So, I beat Dragon Age 2 finally. (A while ago.) So…
(Ahoy, there be some spoilers ahead.)
DA 2 differs from Origins story wise in that there is no ‘big evil’ to defeat, like the Archdemon and the Blight. The story is mainly politically driven and chronicles the rise of your Champion’s rise to power over a 10 year time line (kind of like Fable… but much better). The game is crammed full of hard decisions to make that impact the storyline directly (as Bioware tends to do), and much like Mass Effect you can import your save file from Origins to make it more of a unique experience tailored to your choices.
I would love to give this a 5/5. The storyline is intense, hard, left me feeling stunned, betrayed, disgusted, and then there were moments I was laughing my ass off, cheering, etc. It was well written and engaging. However, there are a few hiccups that I think are mainly due to the fact there IS no big evil, even though overall I’m glad there wasn’t. Act 1 was the weakest to me. Hawke is attempting to raise 50 sovereigns to finance and be apart of the Deep Roads Expedition in order to get his family estate back and out of the slums. It was basically a bunch of side quests put together to reach the anti-climatic ending to Act 1. It also kind of reminded me of the 25k you have to get in in Baldur’s Gate 2 in order to go rescue Imoen. However, the saving grace is that all the side quests were very well written and engaging (much like BG), minus the occasional ‘go beat up x slaver’ ones. Special shout out to ‘Shepherding Wolves’ which was nothing short of epic, and a great piece of foreshadowing for the Act 2 conflict with the Qunari.
I think the purpose of this was to get you used to doing side quests. A lot of people (the types who like to complete games ASAP) complained that the game was incredibly short, and well… it IS if you skip the side quests. However, I think it’s extremely important to DO the side quests or you end up missing huge chunks of the game. Just because it isn’t a ‘main quest’ doesn’t mean it isn’t important, and I think that is a concept many people didn’t get. For example, if you don’t do ‘Bait and Switch’ in Act 1, you miss out on the companion Fenris and his phasepunchingawesomeness.
Anyways, as the story is divided into three ‘Acts’ I suppose it makes sense that each should have their own plot line, and now that I’m replaying it I am recognizing a fair bit of foreshadowing that I missed the first time around. However, I felt that the overall plot should have been hinted at better. My only other complaint is that there are times in the story where it feels like you are being forced into certain outcomes which is more disconcerting in a game where you can ‘make your own choices’. Like in ‘Shepherding Wolves’, there was no way to resolve the conflict without fighting the group of Qunari. Or Orsino randomly jumping off the deep end even if you choose to side with the mages. (Though I chose to side with the Templars. GIVE ME MY CROWN.) Etc. Though, I get it. The plot has to get to the same general place and some things you can’t control in the game… no matter how many times I reload the game before different conversations to try to change it anyways. It just seemed a bit unrealistic. Overall, I loved the plot and story-telling. Almost every choice you make truly impacts Kirkwall in ways you won’t expect, and sometimes won’t realize until years later in the game.
The only other issue I really have with the plot is how shaky the prologue was. They should have taken a page from Origins and opened it BEFORE the attack on Lothering, and showed some semblance of the normal life the champion had before the Blight struck. Perhaps I would have cared about Bethany before she bit it in the first 5 minutes. Then again, with her I’d-rather-watch-paint-dry-than-listen-to-her character, I doubt that.
Characters and Dialogue: 5/5
The characters of DA are probably my favorite part of the game. You can tell when the writing team takes time with a character, because everyone seems real, with their own motivations, desires, fears, and wants. The companions you get in DA 2 are probably the most interesting teammates in a Bioware game yet. My personal favorites are: Fenris (the broody elf), Isabella (snarky, innuendo spouting pirate), Varric (the only dwarf I’ve seen without a beard), and Aveline. Because “The Long Road” is just plain greatness. Anders can go die in a fire, along with Sebastian. Whiny pricks. What’s more fun than the convos you can have with them is the convos they have with each other.
Isabela: So, how good is Donnic? Is he cocksure?
Aveline: (Sighs) Just… get it out of your system.
Isabela: Did he curl your toes? Pudding your peach? Dampen your Divine? Kaddis your Kate? Praise your Maker? Explore your Deep Roads? Gray your Warden? How about “satisfy a demand of your Qun.”
Aveline: Yes, all right? He is an incredibly proficient lover. Happy?
Isabela: Whoa! Thats a little personal.
Your companions aren’t the only interesting characters – most of the NPCs are pretty great as well. Meredith, Orsino, Thrask, Flemeth, CULLEN!… and not to mention – Bodahn and Sandal make a return.
One of my other favoritist aspects of the entire game is the Rivalry/Friendship system. Gone are the days where you have to butter up your companions to get them to like you in order to get combat bonuses – because that was just ridiculous. The new system is much more realistic, and makes sense. Basically, how the system works now is you need to get each companion (if you want to keep them) maxed out on either Friendship OR Rivalry. Once you get them maxed, they are ‘loyal’. You no longer have to agree with all their views, which is awesome. In fact, some characters you will actually want to be rivals with because it’s better for them. When you are rivals you challenge their views, and maybe change them. When someone’s views are so off that they are harmful to themselves and others (Merrill and the Eluvian, for example), for your companion’s sake it’s in their best interest to be rivals. They may not be buddies with you, but they will respect it. The important thing is to not waver back and forth and stay in the middle area. Dat bad.
Also! You can romance your companion whether they are rivals or friends, and the romance is actually quite different depending on which you choose. For example, I chose to do Rivalmance!Fenris.
Which is an incredibly different experience (from what I’ve read), than the Frienshipmance!Fenris.
Since the game is over 10 period timeline, the romances are more meaningful and substantial (for a videogame lulz). Instead of hooking up in 2 weeks and declaring your love for your companion, it happens over years. The Fenris romance was pretty expertly written by David Gaider, and is probably my favorite of the bunch.
I’m just glad the god awful romance music from Origins is gone. Blech.
The combat is infinitely improved from DA:O in my opinion. It’s quicker, smoother, and more visually appealing. The only thing I think the combat is missing is the lack of isometric view that was prevalent in the Baldur’s Gate series and DA:O. You can do combos with other party members, plus it feels like EVERY spell is useful. In Origins, I felt like there was a lot of useless spells that I never used. I find that I’m using every spell in DA 2, which is a nice change. I also love the new talent ‘tree’ system.
However, it isn’t for everyone. Some people complain that it is a bit more action oriented rather than tactics oriented – and I think if you play that at the easier levels, that’s true. If you play the game on Casual or Normal you can pretty much just mash all the buttons on a single character without switching around to different party members. However, try playing it on Nightmare mode and you’ll find yourself using a lot more tactics.
Overall, I think this area is kind of subjective. I love the combat, but I’ve read other reviews where people hate the exact same things that I love. So.
The graphics are good and a definite step up from Origins. Make sure you get the HD texture pack, because that makes a huge difference. (It also helps if your graphics card is capable of Direct X 11.) The character models are vastly improved, but there are exceptions. Flemeth is a hot gmilf in this game compared to last, but Zevran looks god awful.
There is also a fair amount of glitches during dialogue, and sometimes the expressions just don’t match up with the voice acting which can really detract from the experience. Some characters would be spot on (Fenris, Flemeth), and others would be completely off (Zevran). Maybe because different people animate different characters. Who knows.
The other way the game failed visually (and architecturally), is through the dungeon maps. They were good the first couple times around, but when you realize that you are doing the same dungeon maps 923928 times, well… that’s just laziness.
Favorite part of the game?
Yes! There is a countless amount of choices you can make that can dramatically influence: how people perceive you, how the plot progresses, how Hawke responds to others, etc. Not to mention, you can always import different save files to change the history of your game.
(I do not own nor have I created any images in this review. Dragon Age belongs to the almighty Bioware.)