I hate to be navel-gazing about the nature of this job, but game previews are weird. Sometimes they are easy, sometimes it is an uphill battle. Dragon’s Dogma 2 is one of those previews that isn’t easy to get.
That’s why this preview actually comes a little late – I’m trying to hit you with something good and thoughtful rather than rushing out a general impression amid the madness of Tokyo Game Show. I was allowed to play during TGS Dragon’s Dogma 2 at Capcom’s UK offices and experienced an expanded and slightly less limited version of the build available on the TGS show floor for around an hour. But… it’s a difficult game to write about.
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It’s difficult because this Dragon’s Dogma 2 demo is simple as a proof of concept. It’s probably like that to simply. What do I mean by that? Well… it’s the first game. It’s the first game, but better. The first game was a misunderstood gem, a cult classic. The second goal is to bring the things that made it this way to a wider audience.
In a way I could end the preview here. What more do you want? It’s a sequel to one of the best cult hits of all time, and it’s a clear decision to carefully build on those foundations rather than reinvent the wheel. Add to that the fact that Dragon’s Dogma is a slow burn, a game that sinks its claws into the soul as the hours pass. This means that an hour-long demo with Capcom employees hovering over your shoulder so you don’t stumble into a part of the world they don’t want to show yet is obviously not the best way to familiarize yourself with it. So now we’re in the process of writing the difficult preview.
However, there is something to be said. Dogma 2 switches to Capcom’s RE Engine, bringing with it the technical capabilities that have made many recent Capcom games absolute blasts. There are clearly lessons to be learned from Capcom’s successes like Monster Hunter and fellow RPGs Dragon’s Dogma, which came out between the last game and now.
The promise of the first Dragon’s Dogma was always a Japanese take on a certain type of role-playing game, one that took the gaming world by storm in the 2000s. The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion was an obvious touchstone for the developers – but then Dragon’s Dogma came out shortly after Skyrim. In a way, this sealed its fate as a cult hit rather than a mainstream success. But now Capcom is back, the lessons learned and other modern RPGs have been clearly looked at and analyzed since then.
However, the biggest influence on the original is what the first Dragon’s Dogma didn’t have. The series’ director, Hideaki Itsuno, has been quite honest over the years, detailing in various conversations and interviews the ways in which this first title was ultimately compromised in order to be released. They didn’t have the time, the technology, or a mix of both – and so the matter was dropped. The size of the world was reduced, elements of its multiversal multiplayer aspect were optimized, and even things like playable non-humans were removed from the game. By the way, all of these things are planned for Dragon’s Dogma 2.
One senses that this is the real mission: to return to the original vision of 2012 and finally build it as best as possible with the know-how of 2023 and the surprisingly versatile RE Engine. The result is a game that is hard to distinguish from its predecessor at first glance. But is that so bad when the predecessor is one of the greatest of his generation?
During my hour-long demo, I thought a lot about the little things. If a griffin decides to take off, you can easily jump on it and grab it – actually being carried with it across the map. You used to be shaken off, but the sense of scale now allows you to float above the land. Your AI-controlled vassal companions talk more – not just with you, gossiping about the world and what’s going on, but also with each other, praising and arguing, in a way that the makes the adventurer group feel alive.
However, many of these little things seem to add up to a larger, changing overall experience – which is why one hour is rarely enough. For example, the world is now seamless, meaning things can happen like angry enemies following you into the city. You can see where this goes – “emerging AI” moments that make for great stories and memes. Above all, what made Dragon’s Dogma so great was the emergent nature of its gameplay. There are more variables here than ever before.
Despite all the expansions, however, it is reassuringly similar. Strangely enough, despite being a sequel to a game that did quite well, Dragon’s Dogma 2 has a clear and beautiful homage to its predecessor. When you fight a larger enemy and they are weakened, the musical score warbles just as it did a decade ago. The hairs on the back of my neck immediately stand up. It’s great not only because of the nostalgia, but also because the music is just great right from the start. Of course they didn’t change it.
If you haven’t played the original, all you need to know is that Dragon’s Dogma 2 is an open-world RPG with a huge explorable landmass, emergent gameplay, and an exciting action-RPG combat system that I would best describe as “crunchy.” would ‘. Combat is defined by “professions” (a fancy word for classes), each defined by equippable special abilities and another iconic skill. Many professions appear to return from the previous game, although some have been tweaked or replaced.
They fit into the categories you can imagine: The fighter is like a knight, equipped with a fine blade and a shield, useful both for striking enemies and for defense. The Thief is fast, able to reach distances at lightning speed and deliver devastating blows while dodging rather than taking damage. It goes on and on and in the final game, like the original, it will unlock advanced professions as well as a wide range of skills for each profession.
The most unique part of Dragon’s Dogma has always been the aforementioned AI companions, the Pawns. The logic here is simple: you create a character, and it always lives and exists with you. You can then hire two more characters through a portal – and when you do, those characters come through other people’s games through the portal. Your character is also recruited to help others in parallel worlds. Pawns carry knowledge of their exploits from other games, so you might enter an area and your pawn informs you where a secret is or informs you of the weak point of a new enemy you’ve just discovered because he it fought with someone else. It’s very clever and a clever alternative to true online co-op.
The result is a game that at least partially feels like traveling with “living” companions – but with developers able to exert the level of control that is only truly possible in purely offline games.
World interactivity is an important part of the first game and also this sequel. And when you look at it in the context of 2023, it’s hard not to look at some of this and think a little about Breath of the Wild. Dragon’s Dogma was ahead of its time. Much of the same interactivity remains in this demo, where you can use the environment to trigger and reverse traps laid by goblins and the like. My favorite moment of the whole demo was when I realized that a group of lizardmen I was fighting were standing on a cliff – so I stunned one of their comrades, picked her up, and then threw her at the group, making them all close Ground fell her death. It’s good stuff.
In fact, it’s really good stuff. It was the same with the original. If this game really is that – a better, more feature-rich version of the original Dragon’s Dogma vision, set in a larger and more interactive open world… then I think it’s cool. Sometimes iteration is not reductive; Often it is even the wisest decision.
However, I’m excited to see what else Capcom has to offer. I feel like there’s more to this game than meets the eye. But at first glance, albeit the same, it’s exactly what I wanted. And it will probably be unstoppably good.