The universe of Dragon’s Dogma 2 might appear oddly recognizable, even if you never experienced the original. A verdant, wooded terrain sprinkled with concealed caves and cobblestone ruins; inhabited by creatures and beasts you could most likely recognize on sight. That’s because director Hideaki Isuno intended to create a high-fantasy world that looks and feels like one that everyone would imagine a real-life fantasy world to look like.
This desire has been upheld from the original Dragon’s Dogma, and is why they focused on creating a European and northern English feel, down to the vegetation and structures. The creature design has also remained grounded – as grounded as a fantasy creature can be.
“Our approach to design is to think about what a monster would look like if it existed in real life. It’s hard to remember what these monsters are named when they show up, so we’re cautious to create characters that look exactly like their names,” Itsuno explained. “We wanted anyone in the world to be able to see its design and say, that’s a Sphynx. We spoke with a lot of people from around the world after creating the first game, and there were numerous monsters that appear in Dragon’s Dogma that individuals said looked precisely like their mental image of them, such as the Griffin. That’s something we’re proud of, and we’re delighted we put so much attention into it. It’s fantastic to hear people say, ‘Yes, this!’”
The Cyclops, Harpy, and Minotaur are just several of the creatures found in Dragon’s Dogma 2 anyone familiar with high-fantasy could probably name on sight. If you played the first, don’t anticipate to recognize any particular locations from Granys, though.
Itsuno said: “Dragon’s Dogma is the story of many parallel worlds, and the world we see in Dragon’s Dogma 2 is just one of these worlds. In each parallel world, Pawns interact with Arisen and other Pawns. That’s why the story of constant rebirth that’s focused around dragons, as well as the various elements of the world shown in the previous game have all carried over to this one as well. That said, it does take place in a different parallel world, which is why I think there will be parts that are similar yet different. That’s reflected in a lot of different places, and I hope players enjoy it.”
The art director Daigo Ikeno commented that creating a parallel world actually made Dragon Dogma’s 2 design a bit more difficult. “We decided to carry on elements from [the previous Dragon’s Dogma]. Not being able to make any massive changes actually made it a little difficult, because this meant having to closely examine each little part of the game,” Ikeno said.
Instead of looking at fantasy films and other more modern works as reference material for the art design of Dragon’s Dogma and Dragon’s Dogma 2, Ikeno gave the team classical paintings and medieval art that depicted ancient scenery.
“That meant we were quite restricted in a way, but I think it turned into one of Dogma’s distinguishing features,” said Keitaro Kato, the concept lead. “It was incredibly difficult to analyze what made this art good, then take that and incorporate it into our game’s maps, or into the overall atmosphere of its world.”
The team wasn’t only inspired by drawn art, but by the perspectives of real-world terrain as well. Itsuno explained: “We scouted for locations so that the team members would know what kinds of terrain I wanted and feel excited about it for themselves. This is something I’ve done ever since the first game in the series, as well as during Devil May Cry 5… We went to all kinds of places so that planning members could understand what it means to be in a place where your destination is within sight and not too far away, yet you feel excited about the path there. This mostly involved climbing mountains. I also liked ria coasts, with their clear elevation changes and blocked sightlines.”
This emphasis on blocked sightlines ties into Itsuno’s desire to make travel fun and meaningful within the world of Dragon’s Dogma 2. There’s a huge difference between traveling down a long road and being able to see your destination with nothing interesting on the way and forested paths with captivating distractions popping up around every corner. The latter is how wandering in Dragon’s Dogma 2 feels.
Itsuno said: “Travel is boring? That’s not true. It’s only an issue if your game is boring. All you have to do is make travel fun. That’s why you place things in the right location for players to discover, or come up with enemy appearance methods that create different experiences each time, or force players into blind situations where they don’t know whether it’s safe or not ten meters in front of them. We’ve put a lot of work into designing a game where you can stumble across someone and something will happen, so while it’s fine if it does have fast travel, we decided to design the kind of map where players will make the decision for themselves to travel on foot in order to enjoy the journey.”
The real-life visits and modern graphics helped the team create environments that clearly communicated its inherent danger or safety, too.
Itsuno continued: “Instead of using symbols to say ‘you’ll die if you fall here,’ we could start visualizing if they would probably die if they fell in a certain place. It let us bring our real-life sense of danger, safety, and security into games as-is. Now that we were in an age where we could do that, I was conscious of creating those kinds of experiences whenever possible. That’s why we all went to this scary attraction where you can walk alongside the edge of the top of the Abeno Harukas skyscraper, because I wanted everyone to experience what was scary about it. I paid special attention at the start to teaching everyone and having them experience the kinds of terrain and views that move people emotionally.”
Capcom – Dragon’s Dogma 2
Although the level design and world of Dragon’s Dogma 2 are still very much based on the first, there are some unique differences. The clear new inclusion is the new race, beastren, and their neighboring country of Battahl.
This race was always intended to have existed in the world of Dragon’s Dogma, but due to the limitations in the PlayStation 3 era, the team was unable to implement them. Primarily, this was due to the beastren’s fur.
Curiously, the beastren’s origin stems from Capcom’s Red Earth (also referred to as War-Zard in Japan.) The fantasy fighting game included half-beast characters that ended up as inspiration for the beastren.
In Dragon’s Dogma 2, the humans and beastren come from entirely different cultures. While the human kingdom of Vermund is a monarchy very much with a “mainstream medieval European atmosphere,” the nation of Battahl is run by priestesses.
“We want players to understand it as a culture that stands in contrast to Vermund,” Kato explained. “We decided for the two to be different down to their most basic structures in order to change players’ impression of them.”
The two countries’ environments are also vastly different, influencing details like clothing design. “The land the countries live on is different as well, and so I thought comprehensively about what kind of clothes would fit their climate, including the weather, while also focusing on incorporating that into the kinds of visuals that the director wanted, especially at first, as well as the art director. I think that approach has created a pretty big difference in atmosphere between the two,” Kato explained.
Along with beastren, the elves also have a base of sorts in Dragon’s Dogma 2. The elvish language is entirely made up, and If you can’t understand it in-game, you can’t read it, either.
Casey DeFreitas is the deputy editor of guides. Catch her on Twitter @ShinyCaseyD