Review: Dragon Age Two

So I few weeks ago I played through the Dragon Age Two demo, as I said in my post I was a little bit unsure. However I have now played through and finished the whole of Dragon Age and I can now give it my full review. 🙂

Be aware potential spoilers. (Also this is the PC version, I’m not playing a game like Dragon Age on a console, it would drive me mad! Mouse and Keyboard all the way!)

HUD
From the Demo I was a bit unsure about the new way that health and stamina/mana were being presented, I worried that it would take over the whole of the screen. However, I am now of the opinion that presenting the stats like this was in fact a very good idea. In Origins, everyones health, stamina/mana was presented in the same way, a circular health bar was used. This meant that actually you couldn’t physically see how much health your mage had. Now however all the health bars are shown as a ratio to each other (and they don’t get larger than a certain lenght so they aren’t infringing on your scree space) which means that I can now see how little health a Mage has compared to my fighter, or how piss pore my stamina is compared to the mages mana (this didn’t stop my mage just suddenly dying at times, but that was my own fault for not thinking to give him spells to protect himself with…). It also means that I get a better idea of just how much health/stamina i get back from health potions. So this actually I like a lot.

What I am neutral on is the menu screens. I liked the Origins ones they were a bit more elaborate, these however I find kind of boring they’re just effectivly black backgrounds. I liked the fact that when you chose your party from the party menu screen in Origins they would step forward and say something, if you deselected them they would step back and say something else. Now? Well they don’t do anything, you just add them to your party. However I don’t have to spend much time here so, it’s not that big a deal, which is why I’m neutral on this.

Simplification of some things
From playing the demo me and hubby were a little bit worried about how crafting would work as there were no skills. Would there even be any crafting? How would you persuade people to do things? Actually I kind of like how they’ve handled it in DA2.

Crafting is a hell of a lot easier to manage, in origins to make health potions you had to by a load of empty vials from a shop then go somewhere else and get lots of elfroot, and then if you wanted stronger potions remember to buy the other necessary ingrediants. This took up quite a bit of time going back and forth between areas and it took up precious inventory space!!! (Especially when before the DLC there was no storage chest!) This was even worse in Awakenings when you could make runes. I think I spent a good hour or more running back and forth buying what I needed to make the most powerful runes for the end fight. Now however you simply find crafting resources that are permenant, you need a certain number of some of them to make certain things and then you can order said items from your house! I am no longer losing inventory space!

Combat
Combat is very different in DA2 compared with Origins. I didn’t quite realise how different until I loaded up Awakenings briefly. For a start the combat animation is actually a lot faster. In Origins you can wave your sword around 4-5 times but this will only represent 1 hit. In DA2 pretty much every to hit animation actually hits.

They’ve also changed quite how the fights work. In Origins you tend to get into fights with an awful lot of enemies who aren’t that tough (but sometimes especially around levels 11-14) could end up overwhelming you. (I had to leave a few side quests in Denerim till later levels because of this.)  in DA2 you tend to come across a small group of enemies at first and then once you’ve dealt with most of them a second wave will come in, and the sometimes a third. I did find this a bit weird having enemies just ‘appear’ out of thing air. However it does mean that there is less to render on the screen, and also that (most of the time) I’m not been slaughtered due to sheer number of enemies (as you sort of have time to heal up).

I know a lot of people have complained about the changes to the combat system in DA2 and personally I’m indifferent to it. It’s not amazing but neither is origins. I don’t know what it’s like on the console but with a mouse it seems perfectly fine. Although yes there were times when I wish I could pull the camera back like you can in Origins, especially when your playing a mage, it can be really hard to get those area effect spells off otherwise.
Story

I actually really liked the plot lines in DA2 (I use the plural because unlike Origins there isn’t exactly a central plot line), however it is also clearly an intermission game, a game building up to whatever crap the Grey Wardens appear to be trying to deal with. The story line raises far more questions than it answers. But still I loved it.

The Dragon Age series is a Dark Fantasy, and DA2 is incredibly gritty. I will admit to being quite horrified at certain things that happen to your family at the end of Act 2, it really packed a punch and isn’t something you’d generally expect from a computer game.You will also find yourself having to make incredibly hard choices, oh sure you can try and take the middle ground, but eventually you HAVE to pick a side and either way it’s going to be horrendous.  I really like this sort of thing, yes I tend to dither and worry over which choice I make but, it makes things more real in some ways. I quite like my Dark Fantasy fiction and it’s nice to see it in a computer game. Although emotionally in some ways I can see it being worse, as it’s YOUR character and thus you making the choices, not some character in a book. In some ways it made me think of the game Dred, which I played at Conception. That was quite harrowing, and I did nearly cry before I purposefully made my character commit suicide. While I did enjoy the game it is something I only want to play in small doses, perhaps in another few years. DA2 isn’t nearly that extreme, but on the first play through, well there are a few tough choices to make.  (I’m not quite sure if I said what I’ve wanted to say there clearly.. so I hope that you can kind of see what I was trying to say.)

You will find that, as in real life, there are a lot of stupid people in the game, fanatics, people who just won’t listen to reason. There are a lot of head in hands moments.

There are also moments when I couldn’t help but laugh (although I did put my head in my hands at the sillyness of some of it).  One of my fave moments is the quest where your trying to sort out one of your companions love life. Its very funny watching just the sheer awkwardness of it all. And the bit where, if your playing a female Hawke the person thinks that YOU are trying to romance him. The random conversations between party members is also top notch. It was great in Origins, but there is a lot more of it now. Hours of entertainment right there. 🙂

Hubby has also pointed out that the way they’ve sort of done this plot fits in to how the Knights of the Old Republic plot was going (ish). You’r first character vanishes and your second one starts, sort of, stumbling into something big. Dragon Age 3 is going to be interesting.

Maps

This is where I was most disappointed with the game. Years ago when Mass Effect came out pretty much everyone complained that almost every single interior for buildings was IDENTICAL. It made things feel a bit lazy, especially if you compared it to say Oblivion by Bethesda, where there are crap loads of dungeons all really long and all different! However at least for ME you could kind of give the argument that they were pre-fab buildings. I’d thought they’d learnt this less as this doesn’t happen in Mass Effect 2. However DA2 is full of side quests that take you to what is essentially the same cave complex. Now, they would have almost got away with this if not for a few things.

1. You can see ALL the map, including areas that you can’t get to on THIS quest but that you can access on a different quest. You tend to enter through different sections on different quests and so I could have remind quite a oblivious to this if I hadn’t been able to see parts of the map I couldn’t get through, especially when they lead off from ‘doors’ that don’t work.

2.They didn’t re-skin most of them, so everything in there looks the same. They re-skinned it for Sebastian’s quest and it looks fantastic.

I know Bioware are good, and it does make me feel disappointed when seeing things like this. Obviously this kind of thing does make programming easier for them, but at the same time does affect game enjoyment a bit.

Other Stuff

I remember when I played my first ever RPG on the computer, it was Baldur’s Gate 2 there’s a section where you head to the wilderness to deal with some Druid troubles. That was my first introduction to the concept of GIANT spiders in computer games. It freaked me the hell out I can tell you. I don’t like those things I do not need to see ones that are as tall as my game character attacking me, especially NOT groups of them. However over the years since BG2 I have become more inured to them. And then Bioware clearly decided that they weren’t content with just having spiders the size of you attack you. No they decided to  introduce a freaking Queen Spider who’s at least twice your height and hideously bulbous. There are about 3 or 4 in the game and the first time I met one, well suffice to say I do not need to see mandibles that are half the size of my character coming towards me, or a Giant Queen spider rear up to hit me. I fought it by using my hand to cover most of the screen and tired to focus on the quick bar at the bottom. I do not like Spiders, I especially do not like the way they move. So if you aren’t a spider fan either, you have been warned.

Loading times: I’ve seen quite a few people complain about loading times, but neither me nor hubby noticed any issues with it. Granted we’re playing the PC version on a reasonably powerful pc, so perhaps its just that something like a less powerful PC or an XBox can’t quite handle the game?

I’m sure I’ve missed stuff out, but essentially at the end of the day, I really love this game. It has it’s flaws, as I’ve mentioned, but at the end of the day I play Bioware games for their in-depth stories, and as a person who is used to reading fantasy series where there are sometimes books that don’t answer everything (within reason, I doubt I’m ever going to read all of Robert Jorden) I’m ok with the fact that this is all build up for what’s going to happen in 3.

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