29 March, 2011

Dragon Age 2

Well, Raptr says 82 hours and Steam says 22 hours... I think Steam needs to get it's internal clock sorted out! What am I talking about? Dragon Age II of course (the PC version). With 80+ hours in, I think it's time for me to give a review about the sequel to a game I love very much. I never did a Dragon Age: Origins review and I think it was because I loved the game so much (200+ hours) that I felt reviewing it would be doing some kind of injustice. I have felt the same about the Assassin's Creed games, as well as Star Ocean. However, the time has come to lay aside those silly thoughts and try to share my love of games a bit more. And so, here is a review of Dragon Age II. As I said, I have sunk over 80 hours into the game and I can honestly say that I'm still enjoying it. So much in fact, that I have done two other play-throughs in Dragon Age: Origins so I can import those saves into Dragon Age II and see the changes which take place because of them. I'll get into that aspect of the game near the end though. Where to start now? There's so much to say. After the amusing commentary by the dwarf and Orlesian at the beginning you are thrown into the game escaping from Lothering... a place you also visited in Dragon Age: Origins. It was nice to be playing someone who escaped the Blight, to be honest. It gave me a little more of a connection to what was going on. Plus, the mini tutorial was good to experience for the changes they made. I have to say, the best change was the Target and Attack nearest Target button (I bound mine to Q). This made combat A LOT better.. it also helps for looting as well! Something I hate in any game.

There have been loads of negative reviews about this game, some of which I agree, most of which I don't... even more where I think humanity has finally gone batshit crazy. I imported my save from my Dragon Age: Origins mage first off, even though I spent the least time on her, but because I knew the character I would play was related to the mage origin from the first game (Amell being the surname). It gave a little nod to it at a few areas, but nothing too
interesting. I'm going to talk about some more basic things first, namely your equipment and inventory. I absolutely LOVE what they did! I can't tell you how annoying it was in Dragon Age: Origins to rifle through all my shit trying to find other shit to sell. And now we have an area where things automatically go into as a junk tab? Holy thank you Bioware! In Dragon Age: Origins it was painful trying to sift through it all, so I'm well grateful that they streamlined it like they did. The weapons, armour, and jewellery sections are just mint. Another thing they did was for all your companions, you don't give them new armour, excluding jewellery and a weapon. This is because you find things from quests or vendors which are used to upgrade their current armours. There are a total of four upgrade slots for each character which provides better stats and rune-slots. This is so much better than having to find new shit for them to wear. Determining which weapon and accessories would be best for them was pretty easy, depending on how you've put their talent points. Yes, my friends, this is an improvement which I was ecstatic about. I mentioned talents just there and I'm a lot happier with how they've made them. Each companion has their own tree which is specific to them. Depending on if you're their Friend or Rival, they'll give you an extra bonus, but that isn't really very significant overall. Some of the companion talents are really quite awesome. Your characters specializations, as well, are pretty straight forward and easy to understand. I found myself liking the mage a lot more in Dragon Age II than in Dragon Age: Origins because of how much better it was using the talents in combat. And of course, now combat. Not always the happiest of topics for me. It was much, much better than Dragon Age: Origins, this I have to say. I've a lot more love for how they tweaked it in Dragon Age II. The tactics were easier to get through as well and setting up strategy just felt more natural. In Dragon Age: Origins the combat was clunky, but for the time it was good and they let you pull the camera overhead for a more RTS feel to it, which did help a lot. Whereas they removed that feature in Dragon Age II, I'm glad they made the decision to make it more immersible and easier to use (RE the Q targeting I mentioned earlier). Now, encounters don't really differ from each other in a huge way (I can think of only three or four where I had to do something different than normal to beat it), but to be honest, this is how I feel in most games. Combat isn't the number one thing for me in games though; it's just a necessity to get to more storyline and RPG.

Next I want to touch upon the story and companions. Dragon Age: Origins has my life for 200+ hours and I'll be the first to admit how incredible the story and character development was in that. Did Dragon Age II let me down? Hell no! Now, I can't say for the DLC because I haven't got that yet (though plan to in a few weeks), but the other characters I felt were quite fleshed out and I felt like I understood them quite a bit. I've done both sides of their stories (you can be Friend/Rival, but also there are different paths to take which can cause you to loose companions for good depending on those actions) and I feel that some of them were even better than Dragon Age: Origins's companion stories. Especially Wynne, Leliana (without her DLC), and Sten... they didn't really make me feel like I had a part in their lives, but in Dragon Age II I felt like I personally had a part in all my companions lives... especially Fenris and Merill. This is also partially because the entire thing is fully voiced, so my voice is being heard talking to my friends/rivals in certain tonalities (based upon how I talk previously the most IE sarcastic or kind or angry), while they respond to me in different tones depending on my relationship with them. Also, the dialogue in this game... oh man. I can't even begin to say how awesome it is. There were times I just couldn't stop laughing at some of the amusing comments and also gasping at some of the really atrocious things people get up to. Another topic people are up in huffs about is the bisexual characters thing.. yea I agree that it was a bit lame how they did that. Anyone can get with anyone which was a bit what...? Even in the Dragon Age: Origins there were characters (Morrigan/Alistair) who were gender locked, but in Dragon Age II that's not the case. It would have been awesome to have a straight, gay, or lesbian only case as well as one or two bisexual characters. That was a mistake on their part, but maybe they were constrained by money and time. Isabela as a lesbian only would have rocked! For the story, it was so great. I loved being 'limited' to Kirkwall and the surrounding area. It made me feel like I lived there; like it was my home. I didn't have to go to a million different places to do all these quests for 100 different people and races and places. I was a person who lived in the city and did things for my city. It felt more tight knit and secure. That the 'final' story wasn't clear during the acts was really brilliant! Each Act had it's own story and seeing how they eventually came together was genius. First off, trying to raise the money to go to the Deep Roads was great and as the Act continued and lead into others, I found myself questioning the decisions I'd made and seeing another story which I thought was bigger. Then another Act passed and the same happened again. I loved how they kept it close at hand. Whether it was money or whatever on their part, I think it was done in a fantastic way.

I was glad not knowing the overarching story though. Each Act being it's own story, as I said, was great! It was normal! Like a person's life... you were going through the years, doing things that didn't seem to connected, but then suddenly, when it all explodes at the end, you see how your actions through the years affected everything. Superbly done and I
thought it made perfect sense. Graphics and music! Wow. There were times when I just stood on a cliff or overlooked a gorge in total awe. Everything was beautiful... even the hideous things like dwarfs and dark-spawn were a joy to look at. The animations were so clean and together with crisp music and sound effects, I was pulled into the game in a very entire way. I don't know that there is a load to say about either the graphics and the music which could elaborate more... it was impressive and I enjoyed them both a lot. Overall, I would recommend this game. It was worth the money and worth the time. I am still doing some plays of it and enjoying every minute inside the world. Seeing other characters I knew from Dragon Age: Origins come back for cameos was wonderful. Living in Kirkwall was trying at times, but rewarding. After I beat the game the first time, I delved into some great mods to alter my appearance (mostly just eyes and hair) and change the textures on some of the armours, but other than that I didn't feel the need to extensively mod the game as I had so much fun doing in Dragon Age: Origins. Maybe I will further down the line though.

I'll say one last thing. If you've played Dragon Age: Origins, you can import a save file into the Dragon Age II game which will change the way some things play out. For example... Did you put Alistair on the throne or Anora? Or did you exile Alistair? Did you save Conner or kill him? Harrowmont or Bhelen? And not just from the first, you can import your DLC saves as well. You never know what decisions will affect your Dragon Age II game or how they will affect it. It's really great to see all the little changes or hear something mentioned. I recommend trying many different combinations!


  1. Well, you've sold me. I put in an order just a few minutes ago... if this game causes me to lose my job and relationship, I'm blaming you!

  2. I'm glad you're getting it! As for blaming me, well you wouldn't be the first ;)