The day before yesterday, while viewing the new Dragon’s Dogma 2 gameplay from the Tokyo Game Show, I found myself saying “Game of the Year” to myself. What should I do, I’m just a Dragon’s Dogma fanboy. The way Devil May Cry boss Hideaki Itsuno and his team superimpose understandable RPG rules over a wonderfully physical, demanding action game is simply inimitable. And this sequel, which I would not have thought possible eleven years ago, shortly after the launch of the first part, simply looked too good in the new moving images.
What was even better: I was able to play it myself a day later at Capcom in Hamburg. I won’t give too much away when I say it was one of the shortest hours of the year! As I type these lines, I’m sitting on the train back to Bremen and I’m still a bit antsy, also because Capcom sent me home without a release date or at least a time frame for Dragon’s Dogma 2. Even when I asked whether I had to write “Game of the Year 2023 or 2024” in the title, the company spokespersons couldn’t be persuaded.
Not that 2023 hasn’t treated us well when it comes to games in general. But I’d really like to add this one to the long list of fantastic games from this year. Dragon’s Dogma 2 left an impression. Let’s start with what particularly caught my eye and really jumped out at me – apart from the fact that this action version of a party role-playing game remains very true to itself in the second part and is immediately recognizable as the successor to the playful, quirky 2012 Underdog: the monsters!
The first meeting with the all-too-familiar dragon, which eats hearts like gummy bears, underlined how gigantic the largest creatures in this world appear. It’s the effective mix of camera angles, model and texture detail, and animations that make these beasts truly seem huge. This impression continued throughout the entire hour. When I didn’t stray like a curious child or get lost in the dark, which is still incredibly black and truly scary, I had to deal with a griffin. Head and beak the size of the front two-thirds of a Ford F-150 pickup truck, with heavy wingbeats and shaggy feathers. Every movement simply conveys the violence and gravity of such an oversized creature. At least I guess so.
Clinging to the beast – which is easier as a wiry thief bursting with endurance than as a heavily armored knight – and sitting on its neck, taking off with it to prevent its escape, is a real rush. Truly exciting. In general, there is a lot of good things to report from the enemies, even if you have to take Capcom at its word for the time being. The enemies should now interact better with their surroundings.
Personally, there wasn’t a moment that stood out in my short lesson, but in the TGS video you could already see a cave troll climbing down a canyon wall towards the player, which looked extremely cool. There you will also witness how a cyclops loses his balance after a few hits on his legs, stumbles towards a chasm and – instead of falling down – clings to the opposite ledge with his hands. The monster hangs over the gorge like a bridge and can actually be used as such by the player and his pawns. Complete madness.
In general, the world is now more interactive. I destroyed a small suspension bridge with targeted blows on the pegs that held it and thus lost a wildly mixed group of goblins and a cyclops who had previously stubbornly pursued me. Elsewhere, a clip from the Tokyo Game Show showed a player throwing an explosive barrel at a natural dam, which then collapsed. The masses of water then swept away a cyclops. Also, by letting monsters collide with the ground or rocks, they take damage – and not only them: even rocks have cracks where the huge beasts crash into them.
But yes, the animations are definitely a highlight, as they are full of small and large details. I have great difficulty remembering a game in which the Sword and Shield class authentically stabilizes the hilt of their loosely sheathed sword with their left hand while walking. Very nice. The thief class may be new, but with its two daggers it still has the biting wind special attack that string players enjoyed in the first part. But if you run it here, the animation is much wilder and more expressive. There seems to be more power in every step in Dragon’s Dogma 2.
And you will take quite a few steps, because the paths haven’t exactly become shorter. Although you can now also use ox carts for fast travel between defined points, they can also be attacked and the journey interrupted. I also thought it was good that with the new camping equipment you can now rest by smoking campfires, regenerate your life force and work on your skills.
Here you can also cook ingredients for meals and the way dried meat went into the pan was graphically truly astonishing. Capcom didn’t just discover its love for attractive virtual food yesterday – remember Monster Hunter World. But when I looked at the close-up of the sizzling streak in Dragon’s Dogma 2, I actually couldn’t tell whether it wasn’t a live-action film that was briefly cheated in, it looked so realistic. I’m really curious to see what else is possible in the entire game.
What else? Well, overall the world is supposed to be four times as big this time and we actually won’t find ourselves in Gransys this time, even if the first trailers made it seem like that. At the event, Capcom only spoke cryptically about a world similar to Gransys. We’ll find out what that means in detail when Dragon’s Dogma 2 is released – whenever that is (this year), Capcom! – but if you look closely at the first images, it looks like we’re seeing the Bluemoon Tower, which was northeast of Gran Soren in the first game, from the other side. So it’s quite possible that we’re traveling far in the northeast.
In any case, there are two different biomes here. Vermund is the realm of men and resembles Gran Soren with its gently rolling hills and lush greenery. In Batthal, on the other hand, live the “Beastren”, surprisingly majestic animal people with lion faces. Their country is rather arid and criss-crossed by red-gold canyons.
We can’t say much about the two new classes that only the Arisen can control. We haven’t been able to play these late-game careers yet. But basically the Mystic Spearhand is a mix of two-handed melee fighter and caster that specializes in space control. He also has a type of telekinesis when you magically throw objects at enemies. And this also includes the corpses of killed enemies, which no longer disappear immediately. The Magick Archer, on the other hand, shoots – no surprise – magical arrows and, in difficult situations, exchanges some life energy for a powerful area-of-effect spell. But just from the three classes that I experienced – archer, warrior, thief – I noticed that in Dragon’s Dogma 2 all classes will feel completely different.
It seems that the second part of Dragon’s Dogma remains just as magical and eccentric – yes, simply different – as the series debut, which symbolized the concept of a cult game like few others from the last 10 or fifteen years. Party role-playing feeling with the verve of a cultivated action game. It’s just great when the party you put together does its thing. If you hit an enemy while lightning strikes him from behind and your thief fixes the victim with a courageous grip for the final blow. Meanwhile, your herbalist is letting the healing magic warm up. In Dragon’s Dogma, this action-RPG playground for explorers and experimenters, you feel a sense of togetherness like few other titles.
Ultimately, it’s not that important whether Dragon’s Dogma 2 will be released in 2023. For me it is a promising candidate for the best list every year.