By giyanks22 7 Comments
Well after not really posting for a while, I've been gaming quite a bit, so here is my Dragon Age 2 written review.
Hope you guys enjoy it. Please leave feedback, whether or not you disagree with what I say.
Dragon Age 2
Being someone who is a huge-huge, Bioware fan, and a huge huge fan of Dragon Age: Origins, I came into Dragon Age 2 with extremely high expectations, that were, for the most part, throughly met, but left me asking a few questions about certain technical decisions.
To begin with, Dragon Age 2 feels a lot different than DA: O, possibly because I played Origins on the PC and DA 2 on the 360, but there is something about the game that makes DA 2 feel more polished and well refined, and more confident about how it works. This game feels a lot like KOTOR 2, which is odd considering Bioware didn't make KOTOR 2, but it has this sense of you being a hero fleeing from a massive disaster, and you don't really know everything that your party members know or think about you, which moves us into the story.
The tale told by DA 2, is much different than the one in DA:O. At the outsets, the whole world isn't at stake in this game, and at first the only thing at stake is your character, Hawke, and his family. The story is told from the perspective of Varrick, one of your companions who's being interrogated (nothing like Black Ops interrogation) by an unknown group. His tale begins when Hawke and his family are fleeing Fereldan from the Blight (The middle of DA: O), and decide to go to Kirkwall, a City-State in the Free Marches, far away enough from the Blight for them to be safe. Hawke's mother assumes that they have wealth and status in the city, but upon arrival they find that their Uncle has squandered away all of his wealth. Hawke and his sister/brother (depending on your choice for male/female) have to work off the debt for one year, just so they can live in a crappy slum, and the story spirals into something much more profound and deeper. Clearly this is a much more personal story, because your actions don't affect the world around you quite as much as DA: O, and instead they affect your family and your party members. This means that you really need to feel invested in the characters and most importantly your character, which I feel the Bioware nailed.
The characters are much more interesting and engaging in DA 2 than DA: O. I found Alastir in DA: O to be interesting, but extremely dull to listen to. Yet in this game, Varrick, a dwarf who initially cares only about himself, but slowly comes to care for Hawke, and won't leave his side; Isabella, a super hot, super busty, pirate, who extremely self-centered, and (depending on your choices) may still be so at the end, has hilarious lines, especially when you're just randomly walking around town; and Merril, a confused, naive, and innocent elven outcast, who is extremely interesting and twisted, and kind of reminds me of a female Mortin Solas from Mass Effect 2; are the 3 best characters, with Merril being the best. The story turns into something much more, and without giving too much away, in the end, the choices you have to make truly change the makeup of the world around you. The story ends with a very puzzling ending, that although is Cliff-Hangerish, it is kind of bizzare and not really well explained. Hopefully there will be a sequel after this to better explain it.
The choices are the next big thing I want to address. In DA: O the choices were very Black and White, "should I kill him or should I not, should I do it the easy way (Evil) or do it the hard way (good). Should I accept him into my party or should I not." In DA 2, the choices fall much more into the gray, which Bioware makes easier by marking each choice with a symbol based upon the tone of the action or line of dialogue. These choices many times have unintended consequences, which I thought was an excellent "choice" on Bioware's part, because that is how a real choice works. For instance, you may think by telling your sibling not to come with you to the Deep Roads, you're saving her, however when you get back you find that she's been taken away, instantly making you wonder if you should've taken her with you, despite the apparent risk. Also since the choices are more personal, and it allows you to truly shape your character, which was something I feel Bioware missed in Mass Effect and DA: O, but had in KOTOR. In Mass Effect 1 & 2, and DA:O, you know that your characters are going to save the world and become heroes, but the choices are more about how you go about doing it. In DA 2, like KOTOR, the choices truly affect the outcome and the ending on a huge level, and you really get to shape your character's personality, which adds to the overall story.
Gameplay is next on the list, and the biggest difference is combat, especially on the Consoles. In DA: O combat was tedious (especially on the PC), and awkward (especially on the consoles). It was seen [by me] as something I just had to do to advance the story. In DA 2, the combat is actually something that I look forward to, partially because it is much easier, and partially because It is a fun part of the game that just feels good to play,. Many have criticized this by saying that it takes away RPG elements, but so did Mass Effect 2, and how many GOTY awards did it win? Having combat that is fun to play, and doesn't require you to sacrifice story elements, is never a bad thing for any game. I will say though, that towards the end, the combat does feel a bit repetitive, but fun nonetheless. Additionally the dummed down the leveling up system, which has its merits, but I can see why people dislike it, however it doesn't detract from the overall quality of the experience. Another thing that many have criticized about the gameplay, is that it takes place in just one city, which makes it repetitive and unoriginal. However; I would say that it makes the environment more personal and important to you, because by the end of the game you are saying "NO ONE MESSES WITH MY CITY" when you need to defend it.
Technically the game is ok, but this is where it is at its weakest. You will unfortunately spend a lot of time at the loading screen, and I had to install the game onto my 360, to lessen the load times, which it does dramatically. The visuals are good conceptually and style wise, but they don't look that great when executed. Textures pop in and out, and look dull and reused. There are tons of anti-asling and issues especially during cutscenes. I will say however that the combat is much more colorful than in DA: 2, which makes it feel that much more awesome. The soundtrack is much improved over the first game's, which I thought was like a lulla-bye trying to put me asleep. The sound design is also solid, and I had no issues there. The voice acting, like any BioWare game, is absolutely flawless, the performances feel real, not over acted.
At the end of the day Dragon Age 2 is a really superb package that RPG fans will greatly enjoy. It is a much different game than its predacessor, however it is not flawless technically, and sometimes it's terrible visually. The story is excellent [albeit with a weird ending], the characters interesting, the choices difficult, and the combat is fun. I would recommend it to any RPG fans, and even to people looking for a good action game with an interesting LOTR-like tale.