Doesn't it feel like everything has been dumbed down? Everything from eating to combat? - User Reviews - www.GameInformer.com
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Doesn't it feel like everything has been dumbed down? Everything from eating to combat?

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So back in the day, I wrote a review of Dragon Age: Origins, applauding BioWare for their masterful take on the fantasy RPG genre (see http://www.gameinformer.com/games/dragon_age_origins/b/user_reviews/archive/2009/12/16/well-fart-me-a-lullaby.aspx). And, as with the DA:O review, the title for this one has been taken straight from the game itself. This time, the quote comes from a drunken patron in a bar i the game. BioWare couldn't have said it better.

Being a long time fan of BioWare, I was beyond excited to hear that Dragon Age2 was coming out so soon after the release of Origins. When I tried out the demo for DA2, I was skeptical at best, as I wasn’t anticipating the change in combat styles. However, as I started to play the game upon release, I realized that some of the changes that BioWare had made were phenomenal, but others were not too good.

Let’s start from the beginning. The game starts off the same way Origins did, giving you a simple run through the combat and gameplay mechanics. This time, however, instead of making your character and going through an hour long exciting adventure that is different to each race and class, you’re thrown into a story about a family fleeing from the destruction of Lothering. Despite the change in the start of the game, I enjoyed the new beginning, as it was clear that BioWare was trying to set this game apart in that it was not just another Origins. The family dynamic is well played throughout the beginning of the game, as your mother, brother and sister bicker back and forth.

Characters are slowly but surely introduced during the first “Act” of the game, of which there are three in total. This time, instead of having a simple and easy way to exploit your companion’s personalities to max out their relationships, companions are more personal and respond to what you do in the game. Also, if your character does things that another hates, this won’t put a damper on your relationship, as each companion has special perks that become character buffs depending on their views of you. This allows you to further customize your party beyond just trying to make everyone like you or only keeping those in party that do favor your company. Another phenomenal addition to the companions is the additions to the tactics screens. Tactics are more customizable this time around, as they are more customizable and allow for better control of your allies. However, some things were dulled down for the companions. For example, you can no longer equip any armor to your allies, as they all wear their own clothing throughout the entire game. I only personally witnessed two characters actually change their clothing and this was only done after completing their companion quests. Instead of maximizing a characters potential as a damage-sponge warrior or healing mage, the only way to “power up” your allies’ armor is to either buy or find various buffs from shops or missions. I felt that this limited the amount of personal character customization, as I enjoyed swapping armor sets for each character in Origins. 

The story of the game is well written, but at times, feels forced and redundant. The bulk of the game is spent in the various districts of Kirkwall, which is spectacularly done, as it allows you to feel a more personal attachment to the city that you are now living in. However, a lot of the quests are simple fetch and kill quests, and lack any real depth that Origins managed to pull off even in side quests. Also, my biggest gripe with the game is the constantly recycled environments. There are very few dungeon setups, and to compensate for the rush of getting DA2 out, it feels like BioWare instead just put up a wall here and a rock there to prevent you from accessing the rest of an area to represent a “new dungeon/cave/house.” Origins never repeated any areas other than the occasional interior of a building. This made DA2 seem rushed and repetitive, as you constantly are forced to see the same areas over and over.

Another issue with the story is the division between Acts. Each Act ends in a major conflict of some sort, and this never really changes throughout multiple playthroughs, compared to the infinite amount of possibilities available per playthrough in Origins. There are some options for each encounter, but in the end, the Acts all end the same way regardless of your decisions.

Combat has been revamped as well. Instead of a simple mechanic involving choosing an enemy and pressing attack punctuated by using spells and abilities, this has been swapped for a Dynasty Warriors-style combat which results in a button mashing frenzy and more stylized combat. Also revamped are the ways spells are handled, especially in the talent trees. The original pallet of four spells or talents per ability has been changed into a tactical tree involving multiple options for ways to upgrade your spells based upon the different things that particular tree is based upon. Each tree consists of various abilities as well as static buffs and the new upgrades for each ability. These upgrades make each talent or ability better by offering some sort of buff to the ability or spell, such as staggering, disorienting or making an opponent brittle. These new effects on opponents can be turned into a cross-class combination, such as a mage casting an upgrading Winter’s Grasp to freeze an opponent and make them brittle, followed by a warrior hitting the brittle opponent with Mighty Blow for added damage. There are numerous ways to use each cross class combo, and each one deals an exponential amount of damage compared to the original ability.

The biggest issue, however, is not in the changes made to the Origins formula, but the lack of maintenance before release. The amount of glitches in the game is astounding. There are some that are just minor annoyances and others that are downright strange yet hilarious. For example, one character’s beard disappeared. It wasn’t replaced by a clean-shaven face. His jaw line became a textureless blank area that was grey. Other times, the same characters beard became a see-through area, allowing me to look through his head at the wall behind him. Other glitches can be incredibly cumbersome, such as the inability to finish a quest because the game does not acknowledge the fact that I just killed a certain opponent. Thankfully, this only happened on simple side quests and not a main story element. Another major annoyance was a glitch that prevents the unlocking of achievements associated with the Exiled Prince DLC. The most debilitating of these glitches was one that caused the game to refuse to load a new area while trying to continue a main quest and I was forced to reload a few times and repeat various parts of the quest.

Overall, there are numerous changes according to the original format of Origins. Some of these changes are for the better, but there are quite a few that just don’t quite live up to the Dragon Age name. Minor annoyances like the inability to swap ally armor to major glitches that prevent you from finishing quests and unlocking achievements. Dragon Age 2 is still an epic adventure that feels more personal than its predecessor, but it doesn’t quite live up to the name. I would recommend waiting for a couple months for the game to be patched and updated. 7.5/10

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