Right off the bat, it’s crucial to establish that in my time with Dragon’s Dogma 2, I didn’t see anything that reinvents the wheel. This series has not suddenly followed in the footsteps of other fantasy RPG games where everyone’s horny for a bit of action with the hero. Some developers have mastered that particular craft, so instead of trying to compete with that, Dragon’s Dogma 2 opts to be a fun monster-slaying romp in a fantasy land filled with mythological beasties. We still have a while until the Dragon’s Dogma 2 release date, but from what I’ve seen so far, there’s a wonderfully simple fantasy charm from times when RPGs had more straightforward stakes. For a fan of the 2012 original, that’s all I could ask for.
The Dragon’s Dogma 2 build I played for this preview was more of a playground than a slice of the game, so there were no hints of the story. After being given the option of one of three presets, I picked the fighter class, which is the new cat-like race known as Beastren. I was free to venture out along a path between two villages filled with brigands and monsters to ruin the peaceful ambience of a beautiful scenic trail, gorgeously rendered in Capcom’s RE Engine. My journey is not a solo one, as three pawn companions join me, pointing out treasure and rare materials while nagging me about becoming overburdened.
Before long, I’m learning to hit goblins with just a sword and board with techniques that are equippable at camp. One such skill causes my fighter to somersault like an Olympic gymnast, slicing up flying foes such as harpies as he returns to the floor with a flourish. Soon, my first big test arrives on the scene in the form of a particularly hairy ogre with black hair covering its body like the fur on a wolf. Due to its size, the best way to deal with it is to clamber onto it like a novice jockey fumbling around as they attempt to mount a thoroughly impatient Thoroughbred horse. Compared to the first game, the grappling mechanic feels more consistent, and before long, I’m plunging my sword into the ogre’s neck. Naturally, it violently swipes in vain as my feline fighter clings on but soon succumbs to its many stab wounds.
Just like the first Dragon’s Dogma, it gets very dark in the sequel if you’re ill-prepared, and at one point I find myself without a lantern and, therefore, in slight peril as it was dusk before long. In my battle the day before, my thief-class pawn had taken such a beating that their maximum health was a fraction of their entire HP bar. None of this is new, but it contributes to the classic ‘80s RPG feel without something as contrived as DnD’s spell slot recovery to fall back on.
My journey by this point is relatively uneventful, aside from being pestered by bothersome harpies singing lullabies. That is at least until I descend through a valley towards a nearby town, where a minotaur soon takes notice of my party. This bovine beast requires all of my party’s skills to take down, bucking around like a mechanical bull whenever I try mounting it for some stabs to the jugular. Eventually I do manage to slay the minotaur, but I nearly lose my healer in the process as it now takes time to revive pawns when they fall in battle.
At this point I see a sign allowing me to wait for a horse and cart bound for the town I’d left behind me on my long journey. While it is entirely possible to hire a seat and then ride along in real-time, carts are painfully slow and open to being attacked by bandits, goblins, and far worse, so the option to doze off and instantly travel there is a good quality-of-life touch.
My time with the demo was soon to end, but I had heard tales of a griffin in the area. Sadly, while I do find the bird beast menacing a farmer’s livestock, it scarpers quicker than a spooked cat. Others around me had more luck at first, only to realize this winged wretch was packing potent attacks that would immediately kill any assailant.
Given the loose nature of the demo on show, it’s tricky to see where Dragon’s Dogma 2 differs from the original, aside from being prettier, less buggy, and having a new race of cat people. It was a very early build, so we will likely see new mechanics, class types, and enemies in the coming months. That said, in my time with Dragon’s Dogma 2, it captures that wonderfully old-school feel of the original that is somehow still unique in action RPGs, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.