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Dragon's Dogma 2

Dragon's Dogma 2

An epic adventure in a world so large that it will take weeks to map it thoroughly. But has Capcom's titanic work turned out as well as it seems?

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Talking about Dragon's Dogma 2 starts by having to talk about an adventure that predates even the original, because before Capcom and Hideaki Itsuno's 2012 work, we witnessed the release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a game that completely opened up the role-playing and adventure genre to the general public, even more than its predecessor Oblivion, one of the best titles for the seventh generation, had already achieved.

But Dragon's Dogma was very different, because it was a game that emulated Western fantasy, but it was developed almost entirely by a Japanese team, and it adopted many of the mannerisms of JRPGs and applied them to its more action-oriented approach, giving this title a unique character, a character that has been maintained until Dragon's Dogma 2, which after a decade of waiting, comes to us.

Dragon's Dogma 2

I was talking about Skyrim, because the truth is that, saving the distance of the time between that and this and the technical aspects, the best compliment I can give about Dragon's Dogma 2 is that I felt the same sensations of curiosity, amazement and desire to continue exploring as when I first ventured into the cold lands of Bethesda.

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Interestingly, the story of Dragon's Dogma 2 begins as these stories often do: in a prison. Here our character, a mysterious individual who has lost his memory, works in a forced excavation camp until a monster attack causes him to escape, and a mysterious stranger reveals to him that he is the Arisen, the dragon's chosen one, and urges him to seek his destiny in the world. He must fight against destiny, and to do so he must make his way to the kingdom of Vermund, where, in addition to trying to recover his memories before he became the Arisen, he becomes involved in a complex political conspiracy that involves overthrowing a false ruler and preventing a new war between two neighbouring kingdoms.

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I don't want to dwell too much on it here, since it's already in the public domain, but the character editor that has been presented before the game's release is an absolute behemoth. The level of character customisation allows you to choose from literally millions of combinations, and you could (given time) recreate your face down to the smallest detail and translate it accurately to your in-game character. A character who, by the way, does appear in the cinematic scenes, so if you want to add some personal touches to the game, it's worth entertaining yourself here. And the same goes for your Pawn companion, because they will be the one who moves between the players' worlds and will come back loaded with treasures and rewards by helping others.

Apart from that, our character will have to travel a long road populated by all sorts of creatures and bandits while fulfilling quests and errands that the village needs.

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But although the fate of the Arisen, and therefore of the player, is that of the most important person in this world, the chosen one always has a small group of companions who rotate throughout the adventure called Pawns to assist and serve them with total loyalty. Your character creates a Pawn that you can customise, and you have to upgrade them, alternating their class and combat style to suit your own. Creating a balanced team that fulfils as many eventualities as possible, whether through healing, ranged attacks, magic or even melee, is essential. Fortunately, Pawns are never a hindrance unlike most "companions" in other single-player titles, and you will often appreciate them pointing out nearby objects on the map or leading you directly to the mission objective, which they already know because they have completed it "in their world".

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Have you ever seen a more defined steak when cooked in a video game?

Enemies, while generally not a big challenge if you encounter them in isolation, when they increase in number it can get complicated very quickly. There are a lot of big monsters to take down for precious experience, gold and equipment upgrade materials, and if you don't have a skill, spell or weapon to match, the battle can become a living hell. And there are no save slots: you either replay, or you resign yourself, there are no other options.

The Arisen is called to be the ruler of the people, and for that you must win the people over. It's not just to kill the dragon, you have to help the population with their thousand and one problems, ranging from the search for ingredients to escort missions, to teaching how to shoot an elf who has lost his touch, helping a wife whose husband is just loitering around the square, finding a runaway youth or assisting a ferid (the other playable race besides humans) who must get hold of a jewel at all costs to avoid his creditors. It is in these quests, and in the sheer act of wandering around this gigantic map between the realms of Vermund or Battahl, that Dragon's Dogma 2 shines most as a whole. Every path, every forest, grove, hill, cliff or cave, is packed with things to do, loot to loot and enemies to defeat. Even at the deepest level, it may connect in some way to future quests or lead you to discover secrets about, for example, secret vocation techniques. In short, it is the expression of pure adventure.

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To top it all off, Capcom has managed to create a world so beautiful, detailed and well-designed that you'll never get the feeling that two paths look alike, because even each area has its own flora, materials to collect and native monsters. A minor detail such as grass swaying in the wind is a visual spectacle.

Another of its good moments and strengths is the day and night cycle, because while during the day it is pleasant to wander around the world, at night everything becomes deathly dark. Even with a torch on (and be careful, because oil supply is limited), you can barely see a couple of metres around you, and the enemies that appear at night are much more dangerous. In the darkness of a forest is where you can really feel the true tension of the game, when you must face a horde of goblins or an ogre that is beating you mercilessly in the dark and you must flee in terror, praying to find some illuminated place or a village to take refuge in before you die.

But of course, as great as all this is and as much as there are literally dozens of hours of gameplay and miles of map to discover and find, all this can fall apart if the rest of the systems don't work. It's still not entirely clear to me whether this approach of observation and discovery that they've chosen in Dragon's Dogma 2 is the best fit for a totally open world idea where player involvement and interaction is the important thing.

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Each mission objective requires almost total player involvement. There is no guidance system, the objective will not appear directly marked on the map or at a specific location, to which you simply head with a large icon marking where you must look or interact. No, here you must be guided by curiosity and pay attention to all the details in handwritten conversations or mission guides in order to find and accomplish them. This is a double-edged sword, because, on the one hand, it gives you the feeling of being fully involved in the narrative. But on the other hand, it also relies too much on events happening as designed, and this is where the problems come in. For example, you can spend 20 minutes searching a room, looking for some clue to an objective, and it turns out that it all depended on pushing a particular wall where there was a secret room. But of course, there was no sign of any kind of interaction with that wall and there was no previous example to understand that system. It's easy for these design decisions to throw the player off, and over the course of the game you might even think that there's some kind of technical error because you're just not understanding what they're trying to convey.

And this is where this wonderful house of cards shakes the most, because the other big problem is the artificial intelligence of the non-player characters, which is truly awful. Most of the supposed thousand NPCs just seem to wander around without much else to do, except for serving their purpose in some quest or story at the right time, and sometimes whether that quest encounter happens or not just depends on luck.

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The characters' behaviour becomes so erratic that it even contradicts what they themselves state. The prison guards are particularly stupid, and I almost threw the controller out of the window when they locked me up for no reason and I had to pay an exorbitant sum that had taken me hours to collect to upgrade my equipment, all so I could get out and continue. I could understand it if it's because I shouldn't be there, but it's just an erratic and confusing AI that makes it very hard to enjoy the game.

The technical aspect isn't something Dragon's Dogma 2 excels at either. The exaggerated motion blur, a flaw I noted in my first impressions months ago, is still very much present here, and it can even be painful to see that with so much beautiful detail in the game, it's all blurred out by the beautiful landscapes Capcom have managed to create.

All in all, I think Dragon's Dogma 2 is a great proposition for the RPG genre and a title that delivers on many of its promises of great adventures for players. But despite its many good things, its interesting story and the wonderful feeling of exploration and living a truly unusual adventure, the game has those technical issues that fail to deliver a product as well rounded as it could be. I trust that many of its shortcomings can be corrected in time, and I hope to return then to fully explore its world, much of which I know I have left undiscovered.

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08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
+
A true sense of epic adventure. A vast world to discover. Total freedom of action and customisation.
-
NPC AI is so bad that it can break the game. Visual limitations that tarnish the overall experience.
overall score
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Dragon's Dogma 2

REVIEW. Written by Alberto Garrido

An epic adventure in a world so large that it will take weeks to map it thoroughly. But has Capcom's titanic work turned out as well as it seems?



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