Home Tech Pushing Buttons: What makes Dragon’s Dogma 2 a fiery breath of fresh air

Pushing Buttons: What makes Dragon’s Dogma 2 a fiery breath of fresh air

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Pushing Buttons: What makes Dragon’s Dogma 2 a fiery breath of fresh air

I I love it when a game captures me in the right way, to the extent that I think about it all day as I go about my real life. It doesn’t happen that often these days, as I’ve played too many games over the past 30 years and have become immune to most common spells. When it do happen, it’s usually because a game does something I haven’t seen before – like last year’s Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, with its crazy contraptions. Or sometimes – like with Dragon’s Dogma 2, which I’m still playing after reviewing it last week – it’s because it does something I to have seen it before, but not for a long time.

In the twelve years between the original Dragon’s Dogma and this sequel, Elden Ring was the only game that came close to recapturing its chaotic and stubbornly idiosyncratic brand of fantasy action role-playing. This is a game where you can ruin quests by hanging around too long before pursuing your next objective, where a griffin can pop up in the middle of an otherwise unremarkable journey through the countryside and claw you to death almost instantly, where the interdimensional creature that acts as your traveling companion, this is possible contract a mysterious illness and unleash the apocalypse in your saved game. There is only one repository, so every decision you make matters. Make the wrong one, and you’ll have to live with it.

Some players have reacted with dismay to this game’s inflexibility, but I respect Dragon’s Dogma 2’s willingness to ruin your day from time to time. It does not bend to your will; you have to work around its rules – even if you don’t necessarily know what they are at first. You may be frustrated at first because characters often tell you about intriguing legends and rumors, but the game never marks these things on your map to tell you where you might find them. Then, as the hours pass, you may find yourself in the wilderness at night without any camping gear, taking shelter in a cave that turns out to lead to a crumbling mountain shrine, where you’ll find a real sphinx. You realize that if someone had marked their location on your map, you would never do that I felt so awestruck when you first saw his glowing eyes in the dark.

The prevailing wisdom in open-world games has long dictated that they be structured as to-do lists. You see a character with an icon above their head, they give you something to do, the game conveniently marks that location for you and you start checking the boxes before returning for your reward. The map is littered with little icons that show you where to find everything you need to upgrade your gear or achieve your objectives. In recent years, games like Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Elden Ring have abandoned these conventions, making their worlds feel mysterious, real, and dangerous again – but Dragon’s Dogma never did that. these treaties in the first place.

Charmingly immune to outside influences… Dragon’s Dogma 2. Photo: Capcom

Dragon’s Dogma 2 is no different. You get the impression that the development team has spent the last ten years playing nothing but their own game; it’s charmingly immune to outside influences and doesn’t adopt any of the ideas that other games have made standard since 2012. For example, aside from a few rare occasions, you can’t fast travel around the map by going through a menu. If you want to go somewhere, you have to walk. For centuries. You take the path, and if you stray As you walk the path, you will most likely encounter something that will kill you – but you will also have an adventure, like the time I found a haunted castle full of skeletons.

By the time you and your team reach the next town at nightfall, exhausted and overloaded with trinkets you picked up along the way, you’ll feel like you’ve actually accomplished something. There is one alternative to walking: take a ride on an ox cart, which is incredibly even slower than walking, unless your character falls asleep and wakes up at their destination. Also, halfway through the journey you can be attacked by monsters that destroy the entire cart, leaving you in unfamiliar territory in the middle of the night. It looks like a cruel joke.

What all this brings to the player is a feeling of… I would describe it as the feeling of being fully awake. You can’t turn off your brain when you play a game like this. You have to remember things people tell you, use your eyes to read paths, and notice things in the distance when there’s no mini-map or quest marker to show you where to go. You must be willing to fight when called, and to run for your life when you fall short. I keep seeing things I’ve never seen before, like this player trapped in the arms of one of his pawns after being sent flying through the air by an ogre. It’s refreshing, especially when so many games feel like extremely fancy spreadsheets, with nested to-do lists and menu-based fast-travel and predictable, gradual learning curves.

Games like these have regularly gotten me out of trouble over the decades, and have reminded me that they can still be exciting and unpredictable. Regular reader Iain recently wrote a question that partly inspired this issue: “As a gamer in my late 70s, I’ve been playing since 1985. It seems I’ve reached a point where I’ve ‘seen it all before’. Are there really innovative titles or am I stuck with ongoing series, some of which have reached double digits?”

Well, Iain, for me, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is one of those games that restores my faith. It could be a sequel, but there’s still nothing like it.

What to play

Tempered. Photo: Orangutan issue

Out today, Tempered is an interesting arthouse project from a small team of developers who describe it as “a thought-provoking puzzle platformer, taking players on a journey through the eyes of children”. You move through striking, hand-painted scenes and examine them from the inside; each frame is a real acrylic painting and they are joined together using a technique similar to stop-motion. I find it meditative and eerie, like Limbo if it were painted by Van Gogh, and it bears the unmistakable stamp of its creators and their reflections on mortality.

Available on: Windows
Estimated playing time:
two o’clock

What to read

An exhibitor demonstrates a motion capture device at the 2024 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Photo: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock
  • The Game developers conference wrapped up last weekend — our reporter Kari Paul was there to document how games industry workers came together amid layoffs, AI threats, and resurgent harassment campaigns to support each other (and collectively scream in a San Francisco park).

  • Ubisoft also showed itself at GDC AI-powered non-player characters (NPCs) that listen to the player and respond in real time, based on a language model created and trained by a human writer based on that character’s knowledge and personality traits. They can also adapt to what is happening in the game, or to the player’s ideas. The mixed response to this technology was summarized by what video game academic Brendan Keogh said about: “The idea that AI creates ‘realistic’ NPCs is based on a false myth that video games are ‘worlds’, as opposed to ‘media texts created by humans to express ideas and tell stories’. Why would I want to listen to dialogue that no one wrote?”

  • Thomas Hobbs interviewed the creator of Roller Coaster Tycoon for its 25th anniversary – and also the real-life roller coaster designers who were inspired by it to pursue careers in theme parks.

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What to click

Ask Block

Dragon dogma 2. Photo: Capcom

Here’s reader Miles This gives me the opportunity to talk more about Dragon’s Dogma:

“I wanted your opinion on the”dragon plague‘ in Dragon’s Dogma 2, in which a disease can potentially kill dozens of characters. I’ve seen some on Twitter say it’s unfair game design, and others say it’s good to have a game with real consequences. What do you think?”

I’ve mentioned this contamination further down, but if you’re spoiler-shy, this is your cue to stop reading as I’m about to go into more detail. The dragon plague is the most radical thing players have discovered yet in Dragon’s Dogma 2: your “pawns”, – companions – can be affected when traveling with other players in their game, possibly by hunting dragons, although none knows exactly what it is. origin. You won’t know if one of your hired pawns has it until he starts acting strangely, clutching his head and ignoring your orders. If left unchecked, the disease progresses until, one day, while you are sleeping in an inn, the pawn in question turns into a hideous dragon-like creature and destroys every settlement you are in. each character nearby, including the characters you need to progress in missions. If you’re somewhere particularly densely populated, there could be a hundred figures lying in the morgue. It is possible to resurrect dead characters with magical wakestones, but you will need one lot of them to undo the damage.

Naturally, players are terrified by this. I’ve had text messages from friends asking, “Have you heard of the dragon plague?” How do you prevent it?” The answer seems to be that you can’t avoid it or cure it, but if you notice a pawn showing symptoms you can either send it away immediately (making it another player’s problem) or, if it’s your own pawn, Kill them with mercy, perhaps throwing them into the sea. They will come back to life shortly afterwards, without the plague.

Whether this is unfair game design or a stroke of genius, I think it’s both. This is a game-changing cataclysmic event that could come about through no fault of your own and potentially ruin your game. It’s also so radical that everyone has become afraid of it, checking their companions for symptoms and spreading the word across the real world, coming together to find ways to avoid it; maybe someone will figure out how to cure it.

I can’t remember the last time a game had such an idea.

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