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Dragon's Dogma 2 review: A worthy sequel and a great game, held back by performance issues and questionable microtransactions

Its combat is challenging and engaging, but the microtransactions were a questionable decision at best which has already hurt the game's reception at launch.

Dragon's Dogma 2's combat is challenging and engaging, but the microtransactions were a questionable decision at best. Read our review. (Photo: Capcom)
Dragon's Dogma 2's combat is challenging and engaging, but the microtransactions were a questionable decision at best. Read our review. (Photo: Capcom)

Dragon's Dogma 2 was a sequel 12 years in the making, a long-awaited follow-up to the cult classic RPG released by Capcom in 2012 that grew to be a standout title for the genre. I wish I could say that it was worth the wait.

Gameplay-wise, Dragon's Dogma 2 is a hands-down amazing experience. Its combat is challenging and engaging, with the experience made even better by the Pawn system adding so much depth to party strategy. The story, while not anything groundbreaking, still makes for a gripping narrative. And the game immerses you in its world like few other titles could.

Those alone would have made Dragon's Dogma 2 a worthy sequel and an early contender for Game of the Year. Unfortunately, the game is held back by glaring performance issues that make it near unplayable for most PC players and scummy microtransactions that has left a bad taste in the mouths of many players.

Make no mistake, Dragon's Dogma 2 by itself is a great game. But the aforementioned issues can really ruin an otherwise excellent experience.

The microtransactions in Dragon's Dogma 2: Paying for convenience

Let's start with the microtransactions. Currently, there are about US$40 worth of them available. These include a character editor, a Portcrystal (for fast travel), a consumable to revive dead characters, and Rift Crystals used in the Pawn system, among others.

These can all be found for free within the game itself, though some of them like the character editor and Portcrystal are rare and can be difficult to locate. In essence, you're paying for convenience when it comes to these microtransactions.

They might seem minor, but it's a questionable decision at best as to why these are needed in a single-player RPG in the first place.

While Dragon's Dogma 2 has one of the most in-depth character creators in all of gaming, the character you create will be who you're rolling with your entire playthrough. If you made a mistake or want to change things up, you will need to find one of the rare character editor items — or pay a couple of bucks.

The one save file issue in Dragon's Dogma 2 is not new, but why?

This also ties in with another issue I have: the fact that players are only locked into one save file. This was something that was already in the original, but even back in 2012 it was questionable why players couldn't have multiple playthroughs running at the same time.

The logic behind this decision is that players can easily switch between vocations and reallocate their stats, which is fair.

However, player decisions can drastically alter their gameplay experience, locking them away from certain quests or preventing them from acquiring otherwise available content.

So only having one save file for an RPG in 2024 is a decision that is hard to justify. If you want to restart your Dragon's Dogma 2 playthrough, then you'd have to manually go through the game's files and delete your save.

Thankfully, Capcom already said they will be working on a feature to allow players to restart the game. But why not just have this option available from the start?

Dragon's Dogma 2 performance issues are real

Now let's get to the performance, an issue which I feel is much bigger than the presence of microtransactions — and one that is most prevalent in the many negative reviews for the game on Steam.

The game is poorly optimised, suffering from massive FPS drops when you reach certain locations with a lot of NPCs. Some players have even resorted to plotting a massacre of NPCs just so they are able to play the game with acceptable FPS rates. If you want to have a smooth experience, then you better have a powerful GPU, as that seems to be at the heart of these performance issues.

These are present even before you start the game, as you will be locked in a screen saying the game is still "compiling shaders" before you can even start.

A diamond in the mud

As much as I've ragged on about Dragon's Dogma 2's issues with its performance and microtransactions, I want to reiterate that it is a great game if you're able to stomach those problems and actually get into it.

The sequel retains the grounded feel that I really loved about the original, presenting players with a world where humanity persists in a lush yet hostile world beset by all manner of monsters, from the titular dragon to the menacing griffin and the relentless hordes of goblins and undead.

The story, while not anything groundbreaking, is still an engaging narrative that lets players dive into the struggle of the Arisen to fulfill his destiny amid all the plots and schemes of the powers that be. Of course, you can still freely choose to forge your own path, either by helping villagers in the many side quests or just exploring the world and testing your mettle against whatever opponents come your way.

And that leads us to where Dragon's Dogma 2 really shines, its deep and exciting combat that goes hand-in-hand with the dynamic Pawn system.

Dragon's Dogma 2's classes are so important

(Photo: Capcom)
(Photo: Capcom)

Dragon's Dogma 2's many Vocations can drastically alter how you play the game. While you can go about the entire game as just one of the basic Vocations and its advanced version, you can still swap between them with relative ease in order to solve different challenges.

Classing as a Fighter, Warrior, or Mystic Spearhand will have you in the thick of the fighting and largely in control of the tempo of the fight. Archers, Thieves, and Magick Archers let you weave in and out of combat and take well-timed precision strikes at enemy weaknesses.

Of course, Mages and Sorcerers can stand behind the front lines and cast powerful spells that can quickly turn the tides of battle.

And the spells available that you have at your disposal have a real oomph to them. I remember one encounter against a particularly large of horde of hobgoblins along a narrow cliffside that would have been a big challenge, were it not for my Sorcerer casting 'Maelstrom' to catch them all in a tornado then tossing almost the entire horde over the edge of the cliff.

Specialist Vocations like the Warfarer and Trickster also provide some very dynamic experiences, with the former letting you become a jack of all trades that can wield all weapon types while the latter lets you focus on supporting your party of Pawns.

The pawn system in Dragon's Dogma 2 is really great

That brings us to Dragon's Dogma 2's Pawn system, which gives players an unparalleled degree of control over their companions that makes them integral parts of the gameplay experience — instead of burdens like many other NPC teammates you would see in other games.

Certain pawns automatically gathering materials and opening chests as you explore is a godsend, making them feel like actual companions that help you in your journey instead of people that are just... well, there. I distinctly recall a bunch of times where my character would have fallen to their death while climbing, were it not for a nearby Pawn catching me in time.

In combat, you can have Pawns act freely according to their vocations and archetypes or closely command their actions during encounters. You can have them storm the front while you dish out punishment from long range, command them to fall back behind you when they get in trouble, or even assist you when you're the one in peril.

I remember an early chaotic battle I had with a Griffin where it caught my party unawares and almost immediately knocked down my Archer Pawn. I then had my Thief Pawn drag them over to my position for my Mage Pawn to heal them while I distracted the Griffin, eventually allowing my party to repel it.

I find it hard to think of any other RPG where such a situation won't devolve into pandemonium where the player will find themselves powerless to help companions who are unable to act on their own or effectively carry out commands.

Dragon's Dogma 2 makes you feel like an actual hero

(Photo: Capcom)
(Photo: Capcom)

All this is set in a world that immerses its players like few other games. Instead of going to a bulletin board in a town to find side quests, certain NPCs will be the ones to approach the player asking for their help. Other side quests will even need the player to actively seek out people in need of their assistance in order to trigger them.

It makes you feel like an actual hero of this world that has to actively help people, instead of a typical RPG protagonist that just checks off side quests on a quest board.

The game world itself lends to this sense of immersion, as the many creatures and enemies you will encounter are portrayed as living beings with their own lives beyond just being fodder for the Arisen.

Over the course of your journey, the player can find themselves being the spectator of a battle between creatures instead of the ones fighting it.

I remember trekking through Vermund then seeing a Drake in the distance. As I readied my party for what would have been a difficult battle, I noticed that the Drake was actually fighting a Cyclops instead. I stayed for a while and watched that struggle unfold, though I didn't stay long as I didn't want my party to be the Drake's next victims once it's done with the Ogre.

Another thrilling experience you can have in the game is hitching a ride on the back of a Griffin, which you will actually do at the start of the game in order to reach Vermund. But after that, you can try mounting a Griffin and have it take you places you wouldn't normally reach on foot or by ox cart.

Of course, an adventure is not only filled with thrilling moments of battle. Dragon's Dogma 2 also does an excellent job of immersing players on the mundane parts where you walk to reach a town, take an ox cart to the next, camp with your Pawns in the wilderness, and more.

My favourite thing about camping is definitely the real-life cinematics that plays when you decide to cook something on the campfire. It's those little things that really give this game that soul that most others lack.

Overall, Dragon's Dogma 2 lives up to the gold standard set by the original, delivering an exciting and immersive gameplay experience like few other RPGs can.

It's just really unfortunate that its performance issues and the microtransactions really put a damper on its shine.

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