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Dragon’s Dogma 2 Hands-On Preview

Screenshot of a roaring dragon from Dragon's Dogma, one of several RPGs coming this week

Thanks to the people at Capcom, I recently had the privilege of checking out a preview build of the upcoming Dragon’s Dogma 2. Like many, I was very surprised when Capcom announced Dragon’s Dogma 2 in 2022, because it was a game I never expected to get a sequel. After playing this demo, I am glad it is, because Dragon’s Dogma 2 has the foundation to be one of the best open-world RPGs released thus far.

One of the best things about video games in this day and age is the ability for developers to create these vast open-world games that weren’t feasible back in the day. Even just ten years ago, when the original Dragon’s Dogma was released, open-world games were still in their infancy and going through a lot of growing pains. Many people still find open-world games to be boring and find traversal to be a slog. Why make these vast, boring, and empty stretches of land when your destination is the spot where the action happens? It’s a very valid point that developers still struggle to get right. The answer for most games seems to make the ability to traverse these areas quicker, either by increasing movement speed or fast travel. If you ask me, the only games that have perfected the art of travel are still the two recent Legend of Zelda titles. Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom made travel between destinations the fun part, versus just focusing on the destinations themselves. So when Dragon’s Dogma‘s director, Hideaki Itsuno, recently said in an IGN interview that Dragon’s Dogma 2 would have limited fast travel because it’s boring and leads to a boring game because the developers didn’t take the time to make travel fun, I knew what I had to experience with my time with Dragon’s Dogma 2. I had to see firsthand if Dragon’s Dogma 2‘s open world could bring out that adventurous and curious side of me.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 – Vocations

To break down my time with the game, we played two distinct parts of the game with two different vocations. Vocations are just Dragon’s Dogma’s version of their class system, which the player may change at their whim to best match either their playstyle or to synergize better with their AI companions, which are once again called pawns. The first vocation I got to try was the new Mystic Spearhand, a melee-oriented class that combines magic with melee attacks to add flavor to the kit. The Mystic Spearhand’s four abilities that we got to use were its gap closer that teleports you to the target and then stab it, a levitate ability that allows you to pick up anything from rocks to the actual enemy itself and fling them somewhere else, a magic barrier that blocks enemy attacks, and my favorite move of the four, a downward thrust attack from the sky that impales enemies onto your weapon. They also had a ranged magic bolt option that could be charged up to do more damage. Mystic Spearhand is an enjoyable class that fits my playstyle to a tee. I will definitely be using this one a lot when the game is released.

For this part of the demo, we were placed in a small town at a border checkpoint and tasked with trying to get through said checkpoint with a fake passport. Instead, with my mind made up to check out the open-world nature of Dragon’s Dogma 2, I decided not to follow the main quest for this section and instead forge my own path. I talked to the townsfolk, picked up some sidequests, and left town to start my adventure. The quests, by the way, were given to me organically via running into the person who needed help, not by finding a person with a quest marker above their head, as those do not exist as far as I can tell in Dragon’s Dogma 2. I left town and was on my way to save a lost boy who was playing in the flowers near the village. Not too far out from the town, passing through a cave, I was ambushed by various enemies and got to experience battle for the first time.

Battles in Dragon’s Dogma 2 are not the fast-paced combo-heavy combat you may find in Final Fantasy XVI, but something between that and a Souls game, without being anywhere near as punishing as a Souls game. Combat feels visceral but not overwhelming. It’s a great middle ground. You have four abilities for your vocation tied to the skills button on L1, a standard attack on Square, and a class-specific normal attack on Triangle. You have plenty of options to heal and protect yourself, along with the three pawns you can bring into battle. They will heal, buff, and attack the enemy without fail. I am not the biggest fan of AI party members, but the pawns do well in combat and fend for themselves rather well. At no point did I feel like I had to babysit them, and I grew attached to them so much so that when I saw one about to get carried off by a giant bird, I did my best to stop fighting and knock the bird out of the sky before my pawn was carried off to their death.

Also, one of the best combat options from the original game is still present: the ability to grab enemies and do various things to them. For larger enemies, you can grab any part of their body and ride them while stabbing them as long as your stamina holds out. You can also push or pull enemies who are losing their balance to tip them over. Your pawns will even help you in this endeavor for the larger enemies. It’s a rather fun combat system that can get pretty funny at times when you’re holding onto a floating enemy griffon for dear life while your pawns are in its talons getting squeezed to death. I often laughed at the crazy things that happened in some of my battles and enjoyed myself a lot.

Continuing my journey, I noticed the devs were not exaggerating about having so much to see and do. This area wasn’t just some big field they let me roam in. Instead, it was a carefully crafted mountainous area with multiple rivers and bridges connecting different regions. You could follow the road or veer down the cliff and see what awaits you. For instance, I found a giant griffon boss battle waiting for me at my supposed destination, which was supposed to have wolves instead. I got so sidetracked just exploring that I was way past my target location before I knew it. I had already fought a griffon, a giant beast I pushed into a river, and a dragon that appeared out of nowhere and almost leveled me. I haven’t felt that much wanderlust since Breath of the Wild. And that’s how Dragon’s Dogma 2‘s exploration is best described: Breath of the Wild without the ability to climb vertically wherever you wish.

An intuitive thing I noticed was that once I was told I couldn’t go any further for demo reasons, I turned back to try to get back on target. It was nighttime, and being at my destination at night allowed me to finish the quest since at night, the flowers glowed brightly. The boy the wolves took away dropped the flowers, leading to the wolf’s den. So, I was awarded for my curiosity to explore because I wouldn’t have figured it out otherwise during the daytime. I absolutely love games that give players the feeling of “Oh, that’s how you do that” instead of just explaining it, and it feels like Dragon’s Dogma 2 will have those moments in spades.

Magick Archer

The next part of the demo had the other vocation we were allowed to check out: the Magick Archer, a returning vocation from the original game. Much like Mystic Spearhand, Magick Archer is a combination class that uses magic, but this time in conjunction with a bow. They don’t do heavy damage, but they offer support abilities and allow you to deal with threats from afar or those in the sky. Their four abilities were homing ice arrows that charged up and hit more times the longer you held the reticle on the target, a controllable fire arrow that, once released, can be manually guided to the target (think Perfect Dark‘s remote-controlled missiles), a ricochet arrow that when charged up unleashes a barrage of bouncing arrows everywhere, and a support arrow that allows you to heal your pawns from afar (or resurrect them if charged up). I won’t lie; I am not a big fan of ranged characters, and Magick Archer was a bit tricky to get used to at the start due to the reticle targeting required from the class, but after a few minutes and a few battles, I found the controls pretty intuitive and fun. Even just playing these two, I can see them being vocations for just about anyone to enjoy in the full game.

Once again, I set off on my own and ignored the main quest in front of me in the much bigger city we were in. High up on a plateau, I worked my way down, ledge after ledge, going in and out of caves and valleys, just finding whatever I could. And that’s when things got real. I decided to attack a giant orc boss, which I quickly learned was a mistake because right around the corner was a more gigantic and more armored orc, and I ended up in a double boss fight against the two towering giants. What made it even crazier was that an ox cart on the nearby road — that you typically use to get back to town quicker — was suddenly part of the fight. They got destroyed fast, and I laughed as I battled with these orcs over an already broken caravan. It was chaotic but fun, which is exactly what you want to see from a game like this.

But all good things end, and after my battle with them, my time was up with the demo. For curious performance-minded players, Dragon’s Dogma 2 ran smoothly on the PlayStation 5, even with two huge bosses on the screen at times, all the while boosting some impressive draw distance for everything in the world. I also greatly enjoyed the banter the pawns offer while exploring, and their level of customization from the first game is still there, along with the customization of the player character as well. There is a lot — and I do mean a lot — to see and do in Dragon’s Dogma 2, and I can’t wait to see more when it comes out later this month on March 22nd for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 – Hands-On Video

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Scott Clay

Scott Clay

Scott streams games for our Twitch channel almost every night! He enjoys playing games on stupid hard difficulties, creating unnecessary challenges for games that don't need them, speedrunning and telling everyone why Lunar 2 is the best RPG ever made. You should stay awhile and listen!