Dragon’s Den: Dragon Age II

Dragon Age II is definitely an interesting sequel. After originally beating the story modes of Dragon Age: Origins and Awakening, I was definitely excited what a new iteration would bring after seeing the E3 trailer for this title. The way the protagonist fighting this horned enemy and creating hands from vortexes to defeat him just kept me on the edge of my seat with questions. Will they have improved the magic system or combat in general? Would we be able to create any character we like from any race like before, and what would the story be like to involve these fierce new characters? Click below to learn what they’ve done with this great series.

The story revolves around you as a Hawke, running away from their home as it has been overrun with the Darkspawn during the attack at the end of Dragon Age: Origins. You are then met with the warrior Aveline and her templar husband fighting a group of Darkspawn, one of which stabs the templar and slowly begins dying. After advancing a bit, you’re attacked by a massive horde of Darkspawn and are only saved by a happenstance meeting with a giant dragon which kills them all and then transforms into Flemeth, a character you’ll recognize from Origins. She strikes a deal with Hawke to escort them safely to an area where they could travel to Kirkwall to talk with their uncle for a place to live which ends the prologue. The rest of the story is about the rise of the Hawke family and how you became the Champion of Kirkwall as you continuously take sides between the templars and the mages. Admittedly, the story underwhelmed me as it didn’t seem to be as grand of scope as it was previously as the stakes involved just built up a single character between a feud between the two differing guilds. The pacing up until the third act was so slow as all it did was build up to a battle and when it finally happened, it seemed to have been rushed as the final act is by far the shortest.

The gameplay itself is where it becomes a mixed bag for me. The combat is more fluid and dynamic as your character will slash, stab, or cast spells in a much faster pace. Mages actually use their staves to cast spells that look more like their element instead of just a glowing projectile. Casting or using any abilities among the classes are satisfying and you are quickly able to tell just how powerful you are as you damage your enemies. When you have a mage cast the spell to enchant your weapons, the game altered it so the element is based off the caster’s staff, instead of having to learn every variant of the same spell which I appreciated a lot. But the thing that confused me about the same spell is that it only makes the weapons glow with the color of that coordinated element instead particle effects from Origins and Awakening. Every character has a set of abilities that can either reflect what they are as a person, or you can change it so your designated tank character only wields a two-handed sword to charge at your enemies, making choices of combat still valuable.

As the scale of the story has become smaller, so has the lands you explore. During the majority of the game, all of your quests will only take you to the same areas repeatedly as they only involve the workings of Kirkwall during night and day and the mountainside to visit the Dalish Elves and any cave system. Despite having smaller lands to explore, you would think they all would be at least diverse in their layouts. But that is sadly not the case because you will quickly recognize the same linear paths that have been copied and pasted multiple times for completely different caves or dungeons. It becomes even more blatantly obvious as any openings or doorways are blocked off my a concrete wall that blocks you off unless a particular quest calls for you to go there.

They’ve altered the crafting system as well, which I both appreciate but still a little annoyed at. Instead of constantly being on the lookout for herbs, lyrium, or any other reagent, you can find a source of an aforementioned reagent once and you’ll be able to craft as many of that item as you want (as long as you can also pay for it). While this is much more convenient, the annoying part about this is that if you miss any reagent within a special quest or act in general, you can not collect the source for the entire game, making you restart the story if you want to collect all of them. If you don’t care about trophies, you could download the Black Emporium DLC and it will allow you to purchase any reagents you may have missed. But be forewarned if you are trying to get the platinum, this certain DLC glitches the trophy even more for collecting every reagent so I would strongly suggest against installing this if you’re going for the platinum.

Thankfully, every character you meet is interesting and you’re able to form a strong relationship with each one. Dragon Age II definitely stresses more consequences as your choices in quests with characters will make them approve of you and respect you more, or the opposite in which they will disapprove of your actions and will become your rival. This makes you think of which characters you should bring and who you should leave out for quests that may go with their ideals, or against them. This promotes you experimenting with every character for your party in combat instead of previous installments where you will only choose three people and stick with them for the entire storyline, which I appreciated a lot. Even the characters you meet and talk to are interesting as each one are fleshed out between the templars, mages, and even other characters not necessarily related to the core story.

The graphics are a vast improvement from Origins and Awakening. Areas and people are more detailed than before but facial hair seem like they’re more glued on than as if it were grown. After combat, your characters will be splattered with blood but that will be the most of a mess you’ll see on any character as everybody seems too clean for a more medieval fantasy world where nobody has a trace of dirt on their clothes or face. A complaint I had before in the series has been somewhat addressed as well as armor and weapons seem more varied to a point. There’s more armor designs for every character and even the hoods and helmets look better than before. Even if you find a helmet piece that’s really good stat-wise but looks horrible to you, you can actually go into the options and turn off the visual for it so you can keep the stats and still look good. The music also conveys a great adventure that awaits for you as well as it makes you feel that the world you can explore is much bigger than what it actually is. It appropriately plays songs that relate to what’s going on between combat, conversations, even to the very end as it amps up the feelings you have as you get closer to beating the game.

Finally, the trophies can either be very easy to obtain, or incredibly annoying to get. A majority of the trophies are centered around your choices within the story and its differing perspectives, allowing for more replayability. It only has a few trophies centered around your relationships between obtaining rivalry with an ally, gaining the respect of an ally, gaining either one between a number of your allies, to completing a romance. But the most annoying trophy by far is collecting all of the reagents throughout the game. As mentioned before, you’re only able to collect what you need throughout some specific areas and acts. So if you miss just one, you’ll have to start all over if you want to get the platinum. If that wasn’t enough, the same trophy is glitched as well as some people who have been able to do it still weren’t able to obtain it. Although Bioware added the Black Emporium DLC as a means to fix this so you could purchase anything you may have missed up to act three, but it only further glitches it to the point where it would be a safer bet to try and do it without the DLC installed at all. If you want to take the chance and try to get every trophy, I would recommend it as you’ll still have a good time as long as you keep a guide of where everything is and follow it closely.

Dragon Age II improved on many aspects at what seems to be of greater cost to get them. In exchange of a more detailed city, characters, and a more dynamic combat system, we lost a larger world to explore and instead got horribly linear caves and dungeons with copied and pasted layouts with a story that just doesn’t really compare to what came before. As much as I have said against this game, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy my experience. Throughout my playthrough, I still enjoyed the story and learning every character’s backgrounds, upgrading my allies armor, and getting to know them. The combat was constantly satisfying as I unlocked new spells and abilities to experiment as everything was more dynamic and I felt more involved in the fight. I may prefer Origins in terms of the story, but I prefer Dragon Age II for its combat.



Posted on November 26, 2014, in Mr.Dragon's Den and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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