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Default My DA2 review…sort of

March 18th, 2011, 18:26
So, i just finished Dragon Age 2. Yay me!
And since I now have the wisdom of one playthrough of this sometimes a bit controversial game I thought I’ll share my thoughts with the Internet. And what better place than this forum? So here we go:

Small waring: There may be some spoilers ahead.

At first I’d like to state that this is not an objective, well researched and comprehensive review of the game. I might get facts wrong. I don’t care. This is just what I think is noteworthy and interesting about Dragon Age 2, both positive and negative parts that I like to point at.

Introduction
I’ve been a great fan of Bioware RPGs of the past because they were story driven games. From the very beginning all Bioware games focused on story more than on exploration or free choice or something like that. Everyone who played one of their games in the last decade (e.g. KOTOR, Mass Effect and yes, even the Baldurs Gate Saga should have noticed that). So it would be wrong to start DA2 and assume it’s suddenly become something different. And so we shall discuss this aspect of the game first.

Story
The Story of Dragon Age 2 is very different that that of Origins. It’s not about an unstoppable invasion or the something that threatens to eradicate every living being in every dimension. It’s about a refugee that rises to prominence in the city of Kirkwall and at the same time it is about the struggle between the Mages and Templars (and some other groups) for power. And also important is the fact that the story spreads over multiple years instead of only a few months like usual. It is a lot more about personal decisions, consequences and struggles than about defeating the enemy at the gates.
And I like it. Dear god I like it. The story is the best part about the game. I liked it the moment I realised that there is no big foe at the horizon. I liked it even more once I realised that every party in the game had arguments. Good arguments. That there is no real right or wrong. That every party involved has good intentions and reasons for them. That you just can’t do THE right thing. This is just perfect. Except for the stupid cliffhanger ending of course.

Combat
What is not so perfect on the other hand are other parts of the game. The combat for instance. Ever since the release of the demo everyone was going on about how the combat speed was way too fast and only playable if your a dumbed down, heretic console player. Yet, I don’t fully agree. The combat speed is a bit too fast for my personal liking but on the other hand it isn’t too fast. No, the biggest problem is the mind-boggling decision to limit the zoom. This is just stupid. Please, Bioware choose one: (A) No real party (like KOTOR). In that case you can leave the zoom. Or (B) a full party and a full zoom. I’ve never had to play a party based game like that without any zoom option. That’s just pathetic and annyoing.
On the other hand the companion AI seems to be better than in DA:O, the tactics system still works and I used the pause button far more often than in the first game (most likely due to the speed and the stupid zoom limit). And I don’t think that the combat is any less tactical than in DA:O.
The quests themselves are nicely done but there is nothing very spectacular. Except for a few “I found the skeleton you misplaced a while ago” most do tie in with the main story line in one way or another.

Companions
And when we’re just takling about parties: The various companions aren’t really remarkable (except for the fact that Merill is just adorable). But they are solid, deliver good banter (Merril/Anders, Merill/Fenris, Avelin/Anders, etc) and their stories are good. There is a friendship/rivalry system in place that is similar to that in KOTOR or DA:O.
Irritating as hell though is the fact that only Anders can do healing magic. I have no idea what reasoning behind that decision could be (I do assume that the Hero can heal too, didn’t check though).

Graphic and Art Direction
A few sentences on that topic. The art direction is different than in DA:O but since art is very much a matter of personal taste I won’t comment any further than say: I like it.
The graphics as such are quite nice (even without the High-Res Texture pack and with the DX9 renderer).With DX11 and all options on the game looks very fine indeed. And perhaps I’ll be able to play it with all options on. As soon as Bioware and nVidia have addressed the DX11 issues that is. Perhaps I’ll try in a few months or so.

Crafting
There is crafting.
.
.
What? Oh, yeah…there are resources , you can make potions and runes and poisons…did I mention that I don’t really like crafting no matter the system or game? So, sorry. Can’t tell you more.

Conclusion
I think I have mentioned all the important parts of the game. What I like to do address now are my two main problems with the game. One is the lack of polish. The whole game feels like it is finished but not polished.Take for example the technical problems with the DX11 renderer or the auto attack problem on consoles. Or the fact that small details seem to be missing. The party selection screen for example: In the first Dragon Age there were small animations when you selected or deselected a character. This time: Nothing. This is of course not vital to the game itself but small details like that can be found all throughout the game. Or the story: It ends abruptly. There could have been at least some sort of epilogue (especially since there is a prologue). I personally think that someone wanted the sequel out as soon as possible. A few months or a year of additional development time would have done wonders. This assumption is supported by an interview IGN has done with Inon Zur, the score composer of Dragon Age 2. He says that “EA really wanted to capitalize on the success of Origins, so the game was really being pushed hard to be released now.”. [Source] Oh, and the game is shorter than part one: I did nearly all quests and the game took my around 30 hours compared to 60 in Origins.
The second problem I have with the game is marketing: Had EA and Bioware advertised the game as a spin-off instead of a fully fledged sequel a lot of early criticism and maybe disappointment could have been avoided. If you have your first game fighting the epic battle against the monster invasion it is just a bit stupid to have a sequel that centers around the social problems of a city.

So, and what do I think you ask?
Well, I liked the game. I liked it better than Dragon Age: Origins. And the reason is the story and the setting. I fnd the problems of the Templars and Mages, the Qunnari and the Vicount far more interesting than generic zombie invasion No. 3789.
I found the narrower focus on one city far more appealing than the country wide focus of origins. And I found the years long story arc better than the six month campaign in Origins. On the other hand I dislike the the new no zoom combat system, the lack of polish and the cliffhanger ending.
But in the end I’m far more likely to play DA2 a second time than the first game.


EDIT: I just realized that I hadn't commented on not being able to change armor and stuff on the heroes companies. The reason being that I just repressed that stupidity. And that's it.
Last edited by Roi Danton; March 18th, 2011 at 19:03.
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