Dragon’s Dogma was the action-RPG for people who wanted to play alone, but didn’t want to feel alone. By far its most charming feature was the Pawn system, whereby you’d create an AI-controlled sidekick and hire two others, shared online by other players, to accompany you on your journey through a fantasy wilderness of tumbledown castles and goblin campfires. Pawns make dependable companions in many respects – pinning enemies for you to tag-team kill, healing or resurrecting you, opening chests you’ve missed, and enchanting your weapons at the outset of each skirmish. But what makes them fun to be around is that they’re a bunch of massive buffoons.
Pawns talk without cease as you explore: a steady patter of idle observations about well-wrought staircases and the local fish trade, advice about the bestiary and, in the case of Pawns recruited from other players, quest tips based on time in their own worlds – all of it couched in the game’s quirky faux-medieval dialect. Pawn dialogue is highly context-sensitive, and very often, nonsensical. They’ll climb into fountains and complain that they’re wet, and launch into pithy descriptions of monsters even as they’re set on fire. It ought to be maddening, but somehow, it never is – probably because the Pawns never actually attempt to be witty like ally characters in, say, Xenoblade Chronicles. They’re resolutely straight foils in a realm of lions with snakes for tails, chaotic boulder traps, unpleasantly lusty ogres, and players who push the wrong buttons and make random decisions on the fly. Well, pawns are back in Dragon’s Dogma 2, which I recently played an hour of, and they’re chattier than ever.