Dragon Age II has several improvements over its predecessor, but also simplifies or removes some of Origins' better aspects. Despite this, it is, when considered on its own, a very good CRPG. The plot is less focused than Origins, and while it is interesting to see how a city changes politically over time, the player character often seems powerless and merely reacting to events. Combat has been simplified, sped up and rebalanced, making it often easier than Origins. Mages, formerly overpowered, are now relatively weak, as area of effect attacks have become more valuable than crowd control abilities now that monsters come in greater numbers. Most encounters are easier than those in Origins, and require less tactical thinking, making them somewhat more repetitive. Abilities are on longer cooldowns, thus increasing your reliance on auto-attack. Area of effect abilities are smaller, which reduces the chance for friendly fire and also makes positioning less important. The talent system has been improved, and upgrading abilities with talent points is a good touch that enables customization. Your companions have unique abilities, which set them apart from others of their class. As in the previous game, moral decisions are not always clear-cut, and your decisions impact how your companions perceive you. This time it can pay to consistently disagree with a character on decisions, with Rivalry giving benefits like Friendship does. However, where Origins’ decisions often had right and wrong choices, if not obvious ones, many decisions here involve choosing the lesser of two evils, and situations often turn out badly regardless of what you do. In the late game, you must choose between one of two severely flawed and largely corrupt factions, and while it impacts whether your companions follow you, apart from that, there is little that changes in the gameplay or story, limiting replay value and the importance of your decision. The companions tend to focus on one issue more than in the previous game, and have fewer times when they have an opinion that you might not expect from them. While they talk about their backstories less, their personal quests are fun, as well as good ways to develop them as characters. Two crucial questions remain. Is Dragon Age II as good as Origins? No. Is it still worth buying and playing if you can get past that? Yes.
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