Saturday, June 18, 2011

Review: Dragon Age II (PC)

Okay, first review, let’s try not to screw this up too bad.

I, like most players and critics, was skeptical when the sequel to BioWare’s epic RPG Dragon Age: Origins was released about a year and a half later. It looked like it was going to suffer the fate of KotOR II and be incredibly rushed and blatantly unfinished upon its release. I didn’t really want to find out, personally, but I received it as a gift and decided why not try it?

At first, I was pleasantly surprised. The narrative took no time at all to start, and kept going at full force throughout the entire game. The story, I think, was easily the best point of this game. It breaks out from Origins’ archetypal ‘go to these areas and do the same basic thing in different ways’ story that bugged me to no end about the first game. In effect, Dragon Age II actually has a story in place of a poorly-disguised attempt at making a game playable.

That is not to say that this game is flawless. The rushed development is hard to detect at first, and sometimes it even looks like they somehow managed to spend more time on this one than its predecessor. However, it soon becomes apparent, when you realize that this cave you’re in right now is the same one that you went to for that quest five levels ago. Throughout the game, the same mansion, cave, and sewer map is reused to the point that you only consent to go through them to advance the story.

This may be forgivable, though. To add on to the already impressive story, there is a wealth of clever, well-written dialogue and very deep interactions with nearly every main character in the game. No companion presents his or herself as just being along for the ride. You even receive quests to do nothing more than talk to a companion and advance their subplots. This hardly requires extra effort; the conversations start themselves at the right moments. You never have to worry about initiating the dialogues on your own. And the time that you spend on these little conversations is well worth it; the game’s usually dark tone is underscored with a little bit of comic relief in virtually all of these interactions.

The only feature of this game that I couldn’t make my mind up on was the combat system. Fights look like they’re going to go by much faster than they did in Origins, but the new speed of the system is balanced out by almost every battle assaulting you with at least two waves of additional enemies. Not only does this feel like an attempt to pad the length of what could be short, easy fights, but this can cause immense amounts of lag on an unprepared system. However, if you plan out your fights well, you will find yourself cutting through wave after wave with little difficulty (unless you decide to play on the ‘Nightmare’ setting).

Overall, this game was a solid follow-up to a great game, but it feels like it’s missing something (maybe some varied assets in level design). If you play games for the story, I would definitely recommend this epic piece of storytelling. Otherwise, it may not really be worth your time.

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