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Dragon’s Dogma 2’s pawns are an unexpectedly perfect RPG feature

With their unfaltering devotion to the Arisen and unexpectedly deep mechanics, Dragon’s Dogma 2’s pawns are a true marvel to witness in action.

Dragon's Dogma 2 pawns: A split image with a masculine character wearing heavy armor on the left side, and three characters running through ravine on the right side.

Simply put, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is massive. It’s bursting at the seams with stories to get lost in, quests to complete, and locations to find and explore – and like the seminal Elden Ring, DD2 gives you very little direction. If you want to find everything, then you’ll have to get out there and explore for yourself. This is where I’ve found the impressive Dragon’s Dogma 2 pawns system really comes into its own to unexpectedly create one of the best RPG experiences I’ve had.

Unlike companions from many of the best RPG games, Dragon’s Dogma 2’s pawns aren’t fully fleshed-out characters. Don’t expect characterization on the levels of Baldur’s Gate 3’s Shadowheart, Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth’s Tifa, or Mass Effect’s Garrus. Rather, the pawns are player-made NPCs that venture alongside you, join you in combat, and natter away near-constantly. They’re more or less blank slates beyond choosing a personality preset. Despite this lack of true character, the pawns bring a truly remarkable amount to the table.

At the start of the open-world game, you’ll make your player character and your main pawn, who will later be joined by two hirable pawns. Failing to come up with a creative name for the Arisen and their sidekick, I fell back on what I use in every RPG – my characters are Golgoroth and Golgorothina respectively.

Dragon's Dogma 2 pawns: A scenic screenshot of a cart traveling through a field, with large archway ruins to the right and a city straight ahead.

Stepping out into the world, what you will immediately notice is how handy your pawns are. For example, with a pawn specializing in gathering and crafting in my party, they would routinely scavenge the nearby area and craft useful consumables for me as we trekked. And that’s only scratching the surface, as pawns can actually aid in exploration and questing. They’ll regularly point out ladders, chests, or small crevices that you’ve likely overlooked.

Since the pawns you can hire are actually created by other Dragon’s Dogma 2 players, if they have already completed the quest you’re on they’ll naturally guide you and give you hints when you need it – all you have to do is tell them to lead the way. In fact, you can even specifically hire a pawn who has experience with the quest you’re taking on if you’re stuck. This has saved me so many times as I headed into uncharted territory, far away from any campsites or inns where risk and danger is plentiful. It’s even better if the pawn you’ve hired belongs to one of your friends, giving the new PS5 game and new Xbox game a unique, collaborative feel despite being a single-player adventure.

Dragon's Dogma 2 pawns: A group of characters holding onto a toppled cyclops to attack it while it's on fire.

This natural sense of companionship also extends into combat, where you can command your pawns to fight close to you, act more independently, or help you if you’re in a sticky situation. One of my favorite moments so far has been taking down a cyclops, which saw my pawns and I engage in a drawn-out battle of attrition against the towering foe, climbing its back and tag-teaming. If your pawn has become an expert in taking down a specific enemy, they can even give you sneaky tips on how best to defeat it – which comes in very handy against tougher enemies.

Last but by no means least, it can’t be overlooked just how much the pawns add to the overall experience. Sure, they’re not characters in their own right, but they’re always talking between each other, often poking fun or debating our next steps. After a tough fight, there’s nothing better than giving your pawns a well-earned high-five.

Dragon's Dogma 2 pawns: A player-made pawn called 'My Mate Paul' at the center of the screen, with menu text either side.

Because of the player-made nature of the pawns too, you can find some very interesting companions. Shoutout to, ‘My Mate Paul’ who I wandered across, which feels like a subtle dig at this random player’s friend. You can also expect to see many iconic characters recreated in Dragon’s Dogma 2, such as Dune’s Paul, Kratos from God of War, and even Lae’zel from BG3. With other players’ creations in the mix, one thing you can guarantee is pawns are as absurd as they are endearing.

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As hired pawns don’t level alongside you or your main pawn, as well as each having unique experiences that change their utility, I’ve already had to trade out some early pawns for new ones. Despite the pawns technically not being characters in the usual sense, it’s been unexpectedly sad to say goodbye to some of them. From guiding you through its massive world, to helping you take down monsters, to actually stirring up emotion along your journey, I never thought that pawns would be such an integral and effective part of Dragon’s Dogma 2. The game shines in many ways, but in my view, pawns elevate it to be one of the best games of recent times.

Before embarking on your next expedition, rest up and find out why an Alan Wake 2 roguelike mode needs to happen or check out this Borderlands-style roguelike that will become your next obsession.