While the quest of the Hero of Ferelden in Dragon Age: Origins is to defeat the Darkspawn and the Archdemon overtaking the land, a champion in the making has begun his preparation to become the hero of Kirkwall in Dragon Age II. In Dragon Age II, players will be taken into a whole new land, the Free Marches, where they will learn more about the Dragon Age lore and explore the city of Kirkwall.
When Dragon Age: Origins was released back in 2009, RPG fans were thrilled with the game, but can the sequel live up to the success of Origins?
Compared to the graphics of Origins, Dragon Age II has improved in the visuals department. Facial expressions and the environments that the players will be venturing into are detailed and crisp. For those who remember just how ugly and ferocious the Darkspawn are, players will see that they have been completely redesigned. Familiar monsters such as the Abomination, Darkspawns, and Hurlocks will make an appearance in the game as well.
With so many characters that the players will meet, expect each of the cutscenes to have voice-overs. One of the strongest points in Dragon Age II is the voices each of the characters have. The voices deliver emotions and help the player connect to the characters. Some of the best voice-overs are Varric and Hawke’s, which is good because they do a lot of talking. If the player loves what Origins has to offer when it comes to voice acting, expect the same thing in Dragon Age II.
More Choices, Mass Effect style
Choices are everything in Dragon Age II, as each of the decisions has its own consequence. For players who want to truly grasp the lore behind Dragon Age II, more than one play through is recommended, as the class the player picks at the very beginning, and the choices that the player will make throughout the game have a huge impact as to how the story will develop. For example, if the player chooses to be a warrior at the beginning of the game, a mage may be more likely to join his/her party than another warrior.
A slight difference I’ve seen in the dialogues in Dragon Age II is that it adapted the style of Mass Effect 2. Instead of just choosing a choice without knowing if the responses are diplomatic or aggressive towards NPCs, the circular conversation wheel will be on the screen, with icons that indicate what type of response a particular phrase will generate. Furthermore, players can seek out more information by investigating on the topic just like in Mass Effect 2. With this new feature in Dragon Age II, the story gains more depth and the characters become more realistic.
In addition to the improvements we’ve seen in the graphics and the newly added conversation style from Mass Effect 2, there are some minor tweaks that somehow add a better feel when playing the game. While the menus in Origins were at times too complicated, fortunately the ones in Dragon Age II are more user-friendly. The menus are laid out in an easily viewable manner, especially the skill trees and the leveling up process. In Origins, the gameplay was more likely to be PC-ish in style, but in Dragon Age II it’s more of console-friendly, as auto attack can no longer be found in the game. Instead of focusing on an enemy and pressing X or A once to attack, players will now have to keep on tapping the attack button until the enemy falls down.
Tons of Sidequests
What I love in the first two Dragon Age games are the ability to do a quest that is not part of the main plot. Similar to its predecessor, Dragon Age II offers a lot of quests that are guaranteed to give the player hours of entertainment until he/she decides to proceed through the game’s main plot. The companions of Hawke have their own quests to tackle that gives each character a story that is yet to unfold. There are approximately 50 side quests in the game that give the player experience points, gold and rare armor. If questing gets tedious, there are other things to do, such as hunting for unique armor that changes a character’s appearance and provides him/her with special benefits.
Shorter than Origins
Expecting a much lengthier adventure than Origins? Prepare to be disappointed! The story of Dragon Age II can easily be finished in around thirty hours by doing half of the sidequests and the main quest of the game. If the player wants to platinum or get all the achievements that the game has to offer, they can easily tackle a 60 hour mark, depending on how you explore the game. As I mentioned earlier, there are ways to expand your play through with Dragon Age II, such as playing it more than once and trying out other classes at the beginning, or simply collecting things like unique armor sets. While the story seems shorter than Origins, something to look forward to is the upcoming DLC that will expand the storyline.
Eh? Same Recycled Environments
When Dragon Age II was announced, I pretty much expected to see more of Thedas, but unfortunately in Dragon Age II what we’re going to see from the beginning to the end is Kirkwall and a few dungeons. The story of Dragon Age II will pretty much focus on Kirkwall and its little areas around the Free Marches. The towns and the dungeons look all the same, but thanks to the mini-map you will not get lost. Compared to the first game, Dragon Age II offers less areas to explore and it seems that the developer got lazy as anyone can notice that the environments look bland and recycled. While they improved much on the designs, they failed to bring to life all of the places that we hear so much about in the lore.
Glitches, Frame Rate Issues
Ever get tired of the glitches and frame rate issues in Origins? Expect the same thing in Dragon Age II, although you can expect it a bit less. It seems that it’s too impossible to make a game that is free of glitches but in Dragon Age II, it occurs less frequently and the only thing I hate about it is the frame rate issues. There was a point in the game when I thought the game froze, but in the end it was just the frame rate issues. On the XBox 360 version, this is very common but a way to remedy it is by installing the game’s data onto the hard drive. Installing it doesn’t completely eliminate the problems, but it will prevent it from happening many times
Story Not as Epic as Origins
Dragon Age II follows the story of Hawke, a male or female protagonist, who flees Ferelden with his/her family during the fifth blight. In the quest to find a new home, Flemeth, from Dragon Age: Origins, guides the player and brings him/her into Kirkwall to start a new life. Similar to the first game, Dragon Age II will reveal more of the secrets of Thedas, such as the Qunari, and players will see just how powerful the Chantry is. As soon as you start the game, Varric, one of Hawke’s allies, will retell his tale to the Seeker of the Chantry. The reason why the Seeker is looking for him is unknown, and the only way to find out is by playing the game. Expect plot twists and shocking revelations throughout the entire game. By the time the game ends, players will be asking to themselves, “is that it?”. Don’t expect the story of Dragon Age II to be as epic as the first game.
Dragon Age II is pretty much what the fans wanted after they finished Origins—a sequel that expands the world of the series. From the hours of gameplay that I’ve spent, I have a mix of emotions about it. While the new features feel refreshing to the series, the things like recycled environments and a story that seems too short can disappoint the fans who are expecting more from BioWare. The ability to just be in one big town and access a few dungeons are not the things that fans want; we expect to see much more. Nevertheless, Dragon Age II is still a must-purchase for fans of Origins, despite some of its shortcomings.
[Editor’s Note: Dragon Age II was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Dragon Age II Review,