Continuing Game Review: Dragon Age 2

Note:  Continuing means I will revisit this as I get farther in.

Of course I couldn’t avoid Dragon Age 2 for very long, considering how much I loved Dragon Age: Originsand all the related DLC/expansion content.  So here I am, almost through with Kirkwall (pre-Deep Roads expedition), and enjoying it quite a bit.  I’ll put the rest after the jump as there may be SPOILERS.

I am playing through as a duel-wielding rogue (female) version of Hawke, having imported my DA:O character who put Anora on the throne.  Visually, the game is an improvement.  The changes took me a bit to get used to, especially the way the characters move quicker in combat, but I like it now.  The colors are more striking, mixing in more reds and blues to contrast against the DA:O brown on grey color schemes.  It runs smooth on the same machine I used for Origins but I don’t mind not having stupid high AA on anyway.

No, I’m all about the story, and it’s got a good start so far.  It’s framed as being a story (your character’s story) being told by a former compatriot to a Chantry Seeker.  At first, Varric tells a tale of a badass death-dealer carving his (or her) way through darkspawn while fleeing Lothering, barely breaking a sweat.  Eventually, Cassandra (the Seeker) convinces Varric to tell the real story, and that’s where your game truly begins.

I won’t give too many more story points away (that was covered in the demo), but the quest system seems more organic in how you get quests and how they continue between different areas and change goals as you advance.  Still too many guys just standing around waiting to ask for your help, but I guess I shouldn’t be expecting Oblivion here.  There’s a familiar face or two if you played the first game, and the references to your Warden if you imported, but the story (which I’ve just scratched the surface of) stands well on it’s own if you didn’t get into DA:O.  I’m definitely interested in seeing where the game goes from here and see the twists and turns that are forthcoming.

Update:  Played through the Deep Roads expedition.  Neat twist there with Bartrand, punk.  Not sure if that idol ends up being important, sure hope we see him down the road.  I did not take my sister, so I returned back to Kirkwall to see Bethany being led away by Templars.  I’m cleaning up the new side/companion quests before talking to the Arishok.  OH and speaking of Qunari, the shackled Qunari mage quest was neat.  I ‘saved’ my guy who then immolated himself.  Definitely thought-provoking.  I have to say I’ve enjoyed some of the moral choices, those might even be better than the first game, if only the combat didn’t fell dumbed down.  The dragon battle in the Deep Roads was the first time I really had to fight tactically.  And of course, the console-style interface on my PC makes that a touch more difficult.

Update:  August 2, 2011 – *cleans the dust off*  Hey, I guess it took me a bit longer than I thought to get back to this.  Heh.  Anyway, I blew through most of Act 2 and some of the new DLC Legacy over the weekend, and I have to say I’m having quite a bit more fun.  Maybe I’m in a better mood to play.  I’ve actually been challenged a few more times, whether it was single combat with the Arishok, or the high Dragon with 8 million dragonlings.  The serial killer plotline…whoa.  That got to me, a bit.  I also liked the bit with Gamlen and his daughter.  The twist with the Qunari artifact and Isabella worked for me, perhaps moreso because she is my character’s love interest.  This stuff just feels more like Dragon Age, to me.

Still, the problems are still evident that keep the game from being a total victory for me.  The map reuse is still a big black mark for me.  I HATE going through the same cave map over and over, seeing what looks like an open area and then finding that doorway with a stupid wall in it.  That looks exactly like a real door, only it doesn’t open.  So hard for a completist like me to remember if I went down a certain hall when it might just dead-end like that with what looks like unexplored territory beyond.

One other thing that is bugging me is the cameos from Dragon Age: Origins and Awakening.  One or two (beyond having that dipshit Anders/Justice) would’ve been fine.  But in the sequence I just completed, I saw Leliana, Zevran, and got a quest to find Nathaniel Howe.  Depending on your previous choices you may also run into Wynne, Alistair, Sketch (from Leliana’s Song), and others.  For a game that’s set fairly far apart from Ferelden, going years in the future and not really involving the Wardens much, it’s all bit much.

Wow, this got dusty, didn’t it!  Ahem.  I did, in fact, finally finish Dragon Age 2, as well as the Legacy and Mark of the Assassin DLCs.  And while I still dislike many of the design choices as I stated above (ESPECIALLY the reused maps, seriously, don’t let us SEE the areas we can’t go to on the map, thinking we did something wrong to have them blocked), the story picked up steam for me and was quite satisfying in the end.  Interesting to read my comment above about the idol Bartrand found, heh.  Legacy was solid, though the final battle with Corypheus was annoying.  That was on purpose, to an extent, because they needed to make it challenging even if you take on Legacy at later levels.  Mark of the Assassin was fun, and I love Felicia Day’s voice, so, double-win.  It had a few stealth challenges (think light-weight sneaking in the vein of Metal Gear Solid) which was a change-up.

I am bumping this back to the front page, now that I’m finally finished.  As you can tell, I am very much still interested in the DA universe (will have a third part to my Dragon Age 3 speculations out later) so DA2 was definitely a positive experience for me.  It did not exceed DA:O and the related expansions/DLC, but I feel it was money well spent.


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