Dragon Age 2

Dragon Age 2 seems to expect the player having a lot of faith in it, it starts off with a tutorial and some awkward attempts at emotion with characters you do not know, then throws the player into a city with offhand instructions to “make money”. Except for how the story is told there are no hints of a greater purpose or bigger events unfolding, the game rather half-heartedly encourages you to look around on your own until you find something interesting to do. Being heavily story-based it is odd that Bioware designed Dragon Age with such an uninteresting opening, not even sandbox games tend to leave the player without a sense of purpose – but then again, Bioware are known to experiment some with story structure. And to be fair the game does get a lot better after awhile even if the tough moral choices and sense of meaning that made the first Dragon Age great are only really prevalent in the last five hours or so of Dragon Age 2.

Technically, it is like Mass Effect 2 a more refined experience than its predecessor.  There are slightly less choices about equipment, abilities and setup but the ones that are there are more unique. The controls are better and the combat has a much better flow to it, in addition the difficulty curve is more even. Not being used to saving manually constantly, I remember having issues with the checkpoint placement in Dragon Age Origins – Dragon Age 2 only automatically saves when you enter a new area but since the difficulty is more manageable and the areas smaller this is no longer a problem.

Something about Dragon Age 2 that I am not sure whether I find interesting or annoying – but that I am sure was completely intentional – is how the gameplay and narrative is woven together regarding the motivations of the characters. It is hard to build a functioning party of characters whose views do not clash, meaning even if you do not care about the outcome of the events in the game yourself you are likely to get rivals among your party members, which in turn affects how the game works. There is also the fact that the main character has a name and a voice this time around and is more of a character than the Origins protagonist was… The game narrative encourages you to establish a character but the gameplay encourages you to be friendly with your party members and you cannot always get both – Andrew Vanden Bossche wrote about this a while ago. But in the end, Dragon Age 2 is a rather adult game tackling questions of racism and intercultural respect, violence, freedom, control and fear – even if problems are sometimes banal it would be doing these subjects a disservice if it allowed for easy solutions and simple compromises. And I also have to wonder if the impact the game had in the end would have been as great if I had not familiarized myself with the environments by running around for hours doing mindless tasks.

After all, I really liked the game and I hope to have opportunity to play through it again, but the question is how good an idea it is to make a game longer with filler content in order to make select few parts of it appear deeper.

2 Comments so far

  1. Johan on March 28th, 2011

    On which platform did you play DA2? I’m playing on the PC and the controls are very frustrating. And I have not found a way to customize the mouse buttons. You attack and move with the same mouse button which means that I end up with standing next to an enemy and try to stare him to death while he hits me on the head…

    Also the graphics is not what I expected from a AAA single player RPG. I have a powerful high end PC but can not maximize the graphical settings due to crappy performance
    and tons of glitches in the textures.

    I won’t comment the narrative or story because I have not yet finished the game. But from a technical perspective DA2 for the PC feels like a quick console port which is sad. I expected more from BioWare.

  2. Saint on March 28th, 2011

    I played it on the 360 and had no big issues with the controls, but there were many cases were enemies would cluster together and targeting a specific one would be difficult. I suppose this would be a bigger issue if you did not primarily use area effect spells like me.

    And yes, I agree the graphics are lackluster for a title of this magnitude, even when compared to other large-scale RPGs with heavy customization. I think the first Dragon Age had the same issue (little seems to have been done to improve looks, really) so I did not bother mentioning it, but considering that Mass Effect looked quite good it is a bit odd.

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Posted on Mar 27/11 by Saint and filed under Reflections | 2 Comments »