Dragon's Dogma 2's Dragonsplague is an early contender for game mechanic of the year - here's why

 A Pawn in Dragon's Dogma 2 succumbing to Dragonsplague.
A Pawn in Dragon's Dogma 2 succumbing to Dragonsplague.

It’s been nigh-on impossible to escape the allure of Dragon’s Dogma 2 since it released earlier this month. Social media has been dominated by clips of players witnessing the action role-playing game’s (RPG) emergent gameplay in action, usually with hilarious results. Whether it’s ogres dropkicking people off cliffs or griffins swooping in to (rather rudely) destroy traveling oxcarts, folks have been equal parts bemused and astonished by Dragon’s Dogma 2’s ever-surprising open world.

One mechanic that has proven to be not-so-hilarious, however, is Dragonsplague. This rather devastating feature is something that Dragon’s Dogma 2 players are beginning to discover, and many aren’t enjoying what it’s doing to their save files. Many players have been left in utter disbelief at Dragonsplague, and it’s left some wondering how Capcom could’ve greenlit such a disruptive mechanic. And honestly, that’s kind of what makes it so incredible.

The Plague and You

A kindly looking woman holds up her hand, mainifesting a magical light
A kindly looking woman holds up her hand, mainifesting a magical light

So what is this Dragonsplague that’s spreading so much dread among the Dragon’s Dogma 2 player base? Essentially, it’s a blight that affects the game’s Pawns - non-player characters (NPCs) that players create to act as supporting fighters in their party - when they’ve sustained sufficient damage from draconic monsters.

It’s identifiable by a Pawn’s eyes taking on a reddish-purple hue, and can only be cured by passing it onto another Pawn. Said unlucky Pawn will then need to pass it on in another player’s game. Failing that, you can save yourself the trouble by dismissing the afflicted Pawn from your party; they’re someone else’s problem now.

Afflicted Pawns will develop a rash, boisterous personality. It can even enhance their capabilities in battle. However, if left unchecked, Dragonsplague starts to take a turn for the worse. Pawns can begin to ignore your commands and begin behaving irrationally. Eventually, if you choose to rest in a city with a Pawn affected by the disease, there’s a chance they’ll transform into a shadowy dragon creature and set about murdering the entire populace. It can escalate rather quickly.

And by ‘the entire populace,’ I mean it. NPCs of any kind of importance, from humble shopkeepers to crucial quest-giving characters, will all be slain thanks to Dragonsplague. You’ll awaken in a city bereft of life, the citizens’ bodies now inhabiting the local morgue. It’s a terrifying thing to witness. The first time it happens, it’s easy to forgive folks for thinking their save file has been rendered entirely borked.

Feeling fine

Dragon's Dogma 2
Dragon's Dogma 2

That being said, part of what makes Dragonsplague so ingenious is that the game almost goes out of its way to warn you about the dangers it poses. Newly-hired Pawns in your party will occasionally gossip about a rumor of a mysterious disease that can spell untold doom. Furthermore, Dragonsplague has a dedicated tutorial message that tells you what it is and how it affects Pawns, stopping short of mentioning that grisly final outcome.

It naturally adds an element of panic to Dragon’s Dogma 2 but also tests the player’s diligence. It’s easy to write off Dragonsplague as a bit of fun, world-building flavor. If you’re not a tutorial enjoyer, you may miss the game’s warnings entirely. Harsh as it seems, the devastating outcome of the disease is something of a punishment for not paying attention.

What I must stress, though, is that Dragonsplague is far from game-breaking, as some on social media sites like Reddit would have you believe. You have a good few days’ worth of in-game time to solve the problem, and there are several safeguards in place to ensure your save doesn’t become unplayable.

A consumable known as a Wakestone can be used to resurrect a deceased NPC. There’s also a rare Eternal Wakestone (that can be acquired once per playthrough via an incredible quest) that can bring all NPCs in a given area back to life, and this one isn’t consumed upon use. Failing that, any plot-crucial characters that die during the Dragonsplague onslaught will automatically resurrect after roughly a week of in-game time.

Dragonsplague is an absolutely superb mechanic, and it suits the world of Dragon’s Dogma 2 down to a tee, perfectly complementing its dynamic NPCs and items like Wakestones. It’s unnerving and more than a little terrifying, especially when the game makes it abundantly clear that its warnings about the plague should not be ignored.