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Dragon Age 2 Review

This is a discussion on Dragon Age 2 Review within the Game Reviews forum, part of the Trophy Guides, Reviews & Articles; Dragon Age 2 Official Review by Gauss Basic Information: Developer: BioWare Publisher: Electronic Arts North American Release Date: 3/8/2011 European ...

  1. #1
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    Dragon Age 2 Review

    Dragon Age 2 Official Review
    by Gauss

    Basic Information:
    Developer: BioWare
    Publisher: Electronic Arts
    North American Release Date: 3/8/2011
    European Release Date: 3/11/2011
    Trophies: 1 | 1 | 15 | 34

    Dragon Age 2 takes place in the same universe as Dragon Age: Origins, and actually at the exact same time. You play as a Ferelden refugee named Hawke who fled after the Darkspawn Invasion with his family. Encountering the Witch of the Wilds he finds his way to Kirkwall, where over the course of the next decade he will rise to be the Champion of Kirkwall.

    Dragon Age 2's combat system represents an evolutionary step from Dragon Age Origins. It takes the core of the original game's mechanics, its stat-based combat system and 3 basic classes (Warrior, Mage, and Rogue) and marries it with a fluid, action-oriented gameplay style. This game is no hack-and-slash, and much of the same interface is here. You have a turn-wheel of all your abilities and capabilities available to you by pressing a shoulder button and they are quickly and easily selectable. There is also a binding system where you can attach 6 abilities to a button on the gamepad.

    Combat is very fluid and very graphic.

    The package though is much more fluid than the original, there is no abrupt start and stop to your characters turns and it makes the combat feel much more natural and fluid. This amped up action also places alot of emphasis on quick decision making in more difficult battles. You have to develop an instinctual response to how your character operates, atleast on the harder difficulties, if you want to get through things unscathed. On casual though the game is little more than a button masher. The combat system works very well for an Action RPG, it is very reminiscent of a Legend of Zelda-type game. Just with classes and a deeper customization system.

    Like many RPGs Dragon Age 2 also employs a leveling up system, and in this regard it is very similar to Origins. Each level you are given a certain number of attribute points and skill points. Attribute points can be used to increase Strength, Dexterity, and the like to increase your base damage, HP, MP, etc. Skill points can be used to unlock abilities specific to your class. Each ability comes in 3 flavors: Passive, Sustained, and Activated. Passive abilities grant permanent increases to things like Damage Resistance or Critical Chance. Sustained abilities are abilities which remain with your character as long as you have them activated. Activated abilities are spells and special attacks.

    Dragon Age 2 furthers the customization tree by adding specializations, each class has 3 specializations which open up the capability of you to mix and match everything to create the character you want. This works very well and by the end of the game you definitely feel like your character is unique and not a cookie-cutter Mage or Warrior.

    As I was sitting down writing this review, it was difficult for me to characterize all the problems with this story. I am dead serious when I say you could write an entire paper for an english class on all the things wrong with this story. Then it occurred to me, something that sums up the problems with this story so perfectly.

    Dragon Age 2's story is Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.

    Now that analogy isn't entirely perfect, but it fits very well. See for a story to be good it needs 3 main ingredients: A well defined protagonist, A well defined antagonist or antagonistic force, and some type of drama that carries them through a series of challenges in which one eventually overcomes the other depending on the tone of story you are trying to tell. What made the Phantom Menace such a bad film was the fact that neither the protagonist or antagonist were clearly developed, that is the problem here caused by the violent switches in the narrative and, as a result, the lack of development you experience as Hawke.

    This guy should have been the one and only villain, and he should have actually been developed.

    At its core Dragon Age 2 is 3 small stories rather than one large one, and each one functions as a traditional act in the story. The major problem is the stories have little connection with each-other other than the fact that the same characters are involved. Now this isn't a problem on its own, this works incredibly well for several games, Uncharted for example. Dragon Age 2, on top of making it 3 completely separate, unconnected stories, also chooses to shortcut each one significantly by making each one only a few quests and expanding gameplay through unrelated side-quests.

    The end result is that you never get emotionally involved in any of the 3 stories because the antagonist is just presented with a big fat sign over his head saying "BAD GUY!" and BioWare expects you to hate him implicitly. There is no real motivation given for any of the antagonists as to why they should be antagonists, and it makes the entire game's narrative come off as a "huh?" moment because they all enter and exit the story in a matter of a handful of quests.

    Events in the story that should feel epic like the fight with the Arishtok or the last boss instead feel like a chore because BioWare never takes the time to make you care. Its very disappointing and almost shocking how bad BioWare botched this one up.

    Not every story has to be about a knight killing a dragon in an RPG, and there were some risks with making this story the way it is. BioWare stretched the story too thin though, this is trying to be a character story much in the vein of Mass Effect 2, but where that one was brilliantly thought through... This one is a complete failure. The worst part is that it is tip-toeing on being brilliant. Had the entire story been about the Quanri conflict, this game would belong in the classics of this generation's RPGs.

    Much like I recommend "The Room" to any budding filmmaker. Any of you budding game designers or writers out there should play this game, its a great example of how to not construct a plot.

    Dragon Age 2 isn't a technical masterpiece, but then again thats never been BioWare's M.O. The graphics are good, but they don't touch something like UC2 or Final Fantasy 13. The awkwardness in facial animations from the previous game are gone, as are some of the problems with organic textures. It has been replaced with some issues in clipping, nothing major, but there are some times where the game will have very awkward placement of weapons on character models.

    That fight in the trailer... Yeah, that doesn't happen.

    What Dragon Age 2 is though is immersive. The art and style are very distinct and well designed and everything has a sense of what its supposed to be. Much like the graphics though, this comes with a bit of a downfall. While everything is very well designed, very distinct, and the city is very alive and unique. There is alot of "copy-paste" syndrome with the caves, and this is further highlighted by the lack of depth in the world. Unlike Origins, DA2 only has one real locale, so the sense of scale of the world brought on by several unique cities and locales from the previous game is destroyed.

    Its not bad, but its a nice compliment to the story. Whereas the story was 3 poorly framed plots smashed together poorly, the technical side is very clearly one designers attempt to get ONE city perfect at the cost of a real world.

    The trophies for Dragon Age 2 aren't difficult, but its also not the type of game that is a quick plat. Expect to play through the game atleast twice to get everything.

    Closing Thoughts
    Dragon Age 2 is a great example of a well designed game ruined by poor writing decisions. No single aspect, except the narrative, is really bad. The combat is very fluid and very balanced for an Action RPG, the graphics are sharp and the world is very well designed and immersive. The problem is though that the narrative has no substance, its 3 stories that have little overlap strung together poorly. The end result is very reminiscent of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. This story never really gets going, there isn't a clear purpose nor is there a developed antagonistic force. Rather the game violently switches gears every 8 hours and by the end... You are thinking "Unless what is about to happen involves Isabela taking her clothes off, I just don't care!"

    Gameplay: 9/10
    - The lone gem in this game. The gameplay is very well hashed out and can cater to the button masher or the RPG-enthusiast.

    Singleplayer: 3/10
    - Its really bad... 3 "half-assed" stories mashed together all told through the same character doesn't make a character story. On the contrary, its a formula for a boring and disjointed story.

    Technical: 7/10
    - Its one city designed very well, but its still ONE city. End result is a game that feel smaller than it actually is.

    Overall: 6.5/10 Tolerable

  2. #2
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    Don't you think you went a bit too harsh on the story? It was not that bad at all, I thought it was quite original even.

  3. #3
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    Apr 2012

    Recently tried to get into Dragon Age but the game too buggy so thought about getting 2 but thanks to your review a wont waste my money cause sounds like a would hate it too , cheers
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