Dragon Age II Reviews

AuthorReview
DyingAtheist
80,269 (59,953)
DyingAtheist
TA Score for this game: 883
Posted on 13 March 11 at 20:08, Edited on 14 March 11 at 13:25
This review has 71 positive votes and 17 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Dragon Age 2 is the long-awaited sequel to the critically acclaimed Dragon Age: Origins. It focuses on the story of 'The Champion', a Human character who rises to fame and power across the course of the game and promised a brand new graphics style and more intense combat. But do the multitude of changes in the game devalue the Dragon Age tale?


Gameplay - 9/10

The combat in Dragon Age 2 has been spruced up, a lot. And it is one area that is likely to divide opinion more than any other. Dragon Age: Origins had a tactical edge to the combat which required thought and often zooming out of the battlefield to distribute commands to your party members. Dragon Age 2 on the other hand, is far more action-based. I personally enjoyed the change, DA2's combat is visceral, fast-paced and brutal with far more expressive animations making for a far more intense experience overall. Combat is conducted via the A, X, Y and B buttons. Tapping A sends out your normal attack be it a Rogues dagger strikes or a Mages bolts of energy. The XYB buttons however are there to be assigned with whatever spell or attack you choose and holding the right trigger shifts your spell section allowing you to pick 3 more attacks/spells. While this is easy to use and quick, it does limit you to 6 spells on the quick bar which could do with increasing somehow.
If you want to use your other spells you hold the left trigger, this gives access to potions, other spells, bombs, poisons and the like, as well as pausing the game to give you breathing time. Despite the limited quick-spell selection the combat always feels good, with a large number of enemies usually on screen to kill.

There are however, issues with the combat, one of which is probably the most annoying error within the game; the AI. Your companions are...well, useless. The writing on them is good, they're varied and some of their comments (Especially while just walking around town) are absolutely hilarious, but in combat...well, you need to watch your own back. Bioware promised that if you wanted you could play the game as a straight action RPG and not bother with the tactics section that remains from Origins, but on higher difficulties that is really not the case and without going into the tactics section to edit your companions you will often find them casting bizarre spell choices, or doing nothing at all.
It's a minor error which won't bother people who utilise the tactics section regardless.

The three classes you can choose from remain from Origins; Rogue, Warrior and Mage. The Rogue focuses on single target damage from either distance or up close, the Mage is proficient at AOE damage while the Warrior is in between, as well as being able to tank. Each class feels varied and all the animations and spells look good and powerful, even the basic A attacks look good. You acquire these spells via the use of talent trees, branching sections that you can fill with points gained upon levelling up. These allow you to specialize the character how you choose, so if you want your Mage to be a healer, you can do it, if you want to focus on AOE damage, you can do it, if you want to focus on controlling the battlefield, you can do it. The talent trees work well within the game and give the player a lot of choice in how they play, which will be welcome considering the lack of racial choices this time around.
Yes, you're tied down as a human. This is primarily because your character is fully voiced this time, with conversation options being chosen from a Mass Effect style wheel (with icons telling you what type of option you're picking; angry, sarcastic, flirty etc.) This limiting to being human does not feel like a negative however, as it allowed the story to be honed in a bit tighter, and for some truly great voice acting, one thing Bioware gets spot on across the board.


Graphics - 7/10

Dragon Age 2 looks good, as aforementioned the spells and abilities look classy while the animations are always well done leading to some brutal attacks. The environments are rarely breathtaking though always solid, and this seems to continue throughout the game. This theme of 'good but not amazing' continues throughout the games design. Weapons look well built if uninspired, apparel is usually sleek but again uninspired (Save for the final clothing you gather) and the only real graphical highlight for me has been the enemies which are saved by some more exciting design this time around.
DA 2 is a better looking game than Origins, but it's not about to blow you away.

The major graphical negative of DA2 is Kirkwall. This is the city that you spend the majority of the game in, the vast majority of the game, and while it looks well built and sometimes attractive, it is neither pretty nor diverse enough to warrant the amount of time spent in it. Again this carries over into the dungeons, while often looking good they are heavily recycled throughout leading to repetitive graphics that may start to bore you by the end. DA2's graphics are held back from a higher score by one thing; laziness.


Longevity - 9/10

For anyone who enjoyed Origins, you'll be happy to know that DA2 will eat just as many hours of your life. The game, assuming you play it to its full potential and hunt out the side-quests etc. will consume upwards of 20+ hours per playthrough with ease and while there still remains no multiplayer addition to the franchise (thankfully) DA2 can easily last you a long, long time. Multiple playthroughs are almost required of the game for several reasons; the classes are diverse enough that similar playthroughs feel completely different, there's a whole host of hidden side quests as well as a hunting-based crafting system to discover, and your characters tone of voice adapts throughout the game based on your previous conversational choices, so conversations on your second playthrough may play out entirely different if you chose to be an angry Rogue instead of a sarcastic Warrior.
This all leads to a long game, but one you'll be dying to replay by the time you approach the end, just to see how you can do things differently this time, or if you can romance a different party member. The only downside, and the only thing stopping a 10 score, is the fact that you're constantly in Kirkwall, and as you become sick of the city you may find yourself playing a bit less as time goes by.


Storyline - 7/10

Dragon Age 2's storyline is...a mixed bag. The games story is told as if it is a book, split into acts and read by one of your party members to an inquisitor from the Chantry (Dragon Age's religious group) who wish to learn about your rise to power as the Champion. While this enables the game to jump to more exciting parts and to skip over years at a time in the interests of pushing the game and story forward, it does lead to some problems. For one, it doesn't feel quite like an epic journey as Origins did, it feels fragmented. And secondly, it hides any over-arching storyline present throughout the game, Act 1 and Act 2 barely bare any similarities in terms of story, focusing on completely different ideas and tales that stops the game feeling coherent. You lose the sensation of an end-game goal that was present in Origins.
However, despite these nuances, DA2 has a solid storyline when you can find it, present with some particularly special and "Wow" moments that weren't quite there in Origins. Give it a chance and though not as strong as it could be, it's enjoyable.


Overall - 9/10
Note; This is not aaggregate score, it is based on the game as a whole.

Dragon Age 2 is so close to being a 5 star, 10/10 game. A few more months development time to branch out the storyline, fix some of the AI issues and maybe bring back some tactical elements to the game and it would have been. But, alas, despite its problems, Dragon Age 2 is a truly enjoyable game that action-RPG fans will struggle to put down. The fun in the game is becoming lost among the cries from Origins fans about the lack of tactics, but if you can look past this there is an exciting and engaging game that's ready to take you in. Give it a chance, as a huge fan of Origins myself, I still found DA2 hugely enjoyable and a quality addition to the franchise.


Achievements - 8/10
Irrelevant to games aggregate score.
The achievements in Dragon Age 2 are enjoyable enough and tend to straddle the line between challenging and annoying very well. The majority of them mainly include collecting items, working your companions, story progression or killing a certain enemy but are often a bit more convoluted than a simple "Go here kill this". Many of the enemies you need to kill are fairly well hidden and require some serious questing and sperlunking before you'll gain access to them. This keeps the game interesting as the likelihood is that after your first playthrough you'll still have plenty to go back for.

They are held back slightly due to the 'Act' system the game employs, and due to this, if you miss even one item during Act 1 then you're essentially guaranteed to miss out on the associated achievement. This is not a huge problem, many games set a point of no return for collectibles, but with such a long game such as Dragon Age 2, that has quite a lot of collectible based achievements, it would have been nice to see some way to gather items you missed.
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Katosepe321
92,753 (63,460)
Katosepe321
TA Score for this game: 965
Posted on 27 March 11 at 05:35
This review has 16 positive votes and 6 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
It's only been about a year and a half since we were introduced to the land of Thedas through the eyes of a Ferelden Grey Warden. With that huge quest and all of the DLC that Bioware has released for it, some of us have hardly had time to miss Thedas when they release Dragon Age II. For those of you who haven't experienced Dragon Age yet, don't worry, Dragon Age II is a great place to start, in fact, you might like it better if you are new.

Dragon Age II's introduction is fitting, putting you in the shoes of Hawke, a male or female character of whatever class you choose, fleeing the darkspawn horde as they raze the city of Lothering. Your family flees to the Free Marches, a place mentioned in passing a few times during the first game's adventure but never explored, in order to start a new life away from the blight. This is fitting because Dragon Age II is a very different game than Origins. With a new, almost action-RPG combat system, a fully voiced main character, and completely revamped item/equipment/leveling systems, Dragon Age II may as well be a completely different series. Some of these changes are welcome additions while others are not at all, but mostly, they each have pros and cons. The battle system is very sleek now, requiring much less tactical pausing and allowing battles to flow nicely. Every battle is exciting and fast paced. While this is certainly more fun than the original's slow, tactics-based approach to combat, the game's difficulty takes a huge hit for it. Dragon Age II still has some tough battles but for the most part, gamers of all skills will be able to glide through it with ease, especially veterans of Origins.

Crafting has been removed from characters so you'll no longer have to lug around all those crafting ingredients that take up backpack space. Instead, you find resources which are much more rare and are permanent, allowing you to use that resource from your home base whenever you feel like it. While it sounds weird, it's actually pretty fun to explore the various areas around Kirkwall to find crafting resources. Then, when you have the necessary resources to craft something, you can then simply buy the items like a store, never having to worry about running out of resources. This part of crafting is much less exciting, making players wonder why they didn't just go to a store and buy these things, as most runes/potions/poisons/grenades are available from the start for about the same price as "crafting" them. As for the types of crafting, Runemaking, added in Origins - Awakening, has been kept but trap-making has been eliminated. You can no longer place traps around, reflecting the less tactical approach that this entry takes. Poisons and Grenades can be used by anyone from the start, without any need of learning prerequisite skills.

The biggest change that will bother most veterans is the equipment system. While you have mostly full control over Hawke, you have very little control over the equipment your party members use. Armor can never be changed on any characters and some characters have weapons that they will use exclusively. This means you will be spending far less time in menus figuring out which boots will be the best for which character but it can be annoying when you pick up tons of great Mage armor but can't use it because your Hawke is a warrior. That's right, you do still pick up armor for other classes, an odd design choice since there's literally nothing you can do with it except sell it. In the end, this becomes something most people will adjust to but it's still a nasty shock the first time you play the game.

Combat is a joy to play, particularly with Rogue or Mage characters. You use A to attack enemies but, unlike Origins, one tap = one attack, allowing you much better control when switching targets. The other three face buttons can be mapped to various abilities that your character possesses. When pressing the R trigger, you get a second set of mapped moves, allowing you quick access to up to 6 skills. Like the last game, other skills can be used by holding the L trigger, pausing the game and giving you a radial menu. Each class has been given access to significantly fewer abilities though so you won't be using the menu nearly as often. The new system can come dangerously close to button-mashing but liberal usage of skills save combat from becoming monotonous.

As mentioned before, leveling up is a very quick process. You have three attribute points to allocate between Strength, Dexterity, Magic, Willpower, Cunning and Constitution. Generally, depending on your class, you will be dolling them out between two of the attributes almost exclusively (Strength and Constitution for warriors, Dexterity and Cunning for rogues, Willpower and Magic for mages) but there will be some mixing and matching for things like health and stamina increases. Then you get to use one ability point. Classes all have five or six subcategories, each containing their own skill tree. Each party member has their own, unique skill tree, while Hawke get's three possible specifications, getting to pick two by the end of the game. These categories relate to certain fighting styles, for example, a Rogue may put points into subterfuge if he/she likes to sneak around the battlefield, scoring punishing critical hits or maybe will put points into archery if he/she likes to shoot from afar. Each tree contains only about 6 or 7 skills, some having a few upgrade skills which bolster the actual skill's power, a stark contrast from the easily 16 or 20 from Origins. Each skill can be quite powerful though and you won't have nearly as many "useless" skills that just help you get to the stronger ones. Finally, skills can be categorized as Passive abilities (these just bolster your characters fighting abilities permanently), Active abilities (special attacks), or Sustained abilities (moves that, when activated, change your characters fighting stats at the cost of "reserving" a percentage of mana/stamina).

Most changes to the actual gameplay can be adjusted to, given some time, but the storyline remains a weaker point in Dragon Age 2. This game seems to suffer from mid-trilogy syndrome where significant events certainly happen but many story threads are just leading up to the inevitable sequel. Rather than exploring the entire Free Marches as you did in Ferelden, Hawke will be spending almost all of his time in the city of Kirkwall. This isn't actually a bad thing as Kirkwall is huge and quite interesting, with distinctive underclass areas and noble quarters. You won't be spending all of your time in the city proper as Kirkwall is surrounded by a mountain and some interesting beaches and caves to explore. Finally, to add more areas, they allow you to switch from day to night, when in Kirkwall, as many things will only happen at certain times of the day. It seems like a cheap way to cut down the number of system resources but it works rather well. On the other hand, the reusing of environments is unforgivable. Every cave uses the exact same layout as does every mansion, every secret passage, every warehouse, to the point where you'll get massive de'ja vu, thinking you went in the wrong door. As a bad attempt to try to trick you, the developers block off certain doors or open other ones in different areas but, in what must have been simple laziness, the mini-map still shows the same layout, as if every door was open in every cave or house. It's sad since these places look so nice, it just makes it more obvious that you're frequenting the same environments over and over and over again. Anyway, the game takes place over seven years as Hawke tries to make his way up in the world of Kirkwall. This is certainly interesting in it's own right, but it doesn't compare to the epic scale of saving Ferelden, and the whole world, from the blight. In fact, until the end, it's hard to tell what is important about anything you are doing other than to get yourself more money and power.

For those of you who did play through Origins, you can import your save and certain decisions will be transferred to Dragon Age 2 but if not, you can just pick one of three default stories anyway. Even if you do transfer, not all decisions will actually transfer or, more likely, will be relevant. You will see very little of your Ferelden friends other than a few quick cameos and don't expect many answers to the questions that we were left with. In case you're wondering, our witch of the wilds friend from Origins does not make an appearance.

All in all, Dragon Age 2 is a huge change from the first game, some for the better, some not so much. In the end, it's going to be up to you how well you can deal with the changes. No matter how well you adjust, Dragon Age 2 definitely does not carry the same weight as it's incredible predecessor, mainly just preparing us for what is to come later down the road.
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Mr J Muffin
90,765 (58,145)
Mr J Muffin
TA Score for this game: 2,208
Posted on 27 July 11 at 10:01, Edited on 27 July 11 at 10:04
This review has 12 positive votes and 2 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
**POSSIBLE SPOILERS**
Dragon Age II. After the immense success of Dragon Age: Origins, we all knew a sequel had to happen. When it was announced, Dragon Age fans everywhere rejoiced. I gotta admit, I was so excited about this game I laid down a pre order as soon as I was able to. Every time I got a new game I'd say how good it was but I still couldn't wait for Dragon Age II even more. Compared to Origins, however, this game served to be somewhat of a disappointment. So let's start with the Pros of this game.

- Button-mashing combat: certainly adds a lot more intensity to the combat instead of the combat system from Origins. Keeps you on your toes.

- Dialogue Wheel: Fans of Mass Effect will have their beloved dialogue wheel put into the Dragon Age universe, which I feel serves as a much better system than the dialogue tree from Origins, as the dialogue wheel provides a simple and easy way to know what conversation options proceed with dialogue, and which ones gather you more information.

- Fully voiced character: As with the dialogue wheel, it was nice that your character got his own voice and personality instead of the bland faced Warden from Origins. However, just so no one thinks I'm contradicting myself, I will partly be addressing this issue in the Cons section as well.

- Improved overall gameplay mechanics: Many other improvements over the original were made. Characters run faster in and out of combat, the game now saves and autosaves with no interruption of gameplay, the graphics are definitely a step above what they were in Origins, little things like that.

- Companion Armor system: Most people don't seem to enjoy this part, but I find it a lot better. In Dragon Age II, you cannot equip your companions with random armor you acquire during your travels, but only purchase and find upgrades for them. However, in Dragon Age II, money is a lot harder to save up than it is in Origins (until later in the game) so all the random armor you get can be sold and hey, more money for you.

CONS

- Location recycling: Ah, the one that everyone dislikes. There are only about 4 to 6 location layouts that BioWare developed for this game, and they re-use them over and over and over again for all sorts of places, taking away a lot of variety from the game. And with how much less-vast this game is compared to Origins and with how much time it took for this game to be released, BioWare had plenty of time to develop locations, but chose not to.

- Less Memorable Characters: In Origins, every companion had their own personal quest and other than that, they didn't provide much other interactions. In Dragon Age II, that is not the case, as in every act, they have their own companion quest that develops over time. While this would be a good thing, all the characters in this game (save for Varric) have their own one-sided view of things, and continuously relate back to the same topics, whereas in Origins, the companions were really varied, and you could connect with them much easier. The companions in Dragon Age II aren't bad, of course, but they aren't the best.

- Wave Combat: This is my most disliked aspect of the game. Everywhere you go, there are random hordes of enemies. Normal for this series, let alone RPGs, right? Except that once you defeat the big wave of enemies, ANOTHER wave spawns completely out of thin air! Literally! Not a realistic touch to be found. With how often random waves of enemies happen, it makes traveling a real hassle, especially when you just need to get from one point to another and the experience and loot for it isn't really that great.

- Darkspawn: You don't see much of darkspawn in this game. Either way, yes, the graphics engine got upgraded. Yet...what happened? Where did the bloodthirsty ugly creatures that wanted nothing but death and destruction and looked the part go? Now they've been replaced by bone-white pupil-less midgets in silly chain-mail armor. And for some reason the grunts are stronger than the normal darkspawn. I also bought and completed the Legacy DLC today, and genlocks? They're no longer the stocky but strong monsters, no, they're now pretty much darkspawn apes on four legs that smack you and headbutt you. Even though the plot of this game has nothing to do with darkspawn, not a single part of me can take them seriously one bit.

- Overall Plot: DO NOT READ IF YOU DON'T LIKE SPOILERS. The plot of Dragon Age: Origins was about an impending doom upon the land, and you had to raise an army to fight back. You met some great friends along the way and by god no matter how it ends, you prevailed, the doom was gone. In Dragon Age II, you're stuck in the middle of a bureaucratic struggle, all the while dealing with half of your companions and other characters whining about how mages are stupid doo-doo heads, and the other half saying the same about the templars. The Dragon Age universe went straight from a good vs evil traditional RPG approach with decent side elements of romance and religion and the lot, to a religion vs dominating authority vs oppressed group of special people, and you're stuck in the middle of it. I mean, I know the blight is over so there's no impending doom on the horizon, but really? In a nutshell, you're stuck in the middle of a bunch of whiny people who disagree and a power struggle, and you have to pick sides and at the turning point, if the guy in front of you doesn't like you, he hates you, and vice versa.

- Main Character: Don't get me wrong, I loved the fact that your character was going to get a personality and his own voice and all that good stuff, but that comes at a heavy price for an RPG player like me. In Origins, you were not the Warden, but the Warden was you, giving you a sense that you were truly in control, your companions were your friends, you WERE the game. In Dragon Age II, you ARE Hawke. Yes, you get to decide what kind of person he ends up being, but that's about it. Dragon Age II doesn't tell the story of you and your heroic actions, but it tells the story of Hawke. That was the one element from Mass Effect I wish they'd left out.

- Ending: NO SPOILERS HERE, READ IF YOU WISH. I won't say what happens in the ending, but the Origins ending was fine on its own, it didn't need Awakening or Witch Hunt, but those only made it better. BioWare has declared that Hawke is the most important character in the Dragon Age universe. If that's the case, then Dragon Age II NEEDS DLC or an expansion that continues the story, because the ending provides no closure at all. It tries TOO hard to be a cliffhanger. It makes it obvious there will be a Dragon Age III. Yet at the same time, it made me feel like not enough was said. Instead of giving me the "I can't WAIT" reaction, I sat there going "Really? That's it?" The game doesn't raise too many questions and most questions that are arisen are answered before the ending, but if they don't release any DLC that continues or elaborates on the ending, I might seriously pass up Dragon Age III (unless it provides the opportunity to bring in my Warden, in which case, count me in!)

- The land: Ferelden in Origins was a large land with many many locations. The Free Marches are also large, but you explore virtually none of it in Dragon Age II. You explore the city of Kirkwall, and the only other main places in the Free Marches to explore are the mountain of Sundermount, the Wounded Coast, and a place called The Bone Pit. All the other small locations are available but thanks to the previously mentioned location recycling, they aren't really their own places. Don't let the tagline for the Legacy DLC fool you, you only go to 2 or 3 new locations, and they aren't recycled, but they don't look much different as you pass through them.

- Import feature: Last but not least, the importer. When I finished Mass Effect and moved to Mass Effect 2, how could I not import my character and all his decisions? I was continuing my characters journey! When I heard that in Dragon Age II you wouldn't be your Warden but you could still import all your decisions from the main game and the succeeding DLC, I was still super excited, that opened up so many possibilities. BioWare disappointed me so much that extreme disappointment is an understatement. I have stripped this game bone dry of all it has to offer, and the only things that really take effect are whether Alistair was made king at the end of Origins, there is one and only one occasion where your decision about the Brecilian Forest is referenced, and of course there is Anders, who appears in the game even if he died at the end of Awakening. You pass by Zevran and Nathaniel Howe, catch vague references about Oghren and Shale, the name Morrigan is mentioned only once, and you don't see Leliana until the ending (unless you have the Exiled Prince DLC, which her part is still very minimal) and Justice plays a key part in Anders' life. I have yet to see even a single reference to Wynne, Sigrun, Velanna, Loghain (if he survives) Sten or any of the DLC companions. Golems of Amgarrak isn't elaborated on at all, and most disappointingly, not a single thing relating to Witch Hunt is even mentioned. You don't see or hear of Morrigan or your Warden except from a conversation with Alistair, which contradicts your ending in Witch Hunt unless your Warden stayed in Ferelden. Your import only takes into account the major decisions you made in the game, and even then, they have such little effect on the gameplay experience that even the most hardcore Dragon Age fan would say "well, that's a little lame" and I claim that with confidence.

All things considered, Dragon Age II is not a bad game. The community, however, are like the mages and templars of the free marches. Half of them complain it was a huge step down, half of them boast about how much of a huge step ahead it was. There are very few who think both of them are fantastic without succeeding that claim with "in their own way" and while there are many more cons than pros for this game, heed this piece of advice: Approach this game with an open mind. Do NOT expect it to be a new improved Dragon Age Origins, and do NOT expect it to be any form of real sequel to what you did. Keep those two things in mind and this game will not disappoint you.
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I Sanral I
329,595 (168,696)
I Sanral I
TA Score for this game: 2,208
Posted on 01 June 12 at 17:45, Edited on 04 June 12 at 09:55
This review has 9 positive votes and 0 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Choices
First off, the story of Dragon Age II is not a follow-up of Dragon Age: Origins. Yes, you play in the same universe and the Blight has been stopped but it does not take place in Ferelden and you cannot play with your Warden. If you want to, you should play Awakening instead. So, what is the story about then?

SPOILER The story is about how a Fereldan refugee named Hawke (that’s you) became Champion of the city of Kirkwall. What’s really interesting about the story is the way it is told to you. In the very first moments of the game you and your sister face many darkspawn which you defeat very easily and awesomely. Then the screen goes black and you find out a dwarf named Varric is exaggerating massively and a pissed-off lady from the Chantry wants to know the true tale. Basically, throughout the came you will listen to Varric’s account of your adventures and then you play them. SPOILER OFF

In total the game has three separate acts with several years between. This allows for you to experience the consequences of decisions you made early in the game, and makes you wonder whether you should have done things differently. Sadly, it does mean the game starts off slow since you have no real goal or sense of urgency at first. The essence of this game is choice. You are often faced with difficult choices between two evils and you often wonder what would have happened had you picked differently. Some conflicts are interesting, others are not. SPOILER For example, one of the major struggles in this game is between mages and Templars, but I found it difficult to get sympathy for either side. Why? Because every templar is basically a tool, and every mage is turns out to be either a blood mage or abomination (the only exception being your sister). SPOILERS OFF

Kirkwall
You will spend the majority of the game inside the city of Kirkwall. The city has an interesting background and an unique feeling of desperation to it. However, at times Kirkwall does not feel like a city that is alive like Denerim or Orzammar. You can’t even talk to the majority of the NPC’s and traders refer you to their box if you want to do business. If your box can do all your work for you, why don’t you just stay at home? What also doesn’t help is that areas outside Kirkwall and dungeons are heavily reclyced. You will often encounter closed off sections, which are mysteriously open in another quest. Or a dungeon seems very familiar because you simply entered it from the other side. Come on Bioware, you give us a lot quests but couldn’t be bothered to give us more dungeons?

Companions
A major part of Origins was the recruiting, questing and interacting with your companions. Luckily, this has not changed in DA II. Yes, the campsite was removed but you can talk to your companions in their homes instead, which gives them a lot more personality. You might even walk into companions having fun in the tavern. The companions in this game have varied backgrounds and most have interesting tales which unfold as you progress through the game. It is your companions which really give this game colour and keep you playing. Both the interactions with companions and NPC’s are fully voiced and offer multiple choices ranging from benign to self-serving or outright evil. Or, you can play the comedian instead, and please do that or you will miss out on a lot of good jokes.

So who are these companions then? I will leave that for you to find out. Well, ok just a few pointers then: an old mage friend from Awakening reappears, a dwarf with a crossbow comes to your aid and a woman who thought you the Duelist specialization in Denerim might also help you. The companions in DA II made me forget about the Origins companions pretty quickly. Only one I missed was Ohgren but hey, he was without a doubt the most awesome companion ever.

Styling
Bioware claims to have ‘stylized’ the DA universe for this game and they have indeed. In fact, the new styling really take some time to adjust to if you have played Origins. On some aspects the new styling is brilliant, on others it is not. The loading screens are not very interesting at first, until you progress through the story and realize their meaning. Then they become quite brilliant pieces of art. Weapons and armor have distinct looks and are quite awesome and detailed, but you can no longer add flaming or lightning effects. However, the styling of enemies is very disappointing. The darkspawn are no longer the menacing threat they were but have become total pushovers with small white faces which made me laugh. Human and dwarven enemies all look and fight the same, even if they are from different factions. Demons and shades apparently did not need ‘styling’, since they still have the exact same styling from Origins but go down far easier. Also, I am no fan of the revised inventory and journal. It was too dark for my taste and somehow I found it more difficult to find new entries in the codex.

Combat
The new combat system was one of the main selling points for this game. It is very different from DA:O with smoother, better animations, a higher pace and the tactical element pushed to the background. You also have to press A for each attack you do. It feels fresh and exciting at first. However, in my first playthrough as a dual-wielding Rogue, I got quickly fed up with the new combat system since the high attack speed of the rogue made the game feel like a button basher. Thankfully, there is an option to switch combat back to Origins style where pressing A once while make you attack continuously till you pick a new target. For slower characters, the new combat system does work though, and mages have become a lot cooler in this game. One thing I don’t understand is why healing spells and potions have a cooldown of 30 seconds while the AI seems very persistent on getting themselves killed. I often found that my mages or rogues died because they position themselves stupidly and the healing function had not recharged yet. Very frustrating!

The downside to the combat system is that enemies also fight differently. The tactical thinking element of Origins is basically thrown out the window. Every enemy uses the same ‘deepstalker’ tactic: use of massive numbers to overwhelm you, and when you think you’ve beaten them more enemies will spawn out of nowhere. Sadly, sometimes the spawn will be right next to your healer which leads to a frustrating death. Also, this means that once you recognize this attack pattern for and set up the appropriate tactics for it you can walk through the entire game without every changing your tactics and then even the action-oriented focus can’t prevent the combat from becoming boring. Bosses also follow a pattern which is easily recognized and then it simply becomes chop-till-they-drop.

Achievements
The achievements for this game are a mixed bag. Most will unlock easy enough when you progress through the story, others will require the completion of side quest or interaction with your companions. Nothing too difficult. However, some achievements are just a major pain in the ass (Archeologist and Supplier in particular) since they are easily missable and will require starting over if you move to a new act too quickly. These are best done with a guide a hand and even then they feel pretty pointless.

Summary
Dragon Age II is disappointing if you are expecting a follow-up on the epic Dragon Age: Origins. However, if you can treat it as a separate game you will still have a lot of fun. The new style, revised combat and interesting companions deserve at least one playthrough which will last about 20-30 hours.
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MarkySharky
227,753 (145,813)
MarkySharky
TA Score for this game: 1,762
Posted on 04 April 11 at 16:30
This review has 13 positive votes and 5 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Just completed the game. There's a lot of negatives when compared to DAO unfortunately but on it's own merits I mostly enjoyed it.

A much better looking game than DAO that's for sure and the general presentation and menus etc. had a nice overhaul. I was disappointed to find the soundtrack seemed too similar to DAO but I think that supports the fact the composer said something about the game being rushed out.

The gameplay is simplified, dumbed-down, whatever you want to call it the game smacks of it. Inventory management, shopping, your chums gear, creating potions and runes. Even things like game locations were 'copy and paste' jobs with the differences being different part of the cave/house/underground area being locked off depending on the mission. Whilst I liked the 'button-bashing' to get more involved in the combat, the removal of weapon set switching offset that.

I liked the fact your character now had a voice and this made your responses in conversations much more interesting and there was some really funny moments in the game as well as some tough choices.

At first the location of Kirkwall and surrounding areas were a little dull but became more interesting as the game progressed. However, I was a little bored of seeing the same things by the end of the game.

The story is uninspiring at the beginning and I really struggled to get involved. It did pick up as the plot unfolded and the ending was quite exciting once it reached the climax. However, it's not even close to being as epic as DAO and this was quite disappointing I have to admit.

Overall I'd give the game 8/10 as it's not a bad game but just pales in comparison to DAO. I'm not sure it should have been called 'Dragon Age 2' as I said in an earlier post, just 'Dragon Age: Champion' or they should have used the name of the Facebook game for this instead perhaps.

I will do another play through as I did enjoy it on the whole but I might wait a while and see what DLC comes out perhaps.
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Darth Bieber
139,880 (91,228)
Darth Bieber
TA Score for this game: 934
Posted on 15 March 11 at 23:55
This review has 26 positive votes and 23 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Streamlined. It is a word that every gamer should fear. Streamlined. It is all over Dragon Age 2 f rom the menus to the environments. Streamlined. Like much what they did with Mass Effect 2, only DA2 doesn't have an action packed combat system to fall back on. Streamlined. Another word for "Lets dumb this down."

The argument here is quality vs. quantity. It is understandable that Bioware would want to expand there fan base (read: people who purchase their games) and reap the benefits hereafter. The main problem is that they have a reputation of creating quality games that immerse you in the characters and world you are playing in. Dragon Age 2 immerses you maybe ankle-high into the waters of its gameplay. Not to say it is a bad game. It does hold up, however to say that it holds up to the standards of what at the very least I have come to expect from Bioware then that is a big fat no.

Combat

I will admit they have cleaned up the combat. At least the combat animations. Your characters move fluidly and look like they actually can kick a little ass rather than in Origins where your characters looked like the Stand By Me kids poking a dead body with a stick. Yet, while playing, I felt as if there was something missing. It doesn't feel like a cleaned up system, more like a half realized system. The reason for this is the way your skill trees, attributes, equipment and abilities actually carry over into combat.
Let's start with equipment. While you have full control over what your main character wears and carries they have taken away the ability to customize the rest of your team. You can still give them weapons, belts, rings, etc. but gone is the customization of their armor. Instead their pre-existing armor has four upgrade slots. Through these upgrade slots you get bonuses and added rune slots. Sounds good on paper. The upgrades though cannot all be purchased at once for any of the characters. They become available during the three acts and can either be bought or some must be obtained through missions. While you can constantly get new armor for your main character, the others are stuck with what they have till the next upgrade becomes available meaning certain characters will be dropping dead very easily on some of the harder missions. Also a side note: who doesn't like changing their entire parties armor and making them all look like bad asses rather than rejects from a renaissance fair?
Skill trees and attributes have been made almost pointless. No longer can you choose if your character dual wields or carries a shield. The warrior is the only one that can carry sword and shield and two handed weapons, as the rogue can only dual wield and use archery. Each character will have five skill trees that maybe have 8-10 nodes on them. To complete any of these trees you will probably get 2 or 3 actually useful abilities while the rest you won't touch even once. Attributes have been streamlined to where you might use two out of the six for each character. If you choose rogue like I did there really is no thought into upgrading your character. Dexterity now controls the damage you do and cunning increases your defense and lockpicking skill. I haven't put a point on anything else and my rogue does crazy damage and takes very little while being able to open any chest or door. I remember sitting, debating the allocation of attribute points in Origins for a long time thinking about where I was the weakest and needed improvement. Now, I hit up two attributes and I am fine.

Story and Graphics

Should you choose to, you can import your save file from Origins. This yields the ultimate reward of......being a side note in the back story. Since you take over the role of a new character, your original character from Origins has no place in Kirkwall. Which makes some semblance of sense if you played the Witch Hunt dlc and chose to walk through the mirror with Morrigan.
Unlike the Origins, DA2's plot is not apparent right from the beginning. In fact, even half way through Act 2 you aren't quite sure why you are completing quests. There was always the main goal in Origins of taking down the Arch-daemon and quelling the Blight. As far as I can tell up to the point I am at Hawke is supposed to become the Champion of Kirkwall. Why? Up until the end of Act 2 it is for experience points and items. Once Act 3 kicks in then you get an honest to God goal. It is almost an epiphany, "Oh so this is the evil I am supposed to confront!"
The companion quests are modeled after the ME2 companion quests. The "love" bar has been replaced by the friend-rivalry bar. There are bonuses for either getting the companions to be your friend or your rival unlike Origins where you only got bonuses if you made them your friend. The back stories for the companions have yet to illicit an emotion for me. The characters are rather bland and the one companion I was excited to get (Anders from Awakenings) has been completely neutered. He is now a brooding, sorrowful apostate on the run. Some eyeliner and he could be the bassist for an emo band. Gone are his quips and jokes that made him such an endearing character in the expansion. In all honesty I could really care less whether or not these characters are with me or not. There is no Shale-like character or even a romantic interest like Morrigan or Leliana. It doesn't seem like any of these characters click well with each other and there isn't that bond there of why they hang around.
Origins had the possible destruction of the world and within the battles and betrayal that followed you could feel those bonds being formed. The battles and betrayals in DA2 seem so much less and semi-pathetic.
On to the graphics....and this is the biggest failure in the game. While character models are amazing, especially the Kunari and Flemeth, the environments are terrible. Textures are bland, there is very little detail (buildings, cliffsides, grass, etc) and they use the same caves, dungeon, and interior of a house for all the quests. The trick to make you think it is not the same? They close off tunnels or lock doors making the area seem bigger or smaller than the last time you were in there. For a highly toted game, published by a top company it is sad when you can say Two Worlds had better environments.

Achievements and Extras

The achievements are simple enough to get. There are no grinding achievements and only one that requires multi-playthroughs. However, as of the time of the writing of this review many of the achievements for the retail game and the dlc The Exiled Prince are glitched and will not pop. Bioware has stated they know of these problems and are working on fixing it, but it is obvious they are more concerned with the new ME2 dlc coming out than they are at fixing these problems. Also there are some quests that will not update that are on the road to certain achievements. Search The Forgotten Knowledge quest and you will see what I mean.
There are some extras if you happened to get the dlc The Black Emporium (bonus for signature ed. or can be purchased). There are also extras for owning Dead Space 2 and registering with the Bioware Social site. All of these items can be picked up inside the Black Emporium and range from anything to weapons to stat boosting potions. Owning Dead Space 2 and redeeming the promo code on Bioware's site will get you a set of armor that looks like Isaac Clarks engineer suit.

Breakdown

Ray Muzyka was quoted as saying "This is a great entry point for anyone into the series." What I am going to take from that after playing Dragon Age 2 is that it is a great way for people who didn't play the first one because they were intimidated by the RPG aspect should jump in now because they did away with all that depth for the casual gamer. Had I not played the first one I might actually be enjoying DA2 immensely. It seems though at their attempt to evolve the series through streamlining they actually took a giant step backwards...devolving the game into a shadow of what the first one is. Hopefully through updates and future dlc they will be able to fix the glitches and maybe flesh out the story a little better. Just stop with the streamlining.
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joedahoc93
96,886 (69,375)
joedahoc93
TA Score for this game: 1,232
Posted on 20 July 11 at 02:52, Edited on 21 July 11 at 11:29
This review has 11 positive votes and 12 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Overview: Sequel to one of the best RPGs to ever be realeased (on the PC anyway). Who would have guessed that one of the most polished RPGs would suffer under the mass effect. Sure, now I do love Mass Effect, but this games like a bit of an understatement of the previous efforts of Bioware. When I heard the games was going to have a completly revamped fighting system I was overjoyed. It looked amazing. Almost to good to be true. Too bad that it actually was. When I finally got my hands on the game, it would be a good journey. Not a great one that I had prepared for.

Gameplay: Certainly where the game actually shines. The gameplay is polished but a bit repetative. After a certain number of hours how many caves and monsters can you walk into and be suprised? Oh look, it's our old friend Mr. Troll. How many times have I killed you? But I gave the game multiple playthroughs and Mage was the most interesting, while warrior was the easiest to glich (c'mon, who doesn't these days?). The rogue was most useful in battle I think. And why is it that every girl you come across in this game that joins your party has huge tits. Don't get me wrong it's just that after awhile you wonder what kind of meathead designed all these characters.

Story: Good luck finding it. The game was short, but it felt like it was dragging it's feet just a little bit. That's never fun in a video game. The game's conversation mechanics are just like Mass Effect minus Paragon and Renegade. Each character is interesting but over bearing. Sonner or later the game will look and feel like it was made very hastly and without much time to add different backdrops and some different enemies wouldn't have hurt either. In the end of the game you feel unfullfiled and empty. And suddenly you get this urge to take a shower when it's over. That's how dirty you'll feel for Bioware, finally whoring themselves out.

Final Words: Dissapointing and annoying, unless you've never played an rpg before. If you've never played a rpg before then might as well start here, but you could be wasting your time on good games that change and grow on you. Not the same old story that everyone already knows. That about covers my very bland and bleek time with this game.
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TomChelsea13
201,755 (123,575)
TomChelsea13
TA Score for this game: 996
Posted on 17 May 11 at 12:26
This review has 7 positive votes and 11 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Dragon Age 2. The sequel to arguably the best RPG of the year last time out. Not much to live up to then?

Dragon Age 2 sees you play as Hawke, a man on the run from his home village. Right from the off you are thrown into the joy that is the Dragon Age fighting system. This system has claerly been improved from Origins and definitely feels smoother when fighting. The tactics are of course there, as useful as ever.

Perhaps the biggest shock for me was actually hearing my protagonist speak. Unlike Origins, Hawke actually has the ability to speak, which makes dialogue encounters far more enjoyable. And the dialogue itself is as brilliant as ever, with some memorable one liners thrown in.

I would say that this is as good as Origins, if not better. My only critisism would be the outrageously long loading screens, and the linear style of the game. If the map was opened up more, it would be even better.

If you were a fan of Origins, then you'll definitely love this game. If you are a fan of RPG's, then I definitely recommend this game, as it has hours of gameplay in it, and definite replayability, which some achievements requiring multiple playthroughs.

Overall then, this is a great game that is well worth buying, and with imminent DLC, the lifespan is huge. Will it be the best RPG of the year? Skyrim, its over to you...
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