The lights are on
What with Mass effect 3, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Hunted: Demons Forge, RAGE and Dead Island all coming out this annum, you could be forgiven for thinking that Dragon Age could be a footnote in this years line-up. Fortunately this is not so...
I picked up the Signature Edition of the game which contained the extras of 'The Black Emporium' and 'The Exiled Prince' enabling the use of these without first day DLC.
When the game loaded it was pleasantly surprising to find the Originsesque loading screens, in my opinion some of the better time eaters in the genre as well as some more original score which sends a tingle up your spine. You start off with a cut scene introducing the game and story, setting the scene for you: The Champion. Good, witty conversations run through the game modernising the series and adding to the realism, also the new speech controls in the style of mass effect help you to define your character more successfully alongside rivalries and friendships. Friendships and rivalries open up more options for your companions 'abilities' which are power-ups or improvements to your fellows skills but other than this they feature little. Graphics are improved from Origins as is, most importantly, the combat which is more flowing and very much console based. The Bioware team wanted 'Something awesome to happen when you press the button.' and having played with all three classes (Rogue, Warrior and Mage) you do notice the increased violence in battles; exploitable by the impressive array of abilities available.
Most of the story takes place in and around Kirkwall a port city in the Free marches of Thedas and despite the smaller map size compared to Fereldan in the prequel there is still much variety in the environments. The city is split into two main sections, Lowtown and Hightown the poor and rich areas of the city split into subsequent areas themselves. Outside the city there are three areas, Sundermount, Wounded coast and The Bone Pit; all blissfully unalike and yet believably in surrounds of Kirkwall. When you leave a main area there is an innovative selection screen which allows you to choose between which areas you wish to go to. There are three choices of setting Kikwall Day, Kirkwall night and Outside Kirkwall. This gives freedom and versatility to how players move around the world, also ofcourse keeps this open world with multiple story lines giving freedom of choice.
The weapon systems are very successful; many collectables and quest rewards with random events show the extent of the database every class is well catered for and their specific traits e.g chest opening for rogues give you a valid reason for careful companion choice. Alongside these choices you can pick your companions weapons, perhaps one step down from changing their armour there is more selections for belts, amulets, and rings with their related benefits. As you progress you can upgrade your companions armour but they always make their own decisions about what they wear and these are only show by the number of lit segments underneath the armour slot.
the games flaws are shown mainly in the dungeons and lack of continuity, after you have visited two or three different dungeons you have seen them all, as they are derived from a small template simply mixed together in different coagulations. Continuity suffers due to the arrangement of quests and how they are given to the player in parallel but are [to the game] in series. This leads to strange circumstances in passing comments from civilians or in converses with companions when they will go from one mood to the other in a flash just because you have started a quest.
The story has good flow and valid background that also leaves room for a sequel (a very exciting one), controls and graphics are improved and this is now a console game utilising the power of this generation. In many ways this is the sequel many from Origins wanted, taking many good things from it, creating and expanding to make this a very fitting and suitably epic game for this RPG year.
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