Thursday, May 2, 2013

Dragon Age II: A Review

I know Dragon Age II came out quite a bit ago, but what can I say it takes me a while to finish up a game especially when you spend all of your time grinding Borderlands II or playing through the Mass Effect trilogy. But I finally got around to finishing it last week and I’ve got to say meh. I really enjoyed the first one, so this was disappointing. This could be because I was also playing through Mass Effect at the time and became very heavily invested in all of the characters, but DA was *shrug* playing a game. And yet I still had fun.

DRAGON AGE II is as follows: Embark on an all-new adventure spread across a ten-year span of years with an all-new hero in the multiple award-winning Dragon Age saga. In Dragon Age II you are Hawke, said to have been one of the few to survive the destruction of your homeland. Forced to fight for survival, you gathered the deadliest of allies, amassed fame and fortune and sealed your place in history, eventually becoming in effect a legend in your own time. But legends are all in the telling.

Dragon Age II utilizes a nonlinear narrative, taking the form of a story-within-a-story that hinges upon your exploits as told by the storyteller, Varick. Yet like any good storyteller, Varick tends to exaggerate from time to time. When questioned on events related to Hawke, Varick may present a different scenario in which Hawke's exploits play out. It is within these replays that the decisions of the players hold sway, as their particular versions of Hawke relive these events. Is the player's particular version of Hawke, male or female? A warrior, a rogue, or a mage? Is Hawke good-natured or something less than a salt-of-the-Earth type? Is romance in the air amongst characters he/she associates with? These choices are all the player's to make and each affect the the outcome of the story at all levels.

At the beginning of the game you make a choice when you get to the city, join the smugglers or join the mercs. A year later you have begun to make a name for yourself. Stuff happens, subplots appear and another three years go by. This is all skimmed over by Varric’s storyteller, your unofficial biographer. You kill bad guys, stuff happens and the game ends. Trying not to be spoilery though at this point if you haven’t played it, well...

In the first DA I fell in love with the game. Loved the snark of Alistaire, the awesomeness of Morrigan and really really debated on my final choice of things whether to lose Morrigan or lose Alistaire. I was invested. The choices in conversation were good. I didn’t know if there were consequences to what I said, I was just given choices. In this game you have good, snarky, and asshat. I was not invested in Hawke, as bad ass as I looked. I think this is due to a lot of things, but let’s talk about what I liked first.

I love that the story is centered around your character and the family that comes with it. It’s their stories that help further along your own and I dig that. In fact those were the few times I was emotionally invested. My choice at the end largely came down to that family, whether it be blood or not and the sacrifice I was willing to make for them and others like them. I also loved that it took place in a single city just the same way a dungeon crawl would happen. And making the game set in the city over a span of time was great. While I don’t know if my actions in any of the “chapters” really would have changed the city as a whole, there is a part of me that would like to think so. Though I know this is probably wishful thinking.

Graphics were much better than the first game and I did enjoy the character customizations a bit more. There were also some really nice storylines that were great, very engaging, touching or suspenseful. Banter between characters was nice, though not as cool as the previous game.

So let’s talk about some of the bad. The qunari got an upgrade from the last game and all I can say is that it is a change for the good. The bad is that I understood the subplot going on. I understood the quinari leader and I really didn’t want to fight him, let alone kill him. Anders was whiny and when Fenris showed up I was heavily wishing I could have romanced him instead when all I really wanted to do was romance Varric, but could not.

The game really does re-use maps and not in a good way. More in the look there is a door that I went through in the last cave but now it is doorway filled in with rock. Not like it is disguised at all. Now I understand going through parts of the city again and again. This makes sense. Making every cave system look the same doesn’t. Unfortunately the pacing was a bit slow. Now I am a completest and tend to do every side mission as possible so yes a 20 hour game turns into 40. But even if I didn’t do every small task the plot was less than spectacular. It plodded along and it also seemed like it didn’t have a clear direction.

Finally let’s talk about some of the game play and mechanics. One of my biggest problem with the fighting system is that once you’re done with each battle any party members who died resurrect and regains full health and mana. I played on normal so it meant that I rarely used the potions because there was no point. My team was pretty well equipped I had my tank (Fenris), my healer and defensive magic (Anders), me (rogue assassin) and either Varric or Aveline. I didn’t really need my inventory. In fact a lot of my inventory was useless and I just lugged around a ton of stuff that I would never use. Pick up some armor for a warrior class, well I can’t give it to any members of my party because apparently they like to choose their own clothes and for me this was an annoyance. I like making the game my own including dressing up my party like jesters (Dragon’s Dogma) if I so choose. The point being as my inventory seemed pointless. I rarely used anything.

Other things I didn’t like. I could only play a human. Well that is no fun. I enjoy playing other races as much as I do other character classes. This is probably due to the fact that I feel like DA II was a bit rushed and was just more of the same leaving a lot of things unpolished. But your character isn’t the only one limited. Your companions are a couple of rogues (Varric being one of them which sucks since he is by far the best character and I wanted to play a rogue so I rarely put him in my party as he is just another one of me and yet his banter with everyone was the best), a couple of mages, and a couple of warriors. Now depending on your choices you lose many of these peeps or can potentially lose them and end up being fairly unbalanced. Then again the enemies are just as limited and unbalanced. Ooh yea another round of spiders, demons or bad guys. Not really a variety and thus pretty boring.

I think in all while I liked it and it is better than a lot of games played, it just felt unfinished and rushed and too much of more of the same while taking away some of the things I really liked from the first. I wasn’t engaged as much and it felt very much like a videogame that I had to finish not one that I was invested in. Let’s hope that the third game promises to be like the first instead of this one.

3 out of 5 controllers.

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