Dragon Age 2 Review
Dragon Age is back with another gargantuan experience that sets the bar ever so higher as to how stories in games should be told. Though the game doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor’s hype, BioWare still managed to bring another fun-filled, epic experience to our hands!
The few things that make sense in Dragon Age 2 is that people are bad, darkspawn must die, and dragons are a pain in the you know what! Dragon Age 2 could have been the best game in the series save for a few problems here and there. Good news first is that the gameplay, user interfaces, and conversation system have all been modified to the point where the game is much more functional and fun than ever before.
The bad news is that you rarely ever see Darkspawn, who were the big bad guys from Origins, and content you’ve seen before will be literally be copied and pasted into a new area. In the end, it felt like an unfinished game. Almost as if Bioware was all jittery with joy to put the game out there once they had the story aspect established, because it is truly phenomenal.
Jumping right on in to things, story is the big star of the show once again this time around. Players will feel like they have indefinite control over how things shape out thanks to the new conversation system. You will be left with some tough, tough choices to make, and very early on to. If you want the mages to rise up and rebel against the Templars, you can make that happen if you befriend them well enough! Before you know it, the entire city of Kirkwall will be plunged into chaos. It is a wonder how BioWare was able to squeeze in some many different story arcs into the game through just simple conversation. Words are often a very deadly weapon in Dragon Age 2, often more subtle than your own personal weapon.
Dragon Age 2 tells the story of Hawke this time around, ditching the friends we’ve made in Origins. Hawke has fled the nation of Ferelden thanks to the blight destroying his home. He and hs family traveled across the Waking Sea to the Free Marches and the city of Kirkwall as a refugees. The game focuses in on Hawke’s rise to power and is presented through flashbacks by one of Hawke’s old companions, Varric, who relates the story to a woman named Cassandra Pentaghast of the Chantry. I can’t really tell you what she is after, else I’d spoil the ending for you!
You’re beset by many challenges along the way; depending on the path you take, you’ll be faced with a rebelling Kunari army, the might of the Templar order, or even an uprising of mages! Within the span of a decade, you would rise in power and influence to become the legendary ”Champion of Kirkwall.” Basically, you become the representative of the people living Kirkwall. No pressure right? You could rise up to be the hero, or you could choose to be the biggest jerk Kirkwall’s ever seen!
As like in Origins, there are a wide range of companion characters that will accompany you throughout your travels in Dragon Age 2. There is Aveline, a former Fereldan soldier who joins the Kirkwall City Guard, Varric , a crossbow wielding dwarf with an act for storytelling, Fenris, a former elf slave, Merrill a Dalish elf despised by her clan for practicing blood magic, Isabela, a pirate captain stranded in Kirkwall after her ship crashed, and Anders, a former Grey Warden. Your friendship or rivalry with each of these characters will vary depending on your decisions made in quests, or whether or not you help them out in their own special companion quests..
Another neat factor that I very much enjoyed in Dragon Age 2 was the emphasis placed on side quests. Each side quest you come across is unique unto itself and may lead you down an entirely separate story. None of the side quests are “boring” either. Some may send you off on a murder trail, others may as you to break into the Chantry itself to break out innocent mages. Side quests are very enticing and thrill to do, which is something that not many RPGs are popular for.
By the end of the story though, you’ll be right in the same area you started off in. The game kicks off in Kirkwall and ends in Kirkwall. You never leave, less you count the few areas that are outside of the city. Most RPGs I’ve played in the past are about an epic adventure across a massive world. Even in Origins, there was a fairly large world for you to explore right at your finger tips. And if you thought areas in Origins were too small or linear, areas in Dragon Age 2 are 10 times worse! They’re very small and very straightforward. Few places have separate paths to venture off on. To only make matters worse, 90% of the dungeons in the game are copied and pasted content. It doesn’t matter where the dungeon is located, all dungeons will look exactly as others look elsewhere. I grew very tired of looking at the same thing over and over. If you’re looking for a big, open, and diverse world, you will be very disappointed by what Dragon Age 2 has to offer.
On the upside however, the graphics in the game are stunning to say the least. But since you are looking at essentially the same thing throughout the entire game, environments begin to become somewhat of an eyesore. Also, if you’re playing this game on a console, the game is plagued with low-resolution textures on both weapons and costumes. PC is where it shines. Another thing to add is that many cut scenes are either very laggy or blurry. I sometimes missed the dialogue or the action of a cut scene thanks to these drawbacks. Nothing that a simple patch could fix though.
Combat is once again a complete joyride to experience in Dragon Age 2. What makes it so great is its versatility. You can just as easily play it like an action type of game, just mashing away at buttons on lower difficulty levels. If you want to get tactical, you can beef up the difficulty, pause the game, and issue commands to your team. This is a lot easier on the computer with a keyboard and mouse vs consoles due to inexact movements with the analog sticks.
Your companions are a lot smarter than in Origins, though they still do suffer from some minor drawbacks. Unless you set up specific instructions in individual characters’ tactics menus, they won’t do certain actions like taking a healing potion. If you’re not careful, your entire team may die in just moments when up against a dangerous foe. So make sure you switch around among your characters to apply health potions when they’re needed. The one thing you won’t have to worry about this time around is your companions armour. Each character is given a single armour set that is automatically upgraded as they level up. Now you don;t have to worry about equally dispersing your loot so that all of your characters are up to par with armour. This may be disappointing to some, but I was a fan of the change. I’m selfish with my loot!
The game is once again backed by another great musical soundtrack and some pretty impressive sound effects. The real highlight here is the voice acting. I was particularly fond of Varric’s. One of the best things of the game was stopping and listening to what your buddies had to say. The background chatter between party members is often humorous and in other times, heartwarming. It only further enhances their personalities. Some of their comments may even have some useful tips to a specific situation. For example, Anders might be able to tell if someone is possessed by looking into the Fade. Other nice touches in the companion chatter is Varric’s spin-off of Gimili from The Lord of the Rings. If you ever seen the movies, Gimili and Legolas will often shout out to each other concerning how many orcs they’ve killed. Hawke and Varric will engage in the same friendly competition as well throughout the game.
All in all, Dragon Age 2 was a very fun game. The story, though not as expansive as in Origins, a phenomenal adventure none the less. Combat took a significant leap forwards; to the point where you can play the game a complete opposite way than the way it was intended to be, offering much more freedom to how you like to play an RPG. The conversation system also took a big step forward. They’re more intricate then ever before! The game isn’t without its downsides though. An awfully small world and repetitive environments pay a heavy toll on what could have been a great role-playing game. Complaints aside, this is must buy for any RPG fan!