(NOTE: There will be spoilers in this review so if you havne't played the game yet don't read this review)This is a review for a website I'm part of and I was thinking you guys might want to read it.
The first Dragon Age game is one of my favorite games of all time. It had a great story, excellent characters, meaningful choices, and tactical combat. So naturally when Dragon Age 2 was announced I was excited. When I finally got the game I found a streamlined, only slightly altered version of its predecessor. It's not as good as the orignal game (For me at least)but ultimately Dragon Age 2 is a very well done addition to the series.
It’s been many years since the legendary Grey Warden defeated the Archdemon and saved the world from the Blight. But now new threats have emerged and left Thedas on the brink of war. In order to save the world from the chaos, a chantry Seeker named Cassandra seeks out a dwarf named Varric Tethras; who is known for telling tall tales that are not always true. But Cassandra knows that he was a friend to a legendary hero known as the Champion of Kirkwall. She orders Varric to tell her the Champion’s story. She believes that understanding the Champion’s actions may prevent the war. The Champion begins as a young Fereldan refuge named Hawke. He and his family escape the Blight that has consumed Fereldan and travel the neighboring city of Kirkwall across the sea. Once in Kirkwall, Hawke rises from penniless refuge to controversial leader. As you play through the 10 year time span of the game, the players answer a very important question: Who is the Champion of Kirkwall?
The biggest change from Origins to Dragon Age 2 was the addition to a dialogue wheel similar to the one in Mass Effect. This is an excellent addition to the series which allows the hero to truly create their own personality for the character. In Origins your character just stood there with a blank expression on their face, even when their best friend is attacked. Unlike Mass Effect, there is no clear morality in Dragon Age 2 and players can choose responses based on the situation without fear of consequence. It was an excellent decision to have in indicator which shows what kind of response Hawke is going to make. I absolutely fell in love with the sarcastic dialogue option.
As will all of Bioware’s games, the characters in Dragon Age 2 were excellent. I completely fell in love with characters like Varric, Merrill, and Isabela. I really enjoyed how they handled Hawke’s relationships with characters in this game. Unlike the first game, where a character’s friendship could be earned by giving them a certain present; you actually have to work in order to get your companions to like you. They also changed how the approval meter works. Instead of liking or disliking you, Hawke’s companions have a friendship/rival meter. Companions on the rivalry side will still follow your orders but will disagree with your actions. You can even have romances with companions on the rivalry side. Anyone for hot, steamy hate sex? I also really liked how fan favorites from Origins like Alistair, Leliana, or Flemeth appear in brief cameos.
The combat has gotten an overhaul in this game. It is much faster passed and flashier. There is nothing more satisfying than cutting down a swarm of Hurlocks. But this does not mean that combat has been dumbed down. If you are like me and prefer a more tactical approach to battle, you can absolutely do that. You can still pause and issue orders to party members and set tactics on the battle menu. I enjoyed the altered leveling up system which allows players to pick and choose what abilities
The graphics in this game are vastly improved over its predecessor. While the areas you traveled to in Origins were bland and generic, Kirkwall is a unique city of gothic and almost comic book like buildings. Dragon Age 2 has its own unique art style that separates itself from other RPGs. The character models look a lot less stiff and more animated than in Origins. However, it’s disappointing that you are restricted to Kirkwall and the surrounding wilderness. It means that you will be seeing the same locations multiple times. This repetition is not a game breaking flaw, but it was disappointing nonetheless.
The frame narrative is not used as effectively as it could have been. While Dragon Age 2 is still filled with meaningful choices that effect gameplay, the story is much more linear than I was hoping for. I was hoping that every time you play you get a different experience but this is not the case. You still get from point A to point B but how you get there is still entirely up to you. I did however, like how the game ended on a cliff hanger. It doesn’t seem like pointless sequel bait. It instead feels akin to stories like The Empire Strikes Back or the Two Towers.
Ultimately, Dragon Age 2 does not manage to live up to the charm of its predecessor but is still a very solid RPG with a great story, revamped combat and excellent characters. It is an excellent jumping on point for those who didn’t play the original game. Since I have only played the game once, and have not yet played a game with an imported save game from Origins I have yet to play and see my actions in Origins reflected in the sequel; I have a feeling that this game will grow on me.