Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a great game, but only if you take your time

Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a great game, but only if you take your time
Alex Raisbeck Updated on by

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A couple of years ago I looked back on the year of games and realised I had barely played enough to scrape together a top 10 list. Seeing people on Twitter reeling off the games they had finished that year, the FOMO hit hard, and I decided that in 2023, I was going to play far more games. 

And that I did. In 2023, I finished around three times the number of games I did in 2022. Part of that was going through new releases, but the bulk of it was catching up on my backlog, finally getting to things I had been putting off for years. And for the first half of the year things went smoothly.

Dragon's Dogma 2 is great, if you take your time: An enemy being sliced by the player in a corridor in Katana Zero.
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Most of the games I was playing were fairly short games, no more than 10 hours in length. Some of them like Katana Zero or Titanfall 2 even lend themselves to being played quickly. But towards the end of the year a problem started to emerge where the games I played were getting longer and rushing through them was no longer an option.

For games like Lies of P and Cassette Beasts, while I was loving my time with them, I eventually found myself trying to brute-force my way through them in an attempt to finish them as fast as possible. “The less time I spend on this, the faster I can start the next game”, I reasoned. And though I still loved these two games, I didn’t really enjoy the latter stages of either because I was so intent on beating them as fast as possible.

And even into this year, it looked like Dragon’s Dogma 2 wasn’t going to be any different. I was rushing through the main quest, ignoring anything that wasn’t completely necessary to progress because I just wanted to get through it. If I needed to go somewhere, it was by oxcart or Ferrystone. No chance was I wasting my time running there when I could fast travel.

Dragon's Dogma 2 is great, if you take your time: A player carrying a pawn on a muddy path in Dragon's Dogma 2.
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As you can probably imagine, I wasn’t enjoying the game. I saw my friends raving about it, the positive reviews from all directions, and it just didn’t click with me. What were all these people seeing in this game that I wasn’t?

About a week after the game was released, I had a rainy Saturday to myself and decided that instead of just sticking with the main quest, I’d go and do something else. I noticed that to the west of the main road between Bakbattahl and the checkpoint rest town, there was a smaller route, winding through the mountains. Instead of just getting the ox cart from Bakbattahl, why don’t I head that way and check it out? I’m not in a rush so I may as well. 

Between two and three hours later, I emerged on the other side having fended off griffins and ogres, found enough loot to encumber two of my pawns, and staved off death more times than I had in the rest of my playthrough combined and I walked triumphantly through the gates of the checkpoint rest town.

Dragon's Dogma 2 is great, if you take your time: A griffin flying in a blue sky above a player in Dragon's Dogma 2.
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After the tedium of watching my ox cart roll slowly through these gates over and over again across my dozen or so hours with the game, the elation of walking through knowing how much effort it took to get here – and how much fun I had doing it – was a rush. I walked up to the inn on a sliver of health and that was that – I was hooked.

I went back to the starting area and started wandering around, talking to every NPC I saw and picking up whatever side quests they were willing to offer me. I was poking around in every cave and dungeon I came across and got flung across the map by a griffin or two. 

I was trying out new vocations, mixing and matching my skills, and trying to figure out what fun combos I could come up with. I got the warning about dragonsplague and threw my pawn off a cliff. I was finally having fun.

Dragon's Dogma 2 is great, if you take your time: A player firing arrows at targets hanging from a stone viaduct.
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For my first 10 hours of Dragon’s Dogma 2, I was scarcely playing the game as much as I was watching a walkthrough on YouTube. Saying I had ‘played’ Dragon’s Dogma 2 if all I had done was beeline the main story would be like flying to Paris, driving to the Eiffel Tower and back, flying home and telling everyone you went to Paris. All I would have done was spend that time and money on an experience one step removed from sitting down at my computer and typing ‘Eiffel Tower’ into Google Street View. Sure, I would have gone to Paris, and yet experienced next to none of it.

I wasn’t playing this game to enjoy it, I was playing it to say I’ve played it, so I could join in when other people discussed it. For the past year, all I had been doing was trying to be part of some perceived in-group of people who had played these games. And while I had enjoyed what I had played for the most part, for many of the games I had finished, I hadn’t really taken in what I was playing.

Dragon's Dogma 2 is great, if you take your time: A player standing on a stone bridge looking towards a mountainous landscape.
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If you only play Dragon’s Dogma 2 for the main story, you’ll come away having played an alright game, and if that’s all you want then I won’t begrudge you it. But if you take the time to really appreciate everything the game’s vast world has to offer, it really is some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

It’s easy to get swept up in the waves of new releases and ever-growing backlogs. And if you’re someone like me who can’t help but feel like you’re missing out when everyone else is enjoying something that you’re not, it feels like you’re always playing catch-up.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 was a well-needed reminder for me that games shouldn’t just be discrete pieces of content waiting for me to consume, but handcrafted experiences for me to enjoy. In a few years, I’ll barely remember those games I powered through in one sitting, but I won’t forget my time with Dragon’s Dogma 2. Nor will I forget the reminder it gave me that for all the games in my backlog, it’s not the end of the world to stop and smell the digital roses once in a while.