dragon's dogma: dark arisen Dragon's Dogma 2

Dragon’s Dogma 2: 5 things the sequel should keep from the first game (and 5 it should change)

Capcom's RPG was a cult hit, but the sequel has a shot at greatness.
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Dragon’s Dogma 2 has yet to be announced, but there are many hints that it’s in the works. The director of Dragon’s Dogma, Hideaki Itsuno, mentioned the possibility of a sequel as far back as 2012, and confirmed that he had already gotten the go-ahead from his bosses at Capcom, but decided to complete Devil May Cry 5 first.

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In 2019, after the latter game’s release, Istuno reiterated how important Dragon Dogma‘s franchise was to him in several interviews. There’s certainly an eager audience waiting for the announcement. Despite a lackluster initial release, Dragon’s Dogma has been a slow-burning cult success.

Dragon’s Dogma was the sleeper RPG hit that no one saw coming. Capcom originally released its take on the open-world medieval fantasy RPG for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in May 2012. An expanded version, titled Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, was released a year later. The latter came to PC back in 2016 and was well-received, including by ourselves.

Most recently, the game found a new lease of life following an acclaimed port for the Nintendo Switch. Capcom also released a free-to-play MMORPG, Dragons Dogma Online, in Japan but that was recently shut down. A Netflix anime adaptation is also in the works, which should whet some appetites for a fully-fledged sequel. But there’s some work to be done before Dragon’s Dogma can crossover from cult-hit to top-tier RPG franchise. 

What Dragon’s Dogma 2 needs to change

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is a good game, but it doesn’t quite manage greatness. It clearly wants to be counted in the same club as The Witcher 3, Dark Souls, and Skyrim, but its world is still too limited, its characters somewhat undercooked. But it gained its cult following for a reason. I picked up Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen for PC on a sale last year to see for myself just why my peers kept praising this 8-year-old RPG.

The game as it stands now is a great purchase for action RPG fans, one you can really sink 100+ hours into. There’s a lot to love. It features a fantastic combat system, interesting classes that offer very different play experiences, and a unique asynchronous multiplayer element in its pawn system. But…

Size matters…

Dragon's Dogma

At its heart, Dragon’s Dogma is a game about beating the crap out of giant monsters. You do so clambering over them and whacking their weak points if you’re a warrior class, or sniping their vulnerabilities if you’re a ranged type. Squishy sorcerers should stay back, but have access to some of the most impressive spells seen in any CRPG.

Combat in Dragon’s Dogma is intense and physical. Characters have highly customizable height and weight, and this came into play in fights. Smaller characters could be carried and thrown by larger ones, for example. Leaping off your pawn’s extended longsword onto a towering cyclops and scrambling up its body to stab it in the eye is just one epic moment among many in the game. Dragon’s Dogma 2 should be all about taking these moments to the next level.

…but we need more monsters

Dragon’s Dogma has a habit of re-using areas and monsters. The late-game ups difficulty but new beasties to beat are rare. Instead, there are reskinned versions of older ones whose bodies and behavior are largely the same as their lower-tier iterations. Palette-swapped enemies of increasing difficulty is a time-honored video game tradition, but it shouldn’t be leaned on too heavily.

Pawns are great…

Dragon's Dogma 2

Dragon’s Dogma pawns could learn from your adventures and use the experience to help other players.

The pawn system is one of the weirdest distinguishing elements of Dragon’s Dogma. Players create pawns as secondary AI companion characters. Conveniently, the lore describes them as a strange artificial race with no purpose other than to serve the protagonist. The catch is that you only create one pawn of your own, but you can hire up to two more created by other players. So you have a typical four-person fantasy RPG party of different classes. And for the most part, it works well.

Pawn AI can be influenced by the player, but they also learn from their experiences. Recruited pawns can have bizarre fashion sense and continuously point out the obvious, even to experienced players. But questing around Gransys with a gaggle of adorkable, eager-to-please weirdos is actually quite endearing, and I look forward to even sillier pawns in Dragon’s Dogma 2.

…but we want co-op

Clamoring for co-op is a common topic in Dragon’s Dogma community sites, and I get it. The asynchronous multiplayer pawn gimmick is fun, but Dragon’s Dogma‘s feats and synergies would be even more fun to perform with a live person. Some kind of co-op where two Arisens and their main pawns could team up in a party together, even if only to raid dungeons and take on monsters together in arena battles.

Itsuno said that he designed Dragon’s Dogma to give the feeling of a multiplayer game without actually having to interact with people. I was all for that in theory, but in practice, the game demands to be shared with at least one friend.

Keep the classes…

Dragon's Dogma Combat

Dragon’s Dogma offered nine ‘vocations’ (basically classes) for players to train in, with six available for pawns. A class-based system makes perfect sense for parties of four. It makes it easier to build and sort characters according to particular combat roles that fit together. Most of the vocations were satisfying and offered very different styles of play. Best of all, the player character could swap between each one to easily change up one’s routine.

…but with more freedom

Each class in Dragon’s Dogma excels in a particular role, but there wasn’t much room for experimentation. A lot of this is due to the importance of gear in the game. Classes have a narrow range of weapon types available to them, and the bonuses from weapons are so huge as to make your character stats almost irrelevant in the late game. The way enemy defenses are set up, strategy can often boil down to just having the highest stat gear for your class.

Allowing a wider range of weapons for each class, and balancing out the armory to allow for more varied loadouts, should keep the advantages of the class-based system while still allowing players enough customization to come up with interesting builds.

The story has potential…

Dragon's Dogma Cutscene Dragon's Dogma 2

Dragon’s Dogma gives us a few dramatic cutscenes, but not much reason to care about them.

Hear me out. Dragon’s Dogma’s story is a bland fantasy cliché…except when it’s not. Near the endgame, the story goes into absolutely bonkers territory with regards to the nature of the Arisen and the cosmology of the setting. It’s confusing, but at least it’s something different. Unfortunately, there’s not much game left to play after that. With the sequel coming after such revelations, Itsuno should lean into his weirder story ideas from the beginning.

…but needs more character

Even with an improved plot, an RPG of this scale falls flat without good NPCs. Dragon’s Dogma NPCs were bland and underdeveloped, even the few that had extra content as the protagonist’s love interest. It was like playing a D&D campaign where the DM only glosses over the NPCs, detailing only as much as is necessary to keep the plot moving, manage resources, and point you to the next dungeon.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 should take some more cues from The Witcher 3 or even Skyrim to see how NPCs with some more personality or reactivity can really make an RPGs world something players care about saving. One wonders if it’s not just the pawns that are devoid of humanity in Gransys.

Make it fashion…

Dragon’s Dogma offers a wide range of body shapes, avoiding the weird Skyrim-style situation of the old beggar and young warrior having basically the same physical frame. It also has a wide range of equipment for different body parts. This makes it perfect for playing Dragon’s Dress-up, even if you may find the style of recruitable pawns quite questionable.

Itsuno himself has said that he finds most player-created pawns online to be quite ridiculous, and he wants to fix that in the sequel by improving the look of armor and clothing. I’m all for more options for having Dragon Dogma 2 characters look fabulous and kick-ass, but I’m sure no one could stop gamers from coming up with ”unique” looks. Unfortunately, trying out different looks means navigating the game’s annoying inventory/equipment menus.

…but for the love of God, simplify the UI

Dragons Dogma Inventory Dragon's Dogma 2

You’ll grow to hate this screen

Dragon’s Dogma wastes a lot of your time with its menus. Inventory management, in particular, is a nightmare. Access to the main inventory and equipment are keyed to different buttons and require multiple steps to move things from one to the other. And the game throws a lot of items at you.

You’ve got to keep track of weight encumbrance for up to four characters in Dragon’s Dogma. So its quite often that you’ve got to pause the game and do the old inventory shuffle. Resource management can lend a nice bit of survival grit to an RPG, but Dragon’s Dogma 2 should make sure it’s not a chore for the player to execute.

RPG fans looking for a new open-world fix to tide them over during quarantine should definitely check out Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen. If you’re already a veteran of Capcom’s cult classic, then I’m sure you’re looking forward to a sequel. What do you think should or shouldn’t be in the Dragon’s Dogma 2?


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Author
Image of Nicholas Montegriffo
Nicholas Montegriffo
Born and bred on the Rock of Gibraltar, Nicholas left his tranquil homeland to become a wandering ronin in the digital media wars. Nicholas has a lot of opinions about RPGs both dicey and digital, armchair strategy, and the rules of Mortal Kombat. In his spare time, he's a mean DM, a connoisseur of chili peppers and a wannabe VR cyborg.