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Dragon’s Dogma 2 could be the best open-world RPG since Elden Ring

By Ignoring almost everything the competition is doing, Dragon’s Dogma 2 has the potential to be the best open-world game in years.

A warrior heaping towards a cyclops while wielding a large sword overhead.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when stepping into Dragon’s Dogma 2‘s expansive world for a three-hour hands-on preview. With the cult classic 2012 original having landed a lifetime ago in videogame years, I wondered where this long-awaited sequel would sit among the modern greats like Elden Ring. Venturing into Vermund and Battahl, however, I was surprised and delighted to discover just how much Capcom’s latest bucks almost every trope and trend of the genre.

Starting with the world itself, it retains the same sense of mystery and discovery as the likes of Elden Ring by sidestepping the checklist structure of many open-world games. Gone is the overstepping hand-holding of modern quest design. The map itself is also pleasingly devoid of too many markers spelling out exactly where to go. You explore this world because you want to, because you need to see what’s over that hill or what that far-off structure might contain, not because of any completionist anxiety. Dragon’s Dogma 2 offers a more dangerous, believable space than a meticulously crafted gameworld built with the express purpose of ferrying you from A to B without any fuss.

Exploring a town in Dragon's Dogma 2.

Almost every corner I turned in Vermund, where I began my demo, I found something that captured my attention, took me down a different path, or pulled my focus away from the main quest. As I spawned in, I spotted a large town in front of me. Rather than heading straight there, I decided to walk down a large hill just to the side of it, which took me to a hillside with a few crows to kill and a chest to unlock.

On my way back I found an NPC I could recruit, known here as a Pawn, just wandering around the countryside. Upon talking to him, I noticed a small cave in the back that I ventured into, leading to an entirely different section of Vermund in the far east, where tougher enemies patrolled and a more treacherous landscape sat filled with craggy rocks to climb and a running river.

Recruiting a pawn in Dragon's Dogma 2.

Towards the back of the area, I saw a cyclops and a drake fighting it out. As one does, I went over to the two hulking beasts and watched them brawl for a good few minutes before building up the courage to enter the battle myself. So my three pawns and I raised our spears, swords, and bows and fought both of them at the same time with a cavalcade of magick skills, attack combos, and heavy hits to the cyclops’ eye.

The cyclops fell before long, but so too had two of my Pawns. By frantically rolling in between the drake’s legs and dodging its fire, I was able to revive both of my downed allies, but the battle was still not going in our favor. Then I noticed a giant crossbow on a nearby castle wall. Upon admitting I stood no chance against the drake’s eight health bars, I knew this was my one chance to seize victory.

A cyclops battle in Dragon's Dogma 2.

I sprinted towards the crossbow and began the stress-inducingly slow process of loading a bolt. Finally, I fired at the drake just as it flew towards me, only to have my one shot bounce straight off its scaly skin. The drake burnt us all to a crisp. After the adrenaline rush, I took a second to reflect on the past 30 minutes and realized everything I just discovered was born from my curiosity and desire to push deeper into the land.

None of it was part of a scripted event or quest. It felt like I had just stumbled upon something completely dynamic. The same goes for when I visited towns and had NPCs come over pleading for my help, rather than instigating quests myself by talking to someone with a question mark above their head. These moments kept happening for another two and a half hours as I explored more of Vermund and stepped foot in Battahl. Each and every time I was just as amazed at the unique scenarios, secrets, and items I found hidden around the world.

A tense dragon battle in Dragon's Dogma 2.

From following the trail of a missing child to picking up a random coin by a rock and learning Capcom has carefully hidden over 200 more around the map, every second of playing Dragon’s Dogma 2 was time well spent. Exploring its world for just three hours reinvigorated my excitement and joy for the genre in a way I haven’t felt since FromSoftware’s modern classic.

And if I had so many memorable, invigorating experiences in such a short time, I can only imagine what else is possible in the full RPG, especially when you add in the multiple permutations of quests and fail states that the series is known for. This is shaping up to be the most exciting open-world game in years, and I cannot wait to play the full thing once the Dragon’s Dogma 2 release date rolls around later this month.