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Dragon Age II back to reviews
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An ugly duckling of the series
I was one of those people who was both impressed and disappointed with Dragon Age: Origins, the combat was intuitive and deep but the story and levels got incredibly boring and at times annoying (I still dream of the slog through the Circle Tower and cringe), but I was invested enough in it to be interested in the sequel, Dragon Age 2, I played it, and overall found it made SOME improvements over the first game, but overall it's blunders outweighed it's successes.

Combat has overall been simplified, with specializations being limited to the player character and each other party member being restricted to one type of weapon (Varric can only use crossbows, Aveline can only use sword/shield, etc) and the option to equip/change armor on them being removed. While this simplifies item-management and avoids extensive micro-management, it also seems to remove a degree of personification from the first game which made the stradegizing so fun. At the same time, battle animations have been thoroughly revised with much more extravagant and fluid movements, which help to make combat look and feel far more fast-paced.

The level design, however, is to put it bluntly, embarrassing. The first dungeon you'll find yourself running into is this generic underground cavern/mine, which is visually and atmospherically unremarkable. 'But things will surely improve from here!' you may think as you run out to eagerly dive into the next dungeon...only to find it's the exact same one. Sure they've blocked off a few entrances and exits, and there's new loot in the nooks and crannys, but it is still the exact same damn dungeon. This repeats for nearly *every* damn area in the game outside of major areas in Kirkwall and the ONE village outside it. It's bloody ridiculous. Now I know that Bioware was rushed by EA in order to release this game, so they had to cut a few corners to meet expectations, but this is still bloody jarring enough to severely detract from the game experience. You'll constantly be running through the same entrance in the lower-city to go through the same bloody sewer systems to get to the same damn beach all the bloody time.

cont.
The point where the game REALLY falls flat, however, is the story. The plot is divided into three acts all spanning 10 years in which the player character, Hawke, rises to power in the city of Kirkwall. Despite this, however, the plot feels incredibly disjointed, with each act being more of a self-contained episode as opposed to a part of an overarching story. The first act is more of a giant prologue, the second act is a well thought out and executed story concerning racial prejudice and religious dogma culminating in an attempted Quanari uprising, and the third act is an incredibly rushed piece where we introduce characters intended to be the villains who we've known about for barely two hours, a few lackluster fetch quests and side-quests, and a finale which seems desperate to show off morale ambiguity, but more or less falls flat on it's ass due to plot-induced stupidity concerning a civil war between the mages and the templars. What really bugs me about the plot was just how inconsequential it makes all my decisions feel rather pointless, the whole 'every decision has a consequence' schtick Bioware's been following really falls short here. Killed Leliana in the Origins? SO WHAT, SHE'S ALIVE NOW! Cullen turn into a mass-murdering lunatic in Origins? DON'T CARE, HE'S SANE NOW! The endgame tries so hard to make one of it's decisions seem truly critical in how it'll affect the future, when it really does nothing in the grand scheme of things; the same characters will still turn on you, and the same characters will still make their stupid decisions.
comment #8975 mightymoose101 31st Jul 11
Another thing which puts me off is just how static the world feels. The game's supposed to take place over a ten year period, but in-game nothing changes at all. This may seem minor, but in a story-driven RPG this flaw really broke my immersion, as characters will talk of events which supposedly happened years ago, but the game is designed in such a way that it barely feels as though a few days have passed. The same group of people are always standing in that one corner, that one vendor is still at that same spot, Merril still looks and acts like a naive schoolgirl even after several years of living in the alienage, Varric remains a young-dashing rogue ten years down the line, Kirkwall will look spic and spam in the third act despite being wrecked in a major Quanari invasion only a year or two before. Nothing ever changes.
comment #8976 mightymoose101 31st Jul 11
The level design in DAII is worse then in Origins?

comment #8981 eveil 31st Jul 11
I will agree about the level design. I didn't care much for the combat in DAO and, because of that, I liked the streamlining and added spectacle in DA 2.

I don't agree about the story. I like that DA 2 didn't have the same generic overarching evil all throughout the game and that each act had it's own culmination. The city of Kirkwall may not seem to change much, but a city is not an easy thing to change. Hawke, however, undergoes various experiences on a more personal level throughout the story, as do the other characters. The plot consisted of various personal stories that were all brought together around Hawke and his greatest victories. Varric and the expedition and his brother's madness, Isabela and the stolen tome, Anders/Justice and his absolute refusal to compromise, Fenris's slavery, Merril's obsession with the mirror, Aveline's career and personal life, Hawke's family, all these stories led somewhere. These are the parts of the plot that could be influenced by choice. Aveline didn't have to get married to guardsman Donnic, Merril's clan didn't have to die, Fenris didn't have to stay free, Isabela didn't have to run or stay free, Hawke's brother/sister could either live or die. That's where the choices are, in the lives of the characters. That's the appeal of the story.
comment #8994 McSomeguy 31st Jul 11
Kirkwall will look spic and spam in the third act despite being wrecked in a major Quanari invasion only a year or two before.

Truth In Television. City works' projects tend to move pretty quickly to repair large-scale damage, and the qunari didn't really do that much damage to the city; they were a few hundred infantry whose heaviest weapons were grenades, that attacked from within the city with surprise, not a siege force with cannons and tens of thousands of men that had to break through the outer walls. Damage would be limited.
comment #8997 Zaptech 31st Jul 11 (edited by: Zaptech)
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