I really did like Dragon Age II…but I did have some issues. I know this write up is about 4 months overdue, and I finished playing about two months ago. Before I go any farther, I am not a seasoned reviewer of video games by any means. I actually have never written a review for anything. I just like playing games. A lot. I’m not even going to call this a review; it’s a recap of what I liked/didn’t like.
Also, do I even need to say spoiler alert? If you haven’t played and plan to, leave now, then come back after you’ve played.
Synopsis from Kotaku.com (couldn’t have summed it up better myself):
“Fleeing from the Darkspawn hordes to the neighboring state of Kirkwall, Hawke and his companions soon discover that the seeming safe haven isn’t without its fair share of monsters, though they aren’t as easily identified. The stranded members of a fierce warrior race sow the seeds of fear and uncertainty among the citizens and officials of Kirkwall, while the tension between the dangerous magic-users and the mage-corralling Templars grows more volatile with each passing day. In the middle of it all is Hawke, destined to become the Champion of Kirkwall in BioWare’s eagerly anticipated action role-playing game sequel. His or her rise to power is a given. How Hawke gets there is all up to you.” -Mike Fahey, Kotaku.com author
Okay, so a little information. I played as Rogue FemHawke. She’s pretty hot. I also imported my DA:O character, so that the decisions made during that game play carried over to DAII, and I will do that for any other installments. Not that I can think of anything that came up during my DAII gameplay because of the import at this moment…I think the game knew that I was a FemWarden in DA:O. Anyways, there is a comfort for me in knowing I imported my characters and always will.
[screenshot from DAII, FemHawke, found on Obsidian Forums]
Here is what I liked:
I loved the new combat system. It was so much faster and efficient. I was left feeling extremely satisfied that I kicked ass so hard after every fight. And I did it with such precision, no moment going to waste. I killed monsters and bad guys like it was just another thing on my to do list. And you got some bad ass screenshots if you paused the game at the right moment. I loved doing that. I would squee, “David [the boyfriend], look at Hawke! She is such a BAMF!” The rogue talents and skills are very satisfying to use. I was constantly backstabing as soon as it had refreshed.
The graphics. Not much to say here, they are obviously better than DA:O. Just take a look at the two. And I loved that your character had an actual voice in this installment. I personally enjoy my character having a voice, much like in Mass Effect and Mass Effect II. It helps the team feel complete and on the same page, everyone has a voice that can be heard and used. Without your main character having a voice, I feel like you are being talked to, rather than talked with. Also, its a bit robotic for me when you cut to your voiceless character and they are just staring, mouth shut always. I think a voiced character helps with the flow of conversation.
Oh yeah, and I love that your party stays drenched in blood during dialogue after a bloody battle. It was like this in DA:O as well, and it better stay that way.
I loved seeing old characters from DA:O. Whenever I would meet an old friend, I felt like I was reconnecting with an actual friend of mine. Isabela has a tiny bit part in DA:O (I’m pretty sure me, her and Allistar got busy in her pirate ship), and in DAII she is one of your companions (a sexy pirate rogue) Another companion is Merrill, who also had a bit part in DA:O. There are others, like Zevran shows up and Leliana does too. And I may have swooned a bit when Allistar (my romance from DA:O) sauntered on to my screen…my god, I had such a crush on him. Like, in game and real life…just don’t…I know…Okay, and Flemeth shows up again, and she is SO MUCH COOLER LOOKING! Having old characters pop up helps the two games have a common thread.
I may be alone in this one, but I liked that you didn’t have to worry at all about your companion’s armor! I get so stressed out about if I have my characters in the best armor they can have. Did I sell an item that was better than what they have one?? Shit, is my entire party basically naked during battle cause I just cant handle all the options?!!?!?! Maybe that last part was a bit extreme, but I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders learning that I wouldn’t have to bother with dressing my companions. You still can outfit them with accessories (rings, necklaces, belts) and better weapons. This also made for a lighter backpack, I never even came close to having a full inventory, which I was constantly running in to during DA:O. I vividly remember being stuck in the depths of a cave that took me like 45 minutes to travel through and having to choose which item was least detrimental to destroy so I could pick up another item that was more important at that moment.
What I had issues with:
There was no party camp. Granted, the setting for this game is different than DA:O so having an actual camp somewhere isn’t really appropriate. However, I missed seeing my characters all in one place, somewhere the whole team was, somewhere I could easily talk to them all, somewhere that felt safe. In DAII, Hawke’s house kind of works as a party camp, some characters can move it, some randomly show up, and Sandal and his father figure Bodahn are there, able to sell you items or do Enchantments! on items from your inventory. But for me, it really didn’t feel the same as having your whole crew, camping out in the wilderness together.
There is not the same open world feeling you get from DA:O at all. At times, I felt trapped and confined in the Kirkwall, where the majority of DAII takes place. You can travel to a few other locations just outside of the city if its relevant to a mission, but it felt a little depressing at times. I really enjoyed the feeling of traveling great lengths to accomplish this mission in DA:O. However, because of how drastically different the story line is in DAII, being confined to Kirkwall starts to make sense, and is relative to story progression.
That brings me to my next issue, this game shouldn’t have been a sequel to DA:O. It was a completly different style of game. It was more like 3 mini games, and sold to us as one. It would have been better if it was just marketed as another installment to the Dragon Age series, not labeled as Dragon Age II. Putting that “II” in the title gives you the impression that its the second part to the first part. The first DA was Dragon Age: Origins. This one could have been Dragon Age: Kirkwall Is Going To Hell, or something like that. Just not Dragon Age II. That way upon first impression, the player is given the idea that this is going to be a different experience. If the player is set up for that exception, maybe there wouldn’t be as much disappointment? Maybe? Maybe not, but that’s what I think.
There are so many more positives and negatives that I could rave/rant about, but the internet has done a good job of that already, so I will stop here. I really enjoyed this game. The combat system was very fun to use and graphically speaking, it looked much better that DA:O. When I first picked up the game, I played for maybe 3 hours, then didn’t play again for almost a month because I couldn’t get the game to fit right in my head. Once I figured out what the story was all about, how to navigate Kirkwall and its outskirts, and accepted that this installment was just a different game than its predecessor, I got really sucked in to playing non stop. The story did take a while to click for me, and I think that’s because I was expecting a game play like DA:O. It’s so hard to not compare the two, isn’t it? I’ll be more conscious of that for my next game write up. In the end, there was more good than bad, by a long shot, and I will likely pick up the controller and play through again.
[concept art for DAII, found on kotaku.com]