Battahl in Dragon's Dogma 2 is an utter nightmare, but it's taught me that sometimes, giving up is also the best way to keep going

An adventurer enters Bhattal in Dragon's Dogma 2, unaware of the horrors that await him.
(Image credit: Capcom)

Dragon's Dogma 2 has a very weird take on difficulty. Things aren't too hard while you're running around Vermund—there's some goblins, some asps, and a couple of ogres. Once you get a handle on the combat system, you might even start feeling confident. Then Battahl happens. 

Anyone who has been there knows what I'm talking about, but for the uninitiated, here's a rundown.

Two experiences come to mind when I think of Battahl. Experience one: I am entering this zone for the first time, desperately trying to get to the city so I can tick off this main quest. I'm getting knocked around by goddamn everything—see, I made the mistake of showing up as a Fighter with the augment that increases enemy aggro, and everything staggers you in Battahl. Everything.

I see what I can only describe as the world's crappiest ski lift. Two of them, to be exact, linking to the same island, heading towards the city I need to get to. I think to myself, drowning in hubris: "Ah, okay. The enemy density's meant to encourage you to use this travel system, that's neat." I claw my way up to the first station and call the lift over. It's a slow and uneventful journey.

I arrive at the first pitstop and fight some bandits who'd claimed dibs on that pillar of stone. I kill them, and moments later a griffin shows up. I scare it off. I get on the next lift and my pawns, as if seeing the writing on the wall, refuse to accompany me. A harpy shows up, grabs me, and hurls me off for having the audacity to try and go somewhere in a videogame.

The second experience was when I was trying to get out of fantasy Australia. I elect to take the oxcart, but we get ambushed. My sorcerer pawn thinks "Hey, this is a great time to cast Seism!" and obliterates my only mode of transport, leaving us stranded in the exact middle of where I was coming from and where I was trying to go. I spend about five minutes fighting off choppers (and also a cyclops, who shows up mid-brawl). We win. Then a griffin happens. I try to climb on its back and it immediately takes off.

At this point I am fully surrendered to the whims of fate. I mean—look, I had plans, but clearly Dragon's Dogma 2 doesn't care what I think, want, or feel. Unless I'm willing to burn a Ferrystone, no journey is assured.

And it's not just me—here's a couple of clips from my fellow arisen that really drive home both how enemy-dense Battahl is, and how utterly useless its ski lifts are.

Average Battahl exploration experience from r/DragonsDogma
"Is that a......well shit" from r/DragonsDogma

Yes, you can out-level Battahl. But if you have the audacity to go there before your time, the zone transcends 'git good' and veers into 'the universe hates you'. I remember Elden Ring's hellscape of Caelid, and that place is downright relaxing in comparison. In fact, Battahl is like a mini-Caelid with the exact same enemy density. In a word, it sucks. It's a bad place to be at.

But when that oxcart trip was thoroughly interrupted, something snapped. My frustrated grumbling crumbled away and I just started laughing—maybe I'd had one too many concussions from red wolves and angry choppers, but I was starting to actually have fun.

Dragon's Dogma 2 is an infuriating video game, but only in the sense that players—myself included—are used to getting what they want. And I don't even mean that in a 'I needed to git good', souls-adjacent, delayed gratification way. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is hard, but if you keep hitting the wall it'll crumble. You can still climb that mountain, and if you persist, you'll get where you were headed.

A Dragon's Dogma 2 party fights off again'st a griffin atop a grassy hill

(Image credit: Capcom)

Dragon's Dogma 2 isn't a mountain, it's the adventuring equivalent of Russian Roulette. Anything short of burning a Ferrystone has a non-zero chance of becoming a drawn-out nightmare. When I got on that oxcart, I wanted to get to the Checkpoint Rest Town, but a bullet was in the chamber when I squeezed the trigger—so instead, I was shot with 20 goblins, a cyclops, and a one-way ticket to nest town.

In the same way that, say, Genichiro Ashina forces you to learn Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice's combat system or quit, I think Battahl forces you to learn how to simply go limp in the jaws of the game when it clamps down on you. Dragon's Dogma 2 and its interruptions aren't tests of your skill or patience, they're testing your reflex to fight the current of a river when you're pushed into it.

This game really isn't for everyone. Heck, Battahl almost made me lose interest, so it's barely even for me. The zone itself also feels emblematic of the game's flaws. Quests feel thin, incomplete, or needlessly cruel (I have fully given up on being poisoned by a harpy for that one guy). The enemy density—even when you outscale it—feels downright noisy. But it's also pretty great once you stop caring and just let the river carry you where it may. 

The next time a griffin divebombs your oxcart or ski lift, the next time a cyclops punts you into a chasm with no clear exit, the next time you realise that the map lied to you and that there's actually no route to your destination, I want you repeat these words: "It is what it is". See if it works.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.