Despite strong sales and widespread critical acclaim upon the game’s release in 2012, Dragon’s Dogma is largely considered one of the most underappreciated RPGs ever made. While many (including myself) have never played Capcom’s open-world fantasy epic, it feels like you can hardly escape the title nowadays as the cult hit has had something of a renaissance thanks in no small part to longtime fans shouting its praises any chance they get.
All that shouting eventually reached Capcom, leading to a reveal in June 2022 that Dragon’s Dogma 2 is in development. After giving fans a new look at the sequel during Tokyo Game Show 2023, Capcom gave me the chance to spend an hour exploring the world of Dragon’s Dogma 2. Even with no first-hand experience of the original, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is clearly a refined iteration of its predecessor. Capcom hopes to give returning fans exactly what they want, while also living up to the expectations new fans have been given thanks to a decade of accumulated praise for the first game.
Without having played Dragon’s Dogma, I already know that the title’s draws are its pawn system, expansive open-world, and complex combat. All of these remain the focus of Dragon’s Dogma 2. Pawns, which are NPC companions customized by the player and sent into the world of other players to aid them on their journeys, make a return. While I did not have the benefit of enjoying pawns made by other players, the pre-made pawns I did encounter hinted at the depth of companion customization and the freedom to swap out party members to tackle new challenges.
Combat also tracks with what I expected based on friends telling me about the original. Players choose a vocation (class) that determines their skillset. During my preview, I split my time between the archer and the fighter vocations. The archer was useful for encounters with flying enemies, of which there are many, and inflicting damage on enemies from a distance while my pawns got up close with the action. The fighter is the archetypical fantasy knight, armed with a sword and shield. Slashing with a sword and getting up close to the enemy felt more satisfying, but that’s a personal preference, and no vocation seems to have an inherent advantage over the other.
The biggest joy of combat came in encounters with Dragon’s Dogma 2’s larger enemies, like a griffin that attacked me in the midst of exploration. The beast was a formidable foe, and to inflict the most damage as the fighter I took advantage of Dragon’s Dogma’s climbing ability, which lets you grapple onto enemies and climb them à la Shadow of the Colossus. To my surprise, the griffin took flight while I was gripped to its back, and I had to hang on for dear life until the beast landed again. Emergent combat moments like this were the highlight of my time, and in the hour I had, there were multiple encounters like it.
Overall, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is exactly what I had been told to expect out of a Dragon’s Dogma game. I encountered no drastic changes to the systems of the original, only refinements. Even those who love the original Dragon’s Dogma admit that some of the game’s ambitious systems have flaws or are half-baked, and in Dragon’s Dogma 2, every system I encountered felt fleshed out to its full potential — even if many of those systems still feel straight out of 2012.
In the decade since Dragon’s Dogma’s release, the game has earned a reputation for being ahead of its time. The failing of Dragon’s Dogma is that its ambition could not be fully realized at the time. Dragon’s Dogma 2 sands off the rough edges of its predecessor without making drastic changes, in the hopes that gaming has finally caught up with the original vision of Dragon’s Dogma. Longtime fans are likely to find everything familiar, while new fans will be given the chance to fall in love for the first time.
Dragon’s Dogma may have been ahead of its time, but Dragon’s Dogma 2 is confident that its time is now.