by KezraPlanes on May 9, 2011 @ 2:49 pm
Dragon Age II is the highly anticipated sequel of the 2009 RPG of the Year, “Dragon Age: Origins. It has been hyped a lot ever since the announcement but fans of the original were afraid it was just going to be a quick cash-in on the popularity of the first. Is this the case or has BioWare been able to top Origins? Follow me after the break as I tackle this very question.
The plot is the biggest improvement over the original game. In Dragon Age II, the game puts you in the shoes of Hawke, a Ferelden refugee trying to escape with his family from the darkspawn horde. It is a much more humane tale, the tale of a man who’s trying to climb the social stratus of Kirkwall, to be able to provide his family with what they need to become nobles. It is a tale of social intrigue and conflict, one that keeps you interested and willing to see it to its end. The characters of Dragon Age II, much like all BioWare characters, are very well fleshed out and all have distinct backstories and expect to see some cameos from both Origins and Awakening in this game. All these good things however, cannot compensate for some glaring weak points.
As you play you will get the feeling the game was really rushed as you play it. The gameplay and environments are both repetitive and you can sometimes tell that the dungeon you are in is the same as one you were in before. It very common for developers to re-use textures in games like this, but not to this extent. This is obviously a result of a smaller development cycle and you get the feeling if the game had a few more months of development, this could have easily been avoided.
It may seem like a small detail but as you play it, you will most of the times be flooded with a horrible sensation of deja-vu, that will sometimes hinder your will to play. Another thing that may have the same effect as the repetitiveness of the dungeons is the fact that you hardly ever get to leave Kirkwall. While it wasn’t that much of a problem to me, a few friends I know played the game and hated that fact, but this depends more on how picky you are with games. Considering the plot of the game, I believe the choice of restricting it to Kirkwall and its outskirts was a good one.
The redeeming factor of the gameplay in Dragon Age II is the combat. In Dragon Age: Origins combat was made specifically to cater to old-school PC gamers, meaning it was much more strategy oriented (much like games as Neverwinter Nights and Baldur’s Gate) and as a result didn’t appeal much to action gamers on the console market. Dragon Age II fixed this by including a versatile combat system that is fun to play whether you want to go at it strategically, or if you prefer action. To sum it up in one word: fun.
The system of moral choices in Dragon Age II has also been changed and those changes may not be to your liking. Hawke really doesn’t know how to say “No”: you have three different choices (the usual good, neutral and evil), but they all amount to saying “Yes” in different tones that fit the alignment you have chosen. I believe this to be a really awkward development choice, specially if you are trying to make a evil character.
Graphically PC owners might barely notice differences from the first game, except in the fact that the game has a less realist look. PS3 and 360 owners however will notice that the game looks much better than Origins did on their platforms. All this is due to the fact that this time BioWare has developed the console ports ground up in their studios, instead of outsourcing like they did for Origins (whose port was made by Edge of Reality). It also helps that Dragon Age II uses a new reworked engine that is truly multiplatform-friendly.
Soundwise, expect the typical BioWare greatness. BioWare and EA got Inon Zur to create the score for this game (he was the composer for Origins) so the soundtrack is excellent. As for voice-over work, expect great actors and believeable dialog that will really help your immersion in the experience and honestly I can’t think of a characters voice I might have disliked. A simple warning though, don’t expect a epic soundtrack like there was in Origins: the soundtrack has been scored to perfectly fit the more humane story inserted into the game.
Dragon Age II is a game that left me with mixed feelings: on one side I loved the awesome story that it tells us, but on the other hand it’s a game that really shows that it wasn’t given the time it needed to be perfect. It’s filled with the potential needed to surpass Origins, but ends up falling short due to its repetitiveness. I would say buy it only if you can stand the limitation I mentioned. It the end, it might only be the Dragon Age saga’s equivalent of Deus Ex: Invisible War.
Review written by KezraPlanes/Nuno Sousa
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