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Analysis | Dragon's Dogma 2 brings adventure and exploration in a massive world
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My wait for Dragon's Dogma 2 wasn't as long as that of someone who played the first one back in 2013, as I only came into contact with the game when it was released for PC a few years later, but that doesn't mean it wasn't equally distressing. That's because the first game, although strange and full of systems that seem unfinished, is simply brilliant and one of those with immense unexplored potential. Hideaki Itsuno's vision of the perfect fantasy game.

The long-awaited sequel has arrived and it's clear that the idea here was to realize that partially unfinished vision rather than evolve the formula. If on the one hand we have some of the best moments of immersion in a world of adventure and fantasy, on the other hand there is once again that feeling of unfulfilled potential.

A hero and three pawns

The beginning of the journey is very familiar to anyone who has played the first game in the series. Immediately after losing his heart to a Dragon – the premise of the story is also very similar – the player is invited to create his character in a very complete editor, where it is possible to choose in the smallest details his Arisen, as he is called. the hero of this adventure.

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A few minutes of story later and it's time to create your Pawn, a companion who at first is nothing more than an empty shell and will learn during the campaign how to fight, explore and help you in the most diverse ways. And here comes the biggest twist of the franchise, the other two journey companions are Pawns from other players, which you choose according to skills, class and knowledge of the game world. In other words, there is an exchange of knowledge between players without them even speaking to each other, just because they have lived different moments within the game world.

The customization part of them via equipment, items and classes is also very complex. Choosing a build for your companion is just as important as yours. In addition to the different classes available, you also need to unlock skills. In other words, even two archer Pawns can have completely different focuses, for example. You can also use personality items, earned by making friends with some NPCs in the world, which change the way he will act. One of them makes your companion use items to heal you when necessary, another makes the Pawn manage the group's inventories, dividing the burden between everyone so that no one becomes heavy in combat.

Impressive as it may seem, this is, unfortunately, the part that frustrated me the most in terms of expectations for the final game. Most of these systems were already present in some form in the first game and, in some cases, the Pawns even seemed smarter in the previous version. The expectation twelve years later was of much more interactions, exchange of experiences and the feeling of having built a companion that reflects your adventure at the end of the journey. It's definitely the most complex system in the game and remains unique in the genre, but the potential is so great that having basically the same thing again ended up leaving a somewhat bitter taste.

Peak of fantasy

The great highlight of Dragon's Dogma 2 is the combination of its open world and combat, which provide the definitive fantasy experience and the possibility of unforgettable moments at every turn of a dirt road. For me it was the perfect adventure in the style of The Lord of the Rings, like going out exploring Middle-earth with my group of heroes.

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The map starts completely closed and without marking points except for one mission or another. You need to explore on your own and discover the best route and what is hidden in the corners off your route. At first, I rarely went off the road much, afraid of the monsters that might appear, given the fragility of the group and how difficult it is to return to a safe point to get more supplies in case someone dies, for example. With time and more firepower, exploring becomes the great fun of the adventure and every dark corner of the map becomes a possibility for a new discovery.

The landscapes when exploring are stunning and you can see far into the horizon. Without the need for towers to score points, exploration becomes organic. Sometimes I saw smoke or a building very far away, at other times my Pawns pointed out a statue or a treasure chest and then a new mini adventure began, without missions or a collectibles counter in the menu indicating what was missing in the region. The most acclaimed games of recent years have followed this formula and it seems far from tiring.

In all these locations it is possible that a giant monster is waiting, an Ogre, Cyclops or even a Griffin will come flying from the sky and land hard on top of your companions. The fights are always tense, having to climb onto the monster to explore the weak points of its body and at the same time take care of your group, which generally depends on the skills of each member to survive. The world is reactive to these fights, with bridges being broken during combat or NPCs losing their lives and ending up in a city cemetery, even important ones. Good thing you can revive them.

The number of enemies is not small, with more than 70 variations in the game's bestiary. However, as the world is gigantic and the design choice was not to allow fast travel by pressing buttons on the map, even this variety ends up being little after dozens of hours of wandering and in the second half of the game it will certainly tire many players. This is made worse by the fact that the second region of the game has monsters very similar to those in the first, with some variations such as extra fur or extra armor, but they are functionally identical. In a future, more complete version of the game, adding more monsters to face would certainly be the most welcome addition.

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Still, the grandeur of the adventure and the feeling of discovery are incredible enough to keep you hooked until the end. I got the true outcome after about 80 hours and I still have a lot to discover, even though I've already platinumized the game. The missions are as organic as the exploration and many things only start or progress under very specific conditions, so there is always more to test or discover, which is fantastic.

Disposable story

If the world and combat are incredible, the story is the low point once again. In the first game the narrative was very disjointed and the characters were little explored. In Dragon's Dogma 2 there is basically the same slip-up. It is evident that the focus of resources during production was entirely on the world, combat and Pawns. For the story, all that's left is to try to create a basic background.

Some characters are even inserted in an intriguing way and have cool potential during the journey, like the queen regent and her son Sven, but all of this is ignored in the rapid progression, leaving a bunch of accelerated arcs and basically everyone without any development.

At certain points you even get scared by the speed at which things escalate, including at the end. The game ends at that moment when you think there will be a twist for a third act, but there isn't and in the end it's the same. It is possible to say that the final act is the true ending, but it is a very distant and also quick part, which ends up not filling the void that the lack of development until now had left.

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Below average performance

One criticism that cannot go unnoticed is in relation to the game's performance on all platforms. In none of them is it easy to play stably, whether at 30 or 60 fps.

On consoles, the game suffers from constant slowdowns in cities and in some fights that fill the screen with magic. Capcom has already explained the CPU problem and how the game continues to calculate the position of everything in the world all the time, but it has also said that it could have optimized a few more points for a more satisfactory performance. Future updates are expected to correct these problems.

Conclusion

Dragon's Dogma 2 oscillates between magical and unforgettable moments, and occasions of repetition and lack of something more. The sense of scale and adventure are incomparable, but other points such as the narrative and the evolution of some of its systems were left aside. Once again a good game that leaves the feeling that it could have been one of the best in history with some additions or improvements here and there.

Pros

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  • Massive world full of secrets to explore
  • Dynamic combat full of possibilities
  • Giant monsters to climb and kill
  • Lots of equipment and upgrades
  • Pawn system remains unique and ingenious

Cons

  • Unsatisfactory performance
  • Story without development and rhythm
  • A few moments of repetition and little reward

Rating: 8.5/10.0

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A copy of the game for PlayStation 5 was provided by Capcom for the preparation of this analysis

Analysis | Dragon's Dogma 2 brings adventure and exploration in a massive world

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Analysis | Dragon's Dogma 2 brings adventure and exploration in a massive world

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