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Dragon's Dogma 2 Review: Honeymoon Period

Presenting Gameffine's Dragon's Dogma 2 review. Dragon's Dogma 2 is the highly anticipated follow-up to the 2012 cult classic RPG from Capcom.

Price: $69.99

Price Currency: USD

Operating System: Windows 10

Application Category: Video Game

Editor's Rating:

Released to little fanfare in 2012, the Japanese-Western RPG hybrid Dragon’s Dogma gained a huge cult status after the release of its Dark Arisen expansion. While the Western fandom didn’t get to enjoy the Japan exclusive MMORPG Dragon’s Dogma online, they have been clamoring for a sequel for years — A sequel that expands heavily on the fantastical combat, innovative pawn system and larger-than-life boss fights. An RPG known for its deep character progression and old-school sense of exploration, Dragon’s Dogma is still enjoyed today, and you won’t have to go far to find people experimenting with ridiculous builds and capturing funny montages. After a grueling waiting period, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is finally here. The word online is pretty polarizing, with criticisms aimed at the game’s performance and microtransactions. What does the regal RPG authority at Gameffine think, you ask? Sit down, grab a jug of cold mead, and hear this tall tale. 60 hours and one true ending later, here’s me presenting Gameffine’s Dragon’s Dogma 2 review.

True Vision

Dragon’s Dogma is a polarizing classic for a reason. A love child of Western RPG mechanics and Japanese design philosophy, Dragon’s Dogma put its players in a whimsical world where they would battle it out against annoying goblins and gigantic draconic creatures, added by a unique Al system aptly dubbed ‘pawns’. While its repetitive quest design and old school traversal mechanics drew its fair share of detractors, those who loved the game (including me) lauded its thrilling combat system, larger-than-life boss fights and the amazing endgame content introduced in the Dark Arisen expansion. 12 years later, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is here and game director Hideaki Itsuno would have us believe that this is the Dragon’s Dogma he always wanted to make. Is it that good, though? Well, yes and no. As the adventure drew to a close, I had formed a love-like-frustrated relationship with Dragon’s Dogma 2. There are some aspects of it 1 absolutely adore, a few that I’m indifferent to, and some 1 absolutely despise.

The first twenty or so hours of Dragon’s Dogma 2 are some of the most gratifying moments I’ve experienced in an action RPG since the original Dark souls. The development team has done a tremendous job of slowly but graciously introducing the player to the World of Dragon’s Dogma 2 and its plethora of interactive systems. From the moment the Arisen escapes from a volcanic excavation site on top of a Griffin to meeting your very first pawn to felling their first monster, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is pure bliss. Things become more interesting as the Arisen and their band reach the main city of the game and take on heroic quests and adventures. Dragon’s Dogma 2 is filled to the brim with dynamic events and systems that seamlessly interact with each other, resulting in a well-crafted illusion of a living, breathing world. 

The biggest achievement of Dragon’s Dogma 2 lies in its improved pawn systems and emergent gameplay. Words cannot do justice to the experimental dimensions to the exploration and combat system. There are so many ways and creative solutions for each encounter and environmental puzzles the game throws at you. It’s a game that rewards experimentation and creativity, not unlike its predecessor. The improved pawn system is a joy to engage with. While they seem to be doing stupid stuff from time to time, the behavior and reactivity of these AI characters are far ahead than the static characters of any other RPG. From guiding the player to quest objectives, to learning from their combat patterns to spouting witty reactions to the players’ actions, the Pawn system is something that’s truly unique to the series.

The Cracks

However, the honeymoon period gradually comes to an end after you pass the 20-hour mark or so. Soon, cracks start to appear on the shiny scales of Dragon’s Dogma 2. The exploration you have come to enjoy for the past few dozen hours starts to feel like a chore. The random enemies on the road whom you’ve been sending to the otherworld in a steady supply start to look the same. The vocation you’ve been grinding to the max rank start to feel tame and limited compared to the first game. The emergent gameplay moments become so routine and ironically predictable that one would wish for a more reliable and accessible fast travel system.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 takes pride in making the Arisen constantly run from one end of the map to another to accomplish one menial task or another. This tedious backtracking is made further infuriating by the game’s lackluster enemy variety. Despite featuring an improved critter roster, the Arisen will be combatting the same looking Goblins 80% of the time. If it’s not Goblins, then it’s Saurian’s — blandly designed lizardmen. Dragon’s Dogma 2’s definition of enemy variety is limited to reskinning the existing ten enemy types over and over. Bosses aren’t spared either. If I was a Dragon’s Dogma 2 Cyclops, I’d demand overtime pay. What makes these fights tolerable well into 40 hours is the freedom Itsuno and his team grants the players. A little creativity goes a long way in making sure that late game encounters aren’t a total chore.

How much enjoyment one would have from Dragon’s Dogma 2’s combat totally rests on the players and their creativity. But I cannot say the same for the story. There’s no better way to say it, but the main story of Dragon’s Dogma 2 is utterly terrible. Not only do you feel like a random NPC while doing it, but it’s mostly devoid of ‘cool’ moments, as far as an epic RPG is concerned. For a game all about battling fearsome creatures, 90% of the story quests involve doing mundane tasks that have no significant impact on the grand scheme of things. Save for two bosses, you don’t even fight anything worthwhile during the story. Thankfully, side quests are a noticeable improvement over the ‘collect 20 bear asses’ from the first game.

Then there is the endgame. One of the biggest reasons people love Dragon’s Dogma is because of its addictive endgame. The allure of great loot and tough monsters and min-maxing provide hours upon hours of playtime separate from the main campaign. For Dragon’s Dogma 2, Itsuno and team has gone for a different route. ‘Underwhelming’ is the word I’d use to sum up my feelings towards Dragon’s Dogma 2’s endgame. Upon finishing the campaign, the Arisen is thrown into a Majora’s Mask-esque world where you have a limited number of days to evacuate settlements. Time only moves when the Arisen rests, and more aggressive variations of enemies are found. I was able to wrap up all the endgame content; the quests, the Dragonforged gear and beat all the bosses in like 3 hours. Save for one, the four new bosses were disappointing and just a reskin of the basic Drakes. The new area, the sea floor, is just a long stretch of unremarkable landmass with nothing new to see or explore. They just removed all the water and added annoying variations of existing enemy types. There’s no new dungeon, no endgame grind, no new worthwhile quests, nothing — a far cry from BBI.

Dragon's Dogma 2 review

The Ogres in the Room

By far, the heaviest Criticism aimed at Dragon’s Dogma 2 is PC performance. The steam reviews aren’t lying. Dragon’s Dogma 2’s performance leaves much to be desired. While Capcom’s justification that the performance impact is caused by the game’s emergent AI systems and unique NPC behavior is palpable. However, there is no doubt about the fact that Itsuno and team took something as optimized as the RE Engine and turned it into a choppy mess.

From my testing of the game on an RTX 4060 and an RTX 3070, the game struggled to keep a steady framerate in the main city. The ECG-like frametime graph was all over the place, with the framerate chugging along, ranging from a measly 29 fps to a choppy 50 fps. The 4060 benefited from having a frame generation mod which boosted the framerate by a good 30–50 fps without any noticeable input lag at 1440p, high settings. The 3070 got the short end of the stick as it struggled to maintain a smooth high refresh rate-worthy fps even at 1080p. The demanding performance could have been partially justifiable if the game looks impressive. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Dragon’s Dogma 2 is an average looking game that shouldn’t run anywhere as bad as it does now. Capcom is aware of the performance issues, and one can only hope to see an optimization patch sooner rather than later.

Then there are the microtransactions. As far as I’m aware, Capcom has been following this ‘new’ MTX trend since Devil May Cry 5. It wasn’t welcome then, it isn’t welcome now. In all fairness, all the stuff Capcom’s been selling on the store can be earned in-game without too much of a grind. This doesn’t make this practice any less shitty, however. The only sensible thing to do in this situation is to not indulge in poorly implemented monetization practices such as these and hope for a brighter day when multibillion corporations stop doing stuff like this — A pipe dream for sure, so it’s up to the consumer to not fall for such schemes.

Real Talk

The hours I spent in Dragon’s Dogma 2 were filled with spectacular highs and frustrating lows. When the game gets going, it really gets going, before suddenly coming to a screeching halt. While I still look back to the 5 days I spent with the game with fondness and admiration towards Itsunos’ craft, the game’s poor performance coupled with Capcom’s less-than-ideal monetization practices and the underwhelming endgame tarnished my experience to a degree. Let’s just hope that Dragon’s Dogma 2’s upcoming expansion rectifies its many shortcomings. May it prove to be another Dark Arisen.


Dragon's Dogma 2 Review

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review
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Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a single player, narrative driven action-RPG that challenges the players to choose their own experience – from the appearance of their Arisen, their vocation, their party, how to approach different situations and more - in a truly immersive fantasy world.
Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a single player, narrative driven action-RPG that challenges the players to choose their own experience – from the appearance of their Arisen, their vocation, their party, how to approach different situations and more - in a truly immersive fantasy world.
Total Score

The Good

  • Engaging combat system
  • Improved Pawns
  • Dynamic gameplay at its best

The Bad

  • Poor performance on PC
  • Lackluster endgame
  • Terrible main story
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