Dragon’s Dogma 2’s lovable pawns make it an adventure worth fighting for


When the Dragon’s Dogma 2 loading screen announces that I probably don’t have to worry about dying from a big fall, I’m elated. This means I can yeet myself off ledges with impunity because the game says that my pawn — my ever-faithful companion, protector, and sentient extra inventory — “may cushion your fall.” I test this claim immediately and instantly pancake on cold, hard rock. There isn’t even time to flail or scream — my body simply submits to gravity. I am dead, my pawns are nowhere in sight, and I’m playing my favorite game of the year so far.

Capcom’s long-awaited sequel to Dragon’s Dogma mostly follows the same formula: an action RPG set in a medieval fantasy world where existence is defined by the duality of a Dragon and its would-be killer, a singular Arisen (the former chooses the latter by ripping out their heart). The Dragon is a harbinger of end times, and the Arisen, who has the power to control characters known as pawns, must fulfill their destiny by killing it. This time, the Arisen’s sworn duty includes serving as Sovran to the kingdom of Vermund, which proves to be a struggle because the game opens with my royal person waking up in a prison camp. 

But we’re not here to talk about me. We’re here to talk about Oni Peepaws.

Pawns are creatures of the rift, a blue-tinged limbo where they wait for Arisen in other realms (i.e., other players) to summon them. I created my main pawn in the likeness of my cat; we shall not analyze this decision further than the fact that they are both very good, very noisy boys. Oni Peepaws is a hulking red tabby, though I doubt anyone would say tabby to his face — he is a proud Beastren, a race of catfolk native to neighboring Battahl. Using a riftstone, I retain two more pawns to round out my party: a friend’s pawn named Lady Omelet and a random third. It is an understatement to say that pawns are the backbone of the game. They are, in my mind, the impossibly pure, anarchic heart of its core identity. 

Lady Omelet takes charge. She’s 15 levels above me, having been created days earlier, and has seen much more of the world than the rest of us. When she wants my attention, she waves and does a little dance to point the way forward for whatever quest I’ve prioritized. The pawns strategize, gossip, learn from each other, and harvest knowledge to carry back to their own Masters, each going about their business in accordance with their behavioral type. Oni Peepaws, like his namesake, is independent and a little haughty; Lady Omelet is mouthy and a little bossy. They cajole me into scaling cliffs and navigating byzantine paths to reach an obscure chest containing a single bottle of lantern oil. At times, the pawns bicker good-naturedly about their different tactics. I am negged, praised, chided, and finally, after falling off a large monster, caught and saved by a pawn. My Arisen is surrounded by a boisterous maelstrom of love, and it’s beautiful. 

Later in the game, I rotate out my two supporting pawns like an RPG version of Mambo No. 5. There’s Rita, a slightly manic mage who destroys every box and critter in her path to see what’s inside. There’s Kratos — I’ve seen at least two loitering in the rift — whom I accidentally lose during a Benny Hill-style sequence of failures on a rope bridge. I meet Abby on the road. She is fluent in Elvish, and I grab her because it’s impossible to deal with elves without a translator. Steve is an Astarion lookalike with a sweet tooth; a thief named Princess gets on my nerves because she dawdles.

When we stumble across new, slapstick ways of killing enemies, the other pawns get excited about the prospect of sharing new strategies with their Masters. Where possible, I help the pawns accomplish their individual quests — tasks assigned to them by their Masters — so they can return home in victory. (Not all pawns belong to other players; there are official ones “owned” by Capcom, but where’s the fun in that?) The final party I put together to face the Dragon is an all-catboy lineup, a strategy that I silently vow to adopt as a good-luck charm. 

Oni Peepaws goes on adventures when I log off and comes back to share his successes and failures. In one travelogue, he vaguely describes “suffering many injustices” at the hands of another Arisen, and I am filled with white-hot indignation. An early death in the game (pawns don’t die but must be revived) leaves him slightly shaken, and he dwells on this “failure” as we do a mundane escort quest. As I sift through more pawns in the rift, I cling to Oni — in all his myriad forms as I have him try different classes and builds — as both comfort and constant. There are many like him, but he is mine, and I think about what he’s doing while I’m offline and wonder what he’s learning, not just from other players but other pawns. 

My pawns discuss the troubling rumor of Dragonsplague, which supposedly makes them hostile and unmanageable. The disease passes around like a hot potato. According to a friend, I can “cure” Oni by letting him go off to another realm and infect someone else’s pawn. The problem is that I don’t know what the symptoms are; a game pop-up explains that the pawns won’t even know if they’re infected. It’s not long before I find out, spotting Oni with bright red eyes, oblivious to his predicament. To be on the safe side, I strip him of his belongings and armor; this is when I notice that my third pawn, Xun, is hiding red eyes under her low-brimmed hat. To be on the even safer side, I throw all three of them into the sea, where The Brine dissolves their flesh and bears them back to the rift. When I pick up Oni afresh, he apologizes for his failure.

The truth is, I am the sick one. I may not have finished the first Dragon’s Dogma, but I am well on the way to becoming a dogma sicko. The pawns aren’t just core gameplay mechanics but the key to how the game so brilliantly embraces the constraints of narrative and artifice. There is no attempt at assimilating this conceit of pawns into grounded fact or a sense of “immersion.” This is a story about the way stories are told and retold — through pawns and players — and the body of knowledge that forms between the bones of that shared lore. There is nothing immersive about constantly being reminded of the framework in which Vermund and Battahl exist.

Instead, it’s an exquisitely imperfect trinity of emergent narrative, ambient multiplayer, and the eternal adage of shit happens — and sometimes that’s all you need from three weird little guys for an incredible adventure.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 is available now on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X / S.



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