Alrighty… at some point during playing ME2, I decided I want to do this, so here goes…
First of all, a disclaimer: I finished DA:O before playing ME2, both on the same PC, and both on the default difficulty level.
Graphics I'll begin with the character themselves. Mass Effect hands down has better looking dudes and dudettes. The design in more interesting (of course, having them aliens helps because they have zero restrictions) and the faces look amazing. Except on the humans, which has the whole (link) uncanny valley thing going on. Maybe because of that, I was connecting much easier to the characters in Dragon Age.
Traversing the universe of ME2, you'll visit spaceships, colonies, harsh desert planets, lush jungle areas, box filled warehouses and so on. All look amazing with very high details and a very "alive" feeling. In Ferelden, you'll visit… well, Ferelden. Because the world of DA:O feels consistent, its locations don't differ much. You'll see some settlements, some mountains, and a shitload of trees. Sadly, having Denerim being a fairly large place costs by having less detail and effects. Having a numerous levels of the magi circle means you'll re-use some graphics and so on. Not that ME2 doesn't have huge places, but for some reason they felt smaller.
Dragon Age - 0, Mass Effect - 1
This category is actually just here to tell you that both games control awesome. The two games have completely different controls that are impossible to compare. One is an old school RPG control scheme with hotbars, character indicators and so on. The other is a modern day 3 person shooter. Both handle great, either shooting Geth in the face, or pausing to tell Alistair to slice that Darkspawn Emissary up. Dragon Age - 1, Mass Effect - 2
It’s no surprise what you are getting in terms of gameplay with these games. One is a 3rd person shooter with some running around and flying through the galaxy and shooting probes at planets to mine them. Oh, and hacking minigames.
The other is an old school RPG. You talk to a whole bunch to people, you explore caves and dungeons, you pick up loot and you pause the game a lot when in combat. Yes, you can do the combat in real time, but I think you only take away from the game when playing like that.
I'm giving this round to the age of dragons, because that mining stuff was boring and I enjoy pausing and giving orders to my crew.
Dragons - 2, Effects - 2
Don't worry, no spoilers here…
With DA:O, you get the framework of a classic, dark fantasy. But the interesting world bioware built, combined with well defined characters and interactions results in a great story that takes that framework and turns it into a deep game that really sucks you in.
With ME2, you get the framework of a classic, sci-fi action movie. But the interesting world bioware built, combined with well defined characters and interactions results in a great story that takes that framework and turns it into a deep game that really sucks you in.
I know. I did that on purpose. Both games use brilliant story and storytelling to keep you interested. Dragon Age tells the story of your character as it becomes a grey warden and its quest to stop the blight and off the archdemon. Mass Effect continues the story of your Shepard as he (or she) fight a new threat to humanity. Dragon Age's story is like a long fantasy novel. A long build up, with slow and deliberate advancing story. Mass Effect's story is more like.... Space Mountain. It's fast, it's exciting and it's flowing effortlessly.
This was a tough call for me, but (and remember this is a matter of taste...) I like books, so: Dragons aging – 3, Effectively Massive – 2
You get really good actors in both games, so hearing Alistair argue with Morrigan sounds really believable and balanced. The ambient sounds in the world are pretty good too, with battle-cries, fireballs exploding and drunk dwarves drinking ale. But if I hear "Enchantments" one more time…
Mass Effect really delivers in this area in my opinion. The dialog is delivered well, everything is beeping and booping as all sci-fi themes do, and a lot of little touches like the hiss in the way Volus speak or the sharpness in the way Salarians talk. Besides the character stuff, the world sounds right, even for a world I'll probably never see for myself, I know that the guns give out that metallic pings, biotic powers have that "whoosh" to them and so on. Origins - 3, 2 - 3
Bioware knows how to do dialog trees. Simple as that. The choices are there and the results aren't directly known. Dragon Age uses the classic "pick a line of dialog" way, while Mass Effect continues with its dialog wheel from ME1 that only gives the general direction of what Shepard is about to say, and not word for word stuff.
While both games do a great job in (usually) giving you all the choices you would want in a RPG conversation, Dragon Age's trees would feel a lot more like role playing while Mass Effect's ones felt "game-e". In more than one place, DA:O put me in a tough situation that can't possibly have a "good" result and left me to choose my path. When faced with these problems during play, I'd often stop and think what my character would say and what were his motivations to pick that option over the others. On the other hand, more often than not, ME2 would put me in a "tough" position, only to give me a "renegade" choice that would usually end in the "best" way.
When faced with that option, knowing that going a certain way in the tree will still feel RP while not having a negative effect, it's hard to turn away from it.
Dragon effect – 4, Mass Age – 3
The Nit Picking Stage
In ME2, you can do missions for specific party members to gain their loyalty, which flips some doohickey backstage but also unlocks that party members forth ability.
I played my Shepard as a "Get the job done" soldier, and most of these loyalty missions felt out of character to me, but knowing that I'll gain so much for it, I went and did it anyway. All of them. In Dragon Age, side missions and quests didn't feel like that, and they all felt negligible. And I really didn't do much of them.
In Dragon Age, the way relationships grow feels a little odd. Conversations and learning about a character advances it a bit, either for better or for worse, but giving gifts can make someone love you. So lets say the score stays the same...
While in DA:O, your character faces difficult decisions, which I made ,lived with, and think all the more highly of DA:O for them. But something happened in Mass Effect that I didn't see coming. Without noticing, my Shepard grew. Now, that's not a euphemism for something dirty. As I said before, I was role playing my Shepard as kind of a hard ass. Which in early stages of the game presented in having sex with Jack, and that felt very "in character". But as the game blazed on I felt more and more connected to my crew. I was going over to talk with Mordin because I wanted to learn more about him. I was visiting Thane to hear more about his past. I was actually enjoying talking to Tali, which resulted in a relationship with her, moments before going on that suicide mission. It all felt "canon" and nothing felt out of character. My Shepard has changed. The crew aboard the Normandy changed him. Now that's not something I've seen happen in a lot of games.Massive Dragons - 4, Age of Effect - 4
Yes. It's a god damn tie. To be honest, when I started this I thought I'll be giving it to DA:O because at heart, I'm an old school RPG player.
But what the hell do I know, right ?