Monday, April 18, 2011

Dragon Age 2 (Games)

I wanted to talk about Crysis 2 this time around but I figured it would be better to finish Dragon Age 2 and Assassins Creed 2 off first.

Dragon Age Origins is considered to be one of the best RPGs of all time. Now Dragon Age 2 has alot to live up to. Is it a good game? Yes. Does it live up to it's name? Well... Not completely.





Dragon Age 2 has a problem. Dragon Age 2 is nothing like Dragon Age Origins. At all. But it is like one other game, Mass Effect 2. But how can that be a bad thing? Mass Effect 2 was alot better than
Mass Effect 1. But there's the problem. you just compared the Dragon Age Series(fantasy rpg) to the Mass Effect Series(sci-fi rpg).

In a sci-fi game you can wow people with shiny new tech and battle armor and laser guns and action. But fantasy needs story, more specifically. Back story. You need the Elven tales, you need the human heroes, you need large dwarven cities. But Dragon Age 2, though it has alot of focus, won't be able to cope with the amount of detail required to make a great fantasy rpg the dragon age codex just isn't able to hold the weight. I still feel the story is awesome, but compare it to Dragon Age Origins, it's pretty go-there-do-that. You aren't playing as a hero building up a epic story. You're just playing as the human champion of Kirkwall. That's about it. So yeah, I expected more from Bioware.


Gameplay
Gameplay in Dragon Age 2 is... focused. This is a good thing and a bad thing. Combat now looks much cooler with the animations much more vibrant and fluid than Origins. It definitely looks cool.
Ugly faces don't help with people skills

Inventory and ability trees have been revamped. With forging and poison creation virtually absent, you just buy the various items out of a store now(after exploring around for 'resource piles'). It's not a move I'll complain against, I feel the new method is simpler and better. Inventory management remains the same more or less. Though now you can't change the clothes of your companions outside of small additions as gifts(This I found quite dumb)
The skill selection page is completely revamped.

But the largest complaint comes from Dragon Age 2's world. The mighty kingdom of Ferelden in the first game has now been reduced to just one city, Kirkwall and a few mountain paths. I mean, Bioware, what the hell was that? Are you frigging kidding me? Make it more focused like Mass Effect 2 but I dont think people would've been too happy if you reduced the entire game into the citadel and about 2 planets outside of it. As I said before. You NEED large areas for a fantasy rpg. It's probably the only way it will work.
I don't really like the speech wheel from Mass Effect 2 being added, it now defines your responses as good/diplomatic, angry/straightforward and funny(Not as funny as you may think) as compared to the last system which was more ambiguous. I was hoping the wheel would be removed but I guess it's here to stay.
This is your new world(At least most of it). Enjoy

So gameplay-wise Dragon Age 2 is still okay. But compare it as a sequel, it definitely is nowhere near an improvement, of course Dragon Age: Origins was kinda perfect anyways.


Story

Story was a very important part of Dragon Age: Origins. The amount of options available to you were staggering, yes, the primary differences in story were only at the beginning and the end, there was still alot to do in the game. Dragon Age 2's story is simply not as huge or breathtaking as it was. Yes it's more personal, yes your character can talk, but all of these really don't let take the story anywhere. You are the champion of Kirkwall. You help out friends(If you wish). But besides that there really isn't much to talk about. The lack of direction in the gameplay can somehow be pointed out by the lack of a major enemy in the game. The Darkspawn are near non-existent.

But the plus point to Dragon Age 2's is it's narrative. It's now highly refined. The writing(as all Bioware games) is excellent. The interaction between the party members of your group is quite a highlight and the characters themselves are alot of fun to interact with. Varric and Merril were two of my favorites. Relationship's now seem much more detailed than meetings by the campfires and each companion now has his 'home-base'.
Meet Varric. The wittiest surface dwelling dwarf around.

There are also less missions and side quests, the story seems to be shorter, but all of this stems primarily from the apparent lack of space.
So story-wise it is nowhere near as good as Origins.

Visuals
This is quite an improvement if you have the right hardware. It looks great in DX11 although it has quite a few issues with several random crashes. Nevertheless the game still looks better when on medium than Origins on high (with some pretty lighting effects too.)

Design as always, is great although because of the cloned areas, there really isn't much to see. You will easily get bored of the 'Ive been here' feeling. But try looking up at some of the larger buildings like the gallows which, though purely cosmetic, still looks majestic.
There seems to be greater attention to detail this time(in certain parts of the game)

As always the weird necessity to have conversations with an ungodly amount of blood splatter seems unnecessary.
Blood is still one of your more sticky party members.


Sound
Voice acting is a huge improvement. Varric's is especially impressive and even the other companions sound much more natural. Sound effects and the musical score are also great.


Overall
I want to like Dragon Age 2. It's fun and quirky and it is definitely trying to move forward. But I don't think it's going the right way. Origins was a great game, there really was no need to tweak it further. Hopefully Dragon Age 3 will realize that, but till then, time to get excited about Mass Effect 3.

4 more months.4 more months. 4 more months.

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