Dragon’s Dogma 2 proves that fetch quests are good as long as the space in between is interesting

I think its reasonable to say that the term ‘fetch quest’ is well passed the point of being a neutral descriptor and has moved firmly into the realm of full pejorative. You won’t see many games tout ‘epic fetch quests’ on their Steam Page, and you’re much more likely to hear the term lodged between the words ‘not a bloody’ and ‘again’, like two slices of exasperation-enriched bread stuffed with a shit-tier filling. Cucumber, perhaps. Not so, at least not for me, when it comes to Dragon’s Dogma 2. The action RPG game has more or less solved the fetch quest problem. All it took, it turns out, was some interesting world design.

Critics aplenty have maligned the oft-encountered slight of being made to feel like a postman when you’ve paid good money to feel like a rootin’ tootin’ ramblin’ shootin’ punchin’ lootin’ superbastard extraordinaire. Extraordinariness is an implicit part of the contract we sign with a game that might call the tasks it offers ‘quests’. It’s jarring to be hyped up for your inherent specialness before being tasked with performing chump work for chump change, after all, and even the most interesting RPGs have be known to struggle mightily with this warrior of light/courier of shite dichotomy.

As Death Stranding showed us, though, even courier work can feel like heroism if the fetching is perilous. It’s less about the task itself, and more about the struggle of pulling it off. When we’re handed a bag of gold for a piss easy quest, it feels like pity money. Cheers, Jeeves, the smug NPC chortles. Don’t spend it all on one pair of socks, not least because I won’t be needing you in future since I’ve just trained a one-winged pigeon to do it in half the time, and honestly I’m considering just removing the other wing since its extra calories in feed and I reckon the pigeon could just hobble there and back without issue. Appreciate the help though!

A reward for struggle, though? Magnificent! A pair of socks befitting a real champion of the people. And by making its world a place where friction and danger are the norm, and safe, mindless traversal the exception, Dragon’s Dogma 2 makes every point B seem a thousand fraught and fretful miles away from any point A.

Granted, I’m still very early on in the game, but this is largely because I’ve been sidelining the main quest and jumping at any and all reasons to plan another journey out into the wilderness. A wilderness I’m currently as shit-scared of as I am eager to see more. Every two-minute detour down a sidepath feels like an enormous risk.

Very early on, I spent both a day and night exploring. Yeah, sure, I hear night is dangerous, whatever. You know what else is dangerous? Being alive, mate. I’ll be golden. I was promptly bodied by a Witch King-looking ghost knight in a hail of crackling blue. I have no idea what that thing was or why it was so angry at me and I don’t want to find out. I was mightily humbled and more than a little annoyed, but in retrospect, this is the best thing that could have happened to me. Now, even an evening stroll outside Vernworth feels electric with tension.

As well as more obvious, Souls-y comparisons, the travel portions of DD2 remind me most of a game I reviewed here a few years back, called Outward. Like DD2, pack management was a big deal there, and night was a night worthy of the name, inky black and utterly inscrutable without a light source. If you had a quest you wanted to do, you’d need to plan, pack supplies, and sleep so you could set off the second dawn broke. “Faced with a confident, unwavering design choice, you can only really respond in kind,” I wrote then. And that’s as true here, I think.

Anything naturally excruciating about a fetch quest should, by all rights, be magnified with so much required preparation, conflict, and friction. They should, logically, be much more exhausting to complete when you can’t just glide over a map posing as a world. By requiring more of you, though, DD2 turns busywork into something quite special. Like an actual adventure, I’d even say.

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