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Dragon’s Dogma 2 review – An unpredictable delight

Dragon's Dogma 2 review
Screenshot: GameSpew

What a year it’s turning out to be for action RPG fans. We’ve already had the phenomenal Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, an expansion for Elden Ring is on the way, and right now we have Dragon’s Dogma 2. When it comes to the latter, those who have played the first game will have some idea of what to expect. But this follow-up is everything a sequel should be: bigger and better while somehow also being more accessible.

A politically-charged story lies at the heart of Dragon’s Dogma 2. You are the Arisen, a warrior chosen by a fearsome dragon to be his nemesis. It also gives you the ability to summon and command Pawns; companions that will do your bidding. By right it makes you ruler of Vermund, yet someone else sits on the throne, also proclaiming themselves to be Arisen. But can that really be? It’s down to you to find out, and it requires everything from arduous adventures to a bit of subterfuge here and there.

As engrossing as the story of Dragon’s Dogma 2 is, it’s the sense of adventure here that’s the real draw. Presented with a huge world to explore, you’re in control of your destiny. You can follow the story missions one after another if you wish, or you can just head out to far-flung corners of the map and see what happens along the way. There’s no right or wrong way to play. Whatever you do, you ought to do it with caution, though. No journey is safe, especially if you get caught out at night.

Dragon's Dogma 2 review
Screenshot: GameSpew

It’s safe to say that preparation is key in Dragon’s Dogma 2. With only an autosave slot to rely on and limited fast-travel available, just one encounter is all it takes for you to lose considerable progress. Sure, there are stones you can use to revive your character should you die, but they’re rare. And while the game does autosave frequently, sometimes you’ll still be in a position where it’s simply better to revert to the last time you stayed at the safety of an inn.

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So, before every journey, you’ll want to make sure you have supplies, perhaps including a camping kit so that if you do get caught out at night you can set up camp and safely sleep ’til morning. Sometimes you’ll need to rest simply because your characters have been worn down, too, a portion of their health bar being out of use until they’ve had time to recuperate. Though of course, the most important thing here is your party: their gear, their level, and even their roles.

You create two characters at the start of Dragon’s Dogma 2. There’s your playable character, the Arisen, along with their main Pawn that faithfully accompanies them. You can summon two further Pawns via visiting a Rift stone, bringing your party up to four members, but unlike your main pawn the other two cannot level up and you can’t change their roles.

Dragon's Dogma 2 review
Screenshot: GameSpew

Initially, only four roles are available, covering all the basics: Fighter, Mage, Archer and Thief. Each role requires particular equipment to be used and provides its own range of skills, core skills and augments to master. As a Fighter, for example, you won’t be able to use bows, while Mages can’t equip heavy armour. With each role bringing something unique to the table, then, diversity is key. You can have a party full of Thieves if you wish, but you might find it hard-going. You might at least want a Mage in there, what with their basic ability to heal and keep your party’s health topped up.

More roles can be discovered and unlocked as you play, allowing you to further specialise your team. Along with using the Discipline you’ve earned by defeating enemies and completing quests to unlock and put together your own personal palettes of skills for both the Arisen and your main pawn, there’s a real sense of strategy. Any Augments learned can be equipped outside of their respective roles, too, allowing for even more options. Needless to say, it’s fun seeing your characters grow and trying new roles to see what they offer.

Ultimately, what makes Dragon’s Dogma 2 so alluring is just how dynamic it is. No two journeys are ever the same, creating a sense of unpredictability and wonder. You can never rest on your laurels, as you’re never sure what could happen, and it’s that sense of surprise that really kept us engaged while playing.

One time, for example, as we made our way from one town to another — a fairly short amble on a path that’s usually plagued with only groups of weak goblins, harpies and perhaps some wolves — we were surprised when a large griffin appeared in the skies, descending towards us, probably hoping for a quick snack. One epic battle later, the griffin was felled. No more than two minutes later, however, a Minotaur then charged at us from nowhere, less of a threat but still more challenging than your usual fayre.

Dragon's Dogma 2 review
Screenshot: GameSpew

We could go on praising Dragon’s Dogma 2, as there’s just so much about it that is inspired and rewarding, but it’s the type of game where it’s best to go into it knowing as little as possible; discovering things for yourself. And when it comes to issues, we have but a few. It’s a bit frustrating meeting NPCs out in the open world, for example, that require your assistance going somewhere but don’t actually tell you where. Your Pawns’ repeated barks can also be a bit irritating over time, as well as those of the possible hires you meet in the open world.

For some, though, performance will be the biggest turn-off. We’ve been playing on PS5 for review, where Dragon’s Dogma 2 targets 30fps and appears to meet or even exceed it for the most part. But every now and again, mainly during the heat of a ferocious battle, you can notice it drop below 30fps. Honestly, we’ve not been bothered by it too much, especially with the visuals being so impressive and performance being solid for the most part. But those sensitive to such fluctuations may take offense.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a huge upgrade over its predecessor, offering a grander adventure that’s full of choice, consequence and discovery. Every journey you make, big or small, has the chance to be full of wonder, whether it’s due to finding valuable loot or encountering a fearsome enemy that’s rewarding to combat. Its lack of hand-holding in some regards still might deter some players, but for those who value a sense of adventure, Dragon’s Dogma 2 might just end up being the highlight of 2024.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 review – GameSpew’s score

This review of Dragon’s Dogma 2 is based on the PS5 version, with a code provided by the game’s publisher. It’s available on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.
Editor in Chief // An avid gamer since discovering the wonders of the Acorn Electron in the '80s, Rich has nearly played more games than he's had hot dinners. Not one to put all his eggs in one basket, Rich is happy to play games of all genres, but he particularly enjoys racing games and anything that's full of non-stop action, especially if it includes a good dose of humour, horror or crudeness!