I was quite skeptical about Bioware's new direction towards Dragon Age II. From the looks of the demo to numerous interviews, they overhull much of the combat, gameplay and dialogue to feel more like Mass Effect and less Dragon Age. I had written a blog regarding these new features; different art designs with the graphical interface to techtrees that resemble a web of sorts that you can pick your preferable skill type like in WoW. These new features are a mixed bag for me, before and now that the game is released. Unfortunately due to a fact of not preordering the game, I have to buy the regular edition alongside a numerous amount of free dlc that you get just for sigining up for their newsletter which its EA's part for spaming your email with tons of things that you probably won't give a shit about.
As I mention before, the graphics in this game compared to Origins is like what they did with Diablo III - it feels like they made it look like Borderlands especially looking at the environment and textures. In other words, I'm not that impressed about the new art assets that contribute to the design of this game, which is pretty disappointing considering that Origins had a gritty look to it as opposed to this game when you kill darkspawn, it looks like kool-aid splash on your weirdly-shaped face. The graphical design on characters also look weird, sometimes I encounter a freakishly looking NPC with eyeballs so huge or their face looks ugly - it might have been that they had consumed doses of lyrium but to not compare Origins again, I rather have those designs than this.
Anyways before I go off-topic, I chose a female warrior who specializes in tanking/dps which unfortunately was taken away by Aveline who also specializes in that trait. The customization seems totally different from Origins, it seems like they finally made a stride to make a default Sheppard from Mass Effect into Dragon Age, Marian or Garrett which I picked Marian because again Dave's law of picking females and also the British accent. And towards the end, I get to import my old Origins save into this game, picking carefully for my best ending save playing as a Arcane Warrior, Solona; Loghain redeems himself, Allistar and Anora rules Feredien, Bhelen becomes king, Anvil is destroyed, Elves are cured, Connor is rescued and mages finally get their own tower and so on.
Varric getting interrogated
Before getting into the story, the intro is a concept that now has been recently used - starting off in the present time and then having a flashbacks, it's often in movies too and I'm getting annoyed by it. It starts off with Varric getting interrogated by a Kirkwall soldier regarding the main character, Hawke's new rise to power as the champion of Kirkwall and then it flashes to a small gameplay tutorial where you get to fight hordes of darkspawn with Bethany. The combat is more button-mashy than before though in the tutorials that there's an assist button like Marvel vs Capcom which you can order Bethany to cast spells on the target. It at first felt like Lord of the Rings: Conquest for me, specifically when you activate your abilities like shield bash or pummel which sometimes charges the enemy rather bashing the shield like in Origins, again it's annoying to do that sort of thing, reminding me of how Conquest was terrible. The maneuvering is more loose than being fidgetly in Origins with the commands though I happen to encounter some fidgetly moments. After that a dragon appears and it then flashes back to Varric. These moments feel a mixture of Two Worlds with the awkward interrogation scene and the flashbacks in Call of Duty: Black Ops and I loathed that.
The story starts off just after the Warden goes off to save Feredlen by summoning dwarves, elves and Men of Redcliffe to fight the ongoing threat of darkspawn and the Archdemon and Hawke's family; Leandra, Bethany, Carver and me is trying escaping Lothering to Kirkwall, along their escape they encounter Ser Wesley, a templar and Aveline, a soldier which Wesley notices and reveals that Bethany is an apostate and then starts the Friendship and Rivalry feature which sadly isn't similar to Origins. Of which, even though one of your party members hates you or is a rival, they still respect you. After that, I suddenly get surrounded by darkspawn as one of the ogres kills Carver which I didn't much care for him but a dragon comes swooping down to rescue by, killing all the darkspawn and revealing that it's Flemeth. To which is a much more darker Flemeth than before, she has a much deeper voice and isn't a talkative witch of the wilds and ask me to deliver an amulet to some elf in Sundermount in the Free Marshes in exchange for riding us out towards the Free Marshes and Kirkwall.
When I reached Kirkwall to reach my uncle, I was stopped by the guards as they didn't allow me in the city due to Fereldens overpopulating the city and cannot accept more asking everyone to find another place to immigrate upon. After doing tasks to let me in Kirkwall, having the captain fetching my uncle after three days of waiting and realizing that this uncle is a idiot who threw our estate and fame away due to heavy debts and expenses and having to work under his contracts for years. To me, it was quite obvious that Bioware pull that sort of stunt, I saw it coming just when my mother wanted to see my uncle. After a year when Loghain redeemed himself by sacrificing himself for the final blow, Allistar and Anora ruling Ferelden and Solona became hero of Ferelden, I get contacted by a dwarf that can let me go to the Deep Roads in search of treasure but cannot allow me to go unless I have 50 sovereigns to give. We also get a brief glimpse of Knight-Commander Meredith and a thief that snatches my wallet and also encounters Varric, a dwarf who can find a way to go into the Deep Roads without paying.
Pretty much after that, I got back Aveline as a companion, guard of Kirkwall and did a number of side-missions that apparently isn't like Origins where you often get quests from the Chantry, Mages Guild to Blackstone Irregulars. It's rather getting quests from rumours, quest items and quest-givers and I love the fact that when you're at home, you can get receive quests as well as crafting. Speaking of your home though it is your uncle's home in Lowtown which in the slums, it's like a camp in Origins but the only thing missing is everything from equipping your companions from having a vendor, it's just bullshit. But I get to see Bodahn and Sandal from Origins again playing similar roles from Origins in Kirkwall and I must say, Sandal looks more freakly with those scary eyes staring at me. I played until I got Ferris, an elf as a companion and helped him out with dealing with a slaver trying to capture him and I liked him. Now I intend to do side-quests before going on to the main ones.
Without saying the art assets and graphics are terrible, I noticed that they added more artistic cutscenes than Origins having that art asset from Dante's Inferno and to be honest, I'm kinda impressed by it though it's not narrated by Duncan which I'm disappointed about and instead have Varric narrating. The environments are far more spread than in Origins, which of my dismay of my first impressions of this game of being generic and unimpressed even when I entered Kirkwall. As for the abilities' tree, it's rather loose than before, instead of having a linear path of skills that you don't need, it branches off to other skills like WoW and there are options to improve that skill. The crafting feature is much better, instead of having piles and piles of ingredients that horded up your inventory - its more encouraging exploration of finding these materials like elfroot than unclogging your inventory. They also decided to make the NPC vendors not the vendor and like what they did with Mass Effect 2, you can purchase/sell or craft/enchant your items on some object beside them and they are taking it so far for being similar.
The interaction wheel and dialogue from Mass Effect is a hit and miss for me - yeah there are icons resembling three options, good, suave or bad and a investigate option as well as having others give their opinion about the topic at hand but it also brings the awkwardness of delivering lines like in Mass Effect 2, ending with a line and pausing for a moment just kills the immersive world for me. The friendship and rivalry feature, I explained earlier is different compared to Origins, instead of receiving bonuses each time, beneficing your character upon high approval, you can build either a friendly to antagonistic relationship with your companions. I really love the fact that you could give gifts to your companions in Origins but they decided to make it so gifts actually prompts specific dialogues which I did not like.
The character interaction on the other hand, remains to be unseen - in Origins you could easily have a conversation with any of your character in your part, unfortunately in this game, they just deliver one lame line. I don't get why on earth would they remove the conversation feature to be less apparent in this game, and again like Mass Effect as well as other features from that game implemented lazy by the developers. Also the fact that in Origins, the writers delivers the funniest lines in the game with Morrigan teasing Alistair, Oghren being hella drunk to Shale's hate of birds popping him and also that every party member was actually funny even Loghain and Sten who are serious. In this game however, the new cast of party members (so far I recently got Ferris) sucks for being the most lamest and unfunny party members that I don't care about. Again I don't know why they decided to make a grimmer version of not having some comedic moments, the bantering with the party members are just boring to me talking about their past and moments where the dwarf, Varric is trying to be funny but Ferris redeemed some of the moments and not because he kinda sounds like Zervan and have cool lines on his skin.
Overall, its pretty much a mixed bag from the similarities of Mass Effect 2 to the new features of the techtree to dialogue wheel. It's not that I really hate the game, I hated and don't get why the developers made it similar and the tone and comedic value from Origins doesn't exist any trace of it in this game. I'm still going to play this game, but I'm bitterly playing it. And also the soundtrack borrows some tracks from Origins. And the fact that it crashed on me.
For more Dragon Age II Impressions
From the Bomb. First Impressions/Look - Dragon Age II