In fantasy action RPG Dragon’s Dogma 2, you’re never alone. Though your hero may find themself assailed by any number of deadly monstrosities, your party always has your back.
Dragon’s Dogma 2 is still very much a work in progress, but, confident in the quality of their upcoming game, Capcom invited TechRadar Gaming to check out an early build of the fantasy adventure. The demo offered precise and deliberate combat against a wide range of fantastical foes while also showing off the game’s responsive and intelligent AI party members, known as “Pawns”.
Right from the get-go, I was accompanied by three party allies, led by a charming lion man called Max. Not only did Max lead me to quest destinations and helpfully comment on our surroundings, but he also proved indispensable in battle. Venturing from the safety of a typical fantasy settlement, we found ourselves under attack by goblins. Max sprung into action, enchanting my weapons with an aura of fire and giving my arrows the extra zest they needed to send those goblins packing.
Best of all, once we triumphed, rather than standing around slack-jawed or offering a canned line to indicate victory, Max came over and high-fived me, putting a big smile on my face. It’s touches like this that make Dragon’s Dogma 2’s NPC buddies feel refreshingly close to actual players.
World of wonder
After only an hour with an early build, Dragon’s Dogma 2 captivated me with its unabashed commitment to a traditional, medieval fantasy aesthetic. Even the menus and map screen are rendered atop stylized parchment, looking far more like an illuminated manuscript than a game menu.
Enemies, too, have a sense of the mythological about them. From pesky flying harpies to towering cycloptic giants, the enemies of Dragons Dogma 2 look and feel like they’ve lept from the pages of a storybook. The larger enemies especially exist on a scope that does justice to these mythic origins. The first set-piece boss of the demo, a griffin, was immense - easily the size of a school bus.
The game’s story is also plucked from the old-school high-fantasy playbook. In Dragon’s Dogma 2, you are the Arisen, a “chosen one” with the power to summon Pawns - mysterious otherworldly allies. As part of this process, however, you are fated to slay a dragon and take the throne of an entire kingdom. Though this premise brings nothing new to the genre, there is a certain captivating Arthurian charm at work here.
On top of this, the game’s environments are designed holistically, appearing as much more than a drab collection of shops and amenities for the player. Much like the robust towns of Final Fantasy 16, Dragon’s Dogma 2’s settlements are fleshed-out affairs, teeming with the hustle and bustle of activity and life. More than just hubs to resupply, they feel like realized, believable towns where people actually live.
Beyond those towns, the wilderness brings with it an impressive attention to detail. While not open-world in the strictest sense, the developers made it clear that they were inspired by Grand Theft Auto 5 to create the “feeling of a living world.” This showed in a big way during the preview. As you explore, environments open up to you, revealing new encounters and hidden treasures, both visual and literal. Even unfinished, Dragon’s Dogma 2’s world is full of stuff.
Swords and Sorcery
The battles themselves are satisfying, deliberate affairs, where positioning and strategy are just as important as reflexes. Enemies will block and weave, necessitating that you use maneuvering, special attacks, and opportunities set up by your NPC teammates if you wish to succeed.
Much like legendary action RPG Elden Ring, your movements in battle have a ponderous weight to them, meaning that every action is, in some way, a commitment. Whether you’re notching an arrow as an Archer or darting behind an enemy as a Thief, your every move runs the risk of exposing you to attack.
As with its predecessor, Dragon’s Dogma 2 places a strong emphasis on character customization in the form of classes, or, as they’re known here: Vocations. Here is where the combat system really shows its depth. Not only does every Vocation play distinctively, but the range of Vocations synergize together in combat, helping you and your NPC allies work together and complement each other’s abilities.
Thanks to Capcom’s well-designed NPC behavior, your party’s Mage will set up healing zones while enchanting your weapons so as to maximize damage. Your Thief will zip about the battlefield, taking advantage of openings created by your shield-bearing Fighter. Your Archer will stay back, peppering your enemies with arrows from afar. At times, encounters would take on an almost esports-like quality, with different combat roles interlocking in a manner reminiscent of DOTA 2 or Overwatch 2.
What’s more, you’re able to fill in any of these roles yourself as the player character, seamlessly slotting into your preferred niche. This is, perhaps, Dragon’s Dogma 2’s greatest strength; no matter where you are or what you’re doing, you always feel part of something bigger than yourself.
It’s clear even from this preview build that Capcom intends to fill Dragon’s Dogma 2 with a range of Vocations beyond the basic Thief-Mage-Fighter-Archer quadrangle. The greatsword-wielding Warrior and the destructively powerful Sorcerer could be spotted amongst the selection of Vocations on offer in the preview - though they weren’t yet accessible. We also know, thanks to a recent trailer that the Mystic Spearhand and the Magick Archer will be available for those looking to spice up their battles with some hybrid classes.
We don’t yet know which other Vocations might be on the horizon, but it’s clear that Dragon’s Dogma 2 is working with a seriously strong set of fundamentals. What’s more, Capcom’s upcoming RPG has plenty of heart. Dragon’s Dogma 2 doesn’t just let you vanquish your enemies; it lets you high-five your buddies afterward. Though there’s no release date right now, this competent offering from Capcom remains one to watch for fans of traditional fantasy and action RPGs.
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Cat Bussell is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Gaming. Hailing from the crooked spires of London, Cat is an experienced writer and journalist. As seen on Wargamer.com, TheGamer.com, and Superjumpmagazine.com, Cat is here to bring you coverage from all corners of the video game world. An inveterate RPG maven and strategy game enjoyer, Cat is known for her love of rich narratives; both story-driven and emergent.
Before migrating to the green pastures of games journalism, Cat worked as a political advisor and academic. She has three degrees and has studied and worked at Cambridge University, University College London, and Queen Mary University of London. She's also been an art gallery curator, an ice cream maker, and a cocktail mixologist. This crash course in NPC lifestyles uniquely qualifies her to pick apart only the juiciest video games for your reading pleasure.
Cat cut her teeth on MMOs in the heyday of World of Warcraft before giving in to her love of JRPGs and becoming embedded in Final Fantasy XIV. When she's not doing that, you might find her running a tabletop RPG or two, perhaps even voluntarily.