The original Dragon’s Dogma, released in 2012, gained popularity as a one-of-a-kind open-world action RPG. It offered a refined combat experience and the freedom to explore a classic and truly immersive fantasy world. Their pawn system (support NPCs who would join adventurers on their quests) meant you would never adventure alone. Its RE Engine-powered PS5 sequel, due out next year, follows in those footsteps.
At last week’s Tokyo Game Show, I sat down with a playable demo. This is what I discovered.
Choose your vocation and commit
In the demo, I was able to choose between three vocations: fighter, thief or archer. The Thief makes rapid consecutive attacks with daggers in both hands, while the Archer specializes in long-range combat using bow and arrows. All three were great choices, but I decided to go with the Fighter, which was my choice in the first Dragon’s Dogma. The Fighter wields a sword and shield, and excels in hand-to-hand combat.
Once in the field, a pre-arranged party was already waiting for me. Dragon’s Dogma 2 sees the return of the series’ pawn system, as players can create a party consisting of up to four members, which includes their main pawn, as well as up to two additional pawns from other players across the network.
Various monsters inhabit this world and are all ready to attack the Risen One (me) and his group (Pawns). Smaller monsters are not a threat, but larger ones can be challenging and intriguing. I encountered a one-eyed giant, the Cyclops, who wields a club and performs hip thrusts.
Since I chose Fighter as my vocation, my role is to attack first and lead the melee charge. I used my shield to block incoming attacks while pressing the Square button for light attacks and the Triangle button for heavy attacks. The combination of the L1 button and attack buttons allows the player to use custom abilities, including familiar ones like Impale and Compass Slash. These attacks feel great and deal a lot of damage.
Additionally, when fighting large monsters, you can cling to enemies and scale their huge bodies to attack their weak points. For example, you can jump and jump onto a Cyclops’ back, and once you reach its head, you can land direct hits on its unique eyeball.
The behaviors of the accompanying pawns are controlled by AI and they fight automatically at their own discretion. Pawn commands allow you to take control of pawn actions to a certain extent, such as having them move closer to you, spread out to fight, or prioritize recovery and support. However, letting the pawns make their own decisions (and seeing the successes that result from doing so) gives Dragon’s Dogma the feel of a multiplayer experience.
Dragon’s Dogma 2’s improved AI makes pawns even smarter. The pawns react more quickly to the actions of the resurrected, such as using enchantments to enhance the attacks of the resurrected, harnessing magic to attack flying enemies that the fighters cannot reach, and climbing the cyclops together with the resurrected. Additionally, the game appears to have added elements that make players feel a deeper connection with their pawns, such as communicating and offering advice during combat and high-fiving the Risen after a victory.
Explore, discover, fight
The RE Engine once again shows its qualities by rendering a richly detailed open world, full of lush landscapes and epic mountains. Looking into the distance shows possible paths and places to explore. As in the first game, the deep waters are infested with brine, emphasizing the need to stay on dry land.
As you explore, you’ll meet and talk to travelers and peons. If you talk to the pawns, you can invite them to join your party as ‘support pawns’. Pawns talk a lot during combat, but they also like to chat with you during your journey. In addition to commenting on the landscape and warning you about monsters, pawns who have deep knowledge of the area can give you clues about the location of treasure chests and help you get to where they are.
Not only do the monsters wander aimlessly, but they will lunge at you from the bushes or you may find them attacking other travelers. Monsters have their own strategies and principles of behavior. In the vast world, I found surprises everywhere, and it really felt as if people and monsters were alive in this world.
The main goal of this demo was to experience exploration and combat, so overall everything felt familiar from playing the first Dragon’s Dogma. At the same time, the beautiful open world and more refined pawn behavior demonstrate that the game has been thoroughly evolved and polished. As a fan of the series who has been waiting for the sequel, I can’t wait to see how the new story surrounding the Dragon and the Risen will play out.