|Version Reviewed: Playstation 3
Dragon Age 2 (DA2) is a skeptically received sequel to the 2009 “RPG of the Year” Dragon Age: Origins (DA:O). That would probably be the best description you can give this game before you buy it. This game was released March 8th, 2011. It is of some note that this report is done based on the play of Signature Edition game, pre-ordered before the January 11, 2011 deadline. The Signature Edition does NOT impact the actual gameplay, though it does impact some of the characters, items received, and a few items of plot (the items included were worth it, and were fun to have at the initial stages of the game).
So, where do we start? First off, DA2 and DA: O are nothing alike. These games are set in the same world, around the same time, and there are several character cameos and references back to DA: O in DA2, but there the similarities end. Yes, you can import your DA: O character into DA2, but sadly, Bioware hardly took advantage of this. Importing only changes a few pieces of dialog that don’t affect the game, and TWO cut-scenes in reference to a potential choice that you made in DA:OS. This was a severe disappointment as you spend several hours on the first game, and maybe another 20 (or less) on Awakenings for it to be worth um…..words: talk is cheap.
Importing your character was only one facet of the new experience. The core portions of this review (graphics, audio, etc.) will be covered in due time. The main change, under which Bioware billed the game, was your ability to “Think like a general, fight like a Spartan.” Bioware did indeed live up to this promise. Players who have a tendency to be battlefield tacticians will love the new degree of control that they have. Use of choke points with shield-carrying warriors, disruptor mages screwing someone’s day up, rogues crippling opponents, and much more provide for a much more tactical experience. Tactics are wonderful, but knowing how to use them and fighting hard with them are a whole new level. Players will find a way to blend these things in order to create a more deadly team.
While there is a more tactical experience, there is also the new combat engine itself. When the article was done for the demo, it was felt that the new combat system would be extremely fun. The longer you play the game, the more it wears on you. While it was still fast- paced and fun, it did become tedious wanging on a button; the one-button press of DA:O became a much desired throwback. Bioware could keep the system that they have, with the increased speed, but needed to keep the one-button command. Many gamers seem to believe that this would have been the best compromise to increase battle pace but not make combat a button-mashing affair.
The new skill tree in DA2, on the other hand, sucks! It’s miserable and creates frustrations as only certain characters can be given certain types of abilities. It’s a psychotic jumble that takes time to adjust to (several hours), and can force you to deal with characters that you don’t like for the sake of having a character who could potentially keep you out of trouble (and often the prime suspect for a potential murder in Kirkwall).
This leads into the characters of DA2. Unfortunately, the characters in this game are not as well conceived, and there are fewer of them that you’re willing to stomach. Similar to the first game, each character has their own agenda, often butting heads with one another. Interestingly this time, they aren’t completely consistent in how they handle themselves or how they respond to your actions and choices. Quite often, you expect a character to be high and mighty because of how they typically are, only to surprise you when they support a decision or action you make that goes against their beliefs or desires due to your moral high ground. Also, certain events may completely turn a character against you unless you’re on their side, but players have yet to find what these exact triggers are.
Graphics and audio in this game were amazing. The audio was not as loud as DA: O, but the soundtrack was much better. The visual aspect of DA2 was greatly improved from DA: O, and well worth the effort that they put into it. While the consoles can push even further in terms of graphics, it was extremely pleasing where Bioware stopped, and it’s part of how they turned the game around so quickly.
The plot of this game is something that won’t be touched here in depth, for one reason: it changes. Warning; the plot takes a while to be revealed, and that it is ridiculously simple, albeit veiled. That said, your choices actually become major parts of the plot this time, instead of just picking your allies as you march to defeat the Blight (which has already been crushed by the time of the main part of this game).
There were a lot of drawbacks here (characters that piss you off, the button mashing, and a piss poor skill tree). But there were so many good points that it made the game worth the money that you spend. The newer pace, the tactical side, the moral decision that tweak your heart (and make you cry sometimes), and the gray areas of truth and deception, all make this game worth sitting down to play. This game was wonderful but is not a sequel to Origins, but rather an addition to the Dragon Age universe that will serve to bolster interest in Dragon Age 3, because you KNOW it’s coming.