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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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March 18th, 2011, 19:50
I really like the intense and political storylines of mages vs. templars and kirkwall vs. the qunari… those are excellent plot-lines and great settings for adventure. I don't think Hawke's personal story is all that good though, to be honest. So in the end I think the plot is a mixed-bag.

I do not agree about the city versus country… I find DA2 too confined. That might have a lot to do with the repeated areas though. If there were more places to go and later chapters had unique content I might not mind the one city thing as much.
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March 18th, 2011, 20:07
Originally Posted by DoctorNarrative View Post
I do not agree about the city versus country… I find DA2 too confined. That might have a lot to do with the repeated areas though. If there were more places to go and later chapters had unique content I might not mind the one city thing as much.
That's I think also a problem of the short development cycle I mentioned. This is IMO one of the core problems with the game. It was just a rush job. Granted, this rush job is still better than a lot of other games, but it remains a rush job.
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March 18th, 2011, 21:36
I've always considered Dragon Age as a game franchise just like say The Elder Scrolls. And I've always understood that Bioware wanted to tell different tales in this Thedas, this Dragon Age universe. And Bioware did choose to tell a story about a human that rose to power this time around; first they tell the legend, then they tell the real story.

And Roi Danton, how well do the framed narrative work as the focus for storytelling in the game? On the other hand if we we're to be really nitpicky (is that an English word?), we could argue that the game shouldn't even be called Dragon Age, since Blights happen in Ferelden only, it seems. Or perhaphs I have misunderstood something…

And finally what is wrong with people? (people in general I mean, present company not included) I clearly remember when Oblivion came out. People were saying that they really wanted a more political game in which they could become Emperor (or king or queen); they wanted to build allies throughout the world to combat the (ancient?) evil. Then Bioware delivers this (partly) in Dragon Age: Origins. People still complain.

People say they don't want a story about the big bad evil anymore. Bioware delivers. Apparently with a rather gripping, touching and personal story about losses, mourning
and the strugge to regain lost status. People still complain.

Not about the story, though, but about the flaws and bugs in the game. However, it is important to remember: bugs can be fixed, bad design decisions are forever,. And of course, EA wanted to get it out the door as quickly as possible. So Bioware id what they do best. Concentrated on telling the tale of a poor human and his or her rising to glory, status and legend in the city of Kirkwall.

Frankly, Roi, after your review, I can't wait to play Dragon Age 2…in a couple of months or two as I don't have time to do it right now…

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March 18th, 2011, 23:57
Originally Posted by Roi Danton View Post
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.
Inspect DA:O´s main story in detail and you´ll notice majority of it was not about "an unstoppable invasion", but about dealing with different factions, contained a lot more politics, more fleshed out lore and characters than DA2, plus not all conflicts were black/white either.
Originally Posted by Roi Danton View Post
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.
My comment from above applies here as well, I´d only add that since I thought DA:O´s "social aspects" belonged to the game´s highlights I considered a sequel more focused on these to be a good idea.
But instead of more non-combat quests and elaborated intrigues we got a bunch of linear quests filled with rehashed areas, waving enemies and dialogue choices which ultimately lead to the same result.
There´s nothing comparable to events around Landsmeet from the first game, for example.

Originally Posted by aries100 View Post
And Bioware did choose to tell a story about a human that rose to power this time around; first they tell the legend, then they tell the real story.
Similarly in this case - putting major focus on "a human that rose to power" is an interesting concept, but in the actual game you really don´t have much choice to influence how your character does it.
For the majority of the game you´re just doing all these combat heavy side quests, then deal with one major threat and you´re champion.
Afterwards there was a good opportunity to finally bring faction relations to more fruition but the game doesn´t bother. For example in my playthrough I was supporting mages whenever I could, but I still had to do quests for templars in act 3 no matter what. Not to mention the ending, eh.
And you have also almost no influence on your family´s fate either.

I know there wasn´t much of branching in DA:O, but the concept of DA2 really, really asks for more of it to be implemented.
As it stands, as a part of the main story your personal story will be very similar in each playthrough and most of possible differences will be only related to the companions (even though I don´t like some related design decisions, I think that companion element is overall implemented quite well in DA2 and unlike most of other aspects doesn´t seem to suffer from rushjobitis).
Thanks to origin stories and different perspectives they offered on some later game segments DA:O´s story felt more personal to me.

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Last edited by DeepO; March 19th, 2011 at 00:59.
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March 19th, 2011, 00:27
Originally Posted by DeepO View Post

For the majority of the game you´re just doing all these combat heavy side quests, then deal with one major threat and you´re champion.
Mmm so that during chapter 2 so many people tell my how good I am and all the good I brought to the town, but this is fake and this will be the same if I do all the opposite choices than those I did?

I didn't want spoil myself too much so only gave a quick look about some thread about how fake was players decisions in DA2, but well I seriously doubt that. I won't be able argue about that before a long time because I'll replay at least once the game and after I'll finally finished it once. Only then I'll allowing me dig in deep the official guide and the wiki too. But one example when illegal mages I rescued explain me later that it's nice I have let them flee but there wasn't enough delay and then they have been captured, I doubt a lot that would have been the same dialog if I have done a different choice.
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March 19th, 2011, 00:31
Roi:

Hawke can be a spirit healer, so I had no issues with healing. It's quite clear that Bioware wants you to take Anders around whenever you can, for the story sake, so it's really no surprise that Anders is the only healer.

Story was great, I agree with you. But I don't think any of them really involved Hawke. It just felt like Hawke happened to be there to witness/get involved with all incidents in Kirkwall. Especially because of friends she chose to hang around. None of the main events really involves Hawke. Isabela was the one responsible for Qunari landing in Kirkwall, Anders is the one who really starts war between Chantry and Mages. Hawke is not main driving force for the events, nor does he/she has real influence with your companions. For example, you can't stop Anders blowing up Chantry, and you can't really stop Merrill trying to fix up Eluvian.

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March 19th, 2011, 00:41
hawkes healing as a spirit healer is even more powerful than anders specific abilities though they are quite similar. spirit healer even has ability that prevents all party members from injuries which i could imagine playing on hardcore might be essential. also the moment you specialize in spirit healing hawke becomes immune to injuries.

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March 19th, 2011, 05:39
My biggest gripe so far, aside from the fact it is combat heavy and rpg lite, is that my most hated area of DA:O, the Deep Roads makes a return and there I am again fighting wave after wave every few steps. I went up 3 levels in the Deep Roads area, from 9-12!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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March 19th, 2011, 08:26
just wait until the waves and waves of sten
seriously why the hell did bioware turn Sten into a common noun qunari name?

and come on i think you surfacers have to much sodding hate
for the home of the ancestors. i guess folks just get withdrawls from not hearing the chant of light and how the maker moves in mysterious ways as common as the clockwork of hourly church bells.

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March 19th, 2011, 08:31
skirted through another protracted battle with massive micromanagement, pausing, depleting nearly all potions and barely eeking out the battle with a high dragon…and his/her countless minions. highly satisfying though to come out on top. in regards to game length i think playing on hard alone not counting reloads adds a good 20% to total game time due to some of the battles taking well over 1/2 and hour which even the battle against the archedemon didn't take as long in orgins on hard level.

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March 19th, 2011, 14:14
The problem with Hawke and Anders being the only healers is that the game offers you the choice (sort of) to play as a pro-templar mage hater. I would actually say the only differences in the game are pro-templar or pro-mage, every other decision is superfluous.

So, if you want to play a warrior who hates mages what are your healing options? If there were a mage that was pro-chantry and from the circle, like Wynne in DAO, then you could use that person. Since the only healer is Anders though, who is a radical terrorist for the mages against the chantry, you pretty much will get no healing if you choose the templar route. Certainly if Hawke were an apostate mage (the only way to be a mage) then he/she would not be pro-templar.

So that's a bummer.

Of course if you were pro-chantry you should turn your sister in when you reach Kirkwall and turn Anders in when he starts talking but you can't do either of those things. The game railroads you so bad.
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March 19th, 2011, 14:21
And Roi Danton, how well do the framed narrative work as the focus for storytelling in the game? On the other hand if we we're to be really nitpicky (is that an English word?), we could argue that the game shouldn't even be called Dragon Age, since Blights happen in Ferelden only, it seems. Or perhaphs I have misunderstood something…
You misunderstood something. A Blight can happen anywhere. The last one was in Ferelden, most of them happened closer to the Tevinter Imperium and the Anderfels. Each "country" have Grey Wardens, although the group don't have political affiliation.

Also, the game is called Dragon Age, because it start around 9:30 Dragon (Origins start date/Escape from Lothering) and end 9:40 Dragon (Varric's retelling). It happen in the Dragon Age.

Originally Posted by curious View Post
just wait until the waves and waves of sten
seriously why the hell did bioware turn Sten into a common noun qunari name?
You skipped the dialogs with the Arishok, otherwise you'll understand that Qunari don't have name, they have a "job title". Sten is a job and I'm pretty sure Sten in DA:O tell you as much when you meet him. Actually, that's something I find really funny, shows how much people who played DA:O didn't bother with the lore.

And there isn't waves after waves of Sten. They lead group of Qunari.
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March 19th, 2011, 14:43
Originally Posted by azarhal View Post
Sten is a job and I'm pretty sure Sten in DA:O tell you as much when you meet him.
No.
You can obtain this information only via Sten´s Fade nightmare or via Sten´s banter with Zevran so it can be missed very easily.

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Last edited by DeepO; March 19th, 2011 at 15:03.
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March 19th, 2011, 15:29
There's no need to have a healer unlike in DAO, it's probably a bit harder but won't change much if you don't use the Healer specialization. In DAO attempt doing that was involving a huge use of potions, not in DA2. To compensate collect items increasing health regeneration and an option that is often possible is when a member is low on health make him retreat from the fight a bit to let health regen and/or time to use a potion.

EDIT: And don't skip increasing of the cons attribute.

EDIT2: Merrill is a nice example of a character working well with no healer. Her armor special bonus give them +20 to health regen and +42 health (and a rune slot), with her blood mage capacity she can be a very healthy companion not needing a Healer.
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March 19th, 2011, 15:51
Originally Posted by Corwin View Post
My biggest gripe so far, aside from the fact it is combat heavy and rpg lite, is that my most hated area of DA:O, the Deep Roads makes a return and there I am again fighting wave after wave every few steps. I went up 3 levels in the Deep Roads area, from 9-12!!
No worry it happens in DA2, the level up is quite slower and in fact mainly guided by quests rewards, codex and crafting resources found. So you won't have the problem in DA2.

But I suppose your concern isn't really the fast level up so yes DA2 is fight heavy, with much more diversity than in DAO, but fights heavy. There's sometime large part without fights but that's not the general mood. With much more puzzling and exploration that doesn't rely too much on using the "show selectable item key" that would have work better, as it is it's often fights heavy. I like that but clearly it's not something all players will enjoy.
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