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Reviews Comments: Time For Some Heresy Dragon Age II game review by Zaptech

I've been playing Bioware games ever since Baldur's Gate II, and have enjoyed every one since. I got Dragon Age II with my usual expectations of an excellent game of fairly over-the-top action involving great combat, hilarious dialogue, tightly-plotted story, engaging setting, and flawed, intriguing, well-rounded characters.

I was not disappointed.

....wait, what? You mean I'm not allowed to like Dragon Age II?

Maybe it's just that I refuse to wear rosy shades when looking at the first game or at Baldur's Gate. Dragon Age II has flaws, just as Dragon Age Origins did, and just like Baldur's Gate did, but those flaws are relatively minor; some graphical clipping issues were my biggest annoyances, and maybe a too-limited range of abilities for tanks. I know a lot of people complained about re-used interiors, but those didn't bother me terribly much in Mass Effect and they don't bother me much here either. I'm not playing it to remark on the wide range of interior designs in Kirkwall, I'm playing it because Fenris just scythed through twelve badguys at once and threw limbs everywhere, Anders flooded an entire room with raining fireballs, Varric snapped off some witty commentary with Snark!Hawke, and Merrill is being Merrill. There were a number of bugs in the initial release which were also annoying as hell, but have since been patched.

Some people complained about combat, but I found it superior in most ways to Dragon Age: Origins'. It's faster and simpler, attributes are more relevant, warriors and rogues are better balance, and the large numbers of tactics slots allows for far greater automation.

Probably my favorite element is how, like in Real Life more often than not, the characters' conflicts are driven less by forces of evil and more by the circumstances that the flaws in society forced on them. There's horribly evil villains, but these guys are small potatoes compared with forces of society and belief that cause the various conflicts between the Qunari and Kirkwall, or the mages and Templars. it makes for a far more realistic, interesting, and engaging story that embeds itself within the setting's lore so much more effectively.

So there you have it. Dragon Age II is a fun, satisfying game. Have fun with it.


  • eveil
  • 23rd Jul 11
DAII > DAO. This is despite the fact that it was a rushed game.
  • McSomeguy
  • 23rd Jul 11
I agree fully. As a sidenote, you made a typo, it seems. You say that you found Dragon Age 2s combat superior to the combat of Dragon Age 2...
  • McSomeguy
  • 24th Jul 11
Clearly, you speak the truth. I was mistaken. ^^
  • LegalAssassin
  • 25th Jul 11
Agreeing that DAII is better than DA:O (except for the darkspawn design and the inability to bribe templars with cookies) and that it shouldn't be weird or scandalous to think so. Glad to see another person who isn't afraid to say the same.
  • gfrequency
  • 27th Jul 11
Agreed on just about everything. I find it difficult to put into words why I prefer DAII's story and characters to those of Origins. It just seems to flow more naturally, have more emotional impact. By the end of the game, Hawke is more powerful than most anyone in Kirkwall, and her life is still a wreck. People keep leaving her, people she cares about keep dying, and in spite of her status as Champion, she can't stop the inevitable. I like that. It's a refreshing aversion of both the Featureless Protagonist and the Invincible Hero, and goes hand in hand with the unconventional nature of the narrative as a whole. I'm always sort of confused when people accuse DAII of "going mainstream" or trying to appeal to some sort of imaginary army of idiot gamers determined to "dumb down" the genre. If anything, it seems to me that it takes a far riskier and more experimental approach than its predecessor, which was very intentionally a traditional DND "save the world" quest.
  • gneissisnice
  • 8th Sep 11
I agree as well. I found the combat to be much more intuitive than DA:O, and while Mages were nerfed a bit, they're still quite powerful and I was very glad to see that I could play a Mage and actually do some kind of damage when I'm out of mana, instead of having to chug Lyrium Potions as often as possible; it's cool feeling like a battlemage, using your staff for your main attacks and then flinging out spells as needed, instead of just spamming super powerful spells until your blue bar disappears. I was a little disappointed in the more simplified skill trees, but they did feel smoother and more intuitive as well, while still offering some customization. Healing got a major nerf, but then again, so did enemy damage, so you don't feel like you have to have a character spamming heals at all times just to prevent death, unlike the original.

As for the story, I agree too. It's less of a grand tale about good vs. evil and more a glimpse into the life of a refugee, and the moral choices that define him. I liked that my character didn't have the burden of saving the world on him. Sure, he does save Kirkwall, but compared to the "Hero, you're our only hope" stories you see in so many other RP Gs, it was refreshing to be saving things on a smaller scale, and the ending shows that maybe you can stop a temporary enemy, but actually changing society is a much harder task. All in all, I found DAII to be a lot more enjoyable than DA:O.
  • NewHandleNumber128287
  • 13th Sep 11
  • Zaptech
  • 6th Oct 11
To come back to this review, I wanted to cover something else in greater detail: the combat system.

Having played both games quite thoroughly, I found that both games have a unique style to their combat, and personally, I found I preferred the streamlining and improvements to Dragon Age II's combat system over Dragon Age Origins'.

DA:O's combat system was slower and a bit more cerebral than its sequel's, with more gradual combat that placed an emphasis on moving your team around and constantly switching between teammembers to issue specific orders (Alistair, trigger Shield Bash now, Zevran, circle around and backstab now, Wynne, heal now, Sten, stay on the ground and bleed out because two-handers suck now, Morrigan, stay in camp now, etc). It was great if one enjoys micromanaging and carefully controlling the party, which I do enjoy quite a bit. Every encounter had weight and importance because every encounter required you to keep a tight leash on your party and control it closely. Tactics slots were limited, and you didn't want to trust the computer's judgment when it came to directing Fireballs or Blizzards. On the other hand, the game did demand that you heavily micromanage your party members - the only party member that I rarely had to micromanage was Leliana, because she could be an efficient killing machine no matter what she shot at and I wouldn't have to risk her accidentally killing my party with an errant fireball. This micromanaging seriously slowed down the game over time; combat became a slog during the longer dungeons. But even more troubling with DA:O's combat system was the dominance of mages. You can't go anywhere in DA:O without a mage in your party. Massive class imbalance there. And building off that is the simple fact that combat in DA:O is so bloody random because mages are so powerful. Half the time in DA:O the battle is actually decided in the first thirty or so seconds based on whatever spell the enemy mages manage to get off before you Force Field or Mana Clash them. Maybe they'll get off a buff and you'll steamroll everyone in minutes. Or maybe they'll get off a fireball, lay out the entire party, and proceed to line up more horrible murder spells. Maybe they'll fire off Chain Lightning, which is otherwise known as the "Reload Your Last Save" spell. It's annoying.

DAII, I feel, has a superior combat system, if only because classes are properly balanced. Everyone can ruin everyone's day almost equally well. (except archer rogues, because Varric is always a better archer and there's that guy in the chainmail with the funny accent who never sleeps with Hawke who also shoots arrows) In fact, it is actually possible to go around without a mage in the party! Madness! Combat is faster-paced, with more enemies to deal with coming from multiple directions. Positioning takes a backseat to careful management of threat, stamina, mana, and cooldown times. I know some people complain about their mages getting attacked by the waves of respawning enemies, but having played through the game several times, this becomes less of an issue once you adjust your tactics to deal with it. Don't leave the mages/archers seperated from the rest of the party. Make sure you've got a rogue with Armistice in case the mages get mobbed (if you don't it's your own bloody fault). Don't have the mages constantly spamming doom spells that generate massive threat. Simple, easy to follow rules. The talent/spell trees' implementation of upgrades for nearly every talent and spell makes for an excellent tradeoff between making a character more versatile and making them more specialized and potent, so talent/spell progression became a lot more complex than the simple pick-and-choose progression in DA:O. The game actually seems to favor specialization in one or two areas for each character over assembling a wide range of talents/spells. And best of all, automation is so much easier! The huge number of tactics slots and smaller, more conservative talent trees make it easier to tailor each character's tactics. Unlike DA:O, it is possible to get through entire dungeons and quests without ever switching away from Hawke, because of how easy and more effective party automation is.

DAII does have some issues with gameplay. I think rogues are the big overpowering class in this game because they do so much damage and are so damned versatile (outside of Force Mages). I do not like the removal of the skills that were present in DA:O. Sword-and-shield warriors are impotent when it comes to actually doing any damage (and rogues can take over their job as tanks almost as well). Force Mage specialization is hilariously overpowered. Party automation does need some tweaks; a trigger for "end of combat" would be a godsend for ending active modes so the mages don't go into combat without only 20% mana.

But overall, I think DAII delivers a better combat experience than DA:O.
  • McSomeguy
  • 7th Oct 11
^Indeed it does.

Mages in DAO were laughably overpowered, especially in terms of crowd control. All you needed was one mage with Cone of Cold in your party and you could win any encounter on normal difficulty. Add to that Curshing Prison and Blood Wound and you could lock down a small army, and that's with ONE mage while you could have up to THREE of them in your party, at the same time. Sure you had to position your party so they wouldn't get paralyzed as well, but that wasn't exactly hard to do. On the flipside, as you already noted, don't take any mages with you and you're screwed.

I definitely agree that DA 2 improved the combat balance a lot.

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