dragon's dogma 2 preview
Image via Capcom

Preview: Dragon’s Dogma 2 Expands the Scope of the Original

When Capcom revealed Dragon’s Dogma 2 would be four times the size of the original game, I was a bit hesitant. Generally when the scope of a game is increased, it often comes with a cost. Sometimes polish is lost along the way or the game is marred with technical issues. Dragon’s Dogma was already an expansive game, with a decent-sized world map that featured both night and day cycles, that legitimately felt organic. It was hard to imagine something bigger than what Capcom had created in 2012. But after sitting down with Dragon’s Dogma 2, I feel confident Capcom has made yet another incredible, open world, low fantasy game that will, if anything, become a cult classic.

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Editor’s Note: This preview was based on a special Dragon’s Dogma 2 build made for media to experience, and its contents may differ from the final version.

No, I didn’t hear any unexpected vocal tracks accompanied by an electric guitar when I fiddled through the systems menu to check out various accessibility features the version of the game provided allowed. But everything that made Dragon’s Dogma was present in Dragon’s Dogma 2, down to the strange, silted barks the Pawns would say to fill the silence. Sure, there wasn’t anyone shouting “Goblins ill like fire, Arisen,” but the dialogue for these A.I. controlled companions were just as endearingly awkward and sometimes repetitive.

Dragon's Dogma 2 preview
Image via Capcom

For those unfamiliar with Pawns, they are Dragon’s Dogma‘s NPC system. Each player can create a Pawn of their own choosing, shaping them as they will and assigning them a Class. These can range from ones like a Thief, Mage, Archer, and Fighter. I wasn’t given the chance to create my own Pawn, but the option will be there in the full release of the game. These A.I. companions can be shared online, which means that you can recruit Pawns from other players to accompany you on your journey, and vice versa. What makes Pawns so unique by comparison to other A.I. companions in games is that they effectively store knowledge of things they’ve done before.

For example, while traveling through a dense forest one of the Pawns recruited through the Rift (a different dimension where you can recruit pre-generated Pawns, or Pawns made by other players) remembered the location of a chest. So I followed him through the brush to discover the chest he had potentially encountered with another player. This is what makes Pawns so interesting. While they will never replace a player, it makes them unique in their design. This was also a system present in the original Dragon’s Dogma, so those who have played the first game will be intimately familiar with this system as little has changed.

This goes for just about everything in Dragon’s Dogma 2 however, as Classes and Skills are functionally the same. A total of three Classes were available for me to test, which included the Archer, Fighter, and Thief. I ended up choosing Thief, as it allowed me to use dual blades extremely effectively and almost reminded me of using those very same weapons in Monster Hunter Rise. I was agile and able to dash around enemies with ease, which was absolutely the playstyle I was looking for. In Dragon’s Dogma, I tended to play a Mage or Archer who was not too interested in being in the thick of things. Don’t worry though, as you can still change your Class through the Vocation Guild, so you’re never locked into a Class you don’t gel with.

Image via Capcom
Image via Capcom

But playing the Thief felt extremely rewarding, especially when encountering a lumbering cyclops wandering through the nearby wood. I climbed this mighty foe and drove my daggers into it’s back. It shook me off a few times, throwing me into the brush. After I scaled the cyclops for a third time, it eventually met its end. This was what I was looking for. Dynamic combat interspersed with these moments that feel larger in scale due to your ability to climb massive enemies. It’s what Dragon’s Dogma has always done well.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 is effectively an improvement on everything that was present in the first title, even if it feels functionally the same. However, Capcom did add a few extra bells and whistles in terms of what you can do on the map and what Pawns are capable of. Players can now set up camp at designated spots highlighted by smoke and the smoldering remains of a campfire. You can camp as often as you like, so long as you have a pack in your inventory. Cooking at camp allows you to replenish your health, and includes a mouthwatering cinematic of a sizzling steak on a cast iron skillet that looked so unbelievably real I thought it was a video of an actual steak being cooked.

But my favorite part of camping, outside of being able to replenish your health, is that you can freely pass the time of day once you’ve set up camp. This means that you can avoid traveling at night if you manage to find camping spots between objectives. Traveling at night is still just as dangerous as it was in Dragon’s Dogma. While I wasn’t getting overwhelmed by skeletons and the like, I was still being chased by goblins and wisp-like ghosts that would constrict my Pawns. It was enough of a nuisance to make me sigh in relief when I caught sight of a camping spot in the distance.

Dragon's Dogma 2 preview
Image via Capcom

One of the most notable quality of life features is that Pawns can now lead you to objectives. I undertook a quest to clear out some goblins in a nearby mine and Max, one of my Pawns, informed me that she could lead the way. I gladly let her do so, even if her pathing was sometimes a bit imprecise, as we ended up making our way to our destination via one way or another. (It did involve her climbing over the same rock five or six times.) Regardless, this is a nice new addition and is entirely optional. You don’t have to ask your Pawns to guide you to whatever quest is marked on your map and can still get lost in the forests and hills if you wish. Exploration can still feel organic in Dragon’s Dogma 2 without the intrusion of an NPC trying to steer you towards the right direction. You can also encounter Pawns on the road that you can hire, as they are no longer entirely constrained to the Rift. I even encountered one Pawn that had been killed, so I decided to revive them and let them go on their way. This was a nice touch in making the world feel lived in and alive.

Environments are absolutely stunning, as Capcom has made another great strive with the RE Engine. While nothing veers into extreme hyper realism (outside of the mentioned steak, which I still refuse to believe is a cutscene), forests are densely populated with trees and bushes, the oceans are vast and a lovely shade of sapphire blue, and the hills are mottled grey and brown with crags of rock and stone.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a lot more colorful this time around, and is better for it. The world is vibrant and gorgeous, and utterly enticing to spend hours wandering around in. For the hour I was able to play, it left a strong impression. I absolutely cannot wait for whenever Dragon’s Dogma 2 will release, eager to spend hundreds of hours just wandering around in the world Hideaki Itsuno and his team have created.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 will release for Playstation 5, Xbox Series X, and PC via Steam. A release date has yet to be announced.

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Kazuma Hashimoto
Senior staff writer, translator and streamer, Kazuma spends his time playing a variety of games ranging from farming simulators to classic CRPGs. Having spent upwards of 6 years in the industry, he has written reviews, features, guides, with work extending within the industry itself. In his spare time he speedruns games from the Resident Evil series, and raids in Final Fantasy XIV. His work, which has included in-depth features focusing on cultural analysis, has been seen on other websites such as Polygon and IGN.