Dragon's Dogma is an action-driven role-playing game with an optional element of online sharing. It is played in an original but familiar fantasy setting, where the focus is on magic and melee combat. Players choose a class and customize their characters' appearance. The hero adventures with one or more computer-controlled party members, who can follow simple instructions and help in combat, and also ask questions and provide information. Battle mechanics incorporate a grapple feature, which allows characters to climb aboard giant monsters, in order to strike at vulnerable points.
Up to three computer-controlled party members can join the hero in action. One of these non-player characters may come from the player's game world, while the other two must be borrowed, online, from other players' games. The quest progression poses a variety of challenges, and so it is desirable to field a party of diverse skills and specialties, encouraging the player to level-up NPCs along with the main character. The game's open world allows players to find their own paths through the main storyline, while a central city, home to more than 200 NPCs, serves as a hub for quests.