Dragon’s Dogma 2 Preview – An Exciting Look At An Exciting Sequel

This is bordering on pawnography.

I have always felt that Dragon’s Dogma has been a criminally underrated game. The original world of Gransys was a joy to explore, and the open-world design, while different from the status quo at the time, was an acquired taste. But even after some attempts to make things more streamlined with a reissue, I still feel that Dragon’s Dogma deserves a bigger audience. The fact that we’re even getting Dragon’s Dogma II is honestly a bit of a godsend for me, and after spending some time with the game in a hands-off preview, I’m keen to see how things are progressing for what will no doubt be one of the most unique open-world experiences this generation.

The preview allowed us to watch just under half an hour of footage from a non-final version of the game. The footage is a mix of gameplay and exploration that gives a good idea of how this parallel world, rumoured to be four times as large as the original game’s Gransys, is set up and plays out. The original game was harshly criticized for its narrative shortcomings, and while the gameplay more than made up for it, it’s interesting to see strides in correcting that apparent fault.

Dragon's Dogma II Preview - Mountain temple looking

I say this because, in so much of this footage, it becomes clear that the questlines in Dragon’s Dogma II will be more involved than the original game. The original game had many quests where you’d go to an area to find an item and then return for your reward. Dragon’s Dogma II adds more decision and nuance to the quests you’ll carry out, with choices about how you’ll finish them. Whether this plays out in a more profound way than just experiencing a different ending for that specific quest is hard to tell, but it’s a step in the right direction.

In the footage I watched, the Arisen was approached by a merchant who had lost a treasure known as The Jadeite Orb. He was panicking because he was meant to deliver this to his client but lost it. The twist, however, is that the merchant planned to run away with the treasure anyway and keep it for himself. We then run into the client, who doesn’t care so much about the merchant but more about the orb itself. We don’t see how the quest ends – but it’s easy to see where it’s going – keep the orb for ourselves, give it to the client for a hefty reward or do the right thing and let the merchant build a new life for himself with it. It’s a small taste of how quests will play out, but it is a nice improvement over the original game. 

Dragon's Dogma II Preview - Conversation

Other quests are less sinister in nature but allow the player to choose how they play out. In other footage, a father asks the Arisen to retrieve a grimoire to help them improve their lives. As we leave that room, that man’s family asks us to recover the grimoire but to keep it away from the father as his obsession with it has been driving the family apart. Once again, the conclusion to the quest is not seen, but it highlights that there will be some decisions to be made, even in side quests.

It’s always hard to tell in a hands-off demo of a game this big, but other little touches help to make the world of Dragon’s Dogma II feel so alive. Quest givers will run at the Arisen and approach them to give quests. Other times, there will be comments from your pawns (more on them later) on what’s just transpired in a conversation with a quest giver. While the settlements look quieter than you’d typically see in a game of this ilk, every character on-screen seems to be doing something or reacting to the player somehow. It feels alive. And that’s before you’ve even seen what can happen in combat.

Dragon's Dogma II Preview - Skeleton Battle Crypt

But before we get into combat, we have to talk about Pawns. They act as AI companions – and while you couldn’t play directly with your friends in the original game, you could recruit their pawns into your party to help you fight in a pseudo-co-operative mode. Pawns return in Dragon’s Dogma II. They’re called Pawns because they are bonded with the playable character, and their AI seems excellent. Bringing a pawn with knowledge of the area you’re about to embark on is crucial for exploration, but they also synergize well with your character in battle. Will they ever replace a strong supporting cast? Probably not, but they are such an integral part of the Dragon’s Dogma DNA that I couldn’t see them not being included.

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It’s exciting to report that the fast travel system from the original game could be making a return. It’s, once again, hard to judge with a hands-off demo, but one segment of footage confirmed the return of Ferrystones and Port Crystals. In the original game, you could use (expensive) Ferrystones to return to a Port Crystal of your choice. It’s a controversial decision to return to this style of fast travel, but if Itsuno’s latest comments are to be believed, it’s a good indicator of his confidence in the world his team has built. Too much reliance on fast travel could be boring, as previous games have proven, so restricting it in service of an exciting world with great emergent events harkens back to games like Elden Ring or even, obviously, the original Dragon’s Dogma.

Dragon's Dogma II Preview - Shopkeeper

But how have I even spoken this much about Dragon’s Dogma II without mentioning the combat. It looks juicy. The footage I watched showed off many of the newer classes, but the Mystic Spearhand Is the one that caught my attention most. It’s a fast-playing style that equips your Arisen with a bladed quarterstaff as they zip around the battlefield, taking in enhancements from their pawns and dealing massive damage to the game’s huge variety of enemies. The combat is incredibly fast-paced, and I’m glad to see it both looks like the original game but still manages to feel bigger and better than the original. 

This especially feels so when you look at how the magick combat looks to be coming along, too. In a battle with a lich, the team were throwing all kinds of spells at the enemy to the point that I almost couldn’t see what was happening. The spells in Dragon’s Dogma II are spectacular and fantastical. One character peppered the air with lightning orbs while others were summoning giant ice glaciers from the ground. It’s some great-looking spell-casting that makes me excited for what I can achieve with the right builds and combinations of spells.

Dragon's Dogma II Preview - Griffon Battle

And yes, Magick Archer still looks broken as all hell, but hopefully, other vocations will be buffed to compensate for that. 

I come away from this time with Dragon’s Dogma II with minor concerns that both focus on the same aspect of the game – the presentation. Capcom has not said much about how well the game will run beyond the fact that the framerate is “unlocked”. It will feel odd to play a game built in RE Engine in anything less than 60fps, but it does indeed feel like that might be the case here. Of course, the footage I watched wasn’t final, but it’s still less of a focus from Capcom in the weeks leading up to launch. And finally, the voice work feels incredibly flat. This probably won’t change in the lead-up to launch, but it was noticeable enough that I felt the need to mention it.

Dragon's Dogma II Preview - Lich Battle

But those are minor blemishes on what looks to be another win for Capcom. It’s a joy to see them branching out from the typical Monster Hunter and Resident Evil offerings to offer something unique. It’s a sequel, but it’s a sequel to a game that’s barely been touched when it comes to the type of open-world experience it offers. And that’s why the prospect of Dragon’s Dogma II is so exciting – because the original game was so underrated and so special, and now, we’re about to live through all of that again.

Dragon’s Dogma II launches for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PC on March 22nd. You can pre-order it now on Amazon for $99 with free shipping and pre-order price guarantee.