Dragon Age 2 Review

Here’s a little known fact: Polish the Console was essentially founded because of Dragon Age: Origins. We spent so much time having random conversations that stemmed from Dragon Age: Origins that we said “Hey, lets make a website out of it.” Dragon Age quickly became a series that we knew that we were going to follow closely and with much excitement. When they announced Dragon Age 2 we all felt that it seemed quick but we didn’t care. We couldn’t wait. It was more Dragon Age.

Dragon Age 2

That's a man on a serious mission

The more information that we heard about Dragon Age 2 the more we couldn’t wait to play. It’s very existence had us brimming with excitement. We counted down the days until its release like giddy school children count down to spring break. We even considered using up our sick days at the office to camp out in our basements and do nothing but play Dragon Age 2.

Dragon Age 2: Controls

While the controls aren’t revolutionary they are still quite good. Bioware chose to keep their tried and true Dragon Age scheme but give it an added punch. When playing Dragon Age: Origins the presence of an actual player wasn’t always needed. You could just set it to attack something and go make a sandwich while the game took care of itself. You took care of using talents and spells but overall it was an experience steeped in the command mentality of “Go kill that. Okay now go kill that.”

They chose to step up the game a bit by making it more action oriented. Instead of letting the game play itself they gave direct control to the user. No longer to you select who to attack, you attack EVERYTHING. Every swing of the sword / knife / staff is dictated by the user. For me this makes for a more solid and interesting method of gameplay. It makes the user feel as if they are really in control and not just making decisions for someone else.

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Dragon Age 2’s controls get a 4 out of 5

Dragon Age 2: Gameplay

Dragon Age: Origins was absolutely epic. There were long stretches spent attempting to accomplish one goal. Hours were spent in the Deep Roads and a Fade. You moved from area to area amassing a large army to fight an impending threat. You were picked to save the world from being overrun by evil and quite frankly that’s not something you can wrap up in a weekend and still have time to have dinner with the family.

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Does anyone else find the Qunari to be really attractive in this Dragon Age?

Dragon Age 2 takes a different approach. You are not fighting a horde of darkspawn on your way to stop the Archdemon. You have fled Ferelden during the blight and are now trying to create a better life for you and for your family. You get caught up in numerous political problem in the grand city of Kirkwall. You begin to amass a sizable fortune as a business man and because of this your status in the city is elevated and people begin to look up to you and your accomplishments. As you venture through your time as Hawke you really get a sense that Bioware has matured in their story telling for Dragon Age 2. It’s not just about questing and killing. You’re helping a city mired in political problems elevate itself and depending on how you play you can assume the role as it’s leader. Your actions bring about large political changes and ultimately seal your fate as a savior or a villain.

But it is because of these problems that you also don’t ever really leave. That’s a big change from Origins where you went quite literally all over the kingdom of Ferelden to get your job done. In Dragon Age 2 you spend you time either in Kirkwall or in the surrounding area. There’s isn’t much in the way of exploration.

When you do finally get the chance to explore and go cave diving you begin to see some of the problems when you release a game a little too quickly. Literally every cave and every house are exactly like every other cave and every other house. Some have doors that cannot open and start you in different areas but that is the only difference between them. They are literally exactly the same. This does a great deal to completely remove any sense of realism in Dragon Age 2.

While there were epic battles there were no epic quests. Bioware seems to be going after the casual gamer by making everything short and sweet and able to be wrapped up in 15 – 20 minutes. While this helps keep the game churning along at a decent clip it does very little to give you sense that what you are doing is really important. Important things take time. The take great effort. They take more time to complete than I take in the shower in the morning.

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Dragon Age 2’s gameplay gets a 3 out of 5

Dragon Age 2: Graphics

Dragon Age: Origins was not known for being the prettiest game at the party. In fact it was quite the opposite. It was known for being ugly, graphically underpowered (on consoles) and more or less visually unappealing. While it’s still not going to win any awards for being stunning they did definitely improve on what they had. This is most evident with the cameos of past party members. Textures are a little more realistic than they previously were and this is something to applaud, especially given the short time frame between releases.

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My dog gives me this same look when he steals my shoe

That being said it has not elevated itself to a level where playing it will make you say “Wow that’s beautiful”. It will make you say “Okay that looks better” but it just doesn’t open up the way it could. When you look at games like Mass Effect 2 that are visually amazing and compare them to Dragon Age 2 you notice that things just don’t look quite right.

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Dragon Age 2’s graphics get a 3 out of 5

Dragon Age 2: Story

As we said before this isn’t a tale of fighting. This is a tale of growth both personal and political. It’s a tail of rising from your station to help a city regain it’s storied magnificence. It is a tale of a man (or woman) who finds their family name sullied and tarnished by a “black sheep” that you must work to rectify.

dragon age 2 hawke male mage

Just look at how awesomely brooding Hawke is

It’s a story that is more grown up and seems to reflect a mentality of “not every problem needs to solved with bloodshed”. That’s not to say that you won’t be throwing down and picking fights you do in fact do this. But you’re drawn into the middle of an unwanted Qunari presence as well as a violently growing schism between mages and templars.  You don’t get to sit on the sidelines or straddle the fence this time around. You witness injustices on both sides but still have to make a choice as to where you stand.

But Bioware is never just about the main story. The side quests in Dragon Age 2 are very interesting as well. When you start to engage your companions and learn more about them you find very interesting stories of kidnapping, hatred, fear, and avarice. You watch their stories unfold and in some instances you come to see that they are responsible for a great piece of the mess you find yourself in. When you’re not interacting with your companions you’re helping others to solve their problems but on more than one occasion this is not a one time quick fix. Their problems stay with you throughout your 7 year journey. The people you help or hurt in year 1 will pay you a visit later on your journey and they are going to have a fairly strong feelings about you. This idea that decisions have larger outcomes is something that I personally always enjoy seeing played out in a game. It makes the decision that much more nerve wracking to the point that I actually sat there thinking “what the hell should I say” for five minutes on more than one occasion.

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Dragon Age 2’s story gets a 4 out of 5

Dragon Age 2: Overall

Overall Dragon Age 2 is a solid game that is a step up in very many ways from its predecessor. The main story is more interesting and even the side quests are engaging and interesting. However there are a great many flaws that take place that cannot be overlooked. The entire game feels rushed and hurried and just not finished. Because of this the entire game suffers and what could very easily have been one of the greatest games of the year falls short. However it is still a very solid game that was wildly fun to play and fantastically interesting to watch unfold. For this reason we have to give Dragon Age 2 a 4 out of 5

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Rating: 3.3/5 (9 votes cast)

Comments

Posted On
Apr 08, 2011
Posted By
Asperity

I hate that I can’t hate this game. So many awful things about it (Hawke not really mattering to the plot being probably the worst) but I love the characters and their stories (even when they barely make any sense, like Merrill’s).

In summary: the only DLC I’m interested in is one in which Hawke finally gets to play Wicked Grace at the Hanged Man with the gang. And maybe take Fenris out on a date, because he deserves it for being right all along (and also not a terrorist).

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
Posted On
May 19, 2011
Posted By
kattiki

I really want to see a female Qunari. Can anyone tell me why we haven’t seen one yet? Maybe BioWare will make up for never seeing one in the next DA, in which there will be a romanceable female Qunari companion.

-Kat

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
Posted On
Jun 15, 2011
Posted By
Calamitybird

Okay Kat….I finished it. Good thing, too, because I was starting to lose sleep to the drive to play it.

“Epic battles but no epic quest.” This was my biggest problem getting into this game at first. I did initially complain to my best friend that it felt…directionless. In Dragon Age: Origins, as you say, it was a long road to a big goal, one that you knew almost from the start. In this one, you ran *away* from the main story, a story you already knew the ending to…and you succeeded. And the first act gave no real over-arcing plot other than “Well, go on now, go make a life for yourself.” I wandered from quest to quest thinking, What am I playing here? Dragon Age: Sims? It felt odd to have no obvious grand cause.

I would disagree, however, that the story feels rushed or unfinished. The build was slow and oh so intricate. Characters I initially thought were annoying or frivolous were, by Act II, beginning to develop in ways that touched my heart. Other characters I’d happily accepted as naive or devoted at the outset began to show me that I’d seriously underestimated them. By Act III, I was both utterly enthralled and starting to feel a little intimidated by the size of the game – I had work, I had laundry, I just wanted to hurry up and finish it but it just continued unfolding and unfolding, and the ending seemed truly epic in scale and appropriate.

I was sure I would at least be in here complaining about the combat system (I hated it in the demo), but as with many combat systems I’ve “hated” in the past, I just needed to get used to it. The pacing is MUCH faster this time around and the game seems fond of sending enemies in massive hordes very frequently, but with practice and the right build I found the frantic onslaught feel of it freakishly fun.

I was a little unnerved by the artistic change to the game, however. Elves look…really, really unhealthy, all of them. Qunari looked so utterly unlike the ones we met in DA:O that I couldn’t reconcile the two as being the same thing. And in general, cameos from the original turned out abysmally. One in particular that is near and dear to this bird’s heart just looked…”special”.

Does this topple Mass Effect for the Calamitybird? No, but let’s be honest, will anything? I think it may have toppled Dragon Age: Origins, however. And after the disappointment that was Awakenings, I am very surprised to say that.

And speaking of Awakenings…Bioware? I can’t believe you made me fall for Anders. ANDERS. Yes, the foppish twit with the cat. How the hell did you manage THAT?

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Posted On
Jun 15, 2011
Posted By
Calamitybird

And yes, sorry, I know this is Wadoobie’s review. I just can’t help it – when I think specifically of the Bioware titles, I think of Kat. :)

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