Dragon’s Dogma 2 review – unscripted monster hunts free from modern RPG guardrails

Dragon’s Dogma 2 review – unscripted monster hunts free from modern RPG guardrails
Antony Terence Updated on by

Video Gamer is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices subject to change. Learn more

Dragon’s Dogma 2 trusts and respects players to the point of irreverence. It’s uncompromising in its design choices and feels like an old-timer next to today’s RPGs with their elaborate tutorials, quest markers, and icon-filled maps. In Dragon’s Dogma 2, you’re going to get lost in the woods. Your lantern will run out of oil and a glowing succubus will dodge your fighter’s slashes and catch your mage by the throat. And you’ll remember it.

But I wouldn’t call Capcom’s new open-world adventure difficult or Soulslike. I prefer the word obtuse. While most RPGs ask you to hop from one handhold to another while scaling their stories, Dragon’s Dogma 2 hands you and your three companions a lone chisel. And with one save slot, there’s no save scumming your way out of embarrassing mistakes. 

Fumble a side quest or even a main one and the game sprints faster than an anime character to auto-save. One morning, I lazily headed to a prayer ceremony to catch an assassin. Had I slept in, I’d have missed it entirely, leading to the death of a High Priestess.

Dragon's Dogma 2 review: An image of a player looking at the town of Vernworth in the game. Image captured by VideoGamer.
Vernworth is one of the largest locations in the game. Image captured by VideoGamer.

Fast travel is restricted by rare Ferrystones and ox carts that live shorter lives than flies. The latter helps signpost what to expect with a slow meander through Dragon’s Dogma 2’s stunning vistas, accursed ruins, and unkempt forests. As for using the ropeways in Battahl, you’re effectively a moving lunchbox for Griffins. The world never feels too big to explore despite the lack of mounts or a convenient fast travel system. There’s a decent number of biomes that draw in monsters based on the time of day, complete with guarded treasures for those who leave no boulder unturned. The sheer amount of content that’s easily missed will delight completionists.

You have no choice but to dance to the game’s rhythm. Much of Dragon’s Dogma 2’s main plot takes a similar approach as you hop between two kingdoms, each with towns, ruins, and caverns. You’ll need to pay attention to hints scattered across dialogue and events to piece together the desired outcome of most quests. A bored dragon or lizardman attack can kill quest NPCs so you’ll have to be doubly careful. I even spotted wolves laying siege to Vernworth’s gates. Quests that operate on a timer also ensure that every playthrough can surprise you.

Dragon's Dogma 2 review: An image of Wilhelmina in the game. Image captured by VideoGamer.
Wilhelmina is among the game’s better characters. Image captured by VideoGamer.

Despite this hands-free approach, it’s a shame that the story doesn’t stand up to the slightest of scrutiny. The ‘amnesiac chosen one’ arc promises political intrigue and dastardly plots but only offers awkward missions with a sore deficit in personality. The stealth segments are uneven and range between letting you walk on a palace’s dining table or jailing you abruptly. The rushed second half is more memorable thanks to imposing setpieces that have you scaling some massive foes.

Dragon’s Dogma 2’s side quests sit at a distant third, with town-hopping fetch quests making up most of its stock. Its solid voice acting is let down by half-baked facial animations outside cutscenes. But the real meat of Dragon’s Dogma 2 lies between these quests. It’s almost as though the overarching narrative about ‘important people’ is merely dressing for the misadventures with your companions. Outside an impressive secret ending, the tales you and your pawns will tell your friends will be those that run into you on the road.

Dragon's Dogma 2 review: An image of a companion guiding the player in Bakbattahl. Image captured by VideoGamer.
Pawns help you get to new locations and finish quests faster. Image captured by VideoGamer.

A Pawndora’s box of whimsical companions

Dragon’s Dogma 2’s excellent character creator isn’t just for your Arisen protagonist. You also create a main pawn, an assistant with no free will or age. Once you set aside your discomfort, you can fashion them the way you see fit, right from their appearance to their combat style. Arisen also get two extra pawns, companions created by other players as their main pawns.

Their awareness of enemy weaknesses, hidden resources, and quest markers aren’t just shaped by your travels. Instead, they pass on the knowledge they gain from other worlds like heirlooms. While you don’t need them to guide your path, DD2 is clearly designed to feel like a journey alongside someone who has lived through multiple variations of the same course. 

Outside the repetitive dialogue, pawns shine in combat with calculated moves and deft footwork. You don’t need to babysit them and they even cure debuffs by sorting their backpacks. Their personalities are apparent even in their fighting styles, from an archer who likes to throw enemies to devout fighters who protect frail allies. 

Dragon's Dogma 2 review: A player's companions, a fighter and an archer, fight a succubus in the game. Image captured by VideoGamer.
Pawns are great in combat, too. Image captured by VideoGamer.

My main pawn Argent is a constant source of support, be it lending stamina after a winding spell, catching me from a deadly fall, or waking me up after being lulled to sleep by harpies. Few things are as stirring as a pawn waiting for a high five after vanquishing a large foe. My heart leaped in fear when a lesser dragon mind-controlled Argent against me. Fortunately, he didn’t contract dragonsplague, a contagious disease that slowly turns pawns into disobedient time bombs. 

There’s a fair bit of Devil May Cry and Monster Hunter DNA mixed into Dragon’s Dogma 2’s combat, pairing swift and stylish combos with hulking foes and weaknesses to account for. One moment, your Magick attacks are harmlessly pinging off an armored ogre. And in the next, your archer starts stabbing it with an arrow to drop its armor plates. To wrap things up, a thief bystander spins gracefully in the air, blades extended, to stop the ogre in its tracks. 

Sure, its skill trees and item customization aren’t as elaborate as other RPGs. Keeping the best gear in stores and not boss lairs feels like a missed opportunity. But a generous class-hopping system directs your attention to coming up with attack combinations against all kinds of foes. While advanced classes with spicier move sets are restricted to human players, pawns cover most roles and even call out an imperfect party composition.

Dragon's Dogma 2 review: An image of a player fighting a Dragon alongside another character. Image captured by VideoGamer.
Dragons are tough to beat without your companions. Image captured by VideoGamer.

If you’re not prepared, the game’s environments turn as inhospitable as those of a Soulslike, particularly during the early hours. Enemies don’t need you to memorize attack patterns and are easily vanquished as you level up. Instead, a loss gauge mechanic reduces your health total until you rest at an inn or campfire. I misplaced the party’s camping kits often, forcing me to backtrack to a Riftstone or gamble on the next campfire having a kit nearby. Once, a pack of thieves stole my camping kit and got away with it. Another time, the pawn in charge of my camping kit was kicked off a bridge.

There were moments when I thought I had to start over, moments that can strike fear into any player, especially a reviewer. One particular return journey without a camping kit had me pale in devastation at a broken bridge. When the sun rose, I realized that my pawns weren’t saying “There’s another way” just to motivate me and were hinting at the rock outcropping below. In the dark, all I could see was the dim glow of winged succubi and armed skeletons prowling the forest. None of this is scripted and with no spare saves by design, surviving offers a sense of relief and accomplishment that few RPGs deliver.

Dragon's Dogma 2 review: An image of a player facing a succubus alongside an archer at night. Image captured by VideoGamer.
Nighttime is particularly dark in this game. Image captured by VideoGamer.

The game ran fairly smoothly on my RTX 4070-toting laptop, with frame rate dips only in its most populated towns. Battles never caused performance hiccups despite the dazzling particle effects that accompanied Magick attacks and crushing Minotaur charges. Hearing the majestic combat music was often a moment of elation unless my worn-out health bar was one hit from death’s door. 

Dragon’s Dogma 2’s commitment to unscripted monster hunts, visceral combat, and interlinked systems guarantees a story lurking around every corner. By trading modern guardrails for know-it-all handmade companions, it entrusts you with the ‘venture’ in action-adventure. But weak quests and animation jitters hold it back from excellence. I’ll admit that the vague quests didn’t make a great first impression. But in retrospect, every rough edge comes together to reward you based on how much of yourself is poured into Dragon’s Dogma 2. Blaze through the 30-hour campaign or explore every nook and cranny with pawns who know how all quests end.

Reviewed on PC.

Dragon's Dogma 2 review: An image of a player aiming a ballista at a Griffin.


Dragon’s Dogma 2's commitment to unscripted monster hunts, visceral combat, and interlinked systems guarantees a story lurking around every corner. By trading modern guardrails for know-it-all handmade companions, it entrusts you with the 'venture' in action-adventure. But weak quests and animation jitters hold it back from excellence.
8 Refined class-based combat that is a delight against large foes. The lack of genre-standard UI clutter encourages exploration. An experience engine that serves up one memorable moment after another. Pawns improve every situation they find themselves in. A weak storyline that does its setting a disservice. Side missions that are a chore outside of figuring them out. Iffy facial animations for some NPCs.