When Capcom revealed Dragon’s Dogma at its Captivate event in April, the game’s development team teased about how the game would have an online component, but that it wasn’t a traditional approach. Today at Gamescom, they elaborated on what exactly they meant. And you know what? They were absolutely right.

To refresh your memory, Dragon’s Dogma is Capcom’s attempt at creating an action-based, open-world RPG. In the game, the player character is accompanied by three other AI-controlled allies, known as pawns. They work with the player, calling out strategies, providing buffs and heals, and generally offering invaluable assistance on the battlefield.

As it turns out, those pawns aren’t as simple as they may have seemed. According to the game’s lore, pawns never age or die. That’s a convenient way to explain how they can be revived after a battle, but it also ties in nicely to the game’s online functionality.

At the beginning of the game, players are assigned a pawn who will accompany the player for the duration of the game. That character, like the main character, can be customized in both the way he or she looks to what kind of role they will take in fights. A magic user might want to team up with a fighter, for instance, since casting spells takes time and leaves the caster vulnerable. The other two pawns can be recruited from a place called the Rift.

Players enter the Rift, which looks like a foggy, black expanse of nothingness. Pawns mill around, looking to be recruited. Players bring them back to the physical plane, where they fight alongside each other. Here’s the interesting bit: Players can send their companion pawn into the Rift, where players online can recruit them. Those pawns you see in the Rift? They actually belong to other people. As your pawn goes through adventures, they retain currency and experiences. When you synch your pawn back into your game, those memories can help you.

For example, your pawn may join a player during a boss battle that you haven’t yet encountered. When she rejoins you and you eventually find the same creature, she’ll offer you tips on how to defeat it. Likewise, she might point you toward points of interest that she saw on her own that you might not otherwise discover.

Capcom says that the game was designed to be a single-player adventure, first and foremost. That clearly didn’t prevent the developers from experimenting with online support. If it manages to deliver what they outlined in today’s presentation, I can’t wait to send my pawn into the Rift. I kind of like the idea that my pawn could be having amazing adventures while I’m sleeping. The fact that I’d benefit from them is even better.