Twas during a routine outing to gather Wakestone shards in the Echoing Depths north of Bakbattahl that we first realised just how "down bad" we are for everything Dragon's Dogma 2 has been chucking in our general direction over the past week or so.

This particular routine outing, you see, ended in Cas - our strongest fighter-class pawn - accidentally chucking himself off a bridge, an action which caused him to plummet several hundred feet before smashing his face off the bone dry riverbed below. Not the best choice of tactic during an intense battle against large reptilian enemies that our party hadn't seen coming, but that's our Cas for you!

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review - Screenshot 1 of 6

Now normally under such circumstances, and especially considering that Cas is not a real person with feelings, we would have thought nothing of leaving the great big oaf to die slowly in his own face juices. However, Dragon's Dogma 2 is different. You see, the pawns here, the stars of this particular show, are so incredibly well melded and molded into every facet of the game, they are so well acted and written, so helpful and kind, useful in battle and ever-graceful in their offers to lead the way, that we've fallen head over heels in love with the lot of them.

This sequel, wot is actually more of a remake as it turns out, sees players once again assume the role of the Arisen, your stereotypical amnesiac protagonist, who must set out on epic adventure to answer the call of an ancient dragon - whilst also dealing with pretenders to their crown, angry dogs, trolls, griffins, dragons, and the fact that they can't own a mount or fast travel around the world map willy-nilly. It's pretty intense being special.

Now, the good thing about having an amnesiac protagonist is we don't feel as though we need to spend a whole bunch of time regurgitating facts that we've googled about the original Dragon's Dogma, which is a win for everyone. However, for those who didn't play it and need to know something, well, it's a highly entertaining and unique action-focused RPG that attained cult status thanks to some amazing ideas (pawns), satisfying combat and an incredible atmosphere. It's a 12 year old game so good it can still manage to knock your socks off despite technical issues and the natural ravages of time, such is the quality of its exquisitely crafted world, lore and characters. Oh, and because of the pawns. Have we mentioned that we're in love with the pawns?

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review - Screenshot 2 of 6

Pawns are what makes this series tick, for those not fully in the know. They basically act as an endless supply of party members that you can call forth from magic rifts dotted across the world. Each pawn specialises in a specific vocation, with a choice between your usual fighters, mages, archers and stealth-focused thieves before flashier roles begin to unlock later down the line. They're willing to do anything for their beloved Arisen this lot, and so they'll happily march to their permadeaths for you if so require it. They also have distinct personality types; mild-mannered, calm, hot-headed and so on, and as you meet them they'll explain the other perks they hope to bring to the table, such as improved defense, party healing, stronger attacks, soaking up punishment, etc.

In Dragon's Dogma 2 you can also add various behavioural aspects to this mix as the game progresses, and these can be both beneficial and negative depending on how the pawn chooses to act as a result. An example of this would be augmenting a pawn's behaviour to let them use all of your gathered ingredients as they see fit. Handy in a pinch, and saves you the hassle, but do you trust them to do a good job and have the potions you want when you want them?

This game's pawns are just very good at pretending to be real, in short. Their AI in battle (as well as with regards to pathfinding and item collection) is excellent, and as a result you get to go off on these amazing adventures and genuinely feel like you're on an expedition with a bunch of likeable friends in tow. It's this vibe, this getting to know each other, overcoming obstacles, suffering painful and permanent losses, and all the fun customisations, creativity and other stuff that goes along with it (there are already some amazing player-made character creations in the Rift to party up with) that makes this such a unique and joyous thing.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review - Screenshot 3 of 6

As you set out across the map here, a map that's apparently some three or four times bigger than the last outing (and after rushing to finish this review we believe it), new players may find themselves a little surprised by just how involved and alert you need to be a lot of the time. This isn't the sort of RPG that wants to hold your hand or let you turn off your brain entirely. It's fairly tough, enemies will mess you up en-masse if you let them, and the environments are designed to slow your momentum right down. Hideaki Itsuno has gone on record to say that he hasn't put mounts or free-to-use fast travel into this game because it's jampacked full of stuff you'll miss if you speed to your objective and, whilst normally that kind of pre-release patter can be safely ignored - man's got a game to sell - this time it just happens to be true.

It's a refreshing change of pace, a blessing even, that we can't zoom around on a horse in a more traditional RPG style, instead relying on a threadbare network of Oxcarts and a returning system of expensive ferrystones and portals that make fast travel prohibitive enough that you'll have to factor it into your plans. And really, a little planning is the crux of this whole endeavour, it's what makes it all sing. Hire some hard-ass pawns, ensure they have the gear they need, cover all class types to give you maximum choices during scraps, but also remember to factor in the time and energy spent making your way to a location. This world is dangerous, mysterious and full of unknown foes. One does not simply walk into Mordor, and all that jazz.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review - Screenshot 4 of 6

If you don't sleep and then take damage from attacks you'll lose chunks off your health bar until you fully rest, so catching some Zzzzzs becomes essential, there is an order to be adhered to. Adventurers must pay attention when setting up their camp spots! It really is that sort of thing. Knowing where the nearest inn is, having the funds for a bed or for the weapons and gear you'll need to venture onwards, keeping the crew on top form and ready to lash out across a gritty fantasy world, a world that errs delightfully on the side of dirty realism. You genuinely never know what's around the next rain-soaked, blood-caked corner.

And so, suddenly, we're back in the good old days of being entirely lost in a big old epic fantasy quest, we're no longer mindlessly galloping around a stupidly massive (and mostly empty) open world, charging directly to the next campaign point without a thought in our head. We are no longer gamers, we are adventurers. Cas. Cas. Cas, mate you're an adventu...ah, he's gone off that bridge again.

Dragon's Dogma 2 has us happily taking it as it comes, chipping slowly away at this exquisitely crafted world full of magic and mystery. Of course we're not going to ruin a second of that magic and mystery here, but it's the stuff you do moment-to-moment, moreso even than the narrative delights, it's the fact this world is so labyrinthian, so packed full of detail and lore, so full of majestic vistas, wondrous cities and towns. It's the truly incredible foes - oh you're in for some surprises with the enemies - and loot that is actually worth hunting out. You know the sort of thing; sexy clothes, ruddy great big swords and masks with magic bits hanging off them, stuff you actually want to find, that you rush into your inventory to equip because it looks cool.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review - Screenshot 5 of 6

Now all of this is already very exciting, but then you get to add genuinely excellent arcade combat on top, and we've gone and got ourselves a proper GOTY contender for sure. The various classes you get to choose from are deliciously different in how they feel to control, we've mostly stuck with the thief/trickster and their fast daggers/stealth tactics, but switching briefly to a fighter reveals a warrior who very slowly delivers huge punishment, so timing all of a sudden becomes much more crucial. Mages are weak as all hell when hit but can blast huge AOE attacks to stem the tide (again you'll need to figure in spell recharging and casting times), whilst choosing to rock the archer means, well, you better be bloody good with a bow and at dodging stuff.

When each party member has a well-defined role in battle against enemies who know how to fight, when confrontations have actual tension to them as a result of this, when Jade the archer is raining hell down on a bunch of harpies from range, or when Cas swings a car-sized hammer around his head before falling off a bridge, that's when this turns into the Dungeons & Dragons game we always dreamed of. That's when Dragon's Dogma 2 100% delivers on its remit of totally transporting you to another realm that you'll find it hard to tear yourself away from.

Dragon's Dogma 2 Review - Screenshot 6 of 6

Yes, there are some framerate issues, you'll notice the slight drops when you hit big cities, and we know some people are already ruffled by the lack of solid 60FPS here but honestly, we just don't really care as much as we might usually do given all of the emotions this game has gone and made us feel. None of the stutters we experienced were bad enough that we were particularly bothered, and we didn't notice anything during combat, so that'll do nicely for now, thanks, we're sure they'll patch it down the line.

These small issues aside however, and Dragon's Dogma 2 gives you a living, breathing fantasy world in which to frollick. It treats its players with a level of respect that's sadly become less common in today's world of AAA collectathons and Battle Pass XP explosions, and it refuses to do things the easy way or to give you every modern convenience you're used to.

It's a game that has solid and clearly defined rules, clever AI, bespoke environs and a real weight and heft to the physics and physicality of its setting, and out of that delicately-balanced mix comes one of the most engrossing and magical action RPGs we've played in a very long time indeed. Dragon's Dogma 2 is every bit the equal of your Witcher 3s and your Elden Rings whilst remaining entirely its own unique and beguiling thing. And if that doesn't sell it to you, maybe you're just more of a FIFA person.


Dragon's Dogma fans rejoice! This second entry in the series, as much a remake as it is a sequel, absolutely nails everything it sets out to achieve. You can feel the desire to perfect every aspect of the game that we got in 2012 here, with slicker combat, a more engaging pawn system, an incredible world stuffed full of amazing beasties and a general vibe that just begs you to slow down, take your time, and enjoy the majestic adventure ahead. If you're in the market for a fantastic RPG with the power to fully transport you to a world of gritty fantasy and magical friends, we reckon this might just be right up your street.