We all love State of Plays and the like. Like many of you, I anticipated last week’s PlayStation Showcase like it was a mini Christmas. With trailers for Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and Final Fantasy XVI to anticipate and surprises beyond, how could I not? Despite both games getting awesome gameplay trailers, the game that had me most hyped wound up being Capcom’s Dragon’s Dogma 2.
This surprised me because I bounced off the original Dragon’s Dogma thrice: once on PlayStation 3, later on PC (with mod support), and then a couple years back on Nintendo Switch. It is, perhaps, the game I’ve spent the most money not to play. I keep going back because the discourse in gaming circles labels it as a hidden masterpiece — flawed yet ahead of its time. Like a horde of excited goblins, comment sections and Twitter threads fill with praise and (pre-June 2022) clamor for a sequel when mentioned, yet I could never match this enthusiasm myself.
I’ve put more time into similar, rough-around-the-edges RPGs like The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind on the original Xbox and an unmodded Fallout: New Vegas, so you’d think Dragon’s Dogma wouldn’t put me off. Perhaps I could be forgiven for not spending much time with the pre-Dark Arisen expansion that I played on PS3 — I gave up sometime after reaching the main city of Gran Soren — as it had some technical issues and an unapologetically generic fantasy lore.
When I played the Dark Arisen re-release half a decade later, I met the same problem: I couldn’t maintain interest long past Gran Soren. Determined not to fall off once again, 2019’s release on Switch had the added benefit of portability, so I made it my travel game for a few months. I dabbled in the world of Gransys until Fire Emblem: Three Houses stole all my attention, and I completely forgot to go back.
This is all despite the fact that Dragon’s Dogma objectively has one of the best battle systems of any action RPG. All of the classes feel great to play, too. I leaned into the Magic Archer on my Switch playthrough but never made it to the endgame Bitterblack Isle, which I have been assured is the game at its best. Clambering all over fantastical beasts and stabbing them over and over was always a treat, and I wish more action RPGs would steal this mechanic. And while I initially didn’t like having two pawns made by other players join me and my own, this system won me over as a novel way to fill holes in my fantasy group.
But I couldn’t get over Gransys’ drab color palette and the generic fantasy lore. Morrowind on the Xbox had some of the longest loading times of that era and some janky combat, but Vvardenfell felt alive. The locales, while large parts of them being ashy plains, had plenty of vividness to them; the sun reflecting off the swampy waters around the Bitter Coast and the eerie reds of Daedra ruins come to mind. Its cities and towns had storied backgrounds with literal pages upon pages of lore to sift through. Fallout: New Vegas had the color variation of the actual Nevada desert, but the world was filled to the brim with memorable characters and factions. Dragon’s Dogma had none of this. Its world is steeped in dull grays and blues with lore and characters much the same hues.
So how did the Dragon’s Dogma 2 trailer pique my interest? The trailer, after all, looks like Dragon’s Dogma 2.0 rather than a sequel — except with some Khajiit. Simply put, Capcom has shown time and again it will improve upon what has come before: Street Fighter VI looks like a vast improvement over Street Fighter V. All the Resident Evil remakes have modernized the classic titles while maintaining what made them so special in the first place. Monster Hunter Rise released as a worthy and more accessible follow-up to Monster Hunter: World. Long gone are the days where Capcom had just as many misses (Lost Planet 3) as it did hits; it’s one of the most consistently great publisher-developers out there.
There’s a good chance I’ll pick up Dragon’s Dogma 2, play for half a dozen hours, and move onto something else. But I have faith in this modern Capcom. Faith that it’ll have more varied, vibrant locations. Faith that it’s deepened the lore and filled Gransys with unique characters that make it a place worth exploring. And faith that I’ll get sucked in for dozens of hours, rather than wasting another $70 on this cult classic of an RPG franchise.