Dragon Age 2
Dragon Age: Orgins was without a doubt one of the worst console games from Bioware’s lineup ever. How was this possible? Simple, you create a PC game and make a straight port without putting much effort into it. Especially the long and bad combat sections were a real pain for the console versions. Luckily in this sequel things have been done quite a lot better! Only too bad all other aspects now suffer.
No longer will you doubt for hours in Dragon Age 2 what background your character needs to have, the game just puts you in the shoes of Hawke (no, not Ethan). This way you don’t need to go through the game several times and you no longer have problems based on choices you made regarding your race! The only disadvantage now is that you get spoken text because the choices have disappeared. Or should we reverse pros and cons? At least it’s one thing Bioware spent less time on!
Another familiar is the dialogue system from Mass Effect where you can choose the tone of your answer based on specific words. It didn’t always deliver the desired effect so that gamers often complained. This has now been adjusted to simple icons that point to positive, negative or diplomatic answers. A pleasant change compared to the good/neutral/bad answers from Mass Effect.
It’s general knowledge that RPG players hate travelling and doing long distances. That’s why the decision was made to have Dragon Age 2 play almost completely in the city of Kirkwall. The city is big enough and contains enough variation to not start to bore too quickly, but it does limit the story significantly. The main part is about the quarrel between the templars and the magicians. The latter are as susceptible for demonic possession as an enfant for the flu during Winter time and the templars want to counter this. And how do they do this? By locking magicians in giant prisons, murdering, torture or brainwash them. Of course the magicians aren’t all too happy with this and decide to kick back.
While in the first Dragon Age you ended up in different situations, you now get one problem where the fault lays with both parties. The choices you mostly get towards the ending are of no importance and have almost no influence what so ever. The always ends up in a fight where you need to slit the throat of some people who have betrayed you.
Ok, the story may be a bit less, but at least the characters are cool, no? NO! Their background story is so undeep that even a hovercraft would strand. Hawke is a simple man who wants to protect his family after their house got destroyed and although his family is constantly present throughout the adventure, his private life hardly ever passes by. This makes you lack any involvement with the lead character and the partners don’t do much better. They don’t arouse a hunger for their story and after a while you’ll just start choosing the same group of companions over and over again. Not because of their relation with you, but just for their skills in the countless fights.
Speaking of fights, here’s something we can give a positive note. The PC version still plays exactly as in Origins, while the consoles now contain more tactics, depth and a bit of button bashing. Everything was made a bit easier by for instance letting your colleagues take more initiative, so they will for instance no longer request you to heal. A new addition for the warrior or rogue is an attack a bit further away, your character will now run towards the enemy and do more damage on the first strike. Handy when being attacked by a group of weaker enemies as you can run from one to the other and kill them with one blow. It brings forth a faster pace, making that the combat never starts to bore and becomes the most fun part of the entire game.
The environments are beautiful and filled with the necessary details, but when you enter somewhere, be it a building or a dungeon, everything becomes monotone and generic. Everything happens in the same location despite it being a dozen different missions. Just changing some doors here and there, et voila, a new dungeon. The other graphical aspects vary in quality. One moments enemies look ok, but a second later their textures are so bad you could spit on them. There are some significant improvements with the spells, animations and faces of the lead characters, but these are the few things that look better than in Origins. The sound is excellent with tunes that perfectly fit the atmosphere on screen and the decent dialogues with accompanying voice acting deliver an intense feeling. At least something where Bioware did do a good job.
Dragon Age II isn’t a bad game, but it is a disappointment for those that had expected a big improvement. We understand that a first attempt for a new IP can fail up to a certain point, even for a developer like Bioware time pressure and budget limits are problems that are difficult to circumvent. However, a sequel shouldn’t be less than the original. Except for the combat sequences – luckily there are plenty – there’s really very little that shines. It was a hellish 32 hours until the end and that ending unfortunately sucked as well.