quickly unlocked two Advanced vocations—Warrior and Sorcerer. These six vocations are the only ones available for Pawns, but four more Hybrid vocations are restricted to the Arisen only.

In contrast, since their respective NPCs were tied to the main story, it took much longer to find and unlock some of the more specialized vocations, like Trickster and Mystic Spearhand. That said, I like the fact that if you know where these vocations are beforehand – and how to get there – then you could get access a lot earlier. By pure accident, I actually stumbled upon the NPC that teaches the Trickster vocation way earlier than when I came back to them as part of a quest.

Importantly, each vocation offers a distinct and powerful playstyle, ensuring that there are plenty of options to tailor your experience and preferences. Whether wielding a sword as a Fighter or loosing arrows as an Archer, I often found myself immersed in the thrill of battle as I traversed the world of Gransys.

One aspect I found especially cool is that as an Archer, using the PlayStation 5 DualSense controller lets you aim via gyroscopic controls. I didn’t even know this was a feature; it just felt natural to me as soon as I started aiming – maybe because of all the Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom I’ve been playing lately. The gyro controls have definitely been useful, as shooting arrows has a serious recoil that requires timing and re-aiming after each shot.

The combat system goes beyond mere button-mashing; it’s a dance of strategy and skill, where every move seems to count. As I started to master the intricacies of each vocation, I discovered new combinations of weapon skills and abilities that added depth to my combat repertoire. When facing down hordes of enemies or challenging bosses, the fluidity of combat in Dragon’s Dogma 2 ensured that each encounter felt exhilarating and challenging. And yes, you can even throw enemies off of cliffs.

One of my most memorable encounters so far is when I was waylaid in the middle of the night by a Minotaur. I was just traipsing along a ravine, on my way back to town, when out of the darkness rushed the bullish creature to mow me down. This fight was invigorating because it was my first encounter with the Minotaur, and the darkness added an extra fear factor to the frantic fight. When it would start winding up to charge at me, I knew I had to get out of its way quickly.

However, it would charge outside of the radius that my lantern’s light could reach – so as it came charging back for a second attempt, I had a difficult time dodging again. This was also the first encounter where I had to use a Wakestone – a semi-rare item that lets you revive the dead, including yourself. Eventually, but not before running out of all of my Wakestones, I was able to fell the foul beast by climbing on his back to reach his head and bashing him in the skull – breaking off his horns in the process – until I achieved victory.

This type of encounter eventually became more common as I progressed. Dragon's Dogma 2 has a much more diverse array of enemies than the first entry, each encounter designed to challenge and engage in unique ways. From towering beasts that demand strategic thinking and precise execution – like the Cyclops – to cunning adversaries who use stealth and guile to outmaneuver the unwary – such as the rare and deadly Dullahan – every battle was a test of skill and wit. Its commitment to strategic depth and enemy variety ensures that gameplay remains engaging, with each encounter presenting new threats and opportunities.

From packs of wolves that tested my ability to manage multiple targets simultaneously to hidden goblin assassins who demanded vigilance and quick reflexes, every enemy encounter was a chance to demonstrate mastery of its mechanics and revel in the thrill of victory. Be warned, however; Harpies can and will snatch you up and drop you to your doom.

Expanding Horizons: Gransys Reimagined

Dragon’s Dogma 2’s setting is in a significantly expanded world that differs from the original game’s Gransys, instead set on the sprawling continents of Vermud and Battahl. Here, new cultures, civilizations, and landscapes beg to be explored and have their secrets uncovered.

From the verdant forests of Vermund to the rugged terrain of Battahl, every inch of the world is rendered with meticulous attention to detail, creating a world of unparalleled beauty and much more densely packed with places to discover and explore.

One of the most notable additions to the world of Dragon’s Dogma 2 is the introduction of the Beastren kingdom of Battahl. This new realm, inhabited by creatures both fearsome and mysterious, adds an extra dimension to its lore and world-building. I greatly appreciated that in Dragon’s Dogma 2, I was able to explore a significantly expanded world, which differed from the original Dragon’s Dogma’s Gransys. While I enjoyed the Rocky Mountain-esque landscape of the original, I like having different biomes to explore – if only to give it a change of pace.

Despite this change, the sequel retains familiar elements, including the role of the Arisen — a hero tasked with slaying the titular Dragon — and the enigmatic Pawns who accompany them on their quest. The story intricately weaves politics and mysteries of this new world, and as the Arisen you must uncover hidden truths and forge your own destiny against the face of adversity.

The setting of Gransys is not just a backdrop; it’s almost a character in its own right, teeming with life and history. From bustling cities to untamed wilderness, every corner of the world felt ripe for exploration. With the addition of new regions and factions, there was always something new to discover, ensuring that I would never run out of adventures to embark on.

It’s easy to make comparisons to Elden Ring or even The Witcher III: Wild Hunt at a glance; however, the minute-to-minute gameplay felt more akin to how I felt when I played Breath of the Wild. There are discoveries to be made in nearly every facet of the map, where honestly more than half of my game time was probably spent discovering a treasure chest or a cluster of materials and then figuring out how the heck to get to it.

Speaking of which, gathering materials – such as mining ore veins, picking through bone piles, or scavenging in wood piles – both looks and feels like some of the Monster Hunter team developers designed and animated it. It’s so uncanny that I think if we see it again in another non-MH title, it should be a defining feature of CAPCOM going forward – much like how climbing up a tower to reveal a portion of the map is a hallmark of a Ubisoft title.

The world of Dragon's Dogma evolved alongside me during my journey, adapting to reflect my growth and achievements. As I grew in power, I started seeing more and more challenging monsters making frequent appearances – such as Griffins flying around in the sky, and eventually Drakes (the Dragon’s weaker cousins). This evolution extends beyond physical changes and includes shifts in NPC attitudes through the Affinity system, ensuring that my impact was felt throughout it world. The unpredictability of dynamic events and quests also made sure that no two play sessions were the same, offering endless opportunities for exploration and discovery.

Technical Performance: A Feast for the Senses

From a technical standpoint, Dragon’s Dogma 2 offers a marvel of visual fidelity that pushes the boundaries of what seems possible on current hardware. The graphics are nothing short of breathtaking, with lush environments and extremely lifelike character models that bring the world of Gransys to life in vivid detail. While some severe technical issues did arise, such as a couple of spontaneous crashes, they were few and far between and didn’t detract from my overall experience.

The optimization is good on PC from most of my experience. On my RTX 4070 Ti I’m able to run Dragon’s Dogma 2 on absolutely maxed-out graphical settings at 1440p resolution with Ray Tracing on and maintain a stable 50+ FPS. With either DLSS SR or FidelityFX SR 3 that average jumps up to 60+ FPS while out exploring the world, and at the ‘High’ Graphics Quality preset the average is closer to 80 FPS. Even in the middle of flashy Special FX and particle-heavy fights the frames stayed consistent. However, an issue with performance becomes extremely noticeable – sometimes unbearably so – when in a major city like Vernworth.

I think, at least in part, due to the number of NPCs being rendered in cities, performance in Dragon’s Dogma 2 absolutely tanks in a town. While I could easily get 60+ FPS outside, inside the city walls it averaged closer to the 30s. At times, it became so egregious that I had to adjust the graphical settings to the “Low” preset just for while I was in town. Usually, I just pushed through the frame loss and quickly finished up my business in town before heading back out to make new discoveries.

One additional note is that I did attempt to play Dragon’s Dogma 2 on my Steam Deck despite it not being rated for it yet. On default settings, Dragon’s Dogma 2 ran at about 9 FPS. Even tinkering with all of the settings, trying a locked 30 FPS and 30 Hz refresh rate, and even turning on Half Rate Shading, the best I could eke out was 11 FPS.

In Conclusion: A Masterclass in Exploration and Adventure

After spending over 90 hours in the world of Dragon’s Dogma 2 I find it be a masterful example of how exploration and adventure should feel, offering a vast and immersive world to explore and conquer. With its rich lore, engaging gameplay, and expansive world, this sequel has captivated and immersed me in a world of fantasy and intrigue that only a few cult fans experienced in its predecessor. Whether battling fearsome monsters or unraveling the mysteries of Gransys, I found myself drawn into a journey of epic proportions — one that I expect will leave a lasting impression long after the final credits roll. So gather your party, sharpen your blades, and prepare to embark on the adventure of a lifetime in the world of Dragon’s Dogma 2.

Full Disclosure: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of this review. Reviewed on PC.

9.5 Amazing
  • A densely packed and immersive world to explore
  • Deeply engaging and eclectic combat system
  • Fun and expounded Pawn system to balance your party
  • The best character creator ever
  • Poor performance optimization in towns


Garrick Durham-Raley

Garrick is a doting father of two and devoted husband. When he's not busy playing Final Fantasy XIV, he can usually be found drifting between a dozen different MMOs. His favorite game of all time is Diablo II and he is trepidatiously excited for Diablo IV.