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Now I'll be the first to admit that I'm in the minority when I say I prefer Dragon Age 2 over origins. Not just in the graphics department but also storyline wise, character wise, discussion wise but overall I feel the game is was an improvement over the already solid Dragon Age: Origins
You have a choice of three different starting stories or importing your character from Origins. I'm reviewing this game for the aspect of playing the game as The Hero of Ferelden. But the additional storylines can add to the replay value
The game starts with you playing as a refugee named Hawke. From Lothering who is attempting to escape the blight that has ravaged his hometown and find protection in the stronghold of Kirkwall. The story takes place over the course of a decade and details how the Lothering refugee rose up the social ladder and became the Influential Champion Of Kirkwall and how he entangles the political situation and the personal relationships around him
The plot is explained through flashback as Varric a Rogue class Dwarf you will meet during the course of the game is narrating whilst being held captive by those seeking The Champion. Whilst this may seem a good idea. The story does not seem to grand instead they are just a series of short series of stories (Which are no doubt well written) which culminates in an ending that if I'm honest just advertises the expectations of the third game more then anything else. One of the world's most obvious cliff-hangers ever devised. Apart from the disappointing ending BioWare have done another solid job with the writing incorporating plenty of humour interspersed between the moments of political discourse, betrayals and more erotic endeavours
Characters have always been a BioWare favourite and they do not disappoint they consist of
Varric: A male rouge class Dwarf who's charisma is only matched by his chest hair
Fenris: A male elven ex-slave who has escaped from his owner and fled from the Tevinter Imperium
Merrill: A shy female Dallish forest elf who chooses to leave her Clan
Isabella: A free spirited women who is a pirate captain that has been left ship wrecked in Kirkwall
Anders: A power Grey Warden mage
Aveliene: A former Ferelden Soldier who finds her place in the city guards
Bethany: Sister to Hawke
Carver: Brother to Hawke
Each of these characters are extremely well developed each with their own distinct personalities and attitudes towards each other and the decision that Hawke makes. Relationships with the characters can develop should the style in which you play and the sides you take storyline wise. I ended up with Fenris. I personally found a lot to like with him but the same can be said about all of the playable characters. Mostly elves though :3
The writing for these characters is once again superb each of them have their own problems and troubles which is easy to feel sympathetic for. A nice feature is when you are with your party of four the characters will sometimes banter amongst themselves providing some interesting and absolute gold dialogue.
Similar to Mass Effect Dialogue between you and the other characters is handled by a dialogue wheel. Where you may be give three to five different choices each will have their own effects which is indicated by a small symbol in the centre of wheel. eg: Heart symbols will progress or close a relationship, A fig leaf indicates a diplomatic response. There are plenty more to choose from and plenty will crop up throughout gameplay
Although this is an RPG the combat is played out in real time. With the ability to rotate and switch to any one of your parties members at any time as long as they have not been killed. Due to the variety of characters and the classes they represent there are many different playing styles available such as Aggressive tanking, distance ranging, launching powerful magic or using agile rogue agility.
One of the complaints about Origins I had was the dull and tedious combat. Whilst improved by incorporating talent trees and a wider array of skills and attacks. But still it can suffer from repetition but just like Bio Ware's Mass Effect 2 Engaging storylines and quests give you something to look forward too
Graphically the game is ok. There is definitely a lack pf detail in facial animation and the backgrounds and environments can appear blurry and dull and many of the house interiors are identical. Altogether uninspiring but serve its purpose
The first play through will take around 30-40 hours to finish. But they are more-or-less a fun 40 hours
I am a devoted RPG gamer and have been for the past 20 years, so when the first Dragon Age came around - I was delighted, as it has long been accredited with being the spiritual successor to the legendary Baldur series. If you have no idea what the Baldurs series is, I suggest you go and bag yourself a copy - see Bioware games for PC!!!
So, when Dragon Age 2 surfaced I had high expectations and I have not been disappointed!
I find myself absorbed into my characters world and find that the dynamic triggers of relationship building between your main character and companions an ongoing quest in itself....but I am jumping ahead of myself a little!! See, already I am excited just reviewing this fantastic RPG!!!
You start off your adventure fleeing from the genlocks and an ogre and the monsters and character development just keep picking up momentum as you progress through the adventure! You will find that at odd moments throughout the journey - depending on the companions you have with you and what type of main character you wish to be - i.e. good/bad, generous/greedy, etc.. you will get different reactions when dialogue options pop up. Within this, the choices you make affect how the companions perceive you and have a much bigger part to play as you near the end of the game.
DA:2 is split into four main chapters, with lots of mini quests (well worth doing btw), companion quests(needed to be done for future benefits, items, exp, etc..) and general travel to different parts of the realm to explore.
I must admit, I am a massive fan of epic, non-linear, open world RPG's - such as the elder scrolls series (can't wait for Skyrim released 11/11/11 - guess what I will be reviewing in a month or two time, when I drag myself away from the XBOX long enough to type!! lol), so I have a little disappointment in the fact that you have limits as to how far you can travel. There is a linear path you will have to follow eventually to progress your story, but that aside, you still have a lot to see, do, steal, kill and discover and the detail is vast and enough to satisfy my need for making my own choices, random dungeon trawling for rare items, experience and to admire the incredibly detailed landscapes.
The development of your character and companions is also very well thought out and depending on what style of play suits you from character creation (I recommend mage -very fun!!) you have several paths open to you and can access extra skills as you progress though a couple of different methods - which I won't spoil for you!
In addition to character development, there is still that time honoured wish to get the best equipment, potions and general items to use whilst questing. There are plenty of unique items to claim after defeating some quite challenging mini-bosses (save a lot and frequently!!), as well as purchasing them from merchants - however you may want to being sparing with what you spend - again don't want to spoil the adventure, but you have been advised!! lol
There are lots of alchemy options, rune creation and crafting options - as well as rewards of experience for finding books telling the history of various events, people, etc... and mining spots too.
When you are checking the inventory, the way you access your spells, items - whether in battle or out is very quick and easy and can make a huge difference with the outcome of your battles. When out of battle and roaming around, take the time to review some of the literature you have found, as it can make an interesting read in itself and lead to a couple of quests with good rewards - that you would miss otherwise
When playing games of this magnitude, I often play a lot slower and try to not miss anything and have racked up a HUGE number of hours on DA:2 and when you go for anther play through - maybe as a different class, you do get new perspective and the attitudes, conversations of all characters can change towards you.
The cinematics you are treated to throughout the journey are subject to a lot of your choices and are visually stunning and are interwoven very well to the progress of the story and your character over the 10 year campaign - game time obviously!!! The voice acting is well done and the expressions of the characters are quite funny in parts!
Overall, if you love the traditional hack n'slash, group party control adventure-fest - then this is a worthy addition to your collection. Combined with some great downloadable content, which has hours of play within themselves and further deepen the story of your character and give more depth to the qhole saga.
I must say, I can not wait to see what is next to come, but I will be pre-ordering whatever the offering is with absolute faith - as the first Dragon Age was awesome and epic, this sequel has further developed an already impressive series and I can only see it going from strength to strength.
Ok, i'm a massive fan of the original dragon age and was so happy to finally get my copy of dragon age 2.
First off the character creation is simple and easy.
You can get stuck into the game quite quickly as the opening dreamlike initial entrance to the game i thought was quite good. Then you find out its being told from a characters perspective.
There are plenty of hours gameplay and even more so if you intend on playing every single class of character.
The graphics are superb as what i was fully expecting. The sound and music is perfectly ambiant and suits the gameplay.
The downsides however is what makes this game just a good sequel and not a great one. The story itself is very led, in other words you can freely move about but its like your in a box thats still going in the same direction and you cant stop it so you still have to follow the story to get to access other areas.
At first i found the day/night task area a little confusing but after a days gameplay i grasped it and actually found it was quite a good twist... however i hated the changes to the maps side of it I much prefered the old version.
Then "what happened to the camp" the one thing i missed over the first game was the ability to spend the night in your own camp and chat to your characters and do the whole trading and romancing things. While you do EVENTUALLY get your own home , this side of the game i thought got worse not better and i missed the campsite.
The gameplay itself is actually really easy even on hard level and I coasted through it a few times so you wont have any problems completing the game.
overall though I enjoyed it but if i'm honest a few of the updates I thoguht wernt as good as the original game and the story wasnt great even though i liked the idea that it wa a story being told by your friend in the game after the fact.
Where do you start when reviewing a game as huge and epic as one from the Dragon Age series? Let's start by talking about the game before it; Dragon Age: Origins. This is a game that I played for roughly 100 hours in several different playthroughs, It's plot was engaging and it's characters were so deep and the voice acting was so good that I actually felt myself forming emotional bonds with some of the characters. With a game as good as Dragon Age: Origins, is it even possible to spawn a sequel that can live up to it?
The short answer is yes... and no. You see, I'll say it here right from the get-go that the main thing I don't like about Dragon Age II is thecombat system. It almost completely leaves the tactical RPG style and heads twoards a more action RPG style or Hack 'n' Slash gameplay style. This does not ruin the game however, it is simply a minor gripe I had with the game, but I quickly got used to and began enjoying this game.
Without any spoilers, the story is just as huge- spanning over 30 years of Hawke (the main protagonist)'s life. Although the story does feel a little less epic as the playing area is alot smaller than Ferelden, where Dragon Age: Origins wass set. The voice acting is even better than the voice acting from the already good first game. The graphics are also a vast improvement and I did not find any glitches from my time with the game.
BIOWARE DELIVERS ITS LATEST EPIC
Take a look at this list of games; Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, Dragon Age Origins. Now I don't expect that list will mean a lot to those who don't really play video games. However, to those who do, there will be two obvious things that those games have in common. The first is that they are by and large high quality titles that were released to critical acclaim. The second is that they were all made by Bioware, a company that very much has a reputation for producing games that are really rather good.
Dragon Age 2 is the latest game from Bioware, and is rather unsurprisingly the sequel to Dragon Age Origins, a game that was more or less universally praised upon its release in 2009. The original game was described as the 'spiritual successor' to the Baldur's Gate series, widely considered to be one of the best series of Role Playing Games (RPGs) of all time. It also happens to be one of my favourite series ever, and as such I personally I have very high hopes indeed for Dragon Age's sequel.
Dragon Age 2 largely takes place in and around the city of Kirkwall during a time in which things are less than stable. The Chantry, which is the main religious group in Dragon Age, is falling apart from within, and the entire world seems to be on the bring of war. And in a fantasy world where all manner of monsters, beasts and hellspawn roam around, war is far from a tantalising prospect.
You play the role of a character by the name of Hawke (which is your surname; you can pick your own first name), who depending on your preference will be a male or female character who is a warrior, rogue or mage. Regardless of your sex and class, your character will eventually become the Champion of Kirkwall, and your main aim is essentially to follow the story through a number of years and make a name for yourself.
Obviously there will be some concern from those reading this review that are yet to play the game that I have just given away the ending, but never fear. You actually learn your characters eventual reputation very early on in the game, as the story is primarily told through a framed narrative where one of your party members in the future is telling the story of your life. As he tells various parts of the story you then play through that section. It is an original method of story telling, and actually works incredibly well on the whole.
The difficulty with the plot, however, is that there is very little focus to it other than this notion that you will eventually become a very significant character within this fantasy world. There is no main villain, no saving the world, and no big showdown to work towards as the plot unfolds. Instead the plot is essentially made up of a lot of different sub plots involving the developing stories of individual characters. It should be clarified that many of these individual plotlines are very well done, and within their own right tick every box that you have come to expect from Bioware's brand of storytelling. However, without a main plotline to work through the game lacks context at times, which can make these plots feel a little bit isolated when considering the game as a whole. The end result is that Bioware tells a number of very decent stories, but lacks the glue to bring them all together. This is by no means fatal to the narrative as a whole; as previously stated, both the style of narrative and the individual plotlines are well done overall. The story is just missing that cherry on top of the cake to round the whole thing off.
Graphically the original Dragon Age wasn't too hot on the Playstation 3 (or, for that matter, on the Xbox 360), and the sequel has tried to remedy this with mixed success. Certain aspects of Dragon Age 2 look very good; environments stand out in this area, both in terms of detail and scale. The lighting has improved, and the detail in various other areas, such as character's clothing, is also far superior to the first game. However, other areas fare less well. Inexplicably given the obvious improvements, textures are very low resolution at times, making them look edgy and unattractive. The game also seems to have a more restrictive colour range than the original, with the sequel just not seeming very vivid a lot of the time in terms of colour.
However, the presentation of the characters themselves ticks all the right boxes. This starts with the voice acting. Unlike previous game in Bioware's flagship series (such as Baldur's Gate), all characters are now fully voiced. This is a move that may be met with scepticism from purists, but the simply fact of the matter is that the standard of the voice acting is excellent. This not only helps to make each individual character distinct, but it also makes the cutscenes and dialogue between characters eminently interesting and watchable, which is absolutely essential in a game of this genre. Facial expressions displayed by the characters have also been greatly improved, which again adds extra depth to conversations and really helps the player to feel involved with the plight of these characters.
The sound generally is also an improvement on the original game. In Dragon Age Origins the soundtrack was fairly standard for the genre, with no particular cause for complaint nor anything that particularly made it stand out. The soundtrack in the sequel is clearly more dynamic, with orchestral scores accompanied by far more serious and threatening tones in times of peril. I'm not normally one to particular take note of the soundtrack in the majority of games, but I was pleasantly surprised by effective Dragon Age 2's was at times.
THE BATTLE SYSTEM
Dragon Age 2 is a party based role playing game. For those unfamiliar with the concept, that essentially means that whilst you take the role of a specific character throughout the story, you can at any time control and give orders to any members of your party. In past Bioware games this 'control' has effectively entailed issuing commands to members of your party, who will then carry them out. However, in Dragon Age 2 you can actually take direct control of any individual party member, and quite literally move them around and attack as if you were playing an action title.
As such, Dragon Age 2 feels far more like an action RPG than its predecessor, though it is still not as strictly action oriented as say, Diablo or similar series. When you have direct control of a character you can move them around using the left analogue stick, and can then attack in a variety of ways using respective buttons on the controller. One of these buttons is always a basic attack, and the others are specialist abilities that the characters learn as they level up and progress through the game. However, despite seemingly having instant control over a character's abilities, the game is still stuck with some classic 'role playing elements' that operate behind the scenes. What this means is that you cannot just attack instantly and relentlessly; attacks have a re charge time depending on the ability itself and your character's statistics, so bashing buttons relentlessly will not result in your character attacking every time you press a button.
In the grand scheme of things, however, this is a good thing because it allows every class to play out differently. As a warrior class in the heat of battle, you have to carefully choose how and when to use your special attacks to enable you to inflict maximum damage on your opponent (whatever it may be) whilst avoiding damage yourself. As a mage or rogue, you may want to stand back away from the hand to hand aspect of the fight, but have to select the most appropriate spells and abilities to tip the tides of battle in your side's favour.
As mentioned earlier, you can select how characters are going to behave in battle when you are not controlling them, which means that there will be some consistency to how your party behaves when you are not controlling them. In theory this option is there to stop you having to babysit characters; battles are often fast and furious, and the last thing you want to do is to have to switch between characters to ensure that they don't get themselves killed through stupidity. And for the most part the friendly AI is competent enough. There are some niggles, for example your own party members will not use health potions of their own accord, which seems like an obvious oversight, but on the whole these niggles don't cause major issues.
On the whole the battle system itself is a simply to use, and is accessible to less experienced players on lower difficulty levels without being too strenuous or difficult. However, on the higher difficulty levels the player needs to think on the move as to how and when to use abilities most effectively, and there has to be an element of planning in how you set up your party. In that sense the battle system is a success; depending on difficulty it is accessible for the novice whilst challenging the more experienced player, which is something that the game deserves praise for. In fact, it is fair to say that the battle system overall results in encounters that are a joy to play. Personally I had more fun playing as ranged characters rather than getting into the thick of the action, but once you unlock a few abilities going toe to toe with enemies is satisfying. As such, despite some minor niggles and despite being far more 'hands on' than its predecessor, the battle system in Dragon Age 2 is very much fit for purpose, and ticks all of the right boxes.
As Dragon Age 2 is a role playing game, it is worth discussing the system for levelling characters up and developing their characteristics and abilities. The system, as with a number of aspects of the sequel, has been somewhat stripped down compares to the original. Every time a character gains enough experience to gain a level, a small icon on the party menu screen will alert you to that fact. It is then simple a case of selecting that character, where you will first increase their characteristics, and then select a new ability for them.
The former of these two actions is self explanatory. Of the various characteristics, it should be quite obvious which are important to which classes, though if any doubt does linger the game helpfully reminds you as to the effects of each characteristics, just so you don't accidentally make your mage proficient in hand to hand combat, or needlessly increase your warrior's ability with magic. Each level gained allows to distribute points between characteristics as you see fit.
You choose new abilities for your characters based on a very simply web diagram system. Each character has a number of web diagrams representing different areas to potentially specialise in. For example, mages have different areas for different types of magic, whilst warriors can choose between becoming proficient with a sword and shield, a two handed weapon, and so on. The game usefully highlights which abilities you can choose as well as laying out the future paths you may wish to take. This allows you to plan ahead and offers a good level of flexibility. There is no mystery in the system with regards to what certain abilities are going to do; it is all there in very clear terms. As such it is entirely the player's choice as to how characters develop.
It is worth noting that the options contained within the system are not as extensive as those found in the original game, nor indeed are they as extensive as previous Bioware games. However, Dragon Age 2 has very much made a move towards making a simpler and more streamlined process in a number of areas, and the levelling up system is certainly one of those. So purists may be disappointed with the lack of staggering depth in tinkering with their character's abilities. However, in the context of Dragon Age 2 and what the game is trying to achieve, the ability system is accessible, simple, and does offer a good degree of flexibility on the whole.
INTERACTING WITH THE WORLD
The other major area of gameplay is in relation to how you interact with other characters that inhabit the game world. As mentioned above, the standard of voice acting and animation (especially in relation to facial expressions) really elevates the dialogue sections in the game to a level that makes them eminently enjoyable. However, as well as watching these scenes, it is also important for the game to incorporate a solid system of choosing how your character plays out these encounters in terms of how s/he responds.
As with other systems, choosing dialogue options is very simple. At various points in a conversation a number of options will appear, and it is simply a case of directing the right analogue stick to your response of choice and clicking. An icon appears next to each response, in theory aiding the player as to responses that are aggressive, passive, sarcastic, and so on. However, the problem is that it is not immediately obvious as to which icon refers to which 'type' of response, which for the first sections of the game at least will have you reaching the manual to check what tone you're actually taking in conversations. This is perhaps only a minor niggle, but is nevertheless one that stood out to me.
That said, the success of this system is that you always feel that you have an element of choice with regards to how matters play out in terms of conversations. This sense is heightened by the fact that your own party members can become involved in dialogue options and open up new potential conversations strands depending on how you have developed them, which really does make it feel like most of the choices you make actually matter to one degree or another. Overall, as with the combat system and character development system, the system for interacting with other characters in this fantasy world is more than competent and ticks all of the right boxes.
There is no denying that Dragon Age 2 is engaging, satisfying, and fun to play. Despite the lack of a cogent main plot, the individual plotlines contain strong stories that will keep you engrossed enough to gleam plenty of enjoyment out of the game. You will also more than get your money's worth, with a single play through of the game talking at least 30 hours or so.
However, ultimately Dragon Age 2 falters slightly in a number of areas that stop it from becoming an instant classic. Many systems are stripped down to ensure efficiency, but they also represent areas where perhaps Bioware have tweaked things that simply didn't need tweaking. The end result is that fans of the first game may feel that their loyalty towards the series has not been rewarded with all of the changes. However, notwithstanding these potential complaints and the other niggles, those players who can accept Dragon Age 2 for what it is will find a great role playing game that is well worth a purchase.