Hello all and welcome to the review of Dragon Age 2, the sequel of epic roleplaying game, Dragon Age.
When it came out, Dragon Age was misleading in name since most of the game was about darkspawn who are awakened by Archdemon. Archdemon is in the form of a dragon but that doesn’t make it a dragon in reality. When you came face to face with it whether in the beginning, in the middle or at the end, you realized that Archdemon is more like a undead dragon. During the game the main focus was to use your nearly forgotten rights as the Warden to enlist the support of different factions present in the world of Fereldan. At the end, some of the factions would join you in your final battle against Archdemon according to your choices. At the end of all, you would see the consequences of the choices you made and many different endings. The expansion pack focused more on being a Warden and a Warden-Commander.
Dragon Age 2 erased all this story build-up. In Dragon Age 2, with the death of Archdemon, being a Warden became meaningless. So, the producers decided on introducing a Hero concept where you, as the main player, is the hero and champion of Kirkwall. The game focuses on Kirkwall, so you will visit the same city again and again. You feel limited to your choices. At the end you feel like you are just a regular civil servant and a member of noble class that is more inclined to battle than paperwork. The feeling of accomplishment is very low compared to the first game. Also, you skip years between acts of the game, thus always starting over at the beginning of each year.
But I digress. Let’s divide our review into parts:
Graphics: While the graphics have been improved over Dragon Age, the repetitive level design and a very boring city of Kirkwall destroys the beauty. In the first game, the different concepts of the different cities improved the joy from the art work of the game. The fire of Orzimmar, the wilderness of Dalish Elves, the Fade, the claustrophobia of the Circle and the city life of Denerim was distinctively different from each other. In Dragon Age 2, Gallows, Hightown, Lowtown and Darktown all feels the same. While the concept of mines beneath the city as Darktown is a nice idea, it should have been worked more to introduce merchants and more day to day activities. Hightown and Gallows are enjoyable only for merchants. The streets are bleak. Lowtown and Docks share the same palette where the Dalish quarter is just a spot of color to the yellow tones. The outside of Kirkwall is where the artwork shows its beauty, in the shores, mines and wilderness of Free Marshes. The feeling of a seafaringness could be felt but not able to board one of those ships limits the enjoyment. The missing cities are actually very easy: As the Orlais and Antiva is taking out of the scope and story of the game, where in Dragon Age with the added characters like Leliana and Zevran, we actually had a idea about how they are constructed (Being Orlais = Paris and Antiva = Rome). In Dragon Age 2, the first two acts focuses on Qunari which was modeled after Islamic Civilization. Since the silence of Sten in Dragon Age made the Qunari lands more of a mystery, with the added conflict in Dragon Age 2, the producers could have added the Qunari capital to the play. Also, there is a serious story behind Isabella which requires a sea-themed pirate capital. While considering a Tevinter city could be far reached, a small Tevinter-themed dungeon connected to Fenris’ story could be interesting.
With Dragon Age 2’s simplified abilities and combat system, the game also adds graphical eye-candies to the attacks of characters. The mages transformed from strong but ugly fighters in the first game to the bladed staff swirling, occasionally spell casting monks. The spells have polished animations where the final concept reminded me of Japanese RPG’s. The realism has vanished due to graphical candies. You do not feel that your attacks are really that powerful as the animations show. As playing the game as warrior, a two-handed weapon has to be very strong with animations focused on high-attacks, like smashing down a hammer, but the final result is like hammering with a small rock hammer.
Sound: The main character has been vocalized which prevents the connection of the main character with the player. Also, because the usage of Mass Effect dialog system, you won’t feel that the choices you have for conversation does matter. There is always three choices, being diplomatic/peaceful, sarcastic/charming and aggressive/angry. The sound acting is good and you do not feel bored. Still, there is less talking in this game than the previous one. The character interaction with your followers are strictly scripted with no coming back. In the first game, you would have the opportunity to apologize if you messed up but in this game, the follower interactions are regarded as quests which takes the meaning of friendship from the equation. The little conversations between your followers while traversing Kirkwall is still funny and makes the game enjoyable to the ear.
Story: As a role playing game, the story should have been more epic, but it transform into a bureaucratic nightmare. The quests are usually very far from each other with many quests in the form of “find a miscellaneous object-take it to the owner-get paid”. There is actually three or four level maps that are used again and again with difference in their some areas being open or closed. You feel like “I have been here before” and all the sense of exploring has been destroyed. You would know where to go. The boringness of the levels have been tried to be eliminated by introducing more enemies to fight but it became a repetitive task. Also, there is no need to strategical approach since after killing the first wave, a second and third wave of enemies come from nowhere where you feel like you have been tricked. In the previous game, strategic placement was important but now every person in the party is subjected to the attacks from every direction. Also the enemies are classified into three: Warrior, Rogue and Mage, same as main player selection.
As the main story, it is interesting but there is too much holes in them. A more serious threat to the wellness of Kirkwall and Free Marshes were expected but instead, it is only focused on internal struggles of a city. You would be pleased if it was a Kingdom but taking care of one city is very much meaningless when you compare it to the first game where you rescued nearly a continent and many races living on it.
Also, the focus of being human is dominant. You are most likely playing the Noble Human birth story of Dragon Age through the game. Exclusion of becoming a dwarf or elf lowered the replayibility of the game. The acts are disconnected from each other where there could be more dramatic scenes through the story. There are a lot of not-necessary violence in the game where your choices would not effect the outcome. Nearly all the quests are finalized by a big battle, where whatever you do, you could not skip. At the end of Act 2, I would like to skip the fight with the qunari leader and find a solution without killing a certain important person.
In the end, you do not feel like playing a sequel to Dragon Age but more like playing Mass Effect with swords or hammers (Hammers mostly). The downfall is the story in Mass Effect was in epic proportion where you tried to stop a Universal Genocide all by yourself. Now, you are just a small person.
I would not recommend this game for any reason. I felt cheated after the end of act 1 since the game just started to repeat itself. It is really sad that a company like Bioware who regard themselves as the followers of Baldur’s Gate series are that cheap in story and level design.