Dragon Age II PC Review: A Port Caught In The Middle - Dragon Age II - PC - www.GameInformer.com
Switch Lights

The lights are on

Dragon Age II

Dragon Age II PC Review: A Port Caught In The Middle

Dragon Age: Origins was one of my favorite games of 2009 – as long as we’re talking about the PC version. On consoles, the game was a diminished port of the original, offering only a shadow of the tactical combat that made the PC release so satisfying. With Dragon Age II, BioWare has turned the tables. The sequel’s action-oriented battle system is clearly tailored to accommodate Xbox 360 and PS3 gamers, and the hardcore PC faithful (at whom the original title was explicitly targeted) get snubbed with an inferior adaptation.

Despite what you may have heard, Dragon Age II on PC does not have the same tactical pause-and-play combat as its predecessor. The battle system is essentially ported straight from the console iterations. I won’t rail against Dragon Age II’s shift to fast-paced fighting just because it’s different; as I said in my review of the console versions, the combat is well suited to the new action/RPG style. Though battles are not as rewarding as the previous entry’s strategic encounters, faster and more responsive combat isn’t inherently bad. The problem is the PC version’s inability to deliver the intended action at the heart of the new mechanics.

With its third-person camera and button-mashing attacks, the combat system in Dragon Age II is designed with a controller in mind, but BioWare doesn’t offer native gamepad support, restricting you to mouse-and-keyboard controls on PC. This approach may have worked well in Origins, but it doesn’t transition well to the new system. Movement feels clumsy, and pausing to readjust the camera and select targets for your abilities just muddles the flow of combat.

Maybe this decision was made to retain a shred of the tactical combat that distinguished Origins, but if that’s the case, the attempt is meager and insufficient. You have no zoomed out isometric view, and the waves and waves of filler enemies that pad out encounters make strategy futile. Yes, you can pause and issue commands, but this maneuvering is pointless when you never know how many more bad guys will jump from the rooftops, rise from the ground, or simply materialize out of nowhere. Even with more foes, the fights are considerably easier (unless you really crank up the difficulty), so planning is a waste of time. You can win most fights without worrying about strategy, so why invest unnecessary time and effort in the tactical approach? This conundrum creates a combat system that does not convey the thrill of controlling an unstoppable hero, but also doesn’t accommodate the strategy that is supposed to serve as an alternative.

While Dragon Age II on PC fares poorly in most comparisons, it isn’t all bad. It has a leg up on the console versions in the graphical department, with noticeably better textures and support for DirectX 11. The performance is also better, including a better framerate, shorter load times, and less pop-up objects in the distance.

Apart from combat issues, the highlights from the console version make a seamless transition. The cool quests, solid writing, and interesting characters are enough to make Dragon Age II worth checking out as long as you keep your expectations in check.

On all platforms, Dragon Age II caters to an audience that didn’t connect with Origins, while alienating those who did. This may result in a better console experience, but considering that Dragon Age: Origins was a love letter to old-school PC RPGs, BioWare’s neglect of the sequel’s PC release is tragic. I appreciate the technical refinements, but improving the polish doesn’t do much good when the basics still need work.

Email the author , or follow on , , and .

User Reviews:

  • 7.00
    (Yeah, that's right....I'm holding a ball of fire in my hand) Dragon Age II is an odd game. It sets aside many longstanding RPG conventions and replaces them with...well...nothing really. After finishing the game roughly two weeks ago I couldn't help but wonder what exactly BioWare was trying...
    read more
  • 6.75
    There are few things as disappointing as seeing a really good looking dessert then taking a bite, and it does not taste bad but mediocre. This is the way DA2 left me. It looked really good on several points when I originally saw it, but it did not deliver the results expected. As far as pluses there...
    read more
  • 7.50
    Dragon age Origins was one of the best RPGs of the decade so the hopes were high for Dragon age 2,I am saddened to report that it does not live up to the original game,however the gameplay failings are made up for by some cool story moments in the final 2 chapters. The very first thing that will strike...
    read more
  • in my opinion dragon age: origins was one of the most epic games of 2009,and it seems like Bioware to give the public something that they never had in origins...a more in depth experience. Dragon Age 2 does just that, with a story that brings you more in depth with your Character as well as companions...
    read more
  • Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE Dragon Age 2 Review Kid Safe: Low Game Quality: Very High Genre: Open World Action/Adventure RPG - This game takes place where choice is everything. Rather than providing a set story that a player has to follow, they are provided a world that they can explore...
    read more
  • On its own Dragon Age II is a decent game. Next to its predecessor though, it is a shameful product. It is a slap in the face to the series and gamers in general. Its only redeeming qualities are the aspects it took from Dragon Age Origins and speeding up the combat. Dragon Age II has improved its graphics...
    read more