Developed by Bioware, the same Canucks who brought the Mass Effect series and Kights of the Old Republic, Dragon Age II is – naturally – a sequel to their successful 2009 Dragon Age: Origins, a third-person RPG filled with magic and mayhem.
Taking place during the events of Origins, Hawke and his family flee Ferelden during the blight, seeking refuge in the city of Kirkwall. Beginning as a refugee living in the slums, Hawke spends the next several years climbing the social ranks through found wealth, becoming champion of Kirkwall, and must save the city from a coming civil war. The story of Dragon Age II is told by Varric Tethras, a dwarf and friend of Hawke who can be, at times, an unreliable narrator.
Much of the gameplay and battle system is the same as its predecessor, with a few minor improvements. Players can chose the sex of Hawke, as well as the same three classes from Origins. However, this time around, Hawke is a real character with a real voice- more in the style of Shepherd in Mass Effect, with some face and hair alterations available.
What I Liked:
The graphics – which were criticized in Origins – are a vast improvement. Nothing that would blow you away, but easier on the eyes. Also, in my experience playing the game three times over, I never experienced any glitches or game freezes, which I encountered – though only a few – in Origins.
I also preferred playing a real character – Hawke – rather than creating my own. It’s fun to make a character who looks like me, goatee and all, but he ends up looking like a doll during the course of the game who never speaks, nodding his head and waving his hands like he wants to say something, but can’t. It’s nice being able to hear what Hawke has to say.
The characters, overall, wre more interesting than those in Origins. Among them, you’ve got the wise-cracking dwarf (who is also narrating the story) a female elf who’s both young and naive but bent on following the dark path of blood magic, a sexy rogue sailor, a mage who spends his time curing the sick while trying to contain a spirit living in his body. And yes, you can have sex with most of these people.
I also found the side-quests more interesting. In Origins, you might encounter someone saying, “Help, spiders have kidnapped my daughter!” So you go fight some spiders, rescue the daughter, the end. Quite linear, at times. But the quests in Dragon Age II offer a few more twists, and sometimes difficult decisions to make.
What I Didn’t Like:
The overall story was interesting, but pales in comparison to the epic tale of Origins. To be fair, it’s quite difficult to top such an adventure: the darkspawn have returned, their evil growing while the land’s powers are at conflict with one another, and ending in a huge climactic battle. Perhaps the scale of that story cannot be topped, only repeated. Rather than being redundant, Bioware decided to create a different kind of story which takes place within one city. I give kudos to the developers for that, but still can’t help but feel the first game was far more epic.
I still find it confusing on following-up on certain side-quests, as I did with Origins. Normally you “agree” to any quest you can find. Then you look at your map, and find a million markers. Since it takes time to load between areas, I found myself doing all that needs to be done until moving to the next location – which means being in the middle of one quest, then doing three more and forgetting the storyline of the previous one. It would be nice if you could “select” the quest you wish to do, then have only that marker show up on your map, much like Oblivion or Fallout 3.
While not as good as the first, Dragon Age II is still a great game for anyone who was a fan of Origins. Though both games and received a 3-star rating for difficulty on our Game Database, Dragon Age II is an easier platinum, mainly because there’s no Traveler trophy – that one was a real doozey for some people! However, the Supplier trophy, in which you need to find every variety of crafting resource, may frustrate some – some make multiple saves.
And like a prologue, Dragon Age II sets itself up for part 3, as there are many questions not fully answered byt he end of the game. Why was Varric ordered to tell this story? What exactly was the relic they found? What is the Chantry doing? Guess we’ll have to wait to find out.
written by Damon Finos