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Dragon Age II

aka: DA2
Moby ID: 50783
Windows Specs
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Description official descriptions

Dragon Age II is a sequel to Dragon Age: Origins.

One of the key events early in the first game was the destruction of the village Lothering by the Darkspawn. However, we weren't told that there was at least one person who survived the onslaught: a human named Hawke. Having become a refugee, Hawke travels to an area known as the Free Marches - more specifically, the city of Kirkwall. Hawke's family shares the fate with many other Ferelden refugees; the authorities of Kirkwall are suspicious of the newcomers, and the path to financial stability is anything but easy. Meanwhile, the appearance of the mysterious race of Qunari heralds more trouble to the inhabitants of Kirkwall, as does the growing tension between the Templars and the mages. Hawke is caught in the middle of these political and social conflicts - what shall be the hero's own path?..

Dragon Age II uses a "framed narrative" format: the story is narrated over a decade later by one of Hawke's companions. Similarly to Alpha Protocol, the narrative is rather flexible; motivations and events vary depending on the player's moral choices during the game. The game also adopts the "wheel-based" dialogue system from Mass Effect games: short responses that reflect different tones and attitudes the player wishes to choose for Hawke. Also similarly to Mass Effect, the main character's race and name cannot be changed; however, everything else (appearance, gender, classes) can be freely customized.

The combat system is quite similar to the one used in the previous Dragon Age game (which, in its turn, dates back to the combat style used in Baldur's Gate), though it has been noticeably sped up. Hawke can only be human, but the player can customize his or her physical appearance and character class (warrior, mage, or rogue). The player controls Hawke and up to three active party members, either "programming" their actions by assigning actions that should be taken under certain conditions (for example, healing a party member if his HP drops below 20%), or issuing commands to each character manually. The ability tree is also similar, the player being able to learn new abilities as the characters level up. Many abilities from the first game return, but some are absent or replaced with new ones. The abilities are divided into various disciplines, which correspond to the fighting style of the character.

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Credits (Windows version)

715 People (694 developers, 21 thanks) · View all

Executive Producer and Project Director
Lead Designer
Art Director
Technical Director
Project Development Director
Technical Development Director
Quality Assurance Lead
Online Producer
Franchise Development Director
Lead Character Artist
Character Artists
Lead Cinematic Animator
Cinematic Animators
Concept Artists
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 79% (based on 117 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 63 ratings with 5 reviews)

Dragon Effect

The Good
Clever writing and characterization have always been BioWare's trump cards; and in these aspects, Dragon Age II certainly does not disappoint. The writing is consistent in quality, and the voice acting is as good as it usually is in their games. Some of the characters are charismatic and likable without being traditionally cast into familiar roles. The dwarf Varric, for example, manages to be believable and interesting without reviving old stereotypes related to his race.

BioWare always loved to create chemistry between the characters by letting them have random or scripted conversations when put together in the active party. Here, too, companions will constantly comment on whatever strikes their fancy; they will emotionally respond to quest-related events and actively engage in conversations. They poke each other with sarcastic rejoinders and their banter does help us to forget the monotony from time to time. And of course you can sleep with some of them - apparently, that is the gameplay element BioWare takes most seriously now.

I like the premise of the game. Hawke's initial quest is simply to financially support his or her family. As the hero tries to gather enough money for a profitable expedition, he gradually becomes familiar with the political situation in the city of Kirkwall. In the end, of course, the main quest smoothly turns into saving this city, but at least it starts differently from the usual epic adventures with chosen heroes.

In terms of basic combat mechanics, not much has changed. The higher speed of the battles is instantly noticeable; but it is still possible to pause at any time and give precise commands to all the party members. Exploring the ability trees and specializing in one kind of discipline pays off in the end. Particularly rewarding are ability combinations that involve inflicting status ailments on the foes and pounding on them with an attack particularly designed for exploiting that status.

The Bad
Dragon Age II is much smaller, shorter, and shallower than its predecessor.

The entire game takes place in the city of Kirkwall and a few wilderness areas around it. The tiny world of this game makes that of Jade Empire look like a giant sandbox. There is no traveling whatsoever in Dragon Age II; you'll be spending all your time in the same place. Confining the whole game to it would have been equivalent to restricting the whole Baldur's Gate II to the city of Alkathla, if only that city weren't actually bigger than Kirkwall!..

Due to this terrible decision, Dragon Age II fails to convey a feeling of exploration and adventure, which is so important in RPGs. By the end of Act I, you'll have seen all the locations the game has to offer. You'll be visiting the same locations over and over again; it's always "go to the Lowtown at night" or "meet character X at the docks", even during the final, third Act, when you positively begin to crave for a change of scenery.

This is made worse by the fact that even the few different locations are plagued by unforgivable "copy-paste" design. Almost all the caves in the game look the same; it's always an abandoned mine-like structure with wooden doors. I've actually witnessed a few locations being literally copy-pasted, i.e. having the exact same layout. It's even worse than the level design in Mass Effect games. The locations are small, narrow, and look as if they were created with some sort of a random generator.

All this isn't helped by drab and outdated graphics. Empty-looking corridors and passages with generic objects is all you are going to see in the game. Clearly, the effort that went into level design constituted about one tenth of what was invested in the writing. I hoped to see some physical interactivity, the absence of which bothered me already in the predecessor; obviously, I wanted too much. I'd be satisfied with a rich graphical world even if it didn't have the interactivity of Bethesda's works, but I didn't get even that.

Corners were cut in the field of customization as well. They decided not to let the player to change armor of the companions. You find plenty of armor for different classes, but you can only use it by yourself; companion's armor can be upgraded, but not changed. So if, say, you play as a mage and find an awesome plate mail, you have absolutely no way to use it. The fighters in your team will refuse to trade their old outfit for it, while you are, naturally, bound by the understandable class restriction.

I enjoyed Mass Effect, but that doesn't mean everything those games did was good. In any case, hybrid shooters can get away with reductions and restrictions much easier than supposedly full-fledged tactically-inclined RPGs. And yet Dragon Age II clearly tries to imitate the dubious aspects of its sister sci-fi saga. Even the "emoticon" dialogue system from Mass Effect, with its annoying discrepancy between the suggested choice and what the character actually says, found its way into the game. In most cases, conversation responses have deteriorated into formulaic, black-white "good" and "bad" choices unwilling to go deeper into the nuances of role-playing.

Those choices were supposed to shape the highly-touted branching storyline. In reality, most of them are either purely cosmetic or only affect the outcome of one particular quest they are encountered in. The main plot will develop in one rigid way regardless of anything you say or do in the game. You'll fight the same bosses and see the same scenes no matter how many times you've been rude to a supposedly crucial character or particularly generous to another. The story is also quite unimpressive, focusing on a schematic confrontation between two generic factions you don't care about anyway. The part that could have actually been interesting - Hawke's gradual ascent to power - is completely left out of the game! That's right: following the prologue the game simply skips to the part where you are already an established citizen, and the rest of the game is just a linear way to even bigger riches and glory.

The Bottom Line
Dragon Age II has good writing and lesbian sex, which might just be enough for some people. For all others, it can scarcely be anything but a big disappointment: it is a lazily, hastily designed game without depth and heart, inexcusably shrunken compared to its solid predecessor, and displaying some of the worst examples of copy-pasted locations I've seen recently. Let's hope that the alarming simplification stops here and now, and the sequel will restore the franchise to its intended glory.

Windows · by Unicorn Lynx (181794) · 2014

Good sequel and a good game

The Good
The story:

Compared to Dragon Age: Origins the characters are a lot more interesting and diverse. I ended up with using Anders, Varric and Merill as my core-group and I was surprised that even nearing the end of the game they would still talk with each other on a regular basis, with no conversations been repeated. In Origins the conversations stopped after an hour because they ran out of subjects to talk about.

The story is much darker and daring than the previous one. There is conflict between multiple (mostly religious) factions, innocents often end up dying due to politics our of their control and nobody seems to be safe from the works of satanic blood mages. Also big ups for allowing me to use my save from Origins in order to change events in this game.

Some of the quests I assumed were simple and unimportant side-quests would show up later in the story. It really shows everything was planned out really well.

Gameplay:

The combat is more chaotic, in Origins my favorite moment was right at the end during the showdown in Denerim because there were grunts all over the place that died in on or two hits. It didn't make the fights any harder, but it did make for a more epic feeling.

The game is a lot more linear, which means that you spend less time checking bloody side-paths and more time moving forward.

Figuring out what ability to choose is much easier now. Every type has one screen (swords, shields, entropy etc.) And there you see a useful screen showing what you can and can't pick. In Origins you had to scroll down one big list with all the types thrown together.

There is more combat and to me that is one big plus. They even removed the fights that happen whenever you travel somewhere almost entirely because there is a mob of enemies waiting around every corner.

Bugs that were fixed:

In Origins I always had a fight with the looting system because it would take a few seconds for non-humanoid enemies to become loot-able. Here it is fixed and that helps a lot.

People stopped randomly assaulting me while we were talking. I had that a lot in Origins and it was annoying!

The Bad
Presentation:

While Kirkwall is better for story, it doesn't really help the presentation. Everything is the same and you are going to miss Ferelden's variety in areas.

Besides the occasional interesting gory scene the game seems to phoned the blood in a bit. I only saw a handful of finishing moves as well and some of those were in cutscenes that were part of a quest. I did run into a dagger which made enemies explode when back-stabbed, that was pretty sweet.

Difficulty:

I would sometimes run into amazingly hard fights simply by walking into a random alley where a boss would spawn or attacking a single enemy that summoned a whole army of friends to help him. I always save before boss-fights when I know they are going to show up, but I can't possibly be prepared for some of these fights. I once accidentally walked right into a High Dragon, the hardest boss in the entire game.

The auto-save can be annoying at times. One time I died during a boss-fight and I forgot to save before entering his room, so I figured I would be placed back at the start of the castle I died in, but instead I got send back like thirty minutes and had to do all the choices and mini-fights all over again.

The Bottom Line
I would like to call Dragon Age 2 an improvement over Dragon Age: Origins. It is darker and more daring and the gameplay has improved (thanks in part to the removal of some very annoying bugs). The game's presentation may be a little lacking, but I am willing to ignore that.

Dragon Age 2 is much easier to pick up than the first Dragon Age game, so people who want to get into the franchise may find it easier to work through it backwards. Fans of the franchise will run into some frustration due to the many changes that were made, but this game does pay off in the end. A good game and a good sequel!

Xbox 360 · by Asinine (957) · 2011

Not quite the same, but still a good sequel

The Good
This game has a good story that builds off of your previous game's choices if you have a saved game from the first Dragon Age. This lets you feel like your choices have had an effect on the world as you start playing the sequel. The story itself may not be unique, but it is interesting and can keep you wanting to see more.

The graphics are very well done as you can usually expect from BioWare. High graphics settings work very well and look great even on lesser graphics cards. It shows how well you can do graphically without forcing players to get the absolute best graphics cards to experience it.

The dialogs are great and can be humorous. The character interactions are as enjoyable as in the original. It is very easy to learn to love or hate your companions and that is very important in a roleplaying game.

As in the original, you have a lot of control over how your character looks. It's always nice to have such control even if you don't see a whole lot of your character's face in the game.

The Bad
One very minor issue I have with this sequel is the choice of voice actors. I did not compare the credits with the original game, but some of the voices sounded the same even though the character was different. It is disorienting to hear the voice from a previous character used for a new character. They would have been better off having some more variety in the voice acting from that of the original, except with repeated characters (such as the return of HER -- if you played the game, you know who I mean).

I also miss the ability to put entire sets of armor on your companions. It isn't a huge concern, but when you have a pack full of different kinds of armor and can't let your companions use the majority of it, it takes away a lot from the game and is a large step backwards from most RPGs.

The achievements that you get are now on a "ribbon" that you move across. The original game had them in rows that allowed many to be displayed at once and made it easy to navigate. Now, you can see only a few at once and it's a pain to get a quick view of how many are left to unlock. It's definitely not game-breaking because you're not looking at that often, but it is worse than the original.

Character talents or skills are another thing that has gotten worse. In the original, they were in an easy to see format. Yes, they were more linear than they are now, but not by all that much. Now, you have to click on each category to see what is available and trying to see what requirements are needed to get the later skills takes more effort. They could have done a much better job laying out the skills than they did. Again, this is a minor issue, but it is another thing that went downhill.

The Bottom Line
This game is different from the original and that can be both good and bad depending on who you ask. The original was very well done and this game removed a number of things that made the original so much fun. Even so, if you're willing to take the time to get used to the differences, you will find that this sequel is still a great game.

Combat takes some getting used to after playing the original, but it doesn't take too long to no longer mind the differences. Gameplay itself is pretty much the same otherwise.

It looks from what I wrote above that there is more wrong with the game than right with it. That's really not true, though. Yes, the game isn't necessarily as good as the original because of some changes that really shouldn't have been made. However, none of these things are serious problems. They really only look bad when compared to the original. If you compare this game to different games, these issues really aren't issues anymore.

This game is a great game. The day I picked up my copy of the Signature edition, I started playing once I got home from work around 5:30 or 6:00pm. I played non-stop until about 11:15pm without realizing the passage of time. I hadn't even eaten dinner or had anything to drink. Few games draw me into them that well. I can play many games for that long without a problem, but I still notice the time. This game was just that engrossing.

Some of the changes may have been ill-advised, but it certainly is worth playing. If you enjoyed the original, you will enjoy this sequel. Just don't try holding it to the standards of the original, or at least be willing to get used to the differences.

Windows · by Riamus (8480) · 2011

[ View all 5 player reviews ]

Discussion

Subject By Date
Is this how you're supposed to play it? Slug Camargo (583) Mar 27, 2011
Abouth Bethany (spoilers alert!) Klaster_1 (57616) Mar 20, 2011

Trivia

Cancelled expansion

An expansion to Dragon Age II, named Exalted March, was planned, but cancelled before announcement. Bioware's reasoning was that other opportunities for the franchises came up, and that there was no room for it because Bioware's team sizes are fixed and all of them were busy with projects.

Awards

  • 4Players
    • 2011 – Biggest Disappointment of the Year
  • GameStar/GamePro (Germany)
    • 2011 - #3 PC RPG of the Year (Readers' Vote)
    • 2011 - #3 Console RPG of the Year (Readers' Vote)

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Unicorn Lynx.

Macintosh added by Jeanne.

Additional contributors: Jeanne, Patrick Bregger, Lain Crowley, Plok.

Game added March 10, 2011. Last modified February 13, 2024.