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How Dragon's Dogma 2 Gets the Open World Genre Right


Dragon’s Dogma 2 has been out for some time now and some consider it a contender for 2024’s Game of the Year, but why is that? Read on to learn more about the game’s systems, how it holds up against other games, and what makes it a contender.

What Makes Dragon’s Dogma 2 Special?

After playing Dragon’s Dogma 2 this past weekend, it really hit home how different the game is as to how it handles its world compared to a lot of other games. Certain things separate this game from the other open-world games out there, and I appreciate that Hideaki Itsuno and his team stuck to their guns and didn’t reinvent the wheel when it came to this franchise.

Long story short, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a direct improvement of the previous game, where it doubles down on their previous game design of making a living fantasy world for you to explore and get lost in. The real question here is, what makes this game different or special from the other games?

Walk Literal Miles in the Arisen’s Boots


Similar to the first game back in 2012, Dragon’s Dogma 2 does away with the ever-convenient and normal way of fast travel in recent open-world games (to some extent). It has an oxcart travel system which is not only slow but also pretty limited in how they move around the world. The oxcarts only travel the main roads to major cities and towns around the world, meaning that you’ll still need to get off the cart and run around to explore that one cliff that caught your eye.

This isn’t anything groundbreaking in game design, as what this does is force you to walk and actually explore the world through your own experiences. More importantly, the game has to be designed around it without fast travel in mind, meaning that there has to be something that keeps the player engaged while going through the open world. For this game, the world is littered with caves, settlements, and other points of interest that are populated with monsters to kill, other human characters to interact with, and treasure chests to be opened.


It takes a lot of different interactions to consider and for you to be endlessly bored for a long time, especially if the world is considerably large for an open-world game. I, for one, got distracted a lot in my travels where I would go off the beaten path and just openly get lost for hours at a time.

Another thing to consider is the game only has one save file and while this is controversial to many, this ensures that your experience CANNOT be "save scummed" and you’ll have to live with the choices you’ve made. This isn’t the best way to restrict a player like how Baldur’s Gate 3 has Honor Mode where you only keep one save as well, but Dragon’s Dogma 2 forces you to play the game on Honor Mode immediately, and I would see why people wouldn’t like that idea.


Lastly, the game has its own version of what makes open-world games special, which is the "40-second rule." It may not be exactly forty seconds for you to find a point of interest to interact with, but the core concept of the game spreading points of interest sporadically is one of the reasons why the game is interesting and exciting. But what exactly is this rule?

It Only Takes 30 (Sometimes 40) Seconds

Back in 2018, CD Projekt Red talked about the development of the world of Witcher 3, and how the random encounters and other points of interest outside of the game’s main story are what fans say to be the most memorable parts of the game. The devs talked about the game design of nothing to something happening in 30-40 seconds during open-world traversal, be it a random deer that catches your attention, some bandits that try to attack you, or a monster just happens to be there and attacks you.

Similar to Dragon’s Dogma, the Witcher 3 also has limited fast travel options, where the game rewards the player for exploring the map with signposts that serve as fast travel markers for mapping the area. However, these signposts are still relatively limited to major cities and towns (sometimes open spots on the map) similar to oxcarts in Dragon’s Dogma 2. The devs talked about fighting for the removal of a fast travel system, as having such a system could limit the world they’re trying to build and let the players explore.


  • Image taken from NoClip's video on Designing the World of Witcher 3

They wanted the players to go out and explore the world they’ve meticulously created. As history suggests, the team succeeded with their choice of doing so, mostly because they were able to create a world that’s interesting to explore rather than just highlighting points in the map marking where every collectible there is in that area. Before Dragon’s Dogma 2 was released, Itsuno encouraged players to give exploration in the game a try saying: "Just give it a try. Travel is boring? That's not true. It's only an issue because your game is boring. All you have to do is make travel fun."

This connects the game design the devs of Capcom and CD Projekt Red were going for, building the game around exploring the open world and making the world as interesting as possible so that fast travel is only a convenience and not a necessity.

YouTuber Luke Stephens even expanded on this by seeing as to how other open-world games applied this specific rule. In summary, Elden Ring follows that rule by having roughly forty seconds before seeing or interacting with a point of interest while Red Dead Redemption breaks this rule by doubling the duration and embracing the time where nothing happens. Another rule breaker is Starfield where there are times that literally nothing happens for a good 3-5 minutes which could make the player bored of the game’s open world.

So how does Dragon’s Dogma 2 do it? Stephens stated in his Dragon’s Dogma 2 review that the game has a dated map design where it is a collection of small areas that are interconnected and make up a large part of the map which in his opinion is underwhelming, but where the game becomes interesting is what he calls the "Emergent Encounters" that random fights in the map feel rewarding and dynamic as you could interact with monsters in very unique ways.

The example he gives in the video is him encountering a fully armored cyclops on the road and deciding to aim for its helmet to open his weak point. He succeeded in doing so after some time and decided to keep aiming for its head which caused it to stagger and Stephens drove the killing blow afterwards. This is the kind of interaction that doesn't happen in any other game, as while you could interact with the monsters dynamically, the world around you is also a part of this interaction.


In my experience, there was a band of goblins and a cyclops that were blocking a part of the road, so I did what any passing adventurer would do and made it my duty to slay the monsters and keep the road safe. However, during the battle a griffin swooped down and also got in the mix of the fighting, and so what turned out to be a simple goblin fight became a triple threat match between the goblin gang, my party, and a griffin. At one point, the goblins and cyclops were cooperating on my side to aim for the griffin instead, making it one of the most unique encounters I’ve experienced to this day.

Modern Open Worlds Require Classic Solutions


Open-world games are becoming much, much larger, but the core principle is still the same. You could go many ways about making your world with multiple key fast travel points like The Witcher 3 and Elden Ring, but the journey of discovery is still the genre’s main draw.

Your game has to be interesting enough to carry itself and not become a collect-a-thon where the map is littered with marks for interesting things to get or collect. You have to let the players engage in discovering the world you painstakingly made so that it becomes a memorable experience rather than just another spot on the map.


Other games will have different ways of doing these, but keeping the player engaged ultimately affects the player’s perception of distance in the game. Similar to how Elden Ring would have a massive open world, but after hours of gameplay and exploration, you wouldn’t think as to how many locations you’ve already discovered and how many more you’ve yet to explore. You never feel bored going through huge patches of land because you’re always given something interesting to do.

Another take on this is that you’ll immediately be able to tell how the devs want you to play their open-world game. So using Elden Ring again as an example, the game is littered with Sites of Grace which are the game’s fast travel points because you’ll need to backtrack some areas to do certain quests, but the game also has a lot of distinct landmarks and sights around the map to compel you to check them out. Another example is Red Dead Redemption 2 where the game has you traveling on horseback for long minutes of gameplay embracing the downtime given to you.


So what’s the point of all of this? Yes, we’ve established that Dragon’s Dogma 2 has an interesting open world through encounters and various points of interest, but what does this prove? It simply proves that it’s one of the better open-world games to grace the genre, mostly because they force you to explore the world and don’t even hold your hand for it. The encounters that this game has is extremely unique as both you and the world are part of the game’s emergent encounters. If you've played the previous game, this may come as no surprise to you, as it's the exact same principle they followed in that game. But to see it implemented so flawlessly deserves high praise, regardless.

YouTube – Luke Stephens

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