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I Love That Dragon’s Dogma 2 Doesn’t Let Me Save Scum

Living with the consequences

Capcom

One afternoon when I was a kid, I was playing a rented copy of Final Fantasy VII on my PS1. I’d gotten so engrossed in the early goings of disc two that I lost track of time. Then the power in my house went out, and I realized I hadn’t saved in hours. I lost so much progress that I didn’t pick the game up again for years. From that day forward, I became someone who manually saves games with a fastidiousness that borders on obsessive. Thank goodness for Dragon’s Dogma 2.

The problem with what I like to call “emotional support saving” is that it naturally lends itself to another habit: save scumming. I mean, what else am I gonna do with all these save files lying around? Not repeatedly jump back in time to try every possible option and achieve an optimal outcome? Unfortunately, this is kind of a torturous way to play games. In Baldur’s Gate 3, for example, I jumped back multiple hours to correct minor mistakes more times than I can count. That which I came to fear as a result of my formative Final Fantasy flub is now something I do willingly if it means making a character like me more or getting the best possible ending to a side quest. As a result, Cyberpunk 2077 took me way more time to finish than it did most people. I still haven’t completed Baldur’s Gate 3. In an especially cruel cosmic twist, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is now circling a similar drain. 

Dragon’s Dogma 2, bless its heart, makes it prohibitively difficult to play this way. There's only one save file, which autosaves regularly, especially after events of significance. While it's also possible to reload from your most recent stay at an inn, this is nowhere near as reliable as juggling a bunch of save files; there's often a cost associated, and I typically camp to restore health -- which does not count as an inn save. I often go hours without staying at an inn.

Dragon's Dogma 2 wants you to face the consequences of your actions. Notoriously, an in-game plague can take out entire towns, killing story-essential NPCs. If you allow it to happen, that’s that (although some NPCs will apparently return to life over time). Living with that gleaming guillotine over your head might sound unappealing, but I’ve found it kind of freeing. Authentic consequences have forced me to reckon with what I actually care about in a game. 

Over the weekend, I took on a relatively early-game quest that centered around Albert, a beggar in one of the game’s main cities. By day he told stories in the town square and pleaded with passersby to toss him some coin. By night, well, that’s what another NPC wanted me to investigate. So I decided to hop to it and do a little sleuthing. Turns out, Albert was a noble disguising himself in rags, and at night his true colors came out. At that point, the game gave me the option of delivering evidence of Albert’s double life to one of three characters: Albert himself, his wife Celina (a regular citizen), or his other wife Hilda (a noble). I decided to alert Celina largely because she was nearby, I’d already met her, and I just wanted to see what would happen. 

The next morning, I found a guard standing outside Albert’s house near the city’s slums. I figured he was there to investigate Albert and possibly apprehend him for his crimes, but nope, the game took a much darker turn than that. Celina, the guard informed me, had murdered Albert and then taken her own life. Yikes! Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a game with plenty of moral grays, but that seems like… definitely the worst possible ending to this quest line, or almost any quest line imaginable, for that matter. Initially, I was bummed. I felt the almost reflexive temptation to reload my last save and explore every available option. But then I remembered that I couldn’t, so I just sat with the outcome for a little bit. 

As I trotted through the city and passed the town square, I realized that I’d miss the beggar’s tall tales, even if they’d come from a disingenuous place. He made the town feel more lively, more colorful. But at the same time, he was an incidental side quest NPC. How much did his fate matter, really, in the grand scheme of things? In another game, would I really have needed to spend an additional 30 or 45 minutes making sure he got some version of a happy ending? Or would I just have been giving in to obsessive tendencies that don’t really serve me or the games I’m playing? Sure, this ending was sudden and outrageously grim, but it will definitely stick with me. Something more prim and proper might not have. 

I doubt Dragon’s Dogma 2 will break my save scumming streak entirely – old habits die hard – but I’m going to try to keep in mind that not everything has to be perfect. Sometimes it’s OK to just move on, like Albert probably should have instead of trying to maintain a double life and getting murdered. 

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