At this year’s Tokyo Game Show, we were invited to a media-only event where we were given one hour to play through parts of Dragon’s Dogma 2 on PS5. We played three different character builds, one at level 5 and two at level 15. It is safe to assume all three instances were from early parts of the game. With that said, we are going to make this as spoiler-free as possible and leave out all story elements we encountered.
From the three builds we played, there were saves for an Archer, a Fighter, and a Thief. Missing was the Mage who will make up the final character class. Instead of calling these classes, Capcom is calling them vocations, as you will be able to change at any point in the game. Then as the game progress more vocations will be added. I am intrigued with how this will play out as it is not typically how an RPG on this scale is designed. Usually, you would assign or create your class and that would become the base for that playthrough. This feels like a fresh approach to game design at this scale, I can not wait to see how it impacts the game in its entirety.
With the Mage, combat is centered around ranged spell attacks, as well as assist spells and healing. While I did not get the chance to play as the Mage, members of my NPC party were, and some cool things happened. The party member was quick to heal me and create protection spells. As well as get after enemies we encountered with powerful attack spells. Capcom notes, that the more powerful the spell is, the longer it takes to cast. That is going to be relevant to how you play because the combat is fast-paced.
The Fighter has a very typical action combat set of commands. Use the left face button for a basic attack with a sword. Or you can use the top face button to thrust the sword into an enemy with a stabbing motion. Finally, you have R1 to block incoming attacks with your shield. The Fighter is going to use heavier armor sets to mitigate the impact of close attacks.
The Thief works a lot like the fighter but moves even faster. Unlike the Fighter, using R1 will perform a quick dodge. I found dodging to work better for me than blocking. I do not believe the Thief will be able to use heavy armor sets, that will further separate it from the Fighter.
The Archer was my favorite vocation to use. Instead of blocking or dodging, the Archer can use R1 to aim down sights. This mechanic naturally makes the Archer’s vocation worse at close range by removing the ability to dodge or block. It creates a sense of balance you feel versus some imaginary close-range stat modification.
All three vocations have the ability to perform special attacks. You hold down L1 then the face buttons prompt for three different special attacks. For example, with the Thief, I can lay down a smoke screen by holding L1 and pressing the right face button. Or if I hold down L1 and press the top face button, the Thief will spin in the air diving down to perform a spinning combo attack.
How Does Dragon’s Dogma 2 Play?
I would describe both the combat and the traversal as fast and loose. It is a little befuddling coming from a high fantasy slow-paced Medieval RPG like Baldur’s Gate 3. Due to the fact that Dragon’s Dogma 2 moves quickly and has a high level of action. The movement feels less robotic and more elastic than in typical RPGs. While I am sure the team is still tightening everything up, this by no means is a knock on the game it just illustrates how different it is. DD2 does not feel like anything I have played recently, and that is a good thing.
Much like the combat, traversing around the map feels more elastic than any other Medieval RPG I have played. Dragon’s Dogma 2 leans way more into action than it does strategy but somehow at the same time, it does not feel like an action game, it feels like an epic RPG. This is something that Final Fantasy 15 struggled with at times. There is a sweet spot here that Capcom has found.
Dragon’s Dogma 2 Meat and Potatoes
Dragon’s Dogma 2 is going to try and give players a sense of creativity through unique experiences by introducing immersive sim elements. One thing I did notice was how uncommitted to a linear path or approach the game is. During my one-hour playthrough, not once did I feel impeded when I tried to do something. Everything I wanted to do, I could. Something that creates a sense of “you can do anything,” even if that is not the case.
This is not just with combat and traversal. As I walked to one quest marker or another, the NPCs in my party would engage in different conversations. As we walked by resources, hidden items, or a notable situation, the conversation would dynamically change. I know hearing about a high volume of dialog is going to turn some people off. However, I can not overstate how dynamic and additive it felt during my short playthrough. It will be interesting to see how this feels 20 to 30 hours into the game.
I am guessing that one way Capcom is going to deliver unique experiences is through the use of “Pawns.” Pawns are the term used for the NPC characters in your party. You can go it alone or add up to three companions. I did not get a total number of options available but, from the three playthroughs, the companions and their situations were different.
How Does Dragon’s Dogma 2 Look and Perform?
The load times in Dragon’s Dogma 2 are quite impressive. For a game of this scale, it was pure jubilation to open a door and have it just happen without a load screen. I have not played enough of the game to say there are no load screens. Although they have created a sense of no load screens in the time that I played. Of course, this excludes fast travel and rest which were almost instantaneous.
Visually Dragon’s Dogma 2 is on par with other large-scale open-world RPGs. When it was first announced, I thought Dragon’s Dogma 2 looked like a previous-gen game. Given how it is improved, I can only see it getting better leading up to release. Clearly, the visuals have taken a leap over the past year. With that said, I did not get confirmation on how the team plans to handle the frame rate on consoles. Also, after sneaking around in the menu, I was unable to find any settings at all for this demo build. We will have to wait and see. There is absolutely no reason to come to a conclusion here so far from the release but, my direct capture hit 60 FPS.
One thing I did notice was how dark the caves were. At first, I blamed the lighting issues on the display I was using and the fluorescent lights in the office room we were in. Then I saw the digital event Capcom held, and during the Dragon’s Dogma 2 presentation, they mentioned using low lighting to simulate a real atmosphere. In real life, at night if there is no lighting your visibility obviously not what it could be. The team is trying to re-create that experience by making unlit areas a burden on the player, as it would be in real life.
I believe Dragon’s Dogma 2 will end up being an incredibly unique game. With the dev team focusing on immersive sim gameplay in a large-scale open-world RPG, combined with action-focused combat in a Medieval fantasy setting, there is nothing like it out today. If the final product can land somewhere between “JRPG Skyrim” and what people wanted out of Final Fantasy 16, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is going to be an incredibly successful game.
Dragon’s Dogma 2 has yet to be given a release window. Although with Capcom allowing us to play such a large slice, I can imagine the team is targeting a 2024 release. Looking ahead at the release calendar, I do not think it is out of the question to have Dragon’s Dogma 2 in the conversation for Game of the Year when it is all said and done.