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How to be the worst wizard in Dragon's Dogma 2 - Third Impact

Our Dragon's Dogma 2 preview diary concludes with a prison break and an endless Golem brawl

A wizard casting ice magic at a giant enemy in Dragon's Dogma 2.
Image credit: Capcom

Welcome to the third and final part of my Dragon's Dogma 2 hands-on diary, in which I heroically try to make headway in Capcom's outsized fantasy RPG with a party of pure magic-users. I am Dragonkin Skywalker - telekinetic Mystic Spearhand, oxcart patron and an extremely bad thief. Joining me on the adventure are three AI-controlled pawns - the diabolical fury that is Donald Duck, the levitating liability that is Galadriel, Queen of the Woods, and the class act that is celebrity stage magician David Blaine, all of whom I have given new and stupid names plucked from my vast knowledge of wizardry across different entertainment fields.

In Part 1, we ventured boldly forth from Checkpoint Rest Town into the countryside, got all messed up by some goblins, got all messed up by some lizards and then got all messed up by an Ogre. In Part 2, we made our debut in the majestic city of Vernworth, stole some dried fruit, fell afoul of the castle guards, then hurried back to Checkpoint Rest Town and were arrested by the Beastren of Battahl for attempting to Deus Ex the border gate (read: smuggle ourselves through by sneaking onto a coach). As the curtain goes up on Part 3, Dragonkin Skywalker has been stripped of his mighty spear and posh frock and tossed in a cell like some common drunkard. They didn't even let me keep my trousers! I'm wearing a sack! And in the game, etc.

A player investigating a dark interior area in Dragon's Dogma 2
As with Parts 1 and 2, I wasn't allowed to capture my own screenshots for this hands-on diary, so instead of footage of my character wearing a sack, please accept a collection of snaps from official Capcom B-roll. | Image credit: Capcom/Rock Paper Shotgun

The important thing to do in these situations is to calmly assess your options and form a plan. Immersive-simming Dragon's Dogma 2 got me into prison; now, immersive-simming will get me out. In the cell there are some boxes and barrels plus a straw bed. At one end, there is an iron door (closed). At the other, there is a cliff edge with a nice view of a desert sky and a less nice view of a rocky river, about 200 metres below. Contents of my inventory: zilch. Magic at my disposal: nada. I weigh these considerations sagely, then pick up a box and lob it at the door, which doesn't budge. Underneath the box, I find a letter from a prisoner which makes arch mention of something called a Lambent Flame, but has little to say about things like secret tunnels or rope ladders. Messages from long-departed convicts in videogames are supposed to be a source of both lore and jail-breaking tips. The local criminal element have been slacking off.

I stack some barrels and boxes by the door, mostly out of petulance, then go for a second look out at the cliff. Hey, there's a small ledge right beneath my cell! Can I climb down to freedom? I gaze hopefully at my PR demo handlers. They rumble uncertainly and glance at each other, like courtiers trying to work out how to tell an elderly and bad-tempered king that he's riding his horse backwards. My character Dragonkin Skywalker seems equally unconvinced, stumbling backwards from the edge when I get too close. I sadistically nudge him over, and yep, that lower ledge can't be walked on after all.

Still, I can always just fall into the river, surely? Dragonkin Skywalker has been tumbling through the air for approximately 1.5 seconds when I remember that the deeper waters of Dragon's Dogma 2 are home to something called the Brine - a spectral aquatic menace that insta-kills player and pawn alike, and absolutely not a developer's excuse for neglecting to give characters the ability to swim. I splash down in the river, the Brine promptly wraps me in hoops of red energy and lo, I respawn in my cell.

A conversation with a bald wizard in Dragon's Dogma 2 about learning magic
Image credit: Capcom/Rock Paper Shotgun

Right. It's time to get serious. I am a professional. I'm not going to spend the last 45 minutes of a preview session in jail. Not again. I throw all the boxes in the room at the door. One of them glitches right through it and smashes against the wall outside. Hey, there's a key beneath that box! That long-departed convict had my back after all.

I'm easing open the door when a jailer appears, roused by all the noise of smashing/glitching crates. "Lost your way, have you?" he says benignly. I seize him violently by the waist, drag him back into the cell and throw him off the cliff, then run screaming down the corridor, colliding with shelves and tables in my panic and oh hell, what's this, what's going on? Why has the screen gone all flickery? Bats! I'm being eaten alive by bats!

I thrash my limbs wildly and succeed in punching and kicking a dozen bats to death, then carry on screaming down the corridor and oh hell, icons everywhere! My entire inventory has reappeared! The prisons in Dragon's Dogma 2 might not be welcoming but they are certainly efficient - I thought I might have to go break into the guardroom and retrieve my gear from a locker. It's a timely development: according to the HUD I'm no longer in the jail but some kind of "forgotten magic laboratory". Nothing good ever happens in those.

Having re-equipped my spear, armour and assorted effects, I proceed tentatively through the tunnel network, scooping up a few consumables as I go, and eventually find myself in a huge circular chamber with what appears to be a dragon skeleton at the bottom. The facility is home to a sinister population of men and women in robes. One man asks me if I've gotten lost, but nobody sics the guards on me or conjures any verboten magics. This is one of the more peaceful occult hideaways, it seems. I discover a hall with a dragon statue in it, and a bedroom with exquisitely carved wooden doors and some really nice carpets. Perhaps they're keeping all the chained sorcerous abominations in the other dormitory?

A spiral ramp leads me up past several women repeating the same line about "feeling like I've forgotten something" - the magic, presumably? - and hey, I can see daylight! I exit the tunnels into a "Flamebearer" temple chamber with dangling drapes, ornamental water fixtures and torches. As if remembering that arcane labs are supposed to be accursed and dangerous places, the music spikes. I linger, hoping for some drama, but the ominous orchestral refrain soon dies away. "This sort of quiet means that all is well," remarks a woman from the other end of the temple. I regard her waspishly. On the whole, I think Dragon's Dogma 2 scores a 5/10 on the immersive sim scale, with points both deducted and added for thwarting expectations for sorcerous dungeons. But anyway: the key thing is that I am a free man, and apparently, I am in Battahl - the region of the game that is supposed to be the focus of this hands-on session. I've got 30 minutes left. Finally, the games journalism can begin in earnest.

A group of characters walking through a marketplace in Dragon's Dogma 2
Image credit: Capcom/Rock Paper Shotgun

Battahl is a desert realm of banded canyons, shady tent cities and baking stone outcrops linked by rope elevators. Here there be griffons! Here also there be my pawns, who join my party inconspicuously as I'm running up a hill. What exactly have you been doing, pray tell, while I've been rotting in prison? Given our performance thus far, I guess I should be thankful they've come back at all. Oh hang on, we are missing one David Blaine. I guess he got murdered by the Beastren back at Checkpoint Rest Town? Fortunately, the path leads us to a bustling marketplace, where I'm able to hire a replacement mage from the crowd. One tall cat-faced spellcaster with an exquisite aristocratic accent wins my heart by offering to carry all my surplus inventory. Now, the question of the name. Do I know of any magic celebrity cats? The only celebrity cat I can think of is Jonesy from Alien, who is not a wizard as far as I know. Do I have time to think of an alternative? No. Jonesy it is, then.

Now a complete party, we spy a griffon swooping over the cliffs at the far end of the market and promptly give chase. Our pursuit of the griffon is rudely interrupted by a story NPC of some description - a spectral figure called the "Pathfinder", who locks us into a cutscene and starts blathering about the chains of slavery and something called a Rockmouse Burrow. "Methinks it is where you will find that which you seek," he simpers. I was just seeking that griffon actually, and thanks to you and your plot-bothering, Mr Pathfinder, it has fled the scene. But look, I can see the griffon in the distance there, soaring over an outcrop. And look here, there's a rope elevator that leads directly to that outcrop!

We hasten to the elevator and leap aboard. If this were a Far Cry game, the elevator would travel at supersonic speeds and launch us straight into a plunging machete execution, but this is Dragon's Dogma 2, a game that regards fast travel as a form of world-building, so the elevator travels at more-or-less the speed of a collapsing flan. I'm cranking the elevator handle busily when it occurs to me that I'm the gallant leader of this here expedition. I imperiously order Donald Duck to take over. Then, we are mobbed by harpies. The ensuing mid-air brawl puts me heavily in mind of Capcom's Lost Planet 3, with its many shootouts aboard massive moving vehicles, and fills me with a nostalgia that dissipates only when we reach the rocky outcrop and discover the griffon has flown away again, which fills me with a powerful vexation I promptly vent on some nearby bandits.

The bandits are a stubborn bunch, ambushing us as we alight and rudely interrupting our chants and arcane gestures with big bloody swords to the face, but their silly little shields are no match for my wildly imprecise telekinesis. Still, my pawns are sobered by the experience, with Jonesy - who, err, seems to have a West Country accent all of a sudden - remarking that he's ashamed of being caught unawares. Donald Duck commiserates, commenting that "this is what befalls one who lets down their guard". He probably should have kept that line in reserve, because seconds afterwards we wander into some Crumbling Ruins and are set upon by a Golem.

A huge fire spell in Dragon's Dogma 2
A Mystic Spearhand surrounded by lightning in Dragon's Dogma 2
Image credit: Capcom/Rock Paper Shotgun

To recap, I started this hands-on diary partly to test the viability of a wizards-only Dragon's Dogma 2 party. Thus far, I've found it reasonably easygoing. Yes, I've had some help from the occasional wandering mercenary, but in fairness, I've also been getting to grips with a new class - if I were a proficient Spearhand with a couple dozen hours of Dragon's Dogma 2 under his enchanted belt, I dare say it would be plain-sailing. That was my verdict before fighting the Golem, anyway. A Golem, in case you didn't take that course in Ambulant Geology, is a giant humanoid entity made out of rocks. The thing about rocks, I soon learn, is that they are very spell-resistant. Fireballs and lightning bolts be damned - what we need here is an extremely large hammer and somebody with the muscles to keep swinging it while the mages lurk in the bushes, casting buffs and heals.

Ever the pack of idiot nerds, my pawns immediately gallop into close range and start loudly charging up spells. Donald Duck gets stamped on and KO'd before he's even loosed a single thunderbolt. I drag him away to a corner and revive him, then take a flying leap onto the Golem's back and try to land some spearblows on the crackling weakpoints at its knees and elbows. "I hope you weren't expecting mercy," snickers Jonesy, summoning a mystic flame that wafts over the Golem like a cloud of air freshener. The Golem punches him in the face. Things carry on in this vein for, oh, about ten minutes, during which we manage to chip away exactly one of the Golem's three health bars. The PRs look grave. "This is supposed to be an easy fight," they say. "Why did you get rid of your Warrior?" they add, regarding me with the strained sympathy you extend to a toddler that has just insisted on eating a fistful of wasabi paste.

The fight drags on for so long that day turns into night. My pawns are looking decidedly worn and torn, or rather, rocked and pebbled. Their spangly robes and wizardly tiaras aren't much use against boulders. More importantly, I only have five minutes left, and that Golem isn't going anywhere fast. It's time to make a break for the undergrowth in the hopes of discovering something novel and exciting and climactic - a capstone for this hands-on series but you know, not the Golem kind of stone.

Trusting my pawns to follow (no, I wasn't abandoning them to their fate), I scramble up the nearest cliffside. The Golem bellows its contempt, but doesn't pursue us. I look down the hillside beyond. Who goes there? Why, it's some kind of spectral wizard, drifting through a canyon without a care in the world. I've got three minutes to spare. What better way to spend them than by battling a fellow master of the eldritch arts?

A lightning bolt spell during an undead battle in Dragon's Dogma 2
Image credit: Capcom/Rock Paper Shotgun

I teleport-stab the wraith, and oh heck, it's got three health bars too. It's also got a lot of skeleton friends. The enemy spellcaster surrounds itself with homing projectiles while bony figures armed with rusty axes and swords spring from the sand and treat my bedraggled mage party to its greatest kicking to date. Donald Duck gets KO'd again. Jonesy rushes to revive him and gets KO'd too. "Is anyone else available?" he mournfully enquires. I try to intervene and am deluged in lichfire, forcing me to self-revive with a Wakestone. Galadriel, at least, has escaped the carnage, but only because she's doing her usual Elf-helicopter routine while dispensing solid but deeply irritating advice about the importance of smashing shields. The wraith, meanwhile, enchants the weapons of all the skeletons we're fighting, just for kicks - and it's at this point that another vile force of darkness arrives. Will the goblins unite with their fellow mortals against the necromantic Powers? Well, what do you think?

I drag out the skirmish by scooping up dead pawns and running off in search of sheltered nooks in which to revive them, but it's amply clear that this hands-on is over. Woe unto Dragonkin Skywalker, bane of Battahl jail. Woe unto Donald Duck, Ogre incinerator and punchbag for Golems. Woe unto Galadriel, a flying nuisance to the end, and woe unto Jonesy, whom we hardly knew. Woe, I guess, unto David Blaine, though for all I know he escaped the guards back at Checkpoint Rest Town and is even now cooling his heels in a pub somewhere. I think it's safe to say that you shouldn't play Dragon's Dogma 2 with a party consisting exclusively of magic-users. Still, I take a little, feeble consolation in the knowledge that we managed to meet our doom at the hands of a fellow spellcaster. A dead one, yes. It still counts.

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