The mechanics, not the narrative, give Dragon’s Dogma 2 its magic.

The game’s systems are impeccable, but the narrative falls short, creating a jarring experience for players. While the game may be directionless story-wise, Capcom’s attention to detail shines through in the gameplay experience. I’m taking this time to reminisce and think about the effect this game has had on me.

I’ve realised that I want games to hold your hand less, to leave you to your own devices. I want games that aren’t afraid to carry on around you while you’re grinding, and can dish out brutal punishments for your mistakes. But I also want games that hold up narratively.

While the overarching narrative of Dragon’s Dogma 2 is intriguing, and the notion of cycles and powers beyond your control is engaging, the smaller stories in the game are dull and meaningless. Captain Brant tells you to hide your identity lest you incur her wrath, but everyone in Vernsworth says, “Hey Arisen, how’s it going?” as you pass. There’s no threat in this story.

What happens if you don’t ascend to the throne? Why do you want to be Sovran anyway? The game’s story goes from bad to worse when you enter Battahl.

Despite a brief jaunt through the Coral Snakes’ hideout, the only major quest here is following Phaeseus and foiling his cunning plans – a continuation of your work in Vermund. Dragon’s Dogma 2 strikes me as a game filled with deep lore, but without any kind of story about this chapter in its history. It’s a shame the game is this directionless, that the story gets lost in favor of worldbuilding.

Because the attention to detail in Dragon’s Dogma 2 is meticulous. Or if you’re carrying something or someone? What a clever touch.

Have you ever tried discarding some delicious meat when you’re pounced upon by a pack of wolves? I know, the FMV cooking scene is mouth-watering and it’s a shame to waste it, but if it’s a matter of life or death and you’re mere meters from the next campsite, distracting a group of enemies with some delicious cut of beast thigh is a vital tactic. But I’m amazed that Capcom implemented it at all.

The systems in Dragon’s Dogma 2 are impeccable, but the narrative is subpar. The dichotomy between the two creates a jarring experience, albeit still a worthwhile one. Have you ever returned to the site where you slayed a cyclops or griffin in the days after the fight?

As well as having incredibly realistic ragdoll physics in their death throes, with corpses that drape over tree stumps and loll between rocky outcrops, the cadavers gradually decompose. After one day, they’re a bit nasty to look at. Crows land on the carcass and pick at the flesh.

Another day, and they’re fully rotten, swarmed by bloated flies. After a while, they’re nothing more than bones, which you can loot. As a final example, ogres get excited when they see women.

It’s a silly interaction that harkens back to classic fairy tales, but there’s another layer of depth beyond this. If an ogre picks up a male Arisen, presumably thinking they’re a delicious woman, it becomes enraged when it discovers that you’re not. It’s another little detail that helps the monsters feel real, that they have preferences like humans would and get annoyed when they’re duped.

I’ve doubtless waltzed past hundreds of tiny interactions that other players may have picked up on, and vice versa. It makes for an incredibly immersive experience, but I wish it had paid as much attention to the game’s story and quests. Dragon’s Dogma 2 is far from perfect.

But it’s incredibly fun, and I like the direction Capcom is taking it in. There are plenty of places it falls far short, and it does result in the finished product feeling lackluster and incomplete. There’s a brilliant game somewhere deep down in here, and I can’t help but wonder if Capcom’s priorities were in the wrong place.

Don’t get me wrong, I love all the details, but I think the game would have landed better with audiences – and more of them would have actually finished it – if there was a more engaging plot to move things forward.

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