Dragon’s Dogma 2 could be cashing in on the original game’s concepts in the best way possible
Almost a year since Dragon’s Dogma 2 was formally announced, we’ve finally got to see some gameplay footage of the title shown off at Sony’s State of Play. After 11 long years, Hideaki Itsuno and his team at Capcom finally have a chance to revisit the dormant franchise.
Dragon’s Dogma is a game packed with weird, wild, and wonderful idiosyncrasies. Though it never made a huge splash during its initial launch, it eventually garnered a cult following, and for good reason, too.
Dragon's Dogma’s initial concepts were originally dreamed up by Hideaki Itsuno at the turn of the millennium. Though the development of the game was to kick off eight long years later, as Capcom was looking to develop its very own open-world RPG. Capcom in the late 2000s was a strange place to be, with Western initiatives from the US peppering its output. Infamous games like Dark Void, Bionic Commando, and more were all laser-targeted to a US audience. But, for its own open-world fantasy RPG, Itsuno was finally given the opportunity to realize the RPG concept living in his head for years.
The problem? It was just too ambitious.
In a GDC panel from 2013, Itsuno opens up on the development of the title, which was to primarily evoke the same feelings as being on a BBS in the late 90s. Documents from development even have the game’s codename “BBS RPG” plastered on them. Though, the team at Capcom faced an uphill battle.
Namely, Itsuno speaks about Dragon’s Dogma’s open world, noting that the development team "struggled" and had never developed an RPG before. This trial-and-error process meant that more complex design ideas were shelved.
One scrapped idea was an unlockable hand-glider that would allow you to soar through the air, much like you do in Breath of the Wild, but dreamed up years before Link's open-world hijinks. During development, Dragon's Dogma was twice as large in breadth and scope as the eventual finished product. Itsuno claims "There was no way to create this game within the budget". After seeing some of the complex mission structures and maps, it’s clear to see why.
Hideaki Itsuno ultimately never had the time or budget to realize the full scope of the ambition of Dragon’s Dogma. The game's commercial release came and went alongside an expansion pack, with several ports and rereleases over the years. This all came to a head in 2022 when Dragon’s Dogma 2 was formally announced.
With a gameplay trailer for the new title finally in our hands a year later, we think that the development team is heading back to those older design documents in order to fully realize the potential of the franchise, with Itsuno back at the helm, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is brimming with promise and intrigue.
We think that Dragon's Dogma 2 isn't a romp in distant, unfamiliar lands, but instead a retread through Gransys and beyond. The plot of Dragon's Dogma is based on cyclical rebirth. Think of the ways in which stories like Neon Genesis Evangelion, or Devilman work. Dragon's Dogma houses the same elements, too. Though, there is a certain finality to the original game's ending that gives credence to the idea of Dragon's Dogma 2 being a prequel.
Right now, not much is known about the plot of the game itself, outside of a handful of years-old leaks. But, our hypothesis seems to be correct when looking at one crucial screenshot released by Capcom.
In this shot, you can see a gorgeous vista, flanked by an imposing tower on the left, and a bountiful city, with the foothills of a rocky biome to the right. In the middle, we see a lush woodland, with a small pool of water visible. To Dragon's Dogma fanatics, the tower to the left will be immediately recognizable as Bluemoon Tower in the original game.
We were able to recreate a facsimile of the shot in the original game, though getting there required using a freecam hack of the original title's camera. To check this out for yourself, use the freecam tool at the Healing Spring near Conquest Road.
Additionally, there are also some key changes. Dragon's Dogma 2's version of Bluemoon Tower is much more imposing, and the city is much more ornate and large than the original's Gran Soren. There are also some changes to the geometry, allowing for a more intricate topography.
The larger city size, going by this theory, could potentially be explained by the ruins at the foot of Gran Soren in the original game. The same could be said for the ruined Bluemoon Tower in the original game. Could we, in fact, be traversing through the same world, but in a wholly different time period?
Only one clue is left for us in the trailer, the "Sovran of Vermund". Sovran is presumably the name of a duchy, or kingdom. While Vermund would be its location, the "new" Gran Soren we see in the trailer. It's exclaimed loud by a black character in a fantasy game; something Naoki Yoshida of Final Fantasy fame simply cannot begin to comprehend.
We're going to begin veering extremely hard into spoiler territory from here, so if you've never played Dragon's Dogma before, give it a shot and attain the game's True Ending, and come back.
The shot of the cart in Dragon's Dogma 2 could also be in fact taken from what we know as Northface Forest, which lies at the foothills of Hillfigure Knoll. In the original game, Hillfigure Knoll is mainly used as a late-game area that your character visits in order to visit a peculiar face, the Dragonforged.
The Dragonforged is an Arisen, much like your player character. He makes allusions to the Arisen being a "new-forged link in the grand chain". The Dragonforged further states that it has in fact been "a thousand years" since his heart was stolen by the Grigori, our titular Dragon. Could we be visiting the Dragonforged again in Dragon's Dogma 2?
An additional interesting wrinkle is yet another Arisen from the original title, Savan. You play as the stalwart Savan in the opening moments of Dragon's Dogma. He eventually defeats the Dragon who stole his heart and ascends to become the Seneschal, a godlike deity in the Dragon's Dogma lore. While this might admittedly just be an easter egg, his character design also appears in the trailer for Dragon's Dogma 2. Though, it would be much more interesting if we play as an Arisen, alongside another historical figurehead in the currently-established lore.
Considering the parallel universes that the original game is based on, it's also possible that this is just a "remixed" version of the lands we see in the original game. But no matter how you look at it, it's clear that Dragon's Dogma 2 isn't a reinvention of the franchise. Instead, it appears to be dutifully taking elements from the original game to pepper itself with. We just hope that some of those scrapped elements from the original game that were deemed too ambitious make it into the final product this time around.