BioWare have been producing some of the finest games in recent years. If like me, you dedicated several months of your life to Mass Effect 2, then we all had high hopes for Dragon Age 2. Is the game worth the money?
For the last two weeks I have been playing Dragon Age 2, playing all the side missions, and trying to find all the hidden Easter Eggs throughout the maps. I feel in a good position to be able to give my views on whether this should be shortlisted. Lets get straight to the point, Bioware love creating games which suck you into the characters and settings. Mass Effect 2 was a modern day masterpiece of gaming, mixing a perfect combination of sci fi RPG and third person shooter to appeal to fans of both genre. The plot flowed well and the characters meant something even when only part way into the game.
Dragon Age was a killer game, it had a huge following, but it was released in a very unfinished state, with bugs and glitches galore. When I first played the game I was actually stuck mid way through because of a game breaking glitch. Many others were affected by this and the BioWare forums were full of people complaining about various game related bugs.
Dragon Age 2 has its sights set high, and often it delivers, but sometimes it doesn’t. Bioware know what their fans want, they do spend a lot of time interacting with them in public. While this is sharper and tighter than the first game, it still isn’t quite as good as it could have been.
The game starts in a slightly different way. You aren’t given control of Sir Noob-alot, a bland 2D character who has some claim to the throne. The story is presented in true noir movie style, with one of the main characters telling the back story to an investigator. The first section of the game is formed around your character and how he meets up with the people who will take his side throughout the story. As the characters grow in power and capability, the scenes shift from location to location, with a strong focus on the story and building up a fully realized three dimensional world. Sadly, while it is better coded than the first, it doesn’t feel quite as epic in scope. The original Dragon Age, didn’t hand hold the players quite as much, you were free to wander vast territories and take your time doing so. Dragon Age 2 has clearly had a few design decisions implemented to make the interface more streamlined and faster to move around.
Just like Mass Effect, you can take either a male or a female character and pick your class, skills and character and develop your abilities as you progress. Members can be recruited and charmed, but the choices over armor and weaponry isn’t quite as detailed as before. While this makes the game more accessible to a wider audience, true followers of the RPG genre will find it restrictive.
The combat system has been replaced with a completely new implementation. Instead of choosing targets and watching your attacks take place in semi real time, Dragon Age 2 has new combat moves that work in a very similar fashion to those in an action RPG. Melee attacks and special moves now involve timing and quite a bit of button mashing. Magical attacks can be straightforward projectile attacks or carefully aimed artillery strikes.
The action can still be paused and while the game is in this state you can switch between characters and set up commands. It works well, especially if you are trying to optimise potion taking. If you can be bothered you can issue and set up command structures for each player, in a similar fashion to the original title. It is certainly more action packed, but there were times when I yearned for the original game play elements. I am not saying I disliked the new system, just sometimes it felt a little less indepth.
As before, the game revolves around a wonderfully crafted story with great character development and interactive dialogue scripting. There are plenty of sub plots, twisted interactions and dirty dealings when you least expect it.
Many of the younger male gamers will be pleased to hear that there are still sexual escapades in place. You can sweet talk the pants off several NPC’s, and smuggler Isabella certainly has no problem devulging her intimate thoughts. I won’t go into detail, but if you are that interested, feel free to check the videos on Youtube.
KirkWall is the early focus of the game, and it quickly expands into the mountains and coastline around the town, and many expeditions take place to complete various game advancing elements. Dragon Age 2 has an interesting ‘day and night’ aspect to the game play, with only some missions available at specific times. You don’t have to wait it out for nightfall or daybreak in real time, you can simply toggle a button to make the scene switch. Its another thing that will make purist RPG gamers groan, but it helps progress the game much quicker.
I do feel they could have made the landscapes slightly more varied, because by the closing sections of the game you feel as if you have travelled the same lands many times over.
Dragon Age 2 is a fantastic game and there are many memorable moments and great storytelling arcs incorporated. The combat is fun and the characters are lifelike and entertaining. It isn’t quite as epic as the first game, but those who found the first title rather plodding may just find that the sequel hits the spot.