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Dragon Age 2 (360 version)

Dragons, thieves, elves, warriors, mages, Darkspawn…well maybe not so much Darkspawn. I’ll get to that later.
Dragon Age 2 is the sequel to EA and Bioware’s highly praised RPG Dragon Age: Origins. It released on the PC, PS3, and 360 on March 8th(NA), 2011. With so much to live up to with RPG standards and the continuity of the Dragon Age mythology does the sequel hold up? 


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There is so much to tap into for this game its hard to find a place to start on so lets talk first about how it relates the original. DA2 gives you the opportunity to import any of your saves from DA1 and lets you continue the tale that is told in Ferelden. DA2 takes place a few years after DA1. You are Hawke, a wanderer whose goal is to earn gold and make a name for yourself. Unlike in DA1 where you had an immediate quest to eradicate the Darkspawn that reeked havok in your homeworld, in DA2 the real mission is to gain fame and to live a life.

The only Darkspawn you face is the “Demo” section of the game at the beginning of your journey. The main enemies you face are spiders, dragons, humans, dwarves, elves, & Qunari. I know it seems confusing to play a game with no real purpose but that is the genius in Bioware’s design.

Character
As Hawke you can choose to become a Mage, Warrior, or Rogue. Each class has distinct traits, abilities, skills, and dialogue options. You’re sister is a Mage Apostate whom you have to protect from Templars and other dastardly characters.

Story
DA2 has a fantastic ability to pull you into a plotline or a situation. The emotion that comes from saving a weak merchant or discovering your mother has been desecrated into a Frankenstein-like monster adds a lot of depth into how you see your character and how you want to portray yourself in your world. There are a lot of chances to be cruel and malicious and there are chances to redeem yourself with kindness or generosity. There is no scale of Evil or Good just the reminder of “what goes around, comes around.” Your actions dictate how the land works.

The Majority of DA2’s plot is for you to gain fame and prosperity. Your tale is told in a “Tarantino-style” way, in which Varric, your dwarven comrade, is captured and is forced to tell your story in order for a Templar to find and understand you. Your Gameplay is often interrupted by a cinematic in which Varric narrates your actions. It’s a fun way to play your story and the added dialogue boosts the plot.

Moral decisions play a big part in this game. Your faithfulness to your friends and companions will be tested. Fair warning. This element actually makes you think before you choose a dialogue option rather than skipping through the conversations.

Graphics
To be blunt DA2 looks a lot like DA1. The big differences are as follows: level design is detailed and simplified, characters are more rendered and conversations are better acted, and the landscape and color schemes are better. What has stayed the same? Bioware has a tendency to always have the same glitches in graphics all the way back to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Cinematics can jump and skip, change height and width within your TV screen, and sometimes you can walk right through walls or objects. DA2 has all of these flaws.

Gameplay
Similar to DA1 in a lot of ways but Bioware has simplified almost everything. Your action wheel is still present and can control all aspects of battle. There is no change in its execution, but there is a big improvement in the actions of your companions. Your companions are better at deciding what to do with their mana/stamina and rely on their battle tactics rather than standing around taking damage like in DA1. All of your comrades rely on you as their leader; mages will heal you and bolster your armor and attack, Rogues will lay down heavy ranged fire around your area, and warriors will use their power and defense to protect you. In DA1 you had to manage all of the characters on the battlefield at the same time which made fighting a very tiring exercise, but in DA2 you hardly ever have to change characters and you can concentrate on your own actions and decisions.


Glitches
One Glitch that has poisoned my Gameplay is when Hawke refuses to attack an enemy. At random times Hawke will unsheathe his/her weapon but will not follow your instructions to attack, which forces you to walk around the battlefield until the “imaginary lines of programming” end and you pull a U-turn and attack your foes. It is very annoying and close to the point of making you turn off the game at times.

Another one of Bioware’s “traditions” or “calling cards” is a glitch in the combat system where a split second right before combat the game lags or skips causing the Gameplay to pause for a brief moment. This hints at an upcoming battle. In the same case, any area that is wide and squared off is going to be used as a battleground. Narrow pathways and corridors provide a direction, but bigger open rooms provide space to fight.

Inventory
Micro-managing at its not so best. DA1 had a better inventory system. In DA2 the quantity of good items/weapons is lacking. You are able to find the best weapon and armor that works for you before you hit the halfway mark of the game. This means all of the items you loot are worthless to you and you “junk” them and sell them for silver and gold. It disappoints those who are always on the lookout for something better. Your companions no longer need different armor. They come equipped with never-changing pieces of armor that you can upgrade at random merchants. You can change their weapons but just like your equipment; you find the best stuff fast.

Stores are now stream-lined and quick to enter and exit from. No more dialogue with the vendor, just toggle the shop and you can sell and buy at your free will. Barring that you will be selling far more than buying I assure you.

Exploration and Travel
DA2 can be called a Linear RPG. Not an open-world RPG. What this means is that Dragon Age 2 gently forces you follow a set path of missions. You cannot pick and choose jobs or mission like you could in DA1. Yes you can opt out and decline a lot of jobs but you would lose a lot of XP, gold, and miss out on some of the more outrageous missions and dialogue situations.
DA2 is set in the Free Marshes and you live in Kirkwall. The game spans a decade and your story is told in parts from year to year. You can travel outside of the city, but only a certain mission. There are different areas of the map you can travel to at either day or night. This lovely feature adds more depth onto missions that need the atmosphere of time. Think of a stealth mission at night for example.

The Compass and map have been changed a little but it is clear that you cannot get lost in DA2. There are only two directions; where you came and where you need to go.

Final Thoughts
+ Story and Progression
+ Decision Making and Dialogue
+ Graphics and Satisfying Visceral Combat
- Bioware’s Infamous glitchs
- Character Cusomization and Item/ Weapon Quality/Quanity

Score- 4/5
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05/23/2011 00:26

Few things to point out to an overall good review. Under Character, if you play a Mage you get to keep your brother Carver, a two-handed warrior who feels like he's following in your shadow and eventually runs off to be a Templar.

Info correction, Cassandra is a Seeker of the Chantry, not a Templar. Also you can encounter some Darkspawn in Sundermount and the Deep Roads. The fact that we get a lot of Qunari time (which we didn't in Origins) is a nice addition since there are many less Darkspawn. Also, the Blight is over so it is to be expected. Although, there are a bloody large amount of giant spiders in this game it seems.

Also, idk if you played DA2 on PC, but on 360 I never encountered any glitches with the cinematics. And I even went back to an Origins character I had--the graphics are far better in DA2 (mostly my opinion). This is looking at DA2 from a hdtv/hdmi connection on highest quality.

Also it would be nice to comment on the rushed-feeling of the maps. Many of the dungeons/caves/side alleys and what-have-yous are the same thing over and over again but you enter from different directions. It can get a little tiresome. The two upsides to this are that you again can't ever get lost, and ALSO they are less tedious/long than in DA: origins. I've always felt Dragon Age was an RPG more suited for a general range of RPG fans, and not just the hardcore gamers...so its fair enough to expect most of its players to not want to spend 100+ hours on one playthrough.

DA2 is comparably MUCH shorter than DA: Origins. I spent, what, 60-70 hours on DA: Origins? And for DA2 with almost 100% of possible side-quests, only about 40 at most. It's nice because you can get thru it without feeling bogged down, but it would also be nice to draw it out some more.

Having said that, DA2 is split up into three Acts, with each Act ending in some huge story line quest and some big battle. To me, Act 1 felt REALLY long, Act 2 about medium/just right, and Act 3 felt like "well you're basically at the end, let's go ahead and get this over with".

Also, sometimes it is a blessing that you can't go into extended dialogue with your companions at any time, but I feel like (as much as i LOVE the DA2 characters) there just isn't as much character interaction. You're either romancing someone or you barely know that character. And even with the romance it feels like one good bang and done. I do prefer the Friendship/Rivalry to the Origins setup. If you can agree to disagree it just seems more realistic than "i just dont' like you but i'm willing to follow you around and defeat the Blight and risk my life for you anyways".

Okay, shew. Well after 4 playthroughs I figured I could add a few bits to the review since you wrote this after a week of the release (so only 1 playthrough I'm guessing). And I really love my Dragon Age :D

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