All right, I'm going to hold up my flame shield here and say I liked Dragon Age II
. Maybe even more than the original — at least from a creative standpoint. It's among Bio Ware
's most deeply flawed games, but in many ways it's also one of the most experimental. While Origins
was an intentional homage to traditional save-the-world Dungeons & Dragons
PC games, DAII
focuses instead on a group of friends dealing with the political, social and religious conflicts of one city. The story is less focused, but also more realistic. There isn't always a Main Bad Guy. The world's no longer being overrun by mindless hordes. Moral choices are more complex than "Be nice" or "Be an ass." Hawke isn't an invincible hero — merely a well-respected and accomplished individual with investments in local businesses and a measure of political clout. Likewise, your companions carry on their own lives when you're not with them, and with a cast of likeable and flawed supporting characters such as the well-meaning but spineless Viscount Dumar and the grim Arishok, the whole thing just feels more compelling, even as its quests and plotlines take longer to form and connect. There's a masterful sense of slow-building tension, and Kirkwall itself, with its bronze statues and graffiti, feels lived-in and real.
And there are flaws. Nearly all of them can be laid at the feet of the game's rushed development process. Caves and warehouses are reused time and again. The game freezes up with alarming regularity. Bits and pieces of the ending seem clumsy, and your choice in the central conflict has little bearing on where you go and who you end up fighting during the final few hours. Character quests sometimes occur out of order. For the most part, they're small problems that get more annoying as they become more readily apparent over time, and they could easily have been avoided if they'd been given another six months or so to finish the game.
All in all, however, it's impressive what they did
manage to create, given the rush. We all remember Origins
fondly, but it was hardly perfect. The story here is well-told, the characters are enjoyable, and the combat is more dynamic, with less of Origins
' awkward shuffling for position.
It's a flawed game, but a fascinating one.