First impressions from the Tokyo Game Show 2023 demo.
The original Dragon’s Dogma, released in 2012, gained popularity as a one-of-a-kind, open-world action RPG. It delivered a polished combat experience and the freedom to explore a truly immersive, classic fantasy world. Its Pawn system – support NPCs that’d join adventurers on their quests – meant you never ventured forth alone. Its RE Engine-powered PS5 sequel follows in those footsteps.
At last week’s Tokyo Game Show, I sat down with a playable demo. Here’s what I found out.
Pick your vocation and Pawn
In the demo, I was given a choice of three vocations: Fighter, Thief, or Archer. The Thief deals rapid consecutive attacks with daggers in both hands, while the Archer specializes in long-range combat using a bow and arrows. All three were excellent choices, but I decided to go with the Fighter, who was my go-to in the first Dragon’s Dogma. The Fighter wields a sword and shield, and excels in melee combat.
Once in the field, a pre-arranged party was already waiting for me. Dragon’s Dogma 2 sees the series’ Pawn system return, as players can create a party consisting of up to four members, which includes your main Pawn, as well as up to two additional Pawns from other players through the network.
Diverse monsters inhabit this world and are all ready to attack the Arisen (me) and its party (Pawns). Smaller monsters are not a threat, but the larger ones can be challenging and intriguing. I encountered a one-eyed giant, the Cyclops, who wields a club and performs hip slams.
Since I chose Fighter as my vocation, my role is to engage first and lead the charge with melee. I used my shield to block incoming attacks while pressing the Square button for Light Attacks, and Triangle button for Heavy Attacks. The combination of the L1 button and attack buttons allow the player to use Custom Skills, including some familiar ones such as Empale and Compass Slash. These attacks feel great and deal a lot of damage.
Also, when fighting large monsters, you can hang onto the enemies and scale their massive bodies to hit their weak spots. For example, you can jump and leap onto the back of a Cyclops, and once you reach its head, you can deal direct hits to its singular eyeball.
The behaviors of the accompanying Pawns are controlled by AI, and they fight automatically based on their own judgment. Pawn Commands allow you to take control of the Pawns’ actions to a certain extent, such as having them move closer to you, spread out to fight, or prioritize recovery and support. However, letting Pawns make their own decisions – and seeing the resultant successes of doing so – gives Dragon’s Dogma the vibe of a multiplayer experience.
The enhanced AI of Dragon’s Dogma 2 makes the Pawns even more intelligent. The Pawns react more quickly to the actions of the Arisen, such as using enchantments to enhance the Arisen’s attacks, leveraging magic to attack flying enemies that Fighters cannot reach, and scaling the Cyclops together with the Arisen. Also, the game seems to have added elements that make players feel a deeper connection to their Pawns, like communicating and providing advice during combat and high-fiving the Arisen after a victory.
Explore, discover, fight
The RE Engine once again showcases its qualities in its rendering of a richly detailed open world, full of lush landscapes and epic mountains. Gazing into the distance teases potential paths and sights to explore. Similar to the first game, deep water is infested with Brine, emphasizing the need to keep to dry land.
As you explore, you will meet and talk with travelers and Pawns. If you speak to Pawns, you can invite them to join your party as ‘support Pawns’.. Pawns talk a lot during combat, but they also like to converse with you during your journey. In addition to commentary about the scenery and warning you about monsters, Pawns who possess a deep knowledge of the area may hint at the locations of treasure chests and help lead you to where they are.
Monsters do not just aimlessly roam around, but they will pounce at you from shrubs, or you may come across them attacking other travelers. Monsters have their own strategies and behavioral principles. In the vast world, I encountered surprises everywhere, and it truly felt like the people and monsters were alive in this world.
The main focus of this demo was to experience exploration and combat, so overall, everything felt familiar to me since I’ve played the first Dragon’s Dogma. At the same time, the beautiful open world and the Pawns’ more refined behavior prove that the game has evolved and been thoroughly polished. As a fan of the series who has been waiting for the sequel, I cannot wait to see how the new story surrounding the Dragon and the Arisen will unfold.