Why I love Dragon Age 2 so far.

So DA2 is out, and I thought I'd toss my two cents into this whirl pool of opinions. The game has a death grip on me, much stronger than Origins did. In fact around 20 hours into Origins, I got a little burnt out on it and it took me a few months to get back and finish it (Mass Effect 2's release probably had something to do with that also). If DA2 had to be described in one word it would be "Speed". The game moves fast, not just in combat, but with the story too. Quests and side-quests pop up left and right, and you can probably burn through a few in the same time it might have taken you to get through some of the bigger quests in DA:O. For me, this is a good thing because it allows me to focus on the parts of the game (and Bioware games in general) I like the most:  the characters.  

   I've heard a lot of people lament the lack of an epic world saving story line in DA2, and while I can understand that, I think the what we got instead is a much more personal and intriguing story. DA:O was often marketed as a mature modern bloody fantasy romp, but it was ultimately a very classic old school fantasy tale, that invoked the Lord of the Rings trilogy more than a little. There was a force of pure evil plaguing the land and a small band of adventures had to unite a fractured nation of divided races to rise up and fight it. It was great, but in the end it was the interactions with my party that I cared more about. I knew that the logical conclusion to the story would be the death of the ultimate evils leader and a united land. With DA2, we are thrown into a smaller area, but asked to deal with more complex internal issues. Ideas like ideology, racism and political control which were played with in DA:O are now the central themes of DA2. By focusing on Kirkwall and the surrounding area, I actually care more about the world they have put me in, which is more than I can say for any of the towns in DA:O. As long as they didn't screw with my base camp, they were free to ravage Denerim or whatever. When chaos breaks out in Kirkwall, I feel actual dread and the constant political machinations of the various factions and characters (including your own) help keep things fresh and exciting. In DA:O when things went rotten I would reload because I wanted my perfect playthrough. When things go bad in DA2, I let it ride because I want to see where the roller-coaster is going to take me next.  

   The biggest problem I've had (and many people are having) is the limited environments. I don't have a problem with Kirkwall or the surrounding area, it's logical that those would not change significantly over time and they are well crafted zones. It's the reuse of areas for sidequests and such that gets a bit annoying. The game suffers from the Mass Effect 1 problem of having only having a handful of basic environments for side missions. In ME1 it was container ship, container base and tunnels. In DA2 it's mines, mansion, and sewer area. On the plus side, side quests are fast and you can usually burn through them quickly, so you're not stuck in the environment for long. On the downside, side missions come so fast, that you will be visiting many of those places again soon. 
   Overall that's been only a minor problem for me compared to the pretty much amazing everything else I have enjoyed so far. I'm probably going to write a full review soon, as I'm getting done with my first playthrough. At this point I can say that this is not the Mass Effect fantasy game some people were dreading/hoping for. It's still Dragon Age, but it's seen some changes that I have greatly enjoyed so far, but totally understand why it will piss people off. Now back to my Hawke.