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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dragon Age II: Addressing the Bad Press

I have been playing Dragon Age II feverishly ever since I got it on Sunday and I must report to you that the game is crazy good. There have been a lot of negative buzz surrounding DAII and after playing a good 12 hours of it, I can assure that this game is a worthy successor to the masterpiece that is Dragon Age: Origins. The most common complaint about the game is the scope of its landscape, or the lack thereof. The game takes place in only one town and its surrounding areas and you pretty much have to traverse these places repeatedly. This is actually not a hindrance but it enhances the experience because it makes sense in the context of the storyline. DAII is about the story about your hero's life in the city of Kirkwall which in itself is rich with a dark and mystical history so of course you spend most of your time running around the city. It is also refreshing as well as personal to tailor the experience around a single main hub in a role playing game and it is a welcomed change to the norm. Sure, the places you can go to are rather limited but as far as I'm concerned, Origins wasn't all that big either in terms of the adventuring space and I rather visit meaningful places repeatedly than running through a large dungeon once and then the area is left to be forgotten forever.

Just because the map is small, it doesn't mean that the story isn't epic.

There is also the concern in regards to the character customization option in this game, both for the main character and his or her companions. You can't select races anymore for the former and you are stuck with this Hawke character. Though I did enjoy the given variety in the Origins, focusing on one caricature means that developer Bioware is able to really pinpoint the storyline and make it more cohesive. Think the Mass Effect series. The background deviations in Origins are there but they actually are not that significant. Sure, it could have been much improved here but Bioware decided to step back from it instead but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Though the character story options have been narrowed down in DAII, it doesn't mean that you are less involved in the tale because there are still a lot of conversation and action choices that will make you feel like you are in control of Hawke's destiny. As far as the companion customizations, you are now unable to outfit them with armor, only weapons and accessories. I like this change because it ensures that your companions will always look unique instead of looking like someone who is wearing your hand me downs. Though we have lost the ability to dress up the companions, they each receive a talent tree that is unique to only each of them and that more that makes up for the said gameplay omission.

The one character approach provides Hawke with a voice actor and even close family members.

The last thing I would like to address is the simplification of the battle system. Well, unfortunately, there is some validity to this particular concern. Though not a button masher - your character auto attacks the enemy - the pace of battle is now a bit too fast and it is obvious that this accommodation is made for the console gamers. Gone is the ability to play the game with tactical precision because it's all about who can deal the most damage to the opponent without any regard to positioning. This is made worse by the fact that the game likes to throw a lot of enemies your way in waves. The game is more action packed for sure but this design also makes playing the game with friendly fire on a near impossibility. The action is still fun but I really do miss the deliciousness of stratagem from Origins. Still, that is the only weak point that I have found in the game thus far. If you have been avoiding DAII but you are a fan of Origins, I am sure that the strong storyline in itself will win you over immediately. The good thing here is that many of the changes are actually logical and they don't hurt the game whatsoever.

Flemeth is a lot more kick-butt here and that in itself is worth the price of admission.

1 comment:

Kelli said...

I played orgins and loved it. I tried the demo of DA2 and I was iffy, but after reading this I would give it a go.