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Dragon’s Dogma 2 Review – Pawn Stars

A lot has changed in gaming since the original Dragon’s Dogma graced the industry way back in 2012. So much so that I was genuinely concerned the sequel would struggle to find its footing. We have had RPGs that will stand the test of time since. The Witcher 3 redefined storytelling and Elden Ring set the bar for open-world games with its incredible sense of discovery. So what could Dragon’s Dogma 2 do in order to be its own star?

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It turns out nothing at all because the original is still one of the wackiest Japanese RPGs ever made and the sequel repeats all of its greatness with a bit more ambition. It is familiar while at the same time, feels more expansive than before. Not to mention the pawns are the game’s stars thanks to their robotic behaviour and unhinged characteristics.

Completely detached from the original game, Dragon’s Dogma 2 kicks off as you, the Arisen escape a slave encampment and are whisked away to the nation of Vernworth. It seems that another Arisen exists in this kingdom and as lore goes, there can only be one true Arisen alive at any given time. So you set off to find out who this “other Arisen” is and what their deal is.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review

Of course, as the Arisen, you also have the powers to summon Pawns to your side. Right from the start, the game wanted me to feel like the Arisen and I did. I was able to summon Pawns to aid me in combat, quest completion and other gameplay mechanics. Each Pawn is unique and comes with various traits that are useful at different times.

Pawns are an important aspect of Dragon’s Dogma 2. You get one main pawn which travels alongside you throughout the game. However, the other two main pawns are swapped out at random times. You can either pick up a pawn who is walking by or head to a Rift Stone and dive into the metaverse of Pawns. Here, various pawns await hiring.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review

These pawns include Capcom-created versions and other main pawns created by other players in the world. A pawn takes on the same appearance and equipment as the updated version. So say a friend has a pawn, you can bring them along. If the friend gets better equipment for that pawn, you simply send it away and summon it again with the updated gear.

It is a great system and follows very much in line with the original game. Some pawns come with useful traits including the ability to speak Elvish, highlight certain gather points on the map and, of course, their Vocation which determines their skillset.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review

A new feature in Dragon’s Dogma 2 lets pawns help you during the exploration and quest solving too. Say a pawn had adventured with a player who has completed a quest you’re currently tackling, that pawn will then tell you they know where to go. You can then press the “Go” command and it will scurry to the location.

The same goes for chests and Rift Stones. If the pawn has discovered them in “another world”, meaning other players’ games, it will pipe up and tell you when you’re near the location. You can then opt to follow it or ignore it.

Of course, this does come with some annoyances. Simply put, these pawns don’t shut the F#$@ up. They often repeat the same line over and over again. I was doing a quest, which I can’t mention in the review, and each pawn had no knowledge of the quest. They took turns telling me how they had no knowledge of his quest and how I should hire a pawn that did. But they repeated this every few seconds. I won’t lie, it gets pretty obnoxious.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review

It also takes away from the exploration at times. There were moments when I just wanted to walk about and enjoy the world. But the pawn had always had something to say. Be it they collected a flower, how much they loved me or what happened in their past adventures. The dialogue is fun for the first 35 hours but after a while, it gets tired.

But the pawns do have their moments of greatness. The sheer randomness of their behaviour is something to laugh about at times. I remember once picking up my pawn to toss them over to a ledge, she screamed “My lord, what has gotten into you” as I clutched her and threw her like a log. She hit the wall and fell to her death below. It was hysterical.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review

To see pawns being thrown in the air or drop-kicked by trolls is just pure comedy hour. To add, these pawns swear their lives to you so they somehow seem to enjoy these crazy moments in combat. So while I was being burnt alive by a dragon, I would see my pawn flying through the air as she was whipped by its tail. You can’t find these moments often.

A big focus for Dragon’s Dogma 2 is its world and escaping to a land unknown. Vernworth and its neighbouring nation Battahl are vast open areas with a true sense of discovery. The game’s day/night cycle also returns from the original and delivers different gameplay encounters depending on when you set off to explore the great lands ahead.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review

At night, the world is dangerous with zombies walking through the hills and skeleton armies causing havoc on the innocent. Not to mention a few surprise boss fights that appear out of nowhere. It also doesn’t help that the darkness of the night makes it difficult to see where you’re going and you only have a limited oil lantern to light up the area around you. During the day, on the other hand, the threat is just as real. Goblins make camps around the area ahead, harpies flock around trees and bandits hide around corners waiting to strike.

I think the sheer unexpectedness of Dragon’s Dogma 2’s world is where the real joy is found. Every trip out of a town or settlement was met with some crazy encounter with an ogre, troll, dragon or bunch of goblins that made my life hell. At times, it felt as if everything wanted to kill me in the most bizarre ways.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review

Even a typical fight with a golem, which took place atop of mountain, resulted in me tumbling off the cliff face to the land below while I was latched onto its head. Keep in mind that clinging onto this fierce opponent is nerve-wracking on its own. Falling from the sky to the depths below while attached to it and stabbing its weak points felt like a grand encounter seen in some great movies.

Sure, some fights get easier as the game progresses. Enemies become more like fodder but there’s often a gryphon or dragon circling above and spotting the casted shadow right in front of you always struck fear in my toes. Knowing there was this threat in the sky above often caused me to flee. Mainly because I always found myself in a situation where I had low health and supplies. There was no way I was attempting to fell these beasts in this state.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review

I spent most of my gameplay in Dragon’s Dogma 2 playing the Magic Spearhand. However, there are multiple Vocations in the game you unlock and many to choose from right from the start. You can also switch Vocations at any time across your character and main pawn. This allows for some great freedom when it comes to combat and even exploration.

The Mage, for example, casts powerful destruction spells and can heal players. However, it can also levitate in the air to reach new areas. The Magic Spearhand can also dash across large gaps in a strike attack which helped me get around too.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review

Essentially, you would want a group of pawns around to tackle combat effectively. But that doesn’t stop you from going with only archers or mages. It will just affect how you tackle combat encounters.

Speaking of which, combat in Dragon’s Dogma 2 is incredibly fun. It is clumsy, don’t get me wrong. It relies on combining traversal, attacks and grappling to kill beasts. Some enemies such as the golem can only be damaged if you hit certain weak spots on their bodies. So I was forced to climb them and make my way to these spots.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review

Climbing depletes stamina and holding onto an enemy does so too. So it is a juggling act between attacking, climbing, standing on the enemy to refill your stamina when possible and watching out for whiplash attacks which may throw you off.

It all results in a combat system that can get a little chaotic. When you die or take heavy damage, your health bar also takes a permanent drop. You can refill it by camping or sleeping at an inn but until then, you’re stuck with a lower health pool. It makes the next encounters even more daunting. Of course, that’s when the nighttime thrill arrives or a dragon drops from the sky.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review

Much of this feeds into Dragon’s Dogma 2’s planning system. A trip from one town to the next isn’t easy. You can take the ox cart which may get invaded and destroyed in the middle of a trip. You can also fast travel but Ferrystones are very rare. Of course, you can also go on foot.

This gets even more stressful later in the game when you’re travelling from different nations. It takes two or three days to get from one town to the next and the in-between experiences are never the same. Combat encounters change, random quests pop up and the threat of the world is always looming over me.

Even camping at night has a risk of your campsite being invaded by enemies. You then lose the camp and are left in the dark. You can camp again but chances that you’re carrying two camping kits are quite slim given how heavy they are.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review

Questing offers a similar risk system due to some timed mechanics. Some quests can fail if you don’t act in haste while others just fail if you move too far in the story. I have to say this annoyed me a bit. There’s no indication of these latter quests so I often moved on in the game thinking the objective was in the next town over only to have them fail.

Some of these quests were also unclear on their objectives. One said I had to return to Melve every few days after the town was attacked by a dragon. I spent hours doing this in-between other activities and nothing was happening. So naturally, I just moved on thinking I would come back later. The quest failed.

Of course, I think the push here is to replay Dragon’s Dogma 2 a few times to truly experience everything the game has to offer and there’s a lot. The world alone is beautifully designed and the sense of exploration creates some real shining moments. Every hill holds a secret and standing on the top of a mountain and overlooking the distance below revealed dozens of little secrets I could not wait to discover. Be prepared to get lost in this game.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review

But it isn’t all good news. Dragon’s Dogma 2 has its issues. There is a clear lack of quality-of-life features in the game. Inventory management is archaic and relies on micromanaging every single item one by one. The simplest thing like moving an item from your inventory to your stash takes way too long as you can’t select a batch of items. The same goes for moving one item to a pawn and vice-versa.

Some quests also get frustrating with no clear direction on what to do. I get the whole push for exploration and discovery but when a quest says “return every few days” and you do that with no idea why, it wastes time.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review

There are also the irritating pawns that honestly get a little too much after a while. Capcom needs to implement a dialogue switch where we can tone down the amount of nonsense these things speak. It often takes away from the world and at times, concentrates on the matters at hand.

Of course, I have to touch on the performance in Dragon’s Dogma 2 because it isn’t great. The game on PS5 suffers from some nasty frame rate issues. In combat, things get rough with the frame rate dipping under 20FPS during fights. These performance hiccups then cause issues with aiming and attacking. The Magic Spearhand has an aimed attack that is charged. When these performance issues popped up, this attack was often unusable.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review

These issues are found in towns too. Just walking about the frame rate would dip into the low 20s. I know because I had VRR enabled and these frames should be somewhat stable until 23FPS. I noticed this.

There are also issues with the camera. Often it could go into walls while I was fighting enemies. This is especially an issue in caves and houses. The camera would stay there while I tried to fend off enemies. It gets annoying very quickly.

These performance issues do take away from the game experience and I wish they weren’t there. I could only imagine how an archer would feel trying to aim shots with sporadic frames all over the place. It isn’t a good look.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Overview Video Ian McShane

Even with the performance issues aside, some issues in Dragon’s Dogma 2 do make the game feel a bit dated. The same inventory management and limited quest direction from 2012 is present in a game from 2024. Surely some changes could have been made. These dated features do nothing but hinder the rest of the game’s good traits.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a whacky game at times. There’s a good RPG here to discover and a world worth exploring. You’ll have to put up with some questionable gameplay design choices to get through it all but thankfully, those are far few between. I do recommend the game but I hope the performance gets sorted soon.

This Dragon’s Dogma 2 review is based on a PS5 code sent to us by Capcom. The game launches on 22 March for PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC starting at R1399.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review


Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a vast RPG filled with a rich world to explore and a dense combat system to master. It is marred down by some dated mechanics and performance issues which at least can be improved down the line.

Marco is the owner and founder of GLITCHED. South Africa’s largest gaming and pop culture website. GLITCHED quickly established itself with tech and gaming enthusiasts with on-point opinions, quick coverage of breaking events and unbiased reviews across its website, social platforms, and YouTube channel.

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