Dragon’s Dogma 2 Review – This Arisen Needs To Be Optimized

Capcom has been on an impressive run these last couple of years. With the exception of maybe Exoprimal, there have been basically nothing but bangers coming from them. Their biggest franchises, like Resident Evil and Monster Hunter, have been thriving, while franchises like Devil May Cry and Street Fighter have gotten new entries that arguably rival the very best they’ve had to offer in the past. So, it’s only natural that people got excited when Dragon’s Dogma 2 was announced. In the midst of the developer’s renaissance, a sequel to a game that wasn’t the biggest hit Capcom has ever produced, but nevertheless has always had a very strong following. And so, twelve years later, here we are: Dragon’s Dogma 2, a new fantasy action-RPG developed and published by Capcom, releases, and… almost immediately is hit with controversy.

First there was the monetization. More specifically, the microtransactions behind which features of the game were kept that feel like they should be in the base game. It feels like you should have them because other games have them. But when you actually play Dragon’s Dogma 2, you come to realize pretty quickly that most of these microtransactions are a much smaller issue than they were made out to be. It’s fairly evident that Dragon’s Dogma 2 isn’t a game that purposefully holds back mechanics only to charge you, like certain other games in the past certainly have. Rather, it seems to me that Dragon’s Dogma 2 was simply designed to purposefully not have those features to create a very specific experience. The people at Capcom in charge of the money noticed that and figured they might as well make people pay if they wanted this stuff anyway. But I do believe that the game was fundamentally designed around not having access to any of that stuff to begin with. Let’s take fast travel, for example.

Don’t get too close to that water!

In Dragon’s Dogma 2, fast travel is limited. And that makes perfect sense; it’s a game about the journey from point A to point B. It’s about the plans you make, and more importantly, seeing them shattered. The reality is that most quests are not much more than fetch quests; they’re designed to get you to move to another location and back. The reason that works for Dragon’s Dogma 2 is because the world here is a giant combat sandbox. You encounter both small and giant monsters on the road, and quite literally anything can happen. It is within that that 90% of the experience of Dragon’s Dogma 2 lies. So sure, you can spend money to make fast travel a more reliable option for you, but quite frankly, why would you ever want to? I want to make it clear that I still think the microtransactions are annoying; they shouldn’t be in a single-player game to begin with. But they’re really not a large issue here, so don’t be scared you won’t be able to enjoy the game properly without spending additional money. I’m quite confident it was designed to be without all that extra nonsense.

Then, people started complaining about the Dragonsplague. Explaining the full extent of what Dragonsplague is and does would take a while, but the basic gist of it is the following: your pawns—NPCs from other players that you summon into your world to fight—have a small chance of being sick with Dragonsplague. There are some visible symptoms, but they’re not easy to see unless you actively look out for them at all times. If you miss that one of your pawns has Dragonsplague and keep them around, the sickness will spread to other NPCs in the world, yes, even the ones important for the story, and they will die. Making things infinitely more difficult for you moving forward. And on top of that, since Dragon’s Dogma 2 swears by the idea of having only a single save that can’t even be deleted or restarted easily, being hit with Dragonsplague has serious ramifications. And I understand why that upsets people; it borders on ruining your game, but that is the kind of game Dragon’s Dogma 2 has chosen to be. As with the aforementioned fast travel and enemy encounters in the wild, Dragon’s Dogma 2 isn’t interesting in making things easy for you. The goal is that anything can happen, and that can include the worst of the worst.

Here’s the dragon but where the dogma?

When I was fighting my first ogre, it was a real struggle. We were fighting for 10, maybe 15 minutes, but I was so close to getting it done. When suddenly he picks me up and throws me on the other side of the lake, since neither the player character nor the pawns can travel through water without immediately dying, I was stranded. And to make it even worse, he threw me right into a slime that engulfed me right away, and a gang of goblins was around us, slamming down on me. There was no way to survive that, and it came out of nowhere. I thought it was hilarious—maybe the highlight of my experience with the game—but many people will find it incredibly frustrating. Know that before jumping into Dragon’s Dogma 2. It’s a game with exceptional combat, cool enemies that await you around every corner, and environments that are super dynamic and work with the monsters in tandem to create the most exciting, most hilarious, and most frustrating moments. And on that basis alone, Dragon’s Dogma 2 makes for one of the most fun gameplay experiences of the year. Even if the story is barely worth talking about because of how uninteresting and basic it is, you are the chosen one, and there’s another fake chosen one who’s evil. Do chosen one things to prove yourself to the world and save it in the process. Play it for the gameplay, not the story.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t savor the gameplay in a satisfactory way because of the third little controversy surrounding Dragon’s Dogma 2. The one that seems to hit basically any new game that releases on both consoles and PC. Dragon’s Dogma 2 is horribly optimized for PC, and at least for my own experience, it is one of the worst examples of that I’ve experienced. Even with settings on the lower end, lower than what my PC should be able to handle without too much trouble, even hitting a consistent 30 FPS was a struggle. It turns out that this kind of action-RPG combat is a lot less fun when it stutters consistently and can’t run smoothly. And that isn’t even mentioning the crashes I had to deal with. Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a fantastic game, and if you plan on playing on console anyway, go right ahead. If you’re a PC gamer like me, I’d avoid it for now, because while it’s easy to see the brilliance of Dragon’s Dogma 2 shining through, it’s also hard to take it all in under all the technical difficulties.

Nairon reviewed Dragon’s Dogma 2 on PC with his own copy.

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