The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
The console version of Dragon Age: Origins didn’t have the same magic
as its PC counterpart. The story, characters, and quests were all the
same, but the thrill of battle was damaged during the transition.
Addressing this problem is the greatest strength of Dragon Age II; by
implementing a combat system tailored to console gameplay, BioWare’s
epic fantasy series takes a new shape. This changed vision for the
franchise may disappoint hardcore fans of the original, but the sequel
still delivers – though not in the ways you’d expect.
template story structure involving an intro, four main quest hubs, and a
finale is nowhere to be found in Dragon Age II. Unfortunately, no
compelling story rises to take its place. Framing the story with another
character’s narration, Dragon Age II attempts to tell the tale of
Hawke’s rise to power in Kirkwall. In execution, this story amounts to
little more than a bunch of sidequests lashed together. They are rarely
connected to a central goal, and since the main plot has no arc, you get
little sense of mounting tension or rising stakes until the climax is
Most of the missions are short, in-and-out affairs that
involve traveling between Kirkwall’s painfully limited number of
locations. While the city is supposedly huge, you only bounce between
about 10 areas and a handful of buildings and caves within them. By the
fourth or fifth time I was sent down to Darktown to resolve shady
business, I was pining for the vast forests of Ferelden. Speaking of
Ferelden, you can import your save from Origins, but it just alters some
dialogue and a few cameos so don’t expect constant references to your
Your surroundings get old quickly, but most
quests have a clever spark that keeps the entertainment value high. I
hunted a serial killer, took a jaunt into the Fade, and watched an ally
awkwardly blow a date with her ideal man. A few mundane missions fill in
the gaps (prepare to kill a lot of slavers), but the inventive
scenarios and excellent writing are among the highlights in Dragon Age
II. The tasks you perform for your party members are particularly cool,
aided by the fact that your companions are more interesting characters
than those in Dragon Age: Origins.
The biggest change from the
first game is the combat. No longer trying to straddle the fence between
tactical and action-focused systems, Dragon Age II gives itself over
entirely to fast-paced, responsive battles. This drastic departure from
the original formula is bound to upset purists, but it suits the game
well. Throwing down a non-stop barrage of spells and weapon techniques
is empowering, and since you aren’t just issuing commands and waiting
for their execution, the action feels more immediate. Don’t expect this
sensation right away, though; you’ll have to play for several hours
before you have enough abilities to keep combat interesting. In the
early stages, you’ll burn through your meager skills and then mash the
attack button while you wait for them to recharge. I promise, it gets
better. By the time you’re wiping out your opposition before they even
hit your front lines, it all seems worth it.
Aside from combat, an
array of smaller tweaks make this sequel better suited for console play
than its predecessor. The Mass Effect-like conversation system gives
Hawke a voice and keeps the dialogue flowing, though it also removes
some of the moral ambiguity. BioWare has tuned the combat difficulty to
require minimal micromanagement, but this comes at the expense of the
pause-and-play approach (which is technically still possible, but
totally useless). Inventory and equipment are easier to manage, and the
new skill trees – while heavily simplified – help differentiate
characters and give them unique roles in combat. I also encountered some
technical issues like enemy pop-in and graphical hiccups, but they
rarely hampered my enjoyment.
Part of me was disappointed with
Dragon Age II. I hoped for an improvement on the original, but it
ultimately feels like a step back. The new battle system is fun, but not
nearly as satisfying or rewarding as Origins’. Since you don’t even
have a main antagonist until the final hours, the story pales in
comparison to the original. If you put those complaints aside and remove
Dragon Age II from the impressive shadow of its predecessor, you’ll
find an engaging action/RPG experience that still retains BioWare’s
trademark clever dialogue, cool characters, and detailed lore.
(Note: This review pertains only to the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of Dragon Age II. You can read the PC review here)
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