The lights are on
This may have a lot to do with the fact that I did not let my inner fangirl pass any judgement on this game until I beat it but I loved it. Dragon Age 2, which would be more aptly named Dragon Age: Champion of Kirkwall, is not meant to be a direct continuation of Origins but a foundation for where the story is headed. I do have to admit that the climax did not have the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end due to anticipation. I, instead, found myself filled with righteous indignation and not at Bioware but over how events had unfolded.
Bioware, and I have to applaud them for this, did not follow their usual formula of presenting a major problem, then having you gather your team/army and finally pitting you againts insurmountable odds. They veered from this by providing you a story of one Man/Woman's rise to notoriety and the decisions that lead them there. This, in turn, created a story that lacked the sense urgency Origins had. You are not out to save Kirkwall from an impending doom, even though you do, nor are you on a suicide mission, despite the fact that the final battles feel like one. Your 'mission' is to shape the history of Thedas.
Most of the gameplay consists of short side quests, companion missions and the main plot missions (which kinda feel like side quests at first). As you play trough the acts the aspects of earlier side quests become apparent and are intertwined with the main plot. The only downside to these quests is going into the 'same cave' a thousand times. The biggest difference in gameplay is the combat system. For me, and I must stress FOR ME, the combat system in Origins felt lazy - I don't consider tapping a button once and then watching a character continue fighting on there own combat - so I 'button mashed' my way though the entire game just to feel like I was doing something. In DA2 your character won't attack unless you keep pressing X or use an ability. Most will consider this annoying... most will hate it.... I didn't. Leveling up is also different. You no longer have to worry about how many points you have in strength or dexterity in order to get a certain ability but you will need them in order to carry better weapons or wear better armor.
As expected the game touts an amazing soundtrack, by Inon Zur, which bares enough resemblance to Origins' soundtrack to be considered 'Dragon Age' yet still had it's own feel. Another new feature is the diologue wheel, similar to the one used in Mass Effect, that indicated what sort of response your Hawke gives. The responses you choose indicate the overall personality of your Hawke and how he or she will react to observations.
Overall, I loved playing Dragon Age 2. I thoroughly enjoyed how all the little bits of story came together to create a bigger picture, how the antagonists of this story were both literally and metaphoricaly in front of you from begining to end, how all the characters had a bigger role to play than just glorified sidekicks and, most importantly, how emotionally engaging this adventure was. At the end it left me wanting more... in a good way.
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