dragon age 2 review

12Mar11

I was excited to play this game, honest. I never delved into Awakening because of poor peer reviews, so I basically went an entire year without my Dragon Age fix. This past Tuesday, I ended the streak by bringing my sword swinging heroine to glory through the turmoil of Kirkwall. It was a great but not flawless experience; while gameplay greatly evolved, the motivation and story was slightly hollow.

Please note that possible spoilers are involved, so read at your own discretion!

The Good

The game has been polished. The interface is much easier to follow and the general flow of the talent trees just makes more sense. Combat has been streamlined a bit, but it is definitely a welcome change from the fact that you don’t have access to your core abilities early on in Origins. In this game, you can reach your more important abilities early-mid game so that you can become accustomed to how your party works. Speaking of parties, the tactics book has become much more advanced and your teammates are much more responsible this time around! Cross-class combos allow for some interesting team compositions, instead of just mashing mages together and spamming overpowered spells (though mages are still the top class right now, ironically). Movement is more fluid, allowing AoE dodging and trap evading to be a less cumbersome task; kiting is highly encouraged! While people may argue that this detracts from the “difficulty” of the original, I must say that I don’t mind the changes as much as other people are complaining about it. If you turn the game on Hard or Nightmare, it’s still as challenging as it was before.

Story-wise, we’re tossed back into a Mage/Templar battle. The choices this time, however, are extremely gray. What I mean is that there’s really no right or wrong choice, and it becomes extremely apparent by the time you finish the game. When it came down to it, I actually had a few tough decisions to make, and the gravity of the situation was much more grand and would affect the game in a more profound way than in Origins.

The Bad

Where do I start? I’ll begin with some peeves. They reused levels over and over again, and since you stay in Kirkwall for the entire duration of all three acts, it’s easy to grow tired of traversing the exact same tunnels for virtually unrelated quests. Your party is now less customizable, meaning you can’t give them body armor, only accessories and a weapon. I see this is both good and bad – they didn’t want your companions looking like clowns, so they would upgrade their armor for you. It bugged me at first, but towards the end I really didn’t care all that much anymore. I guess it was silly to put Morrigan in plate anyways. Quests are very hollow, meaning that they’re often treadmill, leading you to random killings for coin. In fact, the entire first act is you raising enough money to enter the Deep Roads, so you end up taking a bunch of odd jobs just to get that done. Lame. Less character interactions now – you can’t just talk your way into friendships, you have to complete their friendship quest lines.

The story felt hollow. Events unfold and are tied together rather loosely by the end. Unlike Origins, I found myself not really caring most of the time, especially for the characters. I admit there were one or two very shocking moments, but for the most part the pieces of the story felt disconnected and irrelevant. While we get a few familiar faces, like Anders, Isabela, and even Zevren, the newer cast is far less lovable and deprived of any wit. I loved listening to Morrigan, Alistair, Ogrehn, and Wynne banter as I strode through town – the atmosphere just isn’t the same this time around. The ending was epic, but disappointing in a way once you realize that whichever path you took would lead to the same final result. It was also very abrupt and on a “cliffhanger”, so you can bet on DLC in the next few months to cover some plotholes. Doh.

Overall

The honest truth is that Dragon Age II is still a very good game. It’s polished, neat, and while slightly hollow, will deliver the DA fix. If it wasn’t so constantly compared to the original, I’m sure most people would love this game.  I’d say definitely buy it when it goes on sale. Might not be worth the $60 if you’re not dying to play Dragon Age again, or were turned off by the demo, but I certainly think it was well worth my time.

Other Thoughts – An Advertising Perspective

One thing that I will commend BioWare on is their rather smart approach to social media advertisement. Because BioWare accounts are linked to your e-mail address, they’ve managed to turn Facebook “likes” and registering for news sites promoting Dragon Age II into in-game rewards! This not only encourages more people to hop on the wagon, but constantly feeds news to potential customers. While I personally still think that this isn’t even close to tapping into the full potential of social media, it is definitely a very, very strong start. Kudos, BioWare marketing team.

Lastly, I’m going to close this out with some screenshots. I love me some DA pausing action 😀

 

My sword-slinging heroine - Champion Augusta Hawke.

A closer look.

Dragon slaying redux!

The grand city of Kirkwall.

Fighting Darth Meredith.

Insane!

 

>> Finals week coming soon. Been busting my ass trying to figure this stuff out!

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