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Dragon Age 2: A Review

So I finally finished my PC Dragon Age 2 playthrough (as Mage MaleHawke), and I can now write a proper review of the game. My experience was quite positive and I really liked the game. Enough to restart another playthrough with another character right after I finished the first one.

Gameplay

Let’s talk gameplay. I really liked the gameplay changes made; they were a major improvement from DA:O in my book. The new crafting system is an improvement, well, the nodes and recipes are. I’m not too sure about having to pay to make everything, but at the same time Hawke never lacked money after the first act, so it’s not a bothersome feature.

Rogue jumping attack
Rogue are Ninja!

I love the new combat system and how the class combo works. The new animations give more character to the classes, too. I did use pause a lot to compensate for the speed, but I would have done it with a slower combat as well. I love to think what I’m going to do next, regardless if it is required or not. Mages have a nice selection of spells and are useful for various tasks, depending what ability you select. I’m also playing a rogue right now and I really like them as well. Although, there are three things that annoy me with the gameplay. First, the camera can be annoying in closed space, it doesn’t go through “walls,” so sometimes it gets pulled close to the characters and you can’t see the battlefield well enough. Second, there could be more variety in encounter designs, what I mean by that is that most encounters feel similar, only a few encounters witht bosses require a different “strategy.” Third, too many exploding bodies; it feel comical after a while. Finally, I’m one of the few people who actually liked the wave mechanics. It keeps you on your toes and it makes sense that thugs who are trying to ambush you actually have reinforcements waiting close by.

Characters

Dragon Age All Women party
Female Hawke and her best friends

I really liked the companions’ integration in this game. They don’t feel like “for rent mercenaries” like in other BioWare games. They are actually a real group of companions with likes, dislikesand rivalries. The preset appearances also helps with this. It’s also an interesting change to see them grow as characters through the years, the banter and companion interaction actually shows that they spend time together and aren’t just there because they owe a debt to Hawke. I also liked how they interact in quests, telling you that you are a jerk, that the quest giver is a jerk, approving what you are doing, or just commenting on something. Although, I’m not sure what to think of the friendship/rivalry system, I haven’t really tried to rival any companion yet, so I mostly know how “friendship” works. I also haven’t tried the romance yet; I have never been a fan of those in any BioWare games (they usually make me roll my eyes).

When it come to Hawke, the protagonist, I like the female version over the male one, mostly because of the voice-over. Also, the game feels a lot better as a mage, you simply feel more involved in the conflict at hand. Humorous Hawke is also the best of them all, Varric and Isabella agree as well. Yes, NPCs actually react differently depending on how you say something … I don’t have to head-role-play that anymore, the game does it for me.

Story Structure

I loved the story, it was refreshing for once to not have a good vs. evil or “Be the Savior” storyline. Also, I totally wanted to go on adventures with my character, and that’s what I got. There isn’t any grand quest your character must undertake; you are living through events that put the world of Thedas into the troubled times it is now in, 10 years after Hawke arrived to Kirkwall. Although the frame narrative could have been used better, you don’t see Varric and Cassandra often enough to feel like they are telling your story. But in general, the whole thing works really well for this story. I also liked the overarching quests for both the companions and the main quests. I did find that the game could have done with a few longer quests though. Most of them were rather short, although at the same time this reduces filler combat and long corridors.

What cool be better

The game isn’t perfect, there are some places that could see improvement, although I do think they did amazingly well considering the development time they had. I’m just going to list what I think could be done better.

Dragon Age 2 small dragon
Here there be dragon
  • Camera behavior: it could pull out farther from the character.
  • Re-use of maps: the game could do with a few more house and cave layouts, although I didn’t mind it that much.
  • Bigger dungeons: the game really lacked at least one big dungeon.
  • More wilderness/undercity life entities (wolves, bears, etc) and maps. Everything was a little bare.
  • More diverse encounter types (how they develop): they were mostly limited to bosses in the game.
  • Too many exploding bodies. Cool on criticals, not cool when every killing blows causes an “explosion.”

 

Dragon Age 2 is actually an amazing game and lots of fun for people who can take the time to appreciate the story and who didn’t already hate it before it was released. It was a bold move for BioWare, and hopefully all the crying won’t stop them from continuing in that direction for the Dragon Age franchise. Also, has anybody who claimed to have liked DA:O better actually tried to replay DA:O after playing DA2? I have, and now I’m wondering how it’s actually possible to believe DA:O is the better game or a really good game for that matter …

One reply on “Dragon Age 2: A Review”

I know you posted this a long time ago, but I enjoyed reading this, thanks. :) Especially because it’s a very different point of view from where I come from when I play Bioware games– I usually think almost exclusively about 1) in-game political situations and 2) the romances, so a more gameplay-dynamic review from someone not interested in the romances was fun and interesting for me to read.

I completely agree that DA2 has way less of a savior aspect, and while I loved the epic good vs. evil scale for my DA:O character, it was refreshing to have something different for Hawke in DA2, and frankly more unique in terms of fantasy writing IMO. Also agreed that playing a mage makes it more interesting! And, like you, I’m floored by how many people hate DA2.

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