By AndrewB 2 Comments
So rather than clutter up my status box with a bazillion updates as I play, I figured I'd make a blog post that I'll update with short snippets as I make my journey through the game for the first time.
8/26First thing to note is that downloading, installing, and connecting all content to my Bioware account is the worst game install experience I've ever had by a long shot.
A 6GB + client that's basically a dump of the DVD, in a zip file that takes forever to decompress. An actual step-by-step setup process (okay, Steam has totally spoiled me, I know), followed by a cryptic activation system that actually failed on me for no discernible reason, resulting in an audible moment of anger from me as I thought I wouldn't be able to activate and use the game I just bought. Somehow, just editing and re-entering the key it had automatically entered from the initial install process pushed things through.
Then I have to manually download and install the one bit of DLC that came with it (The Black Emporium, which I thought was a pre-order bonus? Or is that their "new purchasers thing and Sebastian was the pre-order bonus?).
Then I try to start the game and am greeted with 4 separate failed disc check errors... every time I try to start up the game. A downloaded copy trying to check for the disc. Of course there's no disc!
My next stumbling block comes during character creation. Which Hawke do I pick? Lady Hawke rogue, of course! No, the hesitation comes in which save game to import. I have 4 characters who have at least completed the main Origins campaign. I didn't really like my first character and some of the decisions I made, but my favorite character happens to be the one where Alistair bit the bullet. That's ultimately the one I chose though. My female mage warden.
So far I'm only through to the first "boss battle," and illusions of my first playthrough being on hard difficulty have been shattered by the way I keep getting my ass handed to me immediately no matter what tactics I use. Infinitely spawning lesser enemies overwhelm me when I start coming close to beating the Ogre. I'll try one more time before dropping the difficulty down to normal.
And now I get through that fight by the skin of my teeth (and through some absurd enemy kiting tactics), only to be stumped by the next normal combat scenario. Turning it to normal makes the game absurdly easy, while hard is just frustrating. Needs an in-between.
After a couple of days of being cut off from the internet, I return! Though probably not with the best of news.
Before I really lay into the game, and tell you that I'm probably going to end this short-lived idea abruptly with probably some closing words on the games ending (which I've already seen anyway), let me at least get some praise in here, because there's a great idea beneath Dragon Age 2 that got buggered down by *something* rotten over at Bioware.
The best praise I can give to the game is about its characters. I'm not amazingly far into the game yet (thanks to the endless supply of mundane side quests, which were also in Origins), so I haven't spent a whole lot of time with most of the party members. Therefore, I'll speak mostly of two characters in particular.
I think Aveline is easily the most interesting side character. Funnily enough, she's a million times more interesting than the protagonist, Hawke. The death of her husband early on sort of reminds me of the stinging death of Jaheira's Khalid from Baldur's Gate 2. She even has the same kind of manly mannerisms as Jaheira. It sets and interesting tone for the character. You can sympathize with her, and you get to see her harden over the first year jump-cut as she joins the guard.
Then there's Anders. I hear he becomes a big dick later on, and yes, I already know the big plot twist associated with him. Still, it's a far cry from the character-less side companion from Awakening. I guess it's because he's another character you can sympathize with. He's also had to toughen up over the years and become more serious. Seems like a theme with Dragon Age 2.
I haven't spent too much time with her, but the character of Merill, but I'm sort of at odds with the whole innocent and polite thing. Another mirror of Baldur's Gate 2; the character of Aerie. I'm at odds because it's often pretty annoying, but I'm somewhat attracted to that endearing characteristic in people, so I found the early dialogue with her to be sort of cute.
I'm not looking forward to meeting Isabela. Didn't like her in Origins, certainly don't like the even more hyper-sexualized version of her that I've seen in footage of Dragon Age 2.
Now to the unavoidable stinging part, and why I intend to go silent until I've finished the game.
Dragon Age 2 is... bad. No, it's really bad. The important distinction to make here is that it's bad as a *game*, as in the actual playing it part. It's all about the combat.
Every side mission is another excuse to fight another small horde of random street thugs. At least in Origins, there was the blight, and the grand enemy of the mindless Orcs... errr, I mean Darkspawn. Sure they were cliche, but certainly better than the army of thugs that exist in Kirkwall, whose numbers could probably have wiped out the blight on their own if they were working together.
The real offense here, however, is this: simply stated, the combat in Dragon Age 2 is just... dumb. The way I put it is this: every fight, even on normal difficulty, is about endurance over tactics, as countless enemies spawn right before your eyes and you've no idea when it will end. Every combat sequence, I've literally shouted aloud "holy crap, this is stupid!" because I've spent everything I had taking out the first wave of enemies, only to have a second spawn right in behind my vulnerable mages without me noticing. It took me a few hours of desperation to decide that I could live with myself for playing on normal. Though as I said, even then, it's a far cry from the fun, tactical combat in Origins, because of the random spawn enemies and because there's no tactical view.
Ah yes, the tactical view. I knew that would be a stickler for me, but it really has diminished my fun. Besides the fact that Origins looked simply amazing from a graphical standpoint when in the overhead view (and often looked like ass when not), it also made keeping track of and controlling a party of 4 characters an option. Dragon Age 2 looks less like ass from a zoomed in perspective (also runs terribly at times without significant improvements, though), the lack of a tactical perspective exacerbates the aforementioned trouble of randomly spawning enemies. I often have no idea where my mages are because I'm a rogue, too busy running up behind people in the middle of the fray to see off into the distance. Having to constantly switch characters just to keep track of where they are on the battlefield is a bummer, especially when I know that the engine is certainly capable of pulling back just a little bit further. The other problem this creates is with area effect spells, where often I won't be able to line up properly on a target in the distance, or even a close-range group of enemies because of how the cursor locks onto targets when you mouse over one.
The game feels broken to me. Absolutely broken. Like one of those gems you see from a lesser known 3rd party talent that's trying their best, but just doesn't have the resources. Like something that a dedicated mod community takes control of and fixes up. But this fucking Bioware we're talking about here. Fucking Bioware. I feel so strongly about this as a misstep from the company that I've removed Bioware from my short list entitled "Game Development Umbrellas that are 'doing it right'" because either Bioware allowed themselves to be rushed so hard that they put out a bad title, or they just put out a bad title. Either way doesn't matter. The final product is the final product. I like to think I'd have the integrity to walk away from a company working for a publisher pushing so hard for a quick turnaround to make me push out an incomplete and substandard product.
And yes, the limited area of Kirwall, Kirkwall at night, and a few set-piece locations outside of Kirkwall do indeed allow for things to get boring real quickly.
I most certainly bought Dragon Age 2 knowing it was a flawed title, and I definitely feel like I bought it just so I could properly berate the next step in a series I had high hopes for, coming from a game I had so much fun with that it rivaled and perhaps exceeded my enjoyment with one of my favorite games of all time - the whole of the Baldur's Gate series (to pick one, Baldur's Gate 2). Well, I've berated it. Now that I have that out of my system, I'm going to continue the slow grind to finishing it and then moving on and never speaking of it again.
If you've been following me and my Dragon Age fanaticism here on Giant Bomb, I apologize for the crazy amounts of spam. It's a series I have a lot of passion for, representing the last of a dying (now dead) breed of role-playing games.
-Also, that disc check thing is totally just fucked DRM mumbo-jumbo, because I totally didn't get any errors when I was offline for 2 days. Go EA!