I like Dragon Age’s flavor: It’s high fantasy, but it has a small twist. Dwarves aren’t your run of the mill tolkienesque dwarves (I mean, some of them lack beards!) and the elves as a whole aren’t your standard tall graceful mystically superior race. It has a slightly unique feel not usually found in fantasy genres and I like that. But that said, most people have been fairly divisive regarding Dragon Age II to say the least. Honestly, I don’t think that it is as good as it’s predecessor, Dragon Age: Origins, but it’s still a good game. So if you are passing it up because of the negative reception, you are missing out on a good RPG.
BioWare’s saving grace has always been the quality of their writing and acting; Dragon Age II is no exceptions. They once again present to us, a fascinating tale of political intrigue. It is different though and feels less epic than its predecessor Dragon Age: Origins. DA II is a character based story. The plot isn’t about saving the world, it’s about one man (or woman), his life, the lives he touches and the impact that he has on a touchy sociopolitical situation. I really like character pieces so I appreciate Dragon Age II for what it is. But that said, for the a character based game, there are grossly fewer character interaction opportunities in comparison to Origins and character development suffers because of this. My favorite quests were the character stories, I would have loved more of those.
Overall pacing feels off as well. The first act is too drawn out, it takes way too drawn out; It takes too long to get into the meat of the story. Until you acquire enough capital to move to the next part of Act I, it’s just random quest after random quest. the acts also do not seem to piece together all that well. Much of the story feels disjointed, especially the Qunari storyline, which was neat but I’m not 100% certain how it meshes in with the overall plot. Is there an overall plot besides the life and times of Hawke?
The entire game for better of for worse occurs within one, albeit large city, so the number of locations that you are able to visit are pretty limited. Kirkwall is an interesting location and an appropriate one given the context of the story but if you are expecting a tale spanning continents, you will probably be disappointed. Also,the city of Kirkwall doesn’t really change all that much between the three acts. It’s somewhat awkward watching Hawke seemingly change, but the background remaining exactly the same. I could have really done without the cut-and-paste scenery though. Really BioWare? Literally every single cave and every single building interior looks exactly the same, down to the layout and everything.
Yes, the combat pacing has been sped up. I’m not sure what so many people have been criticizing it so much, it feels fine to me. My only real gripe is that the camera is very restrictive this time around. You can’t place it into a full birds-eye view, which makes dragging and repositioning party members around or just getting a general tactical view of unit positioning a pain in the ass. I am also not a huge fan of the random waves of random enemies popping in at semi-predictable locations (big empty area with crates = random battle time). Can we do away with this sort of thing BioWare? It’s been in everyone on of your games…
For all of its faults, and there were quite a few this time around, Dragon Age II is a compelling story and a blast to play. It’s worth buying, or at least waiting until it’s on sale on Steam.