Review: Dragon Age 2

I haven’t been playing Wow much, which is bad if you’re the GM. It’s getting harder and harder to spend uninterrupted time in front of the computer. I show up for raids and that’s about it. One of my guildmates has been raving about Dragon Age 2. I enjoyed the first one immensely so I bit the bullet and downloaded a copy from Amazon. This is my first experience with buying via download and so far it’s been a pleasant experience.

The benefit to playing this type of game is that I can pause and walk away for any length of time. I can also save and pick up where I left off. It’s really hard to be stuck in a heroic in Wow with a fussy baby and not be able to just walk away. With DA2 I can do that any time I want, even in combat.

If you haven’t played the first Dragon Age: Origins, I highly recommend it. I also recommend playing through multiple starting stories before committing to a character. You’ll have a lot more backstory that way. Unlike its predecessor, DA2 does not have multiple starting stories and you cannot choose your race. All you can choose is your class (mage, warrior, rogue) and your gender. The usual character modifications are in place, so you can make your avatar look however you want. I’m partial to redheads with a ponytail for some reason.

The game starts out with you fleeing from the Blight of the first game with your family. You eventually seek refuge in the town of Kirkwall and stay there (mostly) for the duration of the game. Unlike DA:O, there is no huge overarching “the world is going to end” plot which is rather interesting for an RPG. The game focuses on character development and making a name for yourself in Kirkwall, and dealing with the city’s problems. While the lack of an epic story is unique, the game is certainly not boring. It is divided somewhat into chapters, with each chapter having its own major hurdle to overcome (along with the usual barrage of sidequests). As with other Bioware games, your decisions shape the course of the game. I haven’t replayed it yet so I don’t know how heavily you can change things.

Your own character seems a bit more developed in DA2, even if it is only superficial. In DA:O you can select dialogue but only hear other characters respond to you. Your character also stares around with the same blank expression all the time. In DA2 you hear your character speak and see her form expressions. It’s a much more rewarding experience.

Combat is more fun and easier (at least as a mage). I play on pansy mode anyway because I care more about the story. It was nice to be able to focus on story rather than combat. In DA:O combat was always creeping into my story and making my life difficult. I couldn’t AOE because friendly fire would kill my allies. Spells didn’t have the same power and you didn’t cast as fast. Some fights were extremely difficult, so much so that I had to skip them completely. In DA2 you really pew pew pew with your staff and perform more complex looking moves with it. Combat just feels more elegant and cool. Enemies also come in waves so you aren’t fighting a gazillion guys at once. There was only one battle in the game where I had to spend a good deal of time on combat (fighting the high dragon). The best change is that once you are out of combat everyone’s health and mana automatically returns to full (unless you have the injury debuff). This really helps prevent downtime and keeps the story flowing. You don’t have to worry about running back to camp to lick your wounds. Hard core players need not worry- there is still Nightmare Mode. But for me, not having to deal with combat as much made the story much more enjoyable.

Another change is the Friend/Rival system. In DA:O you could piss off or placate your companions depending on your actions. This lead to some annoying times where you had to go to camp and swap out companions just so that so-and-so wouldn’t get all pissy with you. The more pissed a companion was, the less they would confide in you. Some would even leave you completely if they didn’t like you. In DA2 it’s changed to Friend/Rival. If you do something that angers a companion they move more toward Rival. This won’t cause you to lose them however. In fact, companions that are extreme friends or rivals have access to special abilities so it’s actually good to win or lose their favor.

My only real gripe with the game is that you still can’t save in combat or conversation. You can’t really pause in conversation either, which is particularly annoying when your husband starts talking to you mid-conversation and you can’t understand him or the game.

I highly recommend DA2 (and DA:O if you haven’t already played it). Bioware has a solid reputation for making excellent RPG games and seems to improve with each new game. I don’t know yet if I’ll end up purchasing one of the downloadable side content packs. My guildie tells me there is some awesome eye candy for women in one of them though so I may have to check it out.

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2 Comments

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