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Dragon Age 2 - Staff Review

7thCircle7thCircle Proofer of the RealmRPGamer Staff
edited March 2011 in Latest Updates
We at RPGamer love BioWare games. Just look at our end of year award features for quick proof. While the blood and guts and boobs and butts were more prevalent in Origins, we found Dragon Age 2 to be the more shallow, vapid game.

Review
The lesson here is that dreams inevitably lead to hideous implosions.
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Comments

  • OcelotOcelot is not declawed Full Members
    edited March 2011
    Ooh, ouch! I'll have to see if I agree or not once I get home and open my hopefully-successfully-delivered copy.
    Becky Cunningham, Happy Snappy RPGamer Alum
    Twitter: BeckyCFreelance
  • AirikAirik Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    My experience with the game is more-or-less the same as yours. I found the battle system to get annoyingly repetitive at times without the auto-attack on, and I would compare it to Star Ocean in that it gets mashy.

    I didn't really hear a lot of stand-out music, either. I was surprised to see that not mentioned; almost all of the best songs are remixed or taken straight out of Origins. This made me particularly sad, because there were some battle themes in Origins that stood out to me as "this is a great song!" and I can't think of any song that is even memorable in DA2. That said, I'd say the voice acting is some of Bioware's best yet. FemHawke is just about perfect and Fenris' Gideon Emery ("Balthier") is brilliant and needs to be used in gaming more often.
  • EmeraldSuzakuEmeraldSuzaku Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    Solid review. About the only thing I take issue with is this:
    aside from two or three places where someone mentions the current ruler of Ferelden, absolutely nothing from an Origins save is even hinted at in DA2.

    I have actually had quite a bit come back from the first game that was very accurate to what I did--events and characters both.
    Alistair and I had a wonderful conversation
    , for example.
  • pcaballepcaballe Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    For once....we completely agree. Shockingly good review.
    “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.”
    -Einstein
  • 7thCircle7thCircle Proofer of the Realm RPGamer Staff
    edited March 2011
    I have actually had quite a bit come back from the first game that was very accurate to what I did--events and characters both.
    Alistair and I had a wonderful conversation
    , for example.

    Interesting. A proof-reader did suggest that I make that sentence less absolute in case I missed something. I asked other staff members playing the game if they saw any references to DAO choices, and they hadn't, and I looked on online forums to see if anyone mentioned some, and they didn't. The scene you mentioned couldn't have happened in my game because in DAO
    Alistair died
    . I'll think about changing it in the review. Was the conversation with him something so great you thought the ability to import mattered? Or was it just a random, questless conversation that didn't matter or add to anything; it was just there so BioWare could point at it and say they did 1 thing with the imported save file?
    The lesson here is that dreams inevitably lead to hideous implosions.
  • EmeraldSuzakuEmeraldSuzaku Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    It was a quest triggered by a letter. The conversation itself was meaningful, and talked at some length about the state of things over there. Apparently you can have
    your sibling become a Warden
    and they'll play some role in the conversation, too. That's pure conjecture from some message board posts on my part, though, because I never got that path. That conversation was just the most interesting incident that sprang to mind--there are others. I suspect that the only reason I got so many references, though, was because my Warden was a mage and a lot of the choices I made played well into the plotline of DA2. Had I went through Origins differently, I expect that I might not have seen nearly as many things.

    Also, there's another quest in DA2
    involving Nathaniel
    if you import Awakenings data with certain conditions met. And that character also can pop up in the final battle, I hear.
  • 7thCircle7thCircle Proofer of the Realm RPGamer Staff
    edited March 2011
    I didn't play any of the DAO DLC, so my writing was from the standpoint of a vanilla DAO import, not an Awakenings import. Thanks for the info. I'll change that line up some so it's more accurate.
    The lesson here is that dreams inevitably lead to hideous implosions.
  • AirikAirik Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    I felt that scene was pretty fanservice-y. It could have been any random NPC and would have had the same effect. I'd go for more of "it was put in simply to say they did something with the data" than "actual meaningful conversation."

    Even moreso were the scenes with
    the ex-werewolves and the Harrowmonts.
  • EmeraldSuzakuEmeraldSuzaku Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    7thCircle wrote: »
    I didn't play any of the DAO DLC, so my writing was from the standpoint of a vanilla DAO import, not an Awakenings import. Thanks for the info. I'll change that line up some so it's more accurate.

    I think the sentiment in the line was not inaccurate--I mean, there isn't anything in the imported save that has any kind of *meaningful* impact on anything, aside from those two quests I mentioned. Though, it would be interesting to see if the whole thing with
    Zevran
    happens if you handle him differently in the first game. I felt that there was a good amount of background flavor added, but as I said, that could just be because I happened to pick what DA2 may thing were all the "proper" choices in the first game.

    It's also possible that I was too distracted by all the other half-assedness of things--particularly plot branch stubs--to really pay much attention to how much the references actually mattered.
  • Scott WachterScott Wachter Dread News Editor RPGamer Staff
    edited March 2011
    I'm going to have agree with you on lot points, G-man. Combat is fun, but get a bit mashy. I find myself really liking the cast of characters (I choose to interpret Fenris as some sort of ironic parody of JRPG protagonists, which makes him awesome), I love love love the frame narrative device. But overall it's very repetitive and unpolished in a great deal of aspects.

    I should mention that I'm only about 12 hours (and I'm being a completionist on side-quests) in so we'll see if anything happens to really derail what I like so far.

    Also, I'm beginning to resent SW:TOR for stealing Drew Karpyshyn from the writing staff.
  • EthosEthos Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    Just scanned it, I'll do a full read-through later. But based on what I've played so far and what I gathered from my scan, it seems like we completely agree.
    Mario Kart 8 Review - Latest Proto article
  • MaudrenMaudren i can post! thanx paws! Full Members
    edited March 2011
    I love the way flemeth looks in this game. she looks like she could be a final fantasy villain. Like a cross between edea and cloud of darkness. But with more clothes on.
    sup?
  • EmeraldSuzakuEmeraldSuzaku Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    And Kate Mulgrew does some good voice acting in general.
  • Khisanth MagusKhisanth Magus Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    My absolutely biggest complaint about the game is the reused areas. Having a single cave map for every single cave you enter in the game is just pathetic. You have the wonder what the level designers actually spent the 2 years doing if it wasn't actually designing levels, because if what we got was the results of 2 years of work on their parts, they need to be fired, as they must have spent most of their time playing world of warcraft or something.
  • EmeraldSuzakuEmeraldSuzaku Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    Well, for one it was less than a two-year dev cycle, so that doesn't help. I would not be surprised to find that they had been working up more environments and maps only to have to switch gears once word came down internally that the game was going to ship far sooner than expected. That's literally the only thing I can think of. They had to know that recycled maps were bad--that was one of the big gripes of Mass Effect 1, and was noticeably fixed in subsequent games.

    The more I think about it, I think it comes down to time, and that they didn't have enough of it. Yes, they tried to take a new direction with some things, for better or worse. But there are just some glaring issues that we KNOW they know not to do, or to fix based on their previous games, and things that it feels should very obviously lead somewhere but...don't.

    In the beginning and middle of the game I was frustrated at how many steps backward the game had inexplicably taken in key areas. At the end I am now frustrated by how many things were obviously intended to be included, but were just cut. Not only does DA2 have immense potential, but it's pretty clear that it had a vision to match. A vision that, sadly, my best guess is the team wasn't given the time to execute.

    Like I said, had it had another year or so of dev time, I think we would all be singing a different song. Too bad it wasn't, and we aren't.
  • TwinBahamutTwinBahamut Staff Healer RPGamer Staff
    edited March 2011
    I'm still a long way off from beating this game, but I have been playing it obsessively enough over the last few days to have some opinion, I suppose...

    I can't say that I like the game's battle system. It is certainly fast, but this is the kind of thing where faster is not at all better. Every encounter seems designed for the optimal amount of confusion and chaos, and the interface is horrid for playing it strategically. The game works well enough when you are going through the usual fare of slaughtering an army of mooks who pop up like magic from all around you, but against anything more substantial than that it quickly gets muddled and its deep flaws become apparent. Also, the equipment system and is miserably bad, like every other BioWare game I've played.

    That said, I'm really liking the story and characters so far. They are a lot of fun in many ways, and it makes much better use of the setting than DA:O did. It bugged me in the original game that I liked everything about the Dragon Age setting other than the blasted Darkspawn and the obnoxious Grey Wardens thing, so I'm happy that both have played really minor roles in the story so far.

    Also, I really like the use of symbols to show off the meaning and consequences of your different choices. I never liked the Mass Effect dialogue wheel, but this is a huge improvement over that. I just wish the comedy icon was clearer about friendly funny or scathing sarcasm funny, especially when I am taking the funny guy route through half the dialogue options.
  • TGBarighmTGBarighm Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    At the end I am now frustrated by how many things were obviously intended to be included, but were just cut.

    This being EA, and having a history of such things, it's entirely possible you're right and this missing content will be thrown back at us as overpriced DLC. They have always been bad, but lately it looks like EA is pushing the envelope just to see how much gamers will tolerate.
  • scorpio_7scorpio_7 Tactics Ogre, I choose u! Full Members
    edited March 2011
    I'm loving the game... the only flaws I find is the cut-back in terms of companion customization and the re-used areas. Other than that I am lovin it.
    Check out my writing and art by following this link to my work: www.stevenmouland.com
  • EmeraldSuzakuEmeraldSuzaku Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    Unfortunately, I don't know how they'd package a lot of it as DLC. I mean, unless they want to repackage the whole of Act 3, for example. It's most obvious as one closes in on the endgame, but it appears that there were intended to be some rather dramatically different ways of handling things if the player were to choose to take that route. And, unlike a lot of other things that come back in the later game, the set up for the final push is so horribly contrived unless you followed one rather specific set of choices. I can tell what choices I could have made to reach the situation that I did, but I did not in fact make *any* of those choices. To make matters worse, the NPCs during these segments make reference to things you did and attitudes you had (and factions you supported) earlier in the game, none of which actually fit with what I did.
  • freykinfreykin Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    This review confirms what I thought from seeing all the videos and previews and such about it. Looks like Bioware rushed a bit too much, which is too bad, as the combat looks more to my liking in this iteration of the series. Good to know I can hold off until it's a bit cheaper.
  • EmeraldSuzakuEmeraldSuzaku Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    Oh, the combat system is hella fun. I really, really like the faster pacing of it. Sadly, the encounter design is downright retarded, which takes away from it a bit.
  • sirsniffysirsniffy Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    That poor woman is named Flemeth.
  • JitawaJitawa Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    I agree with the review completely - quite the letdown coming from a huge company like Bioware backed by one of the richest publishers out there.

    The throwbacks from your DAO save seem to depend on different choices, and not in an equal manner. Some importers would get very very few bonus quests for instance. A possibly dead character can make two appearances for instance. There's some inconsistencies though (bugs probably).
    I had a save with a Zevran romance (had all the dialogs, he gave me an earring), but the import pretended as if I'd romanced Leliana (who I never even kissed or spoke to about romance). Anders makes a reference to TWO mages helping end the blight, in my import I'd let Wynne die at the Circle of Magi - she died without ever being grouped with me.
    The ending bits to the original were never patched completely on the 360 though - sloppy work on their part.

    I was irritated a bit about how in-game lore seemed to fall by the wayside in this game. In the original, abominations aren't particularly common, and they represent something very specific - a mage possessed by a demon. This time around, demons, mages, and your neighbor's dog will all "summon" abominations out of the ground/floor as if they were some sort of summoned battle-beast, which makes exactly zero sense. Secondly, the codex entry about the nature of magic returns in this game, one of the only explicit restrictions they put on magic is that no one has ever found a means of using magic for travel/teleportation. However, EVERY freakin mage in the game will pull a teleport across the battlefield manuever (Merril has a teleport to companion skill/spell that it states is rare even among keepers.. really?).

    I recall the writers talking about how they didn't want to have that same feel of Forgotten Realms around the time the 1st game released, where death/anything can be explained away by magic and divine acts. They seem to have thrown a lot of that out this time around though; it's very much a "everybody uses blood magic and blood magic does everything" kind of world.

    It's also worth stating that there's some bugs. Supposedly most or all of the Sebastian/Exiled Prince achievements are currently bugged (I can personally verify at least four of them are). Also of note, are dupe/xp/stat bugs, and various bugged quests. I'm supposing that comes from the rushed schedule too, but several of these same issues were present when DAO launched. Edit: This was with the 360 version, fyi. I'm glad the PS3 trophies are apparently less buggy. The "at-launch" issues I mentioned with the previous version had achievements from Warden's Keep/Shale broken if you "unlocked" them within the first week or so of release (or however long it took to patch it).
  • RazaRaza Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    Oh snap. Well, i'll probably get it when it drops to 30 bucks.

    Free cookie for whomever can guess the total DLC number.
    A critic is someone who stands on the mountaintop high above to watch a battle, and then comes down to shoot the survivors.
    -Hemingway
  • TheAnimeManTheAnimeMan Member RPGamer Staff
    edited March 2011
    It's also worth stating that there's some bugs. Supposedly most or all of the Sebastian/Exiled Prince achievements are currently bugged (I can personally verify at least four of them are). Also of note, are dupe/xp/stat bugs, and various bugged quests. I'm supposing that comes from the rushed schedule too, but several of these same issues were present when DAO launched.

    My wife has gotten all but one of the Sebastian DLC achievements/triophies on our PS3 the only one she is missing is the make Sebastian Friend/rivalry one. In fact my wife went through the whole game and pretty much did every quest there is save a few (like 3). Now we have had an issue of our PS3 over heating and needing to have an external fan blow on it to get through the game but other then that it's been going fine.

    Almost sounds like the PS3 version of the game is the most accurate of the three system right now. Cause a lot of the issues I'm hearing about on here are 360 or PC which my wife hasn't been experiencing at all. She's on her second playthrough right now as a Mage and she's already beaten it as a Rogue. But the reason she's happy is because it's Dragon Age 2. Not because it's supposed to be the sequal of DAO. Meaning that yeah just because it's supposed to be after the first game. I think more people are let down that it's not a direct sequal to the first then they are that it's a game in the same world. Which has no real meaning to the Wife and I. As i've mentioned in other threads in the past. We look at each game on the sole of it's own part and not on what has come before whether it be a series or not.
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  • EmeraldSuzakuEmeraldSuzaku Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    My wife has gotten all but one of the Sebastian DLC achievements/triophies on our PS3 the only one she is missing is the make Sebastian Friend/rivalry one.

    Same here, on the PC. I have all the Prince achievements except that one, which makes sense as I never played with him enough to get friend or rival status.
    But the reason she's happy is because it's Dragon Age 2. Not because it's supposed to be the sequal of DAO. Meaning that yeah just because it's supposed to be after the first game. I think more people are let down that it's not a direct sequal to the first then they are that it's a game in the same world. Which has no real meaning to the Wife and I. As i've mentioned in other threads in the past. We look at each game on the sole of it's own part and not on what has come before whether it be a series or not.

    Which has no bearing on the numerous issues the game has that *aren't* related to anyone wanting it to be "Origins 2." Of course, if you've played the first one and this one both on the console you won't have noticed some of them as there are a few things that involve the PC versions exclusively. The number of plot dead ends and the train wreck of a narrative in Act 3, however, are things anyone can see since they're not exactly version exclusive.
  • UnfortunatesUnfortunates Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    My wife has gotten all but one of the Sebastian DLC achievements/triophies on our PS3 the only one she is missing is the make Sebastian Friend/rivalry one. In fact my wife went through the whole game and pretty much did every quest there is save a few (like 3). Now we have had an issue of our PS3 over heating and needing to have an external fan blow on it to get through the game but other then that it's been going fine.

    Almost sounds like the PS3 version of the game is the most accurate of the three system right now. Cause a lot of the issues I'm hearing about on here are 360 or PC which my wife hasn't been experiencing at all. She's on her second playthrough right now as a Mage and she's already beaten it as a Rogue. But the reason she's happy is because it's Dragon Age 2. Not because it's supposed to be the sequal of DAO. Meaning that yeah just because it's supposed to be after the first game. I think more people are let down that it's not a direct sequal to the first then they are that it's a game in the same world. Which has no real meaning to the Wife and I. As i've mentioned in other threads in the past. We look at each game on the sole of it's own part and not on what has come before whether it be a series or not.

    I agree. While the game, to me, isn't as good as Origins I can still hold DA2 on its own merits and it is a pretty amazing game. I, too, am playing the PS3 version and I have had the game freeze 4 times now out of the 30 hours I have put in the game (which is 10,000 times better than New Vegas...). I also had a weird animation glitch where my character was stuck in a backstab stance and it took me actually until I reloaded my save to fix it, but it did lead to some pretty hilarious conversations with me all hunched over and my arm trying to stab the person I was talking to.

    I'm glad I choose to do PS3 over PC this time around since I played a little of my roommate's version on PC and it plays so much better on the consoles this time around.
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  • shoptrollshoptroll Have towel will travel Full Members
    edited March 2011
    Raza wrote: »
    Oh snap. Well, i'll probably get it when it drops to 30 bucks.

    Not having started the first one made the decision to not pre-order very easy for me. The recent Eurogamer interview with one of the designers makes me feel like they're not really reading the negative reviews carefully. It seems like the most consistent complaint is a lack of polish and a feeling that the game should've been kept in the incubator for another year. Honestly, I'm not sure why they felt a need to shove this out the door so fast when they have Old Republic and ME3 hitting later this year too.
    Free cookie for whomever can guess the total DLC number.

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  • ElementolElementol Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    Jitawa wrote: »
    I was irritated a bit about how in-game lore seemed to fall by the wayside in this game. In the original, abominations aren't particularly common, and they represent something very specific - a mage possessed by a demon. This time around, demons, mages, and your neighbor's dog will all "summon" abominations out of the ground/floor as if they were some sort of summoned battle-beast, which makes exactly zero sense. Secondly, the codex entry about the nature of magic returns in this game, one of the only explicit restrictions they put on magic is that no one has ever found a means of using magic for travel/teleportation. However, EVERY freakin mage in the game will pull a teleport across the battlefield manuever (Merril has a teleport to companion skill/spell that it states is rare even among keepers.. really?).

    omg I did not even take notice of that and you're right.... this makes me angry.
    “Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it and it will never be used to hurt you.” - Tyrion Lannister
  • EmeraldSuzakuEmeraldSuzaku Member Full Members
    edited March 2011
    But it's okay, everyone who's not in a Circle is a blood mage.
    And everyone who is in the circle is a blood mage, too. Everyone's a blood mage!
    Seriously, can that whole thing make any less sense?
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