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Dragon Age 2 Review
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Mar 08, 11
|» All About Dragon Age 2 on ActionTrip|
The first time I played Dragon Age: Origins it was on the Xbox 360 and I found it to be an immensely enjoyable experience. However, the second time I played it, I tried a different origin story and I played the game on PC. It was even better. Sharper graphics, the chance to use to the top-down tactical view and well, ya know, the mouse and keyboard are sort of what I'm used to when playing classic RPGs. That's not saying the 360 version was crap. Quite the opposite, in fact. I liked what BioWare did with the controls in the console version and it was still very much enjoyable. Now, at the risk of sounding like a PC-crazed fanboy, yes, I really do think games like Dragon Age: Origins are simply meant to be played on a PC, rather than consoles.
For that reason (and for many other reasons, which we'll go into a bit later) BioWare decided it was time for some changes. The gameplay mechanics have been tweaked to some extent, catering to console gamers as much as PC gamers. But there's a bit more to it than just that.
Oopse, I goosed that poor lady.
Shocking... positively shocking.
Dragon Age 2, first and foremost, doesn't elaborate on what exactly happened to your character and party members from the original game after the war against the Darkspawn. While some minor details were thrown in here in there, the story itself focuses on a new setting, away from the regions of Ferelden. Having pushed through several waves of Darkspawn during the Blight, you and your family barely escape from Lothering, landing on the shores of the Free Marches and the gates of the huge city of Kirkwall. Upon arrival you discover that the situation in the city is dire. There are many social and class-based conflicts on the horizon, your family's reputation as nobles has suffered greatly and, to top it all off, the Qunari were allowed to settle in one part of the city, which in turn causes major unrest among the people of Kirkwall. Meanwhile, Templars are relentlessly hunting down mages who are no longer part of the Circle (i.e. Apostates) and considering your own mother is such a mage, that doesn't exactly make things any easier for your family.
Okay, as far as fantasy tales go, that sounds like a pretty decent kick off, doesn't it? In practice, however, Dragon Age 2 offers an inadequate introduction. In the first game, players were given a chance to get into the characters and the setting of each origin story (at least for a while). Characters you created were subsequently woven into a fantasy-driven plot that stretches into an epic conflict between good and evil. The choices in Dragon Age: Origins were virtually endless, especially in terms of dialogue and character development. It just doesn't feel that way in Dragon Age 2. With the dialogue options severely reduced, your relationships with party members feel slightly watered down. You're just this random guy, Hawke, who arrives to Kirkwall and that's it. All you have to do is stay on your toes, go on quests and make a name for yourself.
Before you get discouraged, perhaps you should know a few more things. Certain changes BioWare made to the combat mechanics, inventory system and UI are actually quite good. They've streamlined the gameplay to appeal to both console gamers and PC gamers and that's no easy task. The combat feels smoother, more aggressive and straightforward. Thanks to the sleek new design, it's far easier to peruse the inventory and go through all the weapons and various other items you've collected along the way. Also, there's still a lot to do in this game. A variety of tasks await, ranging from story-related quests, to companion quests, side-quests, secondary quests and so on.
The combat is faster and can be very enjoyable. Enemy encounters are more action-oriented and there's less emphasis on tactics this time around. It's still advisable to pause the battle every now and then, but to experienced Dragon Age players, the battles should be a peace of cake in real-time. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It actually makes battles a lot more fun in real-time than they were before, which is a step forward so to speak, at least for those of you who prefer fighting in real-time. Of course, more experienced RPG players are advised to increase the difficulty setting to 'Hard' or even 'Nightmare' so as to get more challenge out of each fight. We also appreciated the cool variety of boss encounters that were thrown into the game.
Combat gets fun and more engaging the more you play, there are plenty of quests and some pretty sweet boss fights, cool story variables, detailed character models and improved animation, prettier graphics overall, the soundtrack and audio in general are awesome;
Not nearly as profound as Dragon Age: Origins, the use of tactics has diminished somewhat, players backtrack into the same areas too often, the story and characters are less appealing this time around, the game's sure to upset those who prefer classic RPG-style gameplay.