Dragon Age 2: Review

Dragon Age: Origins had a slightly mixed reception when it was released a couple of years ago, especially harsh were the comments made about the console versions of the game. It suffered from hard to use controls, poor frame rates and textures and a number of bugs. The PC version however, was in our view an excellent all-round game, with the right difficulty levels and a great story.

Well here we are with Dragon Age 2, set after the events of the first game and with not only a new graphic overhaul for consoles, but also a redesigned interface and more emphasis on combat. We are pleased to say that despite what many will feel is a dumbing down of the game to appeal to console users; it is still a very good title.

Experience the epic sequel to the 2009 Game of the Year from the critically acclaimed makers of Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2. You are one of the few who escaped the destruction of your home. Now, forced to fight for survival in an ever-changing world, you must gather the deadliest of allies, amass fame and fortune, and seal your place in history. This is the story of how the world changed forever. The legend of your Rise to Power begins now.

Dragon Age 2 for PS3 Features:

  • Embark upon an all-new adventure that takes place across an entire decade and shapes itself around every decision you make.
  • Determine your rise to power from a destitute refugee to the revered champion of the land.
  • Think like a general and fight like a Spartan with dynamic new combat mechanics that put you right in the heart of battle whether you are a mage, rogue, or warrior.
  • Go deeper into the world of Dragon Age with an entirely new cinematic experience that grabs hold of you from the beginning and never lets go.
  • Discover a whole realm rendered in stunning detail with updated graphics and a new visual style.

Gameplay:

This time round you play the role of Hawke, a man or woman (depending on who you choose) who escapes from Lothering with what remains of his family as they escape the events of the Blight from the first game. Dragon Age 2 sees you trying to gain refuge in Kirkwall, along with many other Ferelden people; this is where the main game starts.

The game is played out over a ten year period and jumps ahead a year or so at certain times in the game, we won’t spoil the story by telling you how it plays out, but it will see you gradually gain fame around the land as you try to bring prosperity back to your family.

As has become the norm in most role playing games, Dragon Age 2 allows you to play through the main storyline or take part in various side-quests and character quests along the way, there are lots of them too, which really adds to the length of the game.

As was the case in Dragon Age: Origins, the sequel has you making certain good/bad choices along the way, but despite it making some small adjustments to how characters view you, there were not any major changes in the game on view compared to say Mass Effect 2.

Dragon Age 2 also allows you to import your decisions from the first game, so in theory some of the choices you made could affect your new game, though once again from our tests, you couldn’t really tell if this had any effect or not.

The new sets of characters in the Dragon Age 2 are your usual RPG fair, with rogues, elves and such like. I found myself enjoying their company more than I did most of the first games cast, especially when some of the banter between your party members comes out later in the game.

So what of the UI and gameplay changes from the first game? Well good news is that not too much has changed really, despite what you may have read this is still clearly a Dragon Age title. The skill tree, quest list and inventory have been made far easier to use, especially for console gamers.

The inventory system for example is much better and more organized, but, and it is a big but, you can’t equip a lot of party members armor etc. Some have set clothes and armor that cannot be changed or upgraded; to us this defeats the object of picking up loot. You defeat enemies, or open chests to gain loot, but the majority of it can only be used on your character or is classed as a junk item that can only be sold, a silly decision in our view.

Combat has seen a change too, becoming more real-time based compared to the full on RPG experience you got to know in the first title. Each attack or spell is triggered by pressing on a set button on your gamepad, this ends up having you pressing buttons over and over, especially the main A attack button and makes Dragon Age 2 feel more like a hack and slash title at times.

You can still pause the game and bring a more calm and tactical side to your combat, but the new system does work well and it felt more natural most of the time. Holding down on your left trigger button does a quick pause and brings up a radial menu where you can apply quick health or stamina potions, or enter your skills section if you wish to use an attack that you haven’t set to your quick bar buttons.

Crafting sees one of the biggest changes in the game. You still have to search out resources, but once you have found them they allow shops in the game to deliver potions directly to you. This means the previous system where you had to find set numbers of ingredients has gone by the wayside.

The main storyline is great and really picks up the further you get into it, but you don’t have to stop there. Dragon Age 2 has loads of side quests, which you can accept as you travel around the map, these vary from battles to searching out items for people. The length of each varies, but nearly all of them are interesting and let you meet new characters.

Graphics:

We are pleased to report that the graphic overhaul has been well worth it, especially for consoles. Gone are the dire framerate issues that plagued the PlayStation 3 version of the original and in comes better textures, far better anti-aliasing and just a general better look across the whole game. The PC version features DX 11 support and High Resolution Textures, but we have yet to receive that version of the game.

The good news is that despite the big graphical changes, this is still Dragon Age at its heart; the art design stays true to the original game despite the revamp. If there is one criticism, it is that the characters faces could do with more work, they look dated and some of the lip-syncing is really off kilter at times.

Sound and Music:     

Once again Bioware have done an excellent job with both the music and the voice cast. Each character has a different personality and it really shows up well through the voice acting, especially now that your character has a voice when compared to the first game.

Music is very epic at times, although it can sometimes drown out dialogue that crops up during combat. You can turn it down via the menu system though. Sound effects are also great, with the clanging of swords, the sound of thunder as well as many other background noises that work really well, especially in surround sound.

Overall:

Some hardened role-playing game fans may feel that the game has been dumbed down too much for them, but in our opinion the changes work well. The combat system feels more modern and the UI adjustments help make the game quicker and easier to play. The story builds well and the side quests that you will come across in the game can be quite long at times which is excellent news for those of you who like to know that a game will last you a while.

4 out of 5

It isn’t perfect, but with around 40 hours of gameplay, a well-built background history, story and some great characters, it is well work picking up.

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