Dragon's Dogma 2 hands-on preview: The RPG I didn’t know I wanted

Exactly what you've waited 12 years for

Dragon's Dogma 2
(Image: © Capcom)

Early Verdict

Dragon's Dogma 2 allows you to explore a vibrant world where decisions have true consequences. Featuring thrilling combat sequences, a slew of meaningful sidequests and deep customization, Capcom's RPG is sure to be a winner.

Pros

  • +

    Open-ended gameplay

  • +

    Thrilling battle sequences

  • +

    Deep customization options

  • +

    Choices that have consequences

Cons

  • -

    NPCs lack detail

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Dragon's Dogma 2: Specs

Platforms: PS5 (tested), Xbox Series X/S, Steam
Price: $70
Release Date: March 22, 2024
Genre: Role playing game

To say Dragon’s Dogma 2 has been highly anticipated would be an understatement. Releasing nearly 14 years after the original, this sequel promises to deliver the same sandbox world and open-ended gameplay fans have come to love. Even in a time with so many great action RPGs, Dragon’s Dogma 2 stands out for its unique take on the genre.

I got to play Dragon’s Dogma 2 for nearly three hours at a preview event and was impressed by its deep gameplay mechanics and sense of exploration. Even during my brief time, I had the sense that I could play the game however I wanted — which made it difficult to stop when my session was up. I’m saying all of this as someone who never played the original, so I imagine that long-time fans will love what’s in store.

We’ll have a full review of Dragon’s Dogma 2 close to its March 22 release date. For now, I’ll share what I experienced during the demo to give you a sense of what to expect. Needless to say, I wouldn't be surprised if this sequel ends up becoming one of this year’s standout titles.

A stunning and dangerous world

Dragon's Dogma 2

(Image credit: Capcom)

The first part of the demo began near a busy hillside village at daybreak. Playing as the Arisen, myself and three NPC “Pawns” were asked to visit a nearby city. Instead, I explored the quaint medieval town until I overheard a store owner despairing about his nephew being kidnapped by wolves outside of town. After speaking with the man and accepting the quest, I set out in search of the boy.

As expected, Dragon’s Dogma 2 has no shortage of side missions. What’s interesting is that most are time-sensitive. For example, if I were to take too long to find the boy, he would eventually die — which wouldn’t sit well with his uncle or villagers. This creates a sense of urgency when undertaking quests. It also means it’s not a good idea to accept too many quests at once since you might not have time to complete them all.

The green rolling hills and steep cliffs surrounding the village were a marvel to behold. This isn’t surprising since Dragon’s Dogma 2 utilizes the RE Engine — the same engine behind the Resident Evil remakes and Devil May Cry 5. Though the environments were impressive, most of the characters lacked the same level of detail. Models (including the player character and Pawns) seemed like they were created for last-gen consoles (PS4 and Xbox One). This could be a personal nitpick and it’s possible you won’t have an issue with the character models. That said, the overall graphics and art style work well.

The thrill of combat

Dragon's Dogma 2

(Image credit: Capcom)

As I ventured through the land, I ran into all manner of nasty (and hungry) beasts. Dispatching wolves and vultures didn’t prove difficult, which was good since I wanted to acclimate to the game’s combat mechanics. Unlike most action games, there is no lock-on feature. Instead, you’ll need to constantly move the camera around to see what’s happening around you during combat. Since I’m used to Monster Hunter World which also doesn’t have lock-on, it didn’t take me long to adapt.

When accepting the quest, I was told the boy loved flowers and that he often spent time in a nearby flower patch filled with blue roses. I didn’t find him there but did see a trail of blue petals leading further into the hills. This was a clear indication that the boy wanted someone to rescue him. Capcom’s PR explained that you need to use reason and logic and pay attention to complete quests. To that end, I figured my end goal would be a cave since that’s where wolves usually make their homes.

Along the journey, I ran into bigger creatures that took more effort to take down. One of these was a tall shaggy gorilla-like ogre. This is where combat truly opens up since you have to be creative. I noticed that the monster flinched as I attacked its left leg. I doubled my efforts and continued attacking the leg until the monster fell on its back — which gave me the chance to jump on its chest and attack its head to deal greater damage. At one point, I also found a ledge above the beast’s head and used it to jump onto its back. It didn’t take long before myself and my computer-controlled companions emerged victoriously. Boss fights are extremely exhilarating given the freedom you have to complete them as you wish.

Journey's end

Dragon's Dogma 2

(Image credit: Capcom)

After a long trek, the flower petals ended at the mouth of a cave. After killing the entire wolf pack, I found the boy, who was thankfully unharmed. Of course, I now had to safely return him to the village and his uncle. As I emerged from the cave, night began to fall. It didn’t take long for the world to become pitch black, making it difficult to see anything but the glimmering stars above. I found a nearby campsite, where I was able to speak with my companions, heal, and take stock of my equipment. After that was done, I settled in for the night.

I returned the boy to his uncle, who gave me his thanks and a handsome reward. This brief sidequest provided an excellent overview of what Dragon’s Dogma 2 is all about — engaging and thoughtful narratives, free-form gameplay and exploration, and the satisfaction of completing missions through deductive reasoning.

Outlook

I only got the tiniest taste of Dragon’s Dogma 2 but I’m still yearning for more. As I said, the game actively encourages you to use your brain during any given situation — whether it’s in battle against a giant monster or when trying to persuade (or manipulate) someone during a conversation. The demo was so satisfying that I’m now going to play the original game on PC to prepare myself for its sequel.

I couldn’t cover everything Dragon’s Dogma 2 has to offer in this preview, so be sure to check back with Tom’s Guide closer to the game’s release for our full review. We’ll also have supporting coverage as this will likely be a title that people will play for the rest of the year. Stay tuned for more!

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Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.