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Dragon Age II back to reviews
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Ultimately Satisfying, If Less So Than Origins
For everything Dragon Age II did better than Origins, it does something worse. Combat is certainly more exciting, and feels like it packs more of a punch. I rarely felt like I was wasting attributes or talents, and each member of my party felt valuable. On the downside, enemies now attack in waves, hopping from rooftops or simply popping into the middle of combat. Combat fatigue set in quickly. Once I saw the last red dot vanish, I dreaded the next wave. This made Kirkwall at night particularly aggravating to traverse. Boss fights, however, were all challenging and exciting.

The companions were a particular joy—I can honestly say this was the first BioWare game where I liked every single companion. Companions affect choices in surprising ways. But even as I enjoyed them, interactions felt limited. Each companion has a quest per act (and there are three acts), plus two major conversations. For a game that spans ten years, it was simply not enough. Depth was sacrificed for pacing. Too often I felt I was only seeing part of the companion, and the rest was fleshed out in non-interactive party banters. The romances felt oddly stunted and paced, with Anders as an egregious offender. Hawke almost always feels like a consistent character in any permutation. This is an especial contrast with the perhaps more wooden Shepard. Often the dialogue wheel felt like it was relying on the intent icon over the paraphrase to convey meaning, which could be confusing and ambiguous—but only occasionally misleading.

Yes, dungeons are repetitive. I found I didn't care—perhaps Mass Effect 1 numbed me to trudging through identical levels. The quests themselves felt individually important and unique. Kirkwall could have used some detail improvements, and more areas to play in, but I found I was simply used to it, rather than offended by it.

The story is BioWare's strongest effort in years. Act I felt long and eventually slogged, but this added to the feeling of oppression. Act II was easily the most intriguing part, with emotions running high and deep. Act III raced along too fast, and the fifty hours I had spent building up to the conflict felt over too soon. The ending was far too ambiguous, and was a disappointment that made me want more.

Ultimately, I was satisfied. The game is great, particularly when judged on its own merits.

8.5/10
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