Fan Review for Dragon Age 2

I’ve had the game since March 8th, when it came out. Three+ playthroughs later I think it is time to disect what Bioware did right, what was wrong, and what can be improved. There are going to be spoilers abounding throughout this review. In sections that have spoilers I will designate it at the topic start for those of you wishing to avoid them.

Ultimately, Dragon Age 2 is the story of the central character’s rise from refuge to political powerhouse. Your actions small and large will affect the world you live in. What Dragon Age is not is the same sweeping epic tale of underdog versus a seemingly unstoppable force ala Dragon Age: Origins. Can you the player accept this change? If you have been holding out going, “Hmm not DA:O and that is all I want to play,” then stop now and accept  DA2 isn’t going to fill that void. If you played the game and felt, “Hmmm what else is going on in the world?” read on good ser!

I went into DA2 understanding what I was getting into. I kept up on the articles and knew I wasn’t playing another Grey Warden. I knew I was Hawke, refugee of Fereldan in a new city making my way to the top. I accepted this. I accepted I wasn’t going to be an elf (<3 elves) and just like DA:O I was either a warrior, mage or rogue. I was down for the ride.

Combat has been revised, making it both more dynamic and exciting. Laughably, I’ve read the combat animation changes being accused as “unrealistic”. I am willing to concede this is a matter of personal preferences. We are playing video games, I don’t need hyper-realistic melee combat. What I want is to be in combat and even at low level feel B.A. Mages feel more active even when using the base staff attack. The animations change and aren’t the static staff thrust. Rogues run and leap in the air to double stab enemies further away. Warriors swing mightily…yeah I’m not playing one…I never play warriors. (Don’t ask its long winded and a total derailment). Realistic? Not so much. Fun and exciting to play/watch? YES!

Talents and Skills have been streamlined. OK…skills are gone all together; no longer do you have to ponder putting that point in Combat Training vs Coersion. The lack of skill points and allotment didn’t bother me. I always max out Coersion first and was kind of glad I wouldn’t have to bother doing it all over again. Instead, the way your character interactions with people will determine the conversation (more on this later).  Talents trees are fewer, more condensed, and synergies are more fully realized. A great example of this is Mage spells.  Primal (aka lightening, fire, earth and cold) from DA:O have been split apart into: Elemental (fire and cold) and Primal (lightening and earth). What has been added is the ability to upgrade the talents you’ve purchased. Thus the total number of talents has been paired down, you are able to customize which ones you make better (duration/damage/area).

Gear  is all about customization and preference. Companions armors no longer changed out. Costume changes reflect developments in the plot itself. You don’t dress your friends, they dress themselves. Instead, you can get items via merchants or found during character quests to improve their armor. The exception to this is weapons, shields, and trinkets (rings, belts, and amulets)and even this has an exception. Varric is the only character with a set weapon. Otherwise your friends let you accessorize them as you see fit!  Overall, I liked not having to mess with and lug around armor for my companions.If I wasn’t going to wear it,$$ Vendor! I still hauled tons of rings, belts, and amulets around as I decided who needed to wear what.  Also, I don’t dress my friends in real life…just saying. 

Artistic Changes (Don’t read after the Qunari section  if you want to avoid a potential spoiler. BTW if you didn’t know there were Qunari in the game you missed ALL the promo trailers…)to the way races apear in the game. Ok elves and Quanri do not look the same at all. I’m going to split these two races apart and tackle. I like the changes to the Quanri. The look significantly different from humans. Instead of just towering over them as they did in DA:O, now they have horns! It makese the reaction characters/NPCs in the game to Qunari make more sense. I am aware the Qunari design change conflicts with the way Sten looked in DA:O, I feel like it was a good change the make.  The Quanri have more psychological impact as being other. Speaking of the psychological impact of other…elves. Slimmer, bigger ears, lack nasal bridges; elves have definately changed. Sometimes to good effect (Hi Fenris let me introduce you to all your fan girls) and sometimes to bad effect (Hi Zevran…you look *head tilt*…odd. That picture doesn’t do justice to the way he looks full on in the face.) It isn’t a bad change and for characters like Merrell and Fenris they came out looking good for it and Zev was just *head tilt* yeah so *shrug* I overall liked the elf change (again it emphasises the differences between the races) but sometimes the end result wasn’t pleasing to my eye aesthetically. Speaking of aesthetic changes…Alistair and Isabelle look different. Isabelle is more Rivani looking and I like the change overall (except she went from wearing armor to not…which was odd to me). Alistair has put on some weight since you last saw him (you can see it in his face) Much forum complaining has been made over this. For King or Drunk Ali I completely and totally understand why. He isn’t out there fighting the good fight (read darkspawn) anymore and isn’t as in shape as he used to be. Grey Warden Alistair, currently on a super secret Grey Warden mission should be in shape. From a design budget aspect I get why it is 1 model regardless. However, it did take me out of the moment when I found him at a high suspense moment in the game and do the head tilt. (Head tilts are bad in general. It is a clear sign immersion has been lost.) Overall, racial changes were logical and well done with some individual characters coming out…awkward looking. 

Player Interface overall was nice and I found easy to use with some specific exceptions. The Talent screen needed some tweeks in my opinion. It would’ve been nice to hover your mouse over the talents in the tree to see what they were instead of having to click on the main tree to pull them up to view. This would’ve made comparing talents easier and quicker. A minor gripe but something I kept wishing throughout playthroughs. Speaking of my love for the mouse hovering = info; the ability to hover over icons on the mini map to get data instead of having to pull up the big map to do so. Again a minor gripe but another I kept wishing for. Take a look at this screenshot to see a break down of icon placement on the screen. I actually like these changes as well.

Final thoughts; my biggest problem with DA2 is the recycled areas make the entire thing feel been there and done that on the first play through after awhile. My will for multiple play throughs waned much faster than previous Bioware titles. Why I understand the need for conserving game budget for both time and money the immersion feeling suffered. A few more warehouse and cave maps may have really alleviated this problem. Mass Effect got away with it because you were going so many different places the repetitive maps for hallways, ships and caves weren’t as glaring. The story and game play are solid and enjoyable though and more than make up for the lack of local verity.

Published in: on June 6, 2011 at 8:12 am  Leave a Comment  

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