Dragon’s Dogma 2’s March 22nd release date surely comes too soon for those still striving to finish those role-playing games, but Dragon’s Dogma 2 will surely make you feel excited. Players can expect the game to be released soon, March 22nd to be exact.
Players start Dragon’s Dogma 2 with a blank slate, a fresh avatar with an empty brain that’s customisable to their whim. It suits well to the fantasy kingdom as vast as those in Dragon’s Dogma 2. Be prepared, this is a humungous open world, replete with hidden details, history, talking points, observations, with players learning in tandem with their customisable heroes.
Dragon’s Dogma 2 delivers exploration and discovery in organic ways; NPCs explain states and locales as players trundle along; hoofing it on foot provides encounters distinct to travelling via unhurriable oxcarts. In fact, what lurks ten metres in front of you is always unknown; one never knows quite what to expect, especially when travelling on foot.
Fast travel has been a topic of discussion in the run up to the release of Dragon’s Dogma 2. The developer has been vocal in dispelling the rumour they think travel is boring. In an interview they said fast travel is good and convenient, but it doesn’t provide the sense of space they want their game to convey. Vast open world games can descend into a series of loading screens – see Starfield as a prime example – belying the true scale of the game world at large. So, for Dragon’s Dogma 2 the developer made the decision to limit fast travel options, making them expensive to deploy if players want to instantaneously jump between distant locations. Case in point are the Portcrystals which grant access to any previously discovered location on the map, but to use them players must spend expensive, exceedingly rare ferrystones.
A seperate option to get about includes the aforementioned oxcarts, but these meandering means of transport only depart for certain locations, ferrying parties along specific pathways. An additional consideration: travelling via oxcart leaves players exposed to ambush from a host of wild beasts whilst they rattle through isolated valley paths – a griffin from the sky, or a gaggle of goblins blocking the road, for instance. There’s a reason oxcarts are cheap, after all.
Cheapest of all – free in fact – is hiking on foot, but this method of traversal exposes players and their party to the most danger. They’ll need to be suitably kitted out should they opt to spend considerable time off the beaten path. Preparation is key here.
The travel options in Dragon’s Dogma 2 illustrate a key game design philosophy that runs throughout, and that is one of constantly assessing cost versus risk. Utilising ferrystones is safe but pricey, riding oxcarts is cheap and dicey. However, to balance the risk as best as possible, players have an ace up their sleeve: the intelligent NPC companions, Pawns. Pawns, in short, are integral to the success of an expedition, especially when conducted on foot.
Up to three can make up a player’s party. A main is totally customisable by the player whilst the other two can be recruited, their creation being at the hands of other players. What they provide is an insight that will prove invaluable to understanding the lay of land, to knowing where the best route through the forest is, and even what the optimum strategy is to complete a quest objective. Certain Pawns possess specific skills too, such as the ability to speak Elvish, a language spoken only by the Elves harbouring the Sacred Arbour area of the map.
Just like the player though, Pawns will learn as they go, their experience reflecting their ongoing behaviour. It’s worth pointing out at this stage that Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a single player experience, these NPC companions fulfilling the role of a human counterpart. A diverse set of Pawns, it is hoped, will provide a sense of multi-player community to this adventure. Plus, there’ll be no waiting around for your human teammates’ bathroom breaks, tea breaks, being AFK, or any other stoppage that’ll disturb the flow of your expedition.
Choosing party members wisely is just another example of the constant decision-making players will have to make. Furthermore, a Pawn’s understanding of the landscape is doubly important as Dragon’s Dogma 2 doesn’t have a clearly signposted open world. On screen icons, quest markers, widgets hovering over quest giving NPC heads are common open world tropes that are kept to a minimum here. Pawns are acting as Sherpas if anything. In fact, on the subject of quests these are often given to players by NPCs unexpectedly too. Quest givers will interrupt passing players, dishing out instructions of their own without the need to be approached. It’ll be down to the player if they choose to undertake the mission.
In many ways, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a choose your own adventure. The developers are providing a blank script to be written by player choice and actions, with each playthrough completed by the expected hundreds of thousands of players being distinct from each other.
Vocations add another dimension to this variability. Ostensibly character classes that suit playstyles, players can opt to be melee accomplished Fighters, a magic equipped Mage, a Thief dealing damage via swift strikes, or an Archer specialising in long-range attacks. Cost versus risk comes into vocation choice too. Take the Sorcerer, for example. This mage-like specialty conjures magic via a large two-handed staff; their attacks are deadlier, but their spells take longer to cast. In the right hands, the Sorcerer can turn the tide of battle, but it’s a role that’ll demand patiently planning the most opportune moment to strike.
There are a handful of hybrid vocations available exclusively to player characters too. Magick Archers, Mystic Spearhands, and Tricksters included, plus the new category for Dragon’s Dogma 2 the Warfarer, which is a character class adept at using every weapon and learning skills from every vocation. This one-size-fits-all vocation sounds perfect for dealing with every situation, but it’s worth observing the Warfarer’s lower base stats. Understanding the situational strengths of each weapon is required to be on par with specialised vocations. Cost versus risk, again. As a side note, a neat feature in Dragon’s Dogma 2 is that the more advanced vocations are unlocked via quests, not by grinding stats on your current vocation as it common in other action-RPGs. Whether this applies to all vocations remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a promising report that has come from early access players. We’ve not long to wait now.
Dragon’s Dogma 2 is out on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC via Steam on March 22nd, and it’s shaping up to be one of the biggest games of the year, not just the standout RPG of 2024.
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