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Dragon Age II Impressions

Outside of nicer combat and a changed leveling system Dragon Age 2 seems like just DLC for Dragon Age 1.

It took me a few hours to actually figure out when in the Dragon Age universe DA2 takes place. The game begins around the same time Dragon Age 1 (henceforth: DA:O) starts, with your character fleeing the blight in Ferelden (the location of DA:O). However shortly after the game begins the timeline jumps “one year later” and the blight has been ended by The Hero of Ferelden, everyone in the city seems to know your character and the real story of DA2 begins.

Dragon Age 2 (henceforth: DA2) can be fairly monotonous, the combat system is MUCH nicer to watch, but far easier to beat than DA:O. Hardcore RPG fans will lament there are no real “tactics”, but if you’re just playing it for the story (like I am) you won’t mind winning the simple point-and-click combat. One thing that was really jarring for me as a hardcore Mass Effect fan was the musical overture — it seemed far too similar to Mass Effect’s musical score. There are times in the game where you’d swear you were listening to the Mass Effect soundtrack. It was clearly scored by the same team of audio guys at Bioware… shame on them for not creating a better distinction.
I really like the new inventory system, the addition of a “junk” filter for easily offloading junk loot to merchants is a very welcome addition. You can only equip party members with entire outfits, but your character can mix and match a wide range of armor types (I’ve already had 2 completely different sets of armor – not just slightly different colours like in DA:O – another welcome addition).
There seems to be a ton to read. If you like reading things to build up a universe in your mind you’ll feel right at home in DA2 – if you hate reading, and don’t really care about story lines you probably will not enjoy this game at all. One thing that could be added are pictures in the codex – it’s easy to get lost browsing through the many entries you collect, but sometimes a visual reminder of what you are reading would be helpful.

Overall after having played now for about 6 hours, I’d give this game a 6 out of 10. It’s good not great. If you’re a hardcore RPG fan you’ll have lots to gripe about, but if you’re in it for the lore and storyline you’ll love it.

– Edit: After a full play through – SPOILER ALERT —
Honestly, I’ve never been more disappointed in an RPG. This overall bad story is a shock coming from BioWare – these guys are usually fantastic at story telling. Maybe it’s just the way I played through, but this was the most depressing video game experience I’ve ever had. They should have called this game “Watch-Your-Whole-Family-Die Age”. The game starts with your brother dying in front of you, then if you decide to take your sister with you on the “deep roads expedition” SHE dies, and finally in the last part of the game your mother is brutally murdered and Frankensteined back together by a mad-man. These are the most emotional points in the game – even the romance side quests don’t make up for this brutal assault of depression!

What gets me the most is how disjointed the whole story seems – the story of this game could easily switch places with the story of DA:O and nothing would be wrong continuity wise. This isn’t a sequel so much as it is just another game in the Dragon Age universe. None of the questions raised in DA:O are addressed (and I’m pretty sure I killed Flemeth in DA:O too!). The only time you actually fight a dragon is in a side quest that seems like someone at BioWare stood up on the last week of development and said “Oh shit! There are no dragons in our game named Dragon Age! Let’s add one in real quick!”. The topic of dragons is barely touched upon, if even at all, despite all the lore and inherit questions about them (ties to the darkspawn, why Flemeth can just ‘become’ one… etc).

*Major spoiler* If you side with the mages at the end the lead mage has a completely WTF moment as he tells you “Meh, fuck it – I’m going to turn myself into a disgusting demon beast and attack you”. It’s like they were struggling to figure out how to end the game, after you beat the demon-mage you go to the “final fight” with “the guard captain” (just as much a minor bureaucrat as it sounds) – and that’s it – the game is over. There is no naming of a new Viscount (probably how I played it, but still very unsatisfying), there is no real wrap up. The whole experience is cheapened by the fact that it was a story told by Verick to some woman whose purpose is never explained nor her name even given! It just doesn’t make sense, and certainly if this were someones first experience with an RPG they’d be turned off for life.

I plan on playing it through again, trying to keep my family alive, and getting the extra two characters for my party … I may just give up on it though and hope that BioWare pulls its head out of its ass for Mass Effect 3.

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