I think the last point calls up the single most saddening trend in games(not RPGs specifically, but more or less); the fact that you don't have that freedom to engage with any character in any way. I remember in Morrowind when you(if you felt so inclined) killed that first Blades agent in Balmora, a prompt came up informing the player that the main storyline was now unable to be finished. The game continued, though.
I guess the Fallout games were always the best about allowing player freedom and recognizing the consequences of that(people actually noting that you had slaughtered everyone in Junktown was a nice touch; yes, I'm a bad mutha).
I understand the departure from all that, though. It was certainly a strange design-choice to make all this content and allow the player to completely prohibit themselves from ever seeing it. I feel like it makes decisions matter less, when you know you can't ever royally screw yourself over in games anymore.
I just think this is some sort of test to if it does anything for their ratings, though obviously the rush development cycle had something to do with many design choices I'm sure. I would be much farther into DA2 right now...but I am trying to play on PS3 and I keep getting load issues and game lock ups to even make much progress (still in first chapter or whatever...trying to get to deep roads).
I liked the France joke. Sorry, I meant Orlais. My history teacher always made fun of the French.
I dunno, whereas Dragon Age Origins was definitley a throwback to BG 2 in regards to structure and mechanics, DA2 is a bit of a different beast. The Mass Effect influence is obviously part of it, as are some of the more evident streamlining decisions (The only section where I will willfully say "dumbed down" is in your companion's armor. Is it really so hard for joe consumer to figure out how to outfit everyone else? The dev excuse about party member personalities falls flat as well. Indeed, the problems that Dragon Age 2 has have nothing to do with the actual combat mechanics or the conversation wheel).
The comparison to BG 2 is still valid though, especially with the scenario of act 1 being straight out of BG 2 (although, perhaps not as classily executed) and the focus on tactical combat. While Dragon Age doesn't actually get challenging unless you're playing on hard, I can remember BG 2 being a serious challenge for my 14-15 year old self (which makes me want to seriously replay it now, since I finished the first game in august and I've messed with some of the other Infinity Engine games). Mages are hella annoying in both, but Dragon Age follows the much more MMOish combat structure of Tank-DPS-Support. Is it better than the muddle of weird rules and quirks that is 2nd Edition AD&D? Maybe? I'm not all the way in the camp of people who hate 4th edition because it turned D&D into World of Warcraft, but I'm certainly leaning in that direction.
I see Baldur's Gate as the middle road between the purely hack-n'-slash affair of Icewind Dale (which reminds me I have to get back to IW2 at some point) and the "Pretty much a string of dialog trees with some bad combat in-between" found in Planescape's desperately-trying-not-to-be-a-standard-RPG RPG. It's this happy medium that has helped it earn its place as the best of the games running on that technology. I'll certainly vouch for it, and now that I ruined KotOR for myself (and am re-ruining KotOR2 for myself) I'd call it Bioware's best game. Dragon Age 2 is not the spawn of satan, and it's far better than Jade Empire (which somehow has a 92 on metacritic despite being a Bioware-ass Bioware game and absolutley terrible combat), but it's still their weakest game in a while for reasons that have already been discussed ad nauseum. So I'll stop now.
Another entry in this ongoing waste of everyone's time (I mean, "blog series") where I compare games of old and new for significant differences in game design trends and its evolution. This week's plus one swords of scrutiny are Bioware's Dragon Age II and, uh, Bioware's Baldur's Gate II. Like those Final Fantasies I did a while back, using two similar games made by the same developer is a handy way of avoiding the "yo, this game totally ripped off this other game" undercurrent that sometimes pervades these comparisons. It's completely okay if a game series rips off itself. Borrows. Pfft, semantics.
Oh right, the comparisons. Here we go (protip: there may be mild SPOILERS):