Review

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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I downloaded the demo a couple weeks ago off the PSN and I have to disagree with everything here.

1. Graphics were horrible (textures were just... Well it looked very amaturely made)
2. The camera system was non existent - half the time I couldn't even see the character I was controlling.
3. The controls are still pretty horrible. In my demo I couldn't do what I wanted to do most the time and when in a fight, it was just button mashing doing the same thing over and over.

Maybe it was just a bad demo but based on that, I couldn't recommend the PS game to anyone.

I downloaded the demo a couple weeks ago off the PSN and I have to disagree with everything here.

1. Graphics were horrible (textures were just... Well it looked very amaturely made)
2. The camera system was non existent - half the time I couldn't even see the character I was controlling.
3. The controls are still pretty horrible. In my demo I couldn't do what I wanted to do most the time and when in a fight, it was just button mashing doing the same thing over and over.

Maybe it was just a bad demo but based on that, I couldn't recommend the PS game to anyone.

I've had no problem with directx11. Gonne be starting my 2nd run through to see what else the story has to offer, but so far I have thoroughly enjoyed my time playing it and have not run into any issues. Have yet to expierence any crashing unlike the first DA.

Rudnartim said,
I've had no problem with directx11. Gonne be starting my 2nd run through to see what else the story has to offer, but so far I have thoroughly enjoyed my time playing it and have not run into any issues. Have yet to expierence any crashing unlike the first DA.

Good to know, glad you enjoyed it like I did. Would love to have the PC version with the better graphics etc, shame I'm lacking a DX 11 card on my PC still though!

Byron_Hinson said,

Good to know, glad you enjoyed it like I did. Would love to have the PC version with the better graphics etc, shame I'm lacking a DX 11 card on my PC still though!


It's starting to finally be worth it. Give it two more major releases and you'll really wish you'd had one.

I am enjoying it so far, but i really miss being able to talk to my party members whenever i choose. I feel disconnected from my characters, more so than in DA:O. Mostly i feel like your ability to communicate with your party and get closer to them was nerfed too much. I get the view of "i felt the chats in the first game were just repetitive" but that could have been fixed differently. In DA:O you could form real bonds with your companions and talk to them about recent events as friends or romance or as somebody who dislikes you. They often forced you to talk to them about choices you made. This new system just makes me feel they are less important to the story, and i don't worry as much about actions i take because they don't really care unless they're there when you make it, and more often its just + rivalry. Other than that, they should have made more unique places since it takes place in a city (instead of reusing maps), but i wont rate it down for that (though i could *cough ff14*), and i enjoy a lot of the changes they did make.

Mercuie said,
I am enjoying it so far, but i really miss being able to talk to my party members whenever i choose. I feel disconnected from my characters, more so than in DA:O. Mostly i feel like your ability to communicate with your party and get closer to them was nerfed too much. I get the view of "i felt the chats in the first game were just repetitive" but that could have been fixed differently. In DA:O you could form real bonds with your companions and talk to them about recent events as friends or romance or as somebody who dislikes you. They often forced you to talk to them about choices you made. This new system just makes me feel they are less important to the story, and i don't worry as much about actions i take because they don't really care unless they're there when you make it, and more often its just + rivalry. Other than that, they should have made more unique places since it takes place in a city (instead of reusing maps), but i wont rate it down for that (though i could *cough ff14*), and i enjoy a lot of the changes they did make.

I haven't noticed this yet. I'll have to try to talk to some of my party members to see what you're talking about. If they did make it more shallow that's a bummer, but nonetheless, it's still a great improvement over the original methinks.

Wonderinf if the reviewer actually played the game - did you not notice how they used the same level design (caves) and textures throughout the entire game?

This game is nothing but a rushed crapfest compared to the original.

Wakers said,
Wonderinf if the reviewer actually played the game - did you not notice how they used the same level design (caves) and textures throughout the entire game?

This game is nothing but a rushed crapfest compared to the original.

No I never played it.

I have had it since early last week and unlike many other reviews/commenters played it through to completion. Didn't realise things like reusing textures and some designs (mansions etc) means that it should get a very low score, silly me for thinking story,gameplay etc should count for more. I agree its not how I would have liked to have seen it, but I guess that might be why it got 4/5 and was classed as "not perfect"?

Byron_Hinson said,

I agree its not how I would have liked to have seen it, but I guess that might be why it got 4/5 and was classed as "not perfect"?

If one is comparing this to other console "rpgs" then I understand where you are coming from. Compared to "anime-level" console RPGs like Final Fantasy, DA must seem quite new and deeper. Fair enough since you seem to have played the console version.

But those of us who have played PC rpgs for decades really LOVED the original Dragon Age and would have preferred to see more DLC, expansions, etc.

Instead we got something that might have felt good or mediocre...um, a decade ago. After games like Neverwinter Nights and Dragon Age 1, DA2 is a real letdown for people who take things like plot, story, characters, and exploring new environments with every new mission very seriously.

So, congratulations console gamers, you've just been allowed to swim in a pool instead of a bathtub. The rest of us, however, preferred to swim in the ocean...with scuba gear on. 8)

excalpius said,

Instead we got something that might have felt good or mediocre...um, a decade ago. After games like Neverwinter Nights and Dragon Age 1, DA2 is a real letdown for people who take things like plot, story, characters, and exploring new environments with every new mission very seriously.

I like both types of RPG, the Neverwinter Nights 2/Baldurs Gate ones and Final Fantasy style. I certainly don't see it as being deeper, remember the original DA still came out on consoles and sold well despite poor reviews which were not aimed at just the controls, but the game itself, I loved the original more than DA2 no doubt, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the second!

People need to realise this review was for the PS3 version, not the PC version. I can't review the PC version or comment on how I feel on it without having the game and I'd certainly agree with many of your points if I did.

4/5? for a game that does not work properly in DirectX 11?

Check out all the forums or just google, freezes and crashes Dragon Age 2, and you'll see how many people experience this problem, including me.

Apparently they are aware of the issue and are working on it....

Euphoria said,
4/5? for a game that does not work properly in DirectX 11?

Check out all the forums or just google, freezes and crashes Dragon Age 2, and you'll see how many people experience this problem, including me.

Apparently they are aware of the issue and are working on it....

As the review text states - we covered the console version. Not one lock up or crash with that

Byron_Hinson said,

As the review text states - we covered the console version. Not one lock up or crash with that


Yeah I know... sorry I just had to vent out....

Euphoria said,

Yeah I know... sorry I just had to vent out....

Understand the frustration whenever bugs come up in games. Heard about the bug but can't really comment on it without playing the PC version.

Well, the world IS linear and much smaller and on top of that you can finish the game on Casual / Normal pressing 2 buttons as a warrior.

On top of that, did you count how many times you went in the same dungeon and how many times the various quest dungeons were identical to the one you just came out of? Even the damn chests are in the same place.

Rushed, awful, consolised.

daPhoenix said,
Well, the world IS linear and much smaller and on top of that you can finish the game on Casual / Normal pressing 2 buttons as a warrior.

On top of that, did you count how many times you went in the same dungeon and how many times the various quest dungeons were identical to the one you just came out of? Even the damn chests are in the same place.

Rushed, awful, consolised.

You really hate this release, don't you. I can feel your frustration. Off-topic: Can you recommend me a good rpg?

jamesyfx said,
Perhaps some performance info on the PC version would give this review a bit of a tech edge.

Review copy EA sent was just for the PS3 this time!

Byron_Hinson said,

Review copy EA sent was just for the PS3 this time!

Ahh right. :] Good stuff. I'll take that once you're finished with it *cough*

i liked the first and i like the 2nd .. Just not as much i love the ramped up eye candy and the controls have been fixed it seems over all id give DA2 a 6/10


(Spork) said,
i liked the first and i like the 2nd .. Just not as much i love the ramped up eye candy and the controls have been fixed it seems over all id give DA2 a 6/10
Yeah graphically it is miles better

Elessar said,
The first game was by far the worse of the two.

I play real RPGs (Warhammer, Legend Of Five Rings, Call of Cthulhu etc.) and I expect good action oriented RPGs, not Dynasty Wariors 10 with RPG elements. DA2 fails miserably. I'm too old (30y) for such game like DA2.

PS3 owners/fanboys who like console games will be pleased with DA2. I like console games too - but I have of course some limited expectations (causal games, easy ones, action oriented). Maybe those who like DA2 exepected someone elase from this game.

Ulpian said,

I play real RPGs (Warhammer, Legend Of Five Rings, Call of Cthulhu etc.) and I expect good action oriented RPGs, not Dynasty Wariors 10 with RPG elements. DA2 fails miserably. I'm too old (30y) for such game like DA2.

PS3 owners/fanboys who like console games will be pleased with DA2. I like console games too - but I have of course some limited expectations (causal games, easy ones, action oriented). Maybe those who like DA2 exepected someone elase from this game.

Yeah I guess I am old too and have an attention span longer than 15 min.

Elessar said,
The first game was by far the worse of the two.

I disagree. This is a dumbed down kiddy version of a once great RPG (see my notes above).

excalpius said,

I disagree. This is a dumbed down kiddy version of a once great RPG (see my notes above).

Everyone has different views on it though, there were a high number that really disliked the first game and prefer the second, its just opinions.

5,5/10

This game is flat and consolised ! First defeat of Bioware - first bad game. I'm at 1/3 of this game and I'm quite bored. DA:O and ME1 and ME2 were superb.

Ulpian said,
5,5/10

This game is flat and consolised ! First defeat of Bioware - first bad game. I'm at 1/3 of this game and I'm quite bored. DA:O and ME1 and ME2 were superb.

Personally I don't see it being any "flatter" than the first game apart from my disappointment in the inventory system. What did you find worse than the original?

Byron_Hinson said,

Personally I don't see it being any "flatter" than the first game apart from my disappointment in the inventory system. What did you find worse than the original?

- game is ultra linear, there is no world to explore, people to meet etc. almost everything is marked on the map. World is "dead" - a lot of dummies. In other words - if you can speak with someone, he/she will be always quest or shop-related. Not 3rd persons.

- there is no good transition between action and cutscenes. You can't speak with your partymembers in other locations than scripted ones.

Edited by Ulpian, Mar 11 2011, 12:06pm :

Ulpian said,

- game is ultra linear, there is no world to explore, people to meet etc. almost everything is marked on the map. World is "dead" - a lot of dummies. In other words - if you can speak with someone, he/she will be always quest or shop-related. Not 3rd persons.

- there is no good transition between action and cutscenes. You can't speak with your partymembers in other locations than scripted ones.

I see what you mean about the speaking with party members part, but I feel they improved that by just having it within the set character quests, i felt the chats in the first game were just repetitive and you never knew if they had anything new to say.

I personally don't see the world differing much between Dragon Age 2 and Origins, most characters were non-interactive. I understand what you are saying about smaller maps and agree it may be due to being more console orientated.

Byron_Hinson said,

I see what you mean about the speaking with party members part, but I feel they improved that by just having it within the set character quests, i felt the chats in the first game were just repetitive and you never knew if they had anything new to say.

I personally don't see the world differing much between Dragon Age 2 and Origins, most characters were non-interactive. I understand what you are saying about smaller maps and agree it may be due to being more console orientated.

Also:

- sound/music is way worse than in DA:O. I still remember feeling when I spoke with partymembers at camp (DAO) - music in the background was superb.

- story is so far (1/3 of the game) flat, so consolised and boring. DA:O had some unexpected changes in the story, for example in Dwarfs intro.

Ulpian said,

Also:

- sound/music is way worse than in DA:O. I still remember feeling when I spoke with partymembers at camp (DAO) - music in the background was superb.

- story is so far (1/3 of the game) flat, so consolised and boring. DA:O had some unexpected changes in the story, for example in Dwarfs intro.

Changes do come and the story started off slow but really built up by the end. Don't see the story differing from the first game as that was a slow burner too!

Ulpian said,

Also:

- sound/music is way worse than in DA:O. I still remember feeling when I spoke with partymembers at camp (DAO) - music in the background was superb.

- story is so far (1/3 of the game) flat, so consolised and boring. DA:O had some unexpected changes in the story, for example in Dwarfs intro.

You just keep throwing in the meaningless word "consolized" in every single sentence and its making your argument sound ridiculous.

And I haven't found the game boring at all. I am like 2/3 through it. I think the voice acting overall has improved over DA:O and there are some great characters in this game. And a lot of the party dialogue when you are just walking around is absolutely hilarious, especially varrics. I thought the game was a little meh when I first started but am loving it more and more as I get farther. The story isn't as epic as the first game but its very well told. My only complaints are the pacing of the main story could be better, there is such a vast amount of side/secondary/companion quests that the main story gets lost in the mix at times. On the bright side the sidequests dont seem totally boring and cooker cutter which sometimes happens in bioware games.

Ulpian said,

- game is ultra linear, there is no world to explore, people to meet etc. almost everything is marked on the map. World is "dead" - a lot of dummies. In other words - if you can speak with someone, he/she will be always quest or shop-related. Not 3rd persons.

- there is no good transition between action and cutscenes. You can't speak with your partymembers in other locations than scripted ones.

I have to agree. I was bored for the first few hours, but thought I'd keep playing just because I have the time this week.

The maps, plot, character interaction have been dumbed down tremendously. While I like the new combat system a lot, even the graphics (while cleaned up of the occasional glitch) feel very bland and generic. I feel like I'm wandering the Final Fantasy online world of 5 or 6 years ago, not a sequel to Dragon Age.

And the side quest maps repeat over and over again. "oh goody, now I am entering this dungeon from the west side. I wonder what doorways will be amateurishly blocked to keep 1/2 the map from being explorable this time?" They don't even bother to remove the blocked off areas from the minimap so you can see that you're in the same damn generic dungeon, just in the lower corner this time. Bleh.

The character/romance options just plain SUCK now. I'm very far along on Isabela's romance), but gone is any of the layers or tension of the original. In truth, this is why anyone played the original game all the way through.

The companions are fine, but only Isabela rises to the level of the two main female leads of the original. And the fact that you can't give 90% of items to your party members just plain sucks. And since the gold rewards are as anemic as the plot, there really isn't a lot of reason to play level after level of this game is there?

Plotwise, it's another terrible example of "hack writers in charge" instead of "world for me to explore". The original Dragon Age did this correctly, immersing me in MY story. Right from the outset, in the sequel we are set up with a crappy flashback framing device, which by definition strips away all dramatic tension in any story. If we're in flashback about the main characters, we all know they live to the end, right?

Another "hack writer" convention (re: it's all about MY bad writing, not your enjoyment), is to have many important character moments (deaths, etc.) happen NO MATTER WHAT I DO. Dragon Age had lots of branches, turning points, interwoven in a meaningful way...or at least it felt it did. This sequel has had like one per chapter of substance. The rest of the plots progress the way the hacks behind this want it to no matter what my player does. And that is just plain boring and non-immersive.

In short, it feels like a "kiddy" version of the original Dragon Age, making it as dry, bland, and generic as all of the RPGs I have avoided for years...and I've been playing RPGs since computers first arrived on desktops. The original Dragon Age was a masterpiece of nuance and layers. This "sequel" feels like a cheap Japanese anime knockoff of the original, except with a far better combat system (the best I have ever seen in a game like this).

I did appreciate my huge statue appearing years later after a critical victory...but so far, that's it.

Everything in this sequel just feels rushed...a "win" for style over substance, whereas the original was exactly the opposite, and vastly superior for that reason.

You guys are certainly not alone on disliking the game, forums across the internet talking about the game are split and while some love it, loads seem to hate it and don't take judge it on this game alone and not the original.

Loads of people judged it on the demo too, which I can understand when a company releases one, Bioware may have been better off not releasing one at all from the comments they have recieved as I don't feel it gives a good impression of the game.

I agree about the reusing of various environments and can understand the dislike of it, but for me I could ignore it most of the time...but as I said, its not a perfect game, but I'm afraid I liked it ;o/

GrandTheftAuto said,
I honestly don't know why technology websites have game reviews... you have almost no audience for this type of work

You'd be surprised - I guess having gaming forums, clans and gamers reading the site helps too!

GrandTheftAuto said,
I honestly don't know why technology websites have game reviews... you have almost no audience for this type of work

Not sure if you are aware but neowin has a gaming section has done for a long long time, how are computer games not technology? and no audience? how on earth can you speak for the rest of the registered users i have no idea...

Neobond said,
I honestly don't know why people bother to comment on articles they don't like...

I honestly don't know why people need to boast about what they don't know. I also don't know how people can think it's better to have a game that's worse overall, just to appeal to the lowest common denominator of systems. There are still a ton of people who can't play DA2 on even lowest settings. DA3 should have 8bit graphics and use the Baldur's Gate 2 engine so that they can play too. (I don't see much of a difference between that and making it fit consoles at the overall cost of making a worse product).

GrandTheftAuto said,
I honestly don't know why technology websites have game reviews... you have almost no audience for this type of work

Am I the only one who finds irony that someone with a screen name of "GrandTheftAuto" is complaining about a video game review?

Neobond said,
I honestly don't know why people bother to comment on articles they don't like...

Probably because the poster recognizes that the reviewer, Bryon Hinson, has zero cred to be reviewing games at all? Who the heck is Hinson anyways, and why should anyone care what he has to say about Dragon Age 2?

Real reviews are found at real game websites... you know, sites who hire experienced and credible writers to write intelligent reviews.

mstrkrft82 said,

Probably because the poster recognizes that the reviewer, Bryon Hinson, has zero cred to be reviewing games at all? Who the heck is Hinson anyways, and why should anyone care what he has to say about Dragon Age 2?

Real reviews are found at real game websites... you know, sites who hire experienced and credible writers to write intelligent reviews.

Only been reviewing games for 10 years, but no I have no cred and don't work on a gaming site, so take no notice ;o)

Neobond said,
I honestly don't know why people bother to comment on articles they don't like...
Then you're dumb...sigh