Graphics:
8.3
Gameplay:
8.9
Sound:
8.8
Control:
8.5
Replay Value:
8.4
Overall Rating:
8.6
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Publisher:
EA
Developer:
BioWare
Number Of Players:
1
Genre:
RPG


Dragon Age: Origins was a superb role-playing production that delighted hardcore fans of the genre. The game had several technical deficiencies that could be either tolerated or overlooked for the sake of classic BioWare depth and atmosphere. For the sequel, the team has worked to clean up the presentation, and they’ve also added a more streamlined approach to the gameplay, presumably for the sake of accessibility. …the latter is confusing. While every developer seems intent on focusing on a casual element these days, a game like Dragon Age II has a very specific – and very demanding – demographic that isn’t interested in “streamlining.” And yet, it’s still here. That, along with a storyline that seems to exist permanently on the outskirts of a larger plot, drags down an otherwise excellent game.

Graphically, things are much cleaner and more refined. They sacrificed a fair amount of detail and texture to achieve this significant growth, but with much better cut-scenes and tighter environments, it’s a decent trade-off. We still get the standard drawbacks commonly associated with Dragon Age , like the pop-ins, clipping, and collision detection issues, but they’re less glaring than they were in the original. The bottom line is you really can’t be a graphic whore; you’ll likely be disappointed. But the fans only need a game that gives them the illusion of being part of an epic, meticulously designed fantasy world. That much is a given, as most every area perfectly fits the style and atmosphere, although some places do seem a little bland and devoid of activity. The visuals aren’t a highlight, but at least they’re better.

The audio consists of sweeping orchestral tracks and a ton of voiceover work for a great many distinct characters. Both of these greatly enhance the experience, as much of the voice acting is stellar (with a few exceptions) and the music always serves to bolster the effectiveness of the fantasy. The only problem centers on another technical hitch; the balance always seems off, as the soundtrack, effects, and voices never quite seem to gel correctly. Some voices echo while others disappear behind an effect of some kind, and you may have to change the volume a few times. But given the huge amount of effort expended regarding the music and voices, it’s easy to ignore the smaller, albeit continuous, issues. No matter where you go, what you do, or who you meet, everything always has this appropriate, almost surreal quality. That’s a huge plus for any RPG fan.

The gameplay and its corresponding mechanics and systems have come under the most scrutiny, and that’s because of the marked “accessibility” change. For the record, the gameplay works beautifully; it’s a seamless, flowing style that involves both strategy and timing, and you will once again spend plenty of time building, equipping, and setting your characters for battle. The Tactics alone can take up a chunk of time (and no role-player will complain), and deciding on a new skill or allocating points that increase inherent statistics remains a focal point. You can pause combat at any time with the L2 button, where the radial menu lets you issue new commands and use potions and other items. It also lets you take a breather and take a look at the battle; an invaluable feature that is at the top of my must-have list for RPGs. And of course, you’ve got your equipment and inventory, which must be managed.

In this way, it’s every ounce a role-playing game, and will absolutely reward those who are patient, strategic, and precise. There’s no doubt that Dragon Age II encourages the player to dive into the available depth and locate the best solution. I spend a fair amount of time changing, upgrading, and shifting, and that’s exactly correct; it’s what I want to do in this type of game. The addition of pressing X to execute a basic attack doesn’t feel like a drastic change, nor does it negatively alter the core combat mechanic. You can assign up to 6 skills for the purpose of fast action and you can still select any of your party members at any given time. I’m also fairly convinced the Tactics section is more customizable and complex than ever, so for those who wish to play at an advanced level, that option is definitely still here.

That all being said, this sequel feels…I’m searching for appropriate adjectives… Perhaps “compressed” is a good word. While skills are now separated into specific talents, it seems that we have less overall abilities, and the three-class restriction (Warrior, Mage, Rogue) hasn’t gone over well. Many of the hardcore are going, “wait, I can’t even select a race?!” I’ve never been one to get caught up in such trivialities, but it is noticeable in what’s supposed to be a complex, intricate RPG. Plus, they’ve limited what characters can equip; a lot of the stuff can only be worn by the main character, Hawke, and some party members really don’t have access to much. Lastly, I have to say that it seems more possible to get through the game with default Tactics and simplistic approaches to battle. Not sure that was possible before.

I will say that the emphasis on choice seems to be more intense than ever, as we can almost always choose to vent a certain personality. Depending on our responses and actions, the story can indeed shift; this is most reminiscent of Mass Effect 2 . Sometimes, your decision won’t have a visible impact but other times, the consequences of a rash reply can be irrevocable. Furthermore, I do like a few of the changes, including the “ordering” of equipment and items. I’ve never thought it made much sense that all stores always have everything; here, we plunk down some coin for a particularly rare item and, as would be expected, place the order. On top of which, going beyond the weapon enchantment option, we can hunt for various raw materials that might prove useful when in the hands of a skilled tradesman or craftsman.

As usual, the story is a huge focus and while I do enjoy the plot progression – which seems more focused with a more defined central character – I think a lot of the game feels a little…well, trivial is probably the wrong word, but it often feels as if we're always skirting the biggest issues. On the other hand, the rise of the Champion feels just about right: a fleeing refugee who, through a series of important decisions (of which we have lots of control), becomes a savior of mankind. Personally, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the story in Origins , which never really grabbed me. I’m not overly impressed with the sequel’s plot and characters, either, but I do prefer this plot in comparison to the last game. And the writing really is tremendous; just reading the pieces of history you find is enough to convince you of the influence of a fine scribe, and the dialogue is also really solid. We should never overlook great writing in games.

Dragon Age II is a great RPG. I want to make that perfectly clear. I also want to make it known that I’m not harping on the technical misgivings (which I could easily do, if I didn’t understand the game’s overall purpose). The depth in terms of gameplay and control is here, and if you wish to fully immerse yourself in yet another top-quality BioWare adventure, you won’t be disappointed. However, I just can’t figure out the need for words like “streamlining” and “accessibility” when it comes to extraordinarily niche titles designed specifically for hardcore fans. Stranger yet, this all came from BioWare’s own design team; I refuse to believe these changes came about due to player feedback after Origins . …no RPG fan would want a simpler, most straightforward presentation when the original setup worked out just fine.

Again, chances are, if you’re a follower of the genre, you’ll probably like this game. You might even love it to pieces. But since when does a slightly more mainstream approach – and it is indeed slight – have any place in a production like this…? And why does the game still chug and freeze at times? …and yet, why can’t I stop playing? Right now, I am a mix of happy/pleased and downright confused.

The Good: More refined visual presentation. A lot of great voiceover work and fantastic music. Accomplished writing and dialogue. Overall gameplay mechanic works very well. Decision making is a huge plus. Plenty of depth to satisfy most fans.

The Bad: Graphics can be a little bland. Audio balancing issues. Frame rate can chug. Storyline isn’t quite engrossing. The “streamlining” of the gameplay is a bizarre design choice.

The Ugly: “…is…is it going to freeze…? …no, guess not.”

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Temjin001
Temjin001
10 years ago

Looks like just the game I was hoping for from the sequel. Well, maybe not so much the streamlining, but it looks to have it where it counts, and that's great by me. I'll first tackle Dragon Age: Origins Ultimate. After which I'll move onto DA2.

Victor321
Victor321
10 years ago

Great review Ben, you nailed all my worries I've had over the past few days!

Getting this tomorrow and Killzone 3 (I know I'm late to the party, but the only ones that will care are the ones I own with my ISA M82 rifle ;)!


Last edited by Victor321 on 3/10/2011 9:54:16 PM

CrusaderForever
CrusaderForever
10 years ago

You will absolutely love KZ3! The game is a marvel to behold. I bought the CoD BO First Strike which I played right after a session of KZ3. The graphics in BO are so bad compared to KZ3. It's almost like they are PS2 quality compared. It was really frightening to see the difference. Anyway, I just got my platinum last night. My first platinum! The SP was a lot better than the reviews said. I actually enjoyed the story. The MP WOW! That is where this game excels. Warzone is fantastic and insane. Some of the online trophies where difficult but I was able to pull through. I played for 6 hours yesterday and was up until 3am trying to get my last trophy! Have gun, I mean fun! 🙂

Victor321
Victor321
10 years ago

I know I will, I've played all of the previous Killzone entries.

SolidFantasy
SolidFantasy
10 years ago

I'm still trying to bang out FFXIII so I can get around to DA:O. Ohh man am I lagging behind.

CrusaderForever
CrusaderForever
10 years ago

I understand how you feel! I think a lot of gamers are going to have this dilemma in 2011. Which I think is a good thing.

MyWorstNightmar
MyWorstNightmar
10 years ago

Ah yes, I too have been laboring through FF13. It is all I play lately. I shelved it for months, and for some reason have determined I must Platinum it. Been CP farming as of late. Almost have all my missions 5 starred as well. Then the dreaded inventory trophy.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

Picked it up for 22 bucks today, can't wait to get into it this weekend. I'm still not done with ME2 or DS2 though. I guess they will have to duke it out in my brain.

bigrailer19
bigrailer19
10 years ago

Where'd u get it for $22? You have some gift cards or something?

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

Yup 🙂 Thank you Xmas.

bigrailer19
bigrailer19
10 years ago

Dang you had me excited I'd find it for that price!

Isamisis
Isamisis
10 years ago

@bigrailer19

Final Fantasy XIII is only $28 on Amazon.com (2011/03/13). That's still a good deal!

Beamboom
Beamboom
10 years ago

More streamlined? Agreed. More accessible? Maybe, but I'd rather call it better design. The user interface simply is very good, imo.
But it's very easy to interpret "streamlined" and "accessible" to mean "dumbed down", I am guilty of doing so myself prior to getting the game. But that is *not* the case here.

Just wanted to make that clear for those out there who may still sit on the fence because of such worries.

I've not gotten far into the story yet, but to me it looks pretty apparent that if you liked DA:O you're gonna like this one too.

And I gotta say… BioWare sure know how to deliver a story. The finest there is right now, in my opinion… Cause when a sci-fi head like me get involved in a fantasy setting like this there is one hell of a storyteller involved.
Gotta love it!


Last edited by Beamboom on 3/10/2011 10:43:05 PM

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

I agree, and it works the other way too. I like sci fi but prefer fantasy, and ME2 is good stuff.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
10 years ago

Um…if I can't even equip any piece of armor on anyone but my main character, I consider that a little "dumbed down." Yes.

Nerull
Nerull
10 years ago

I'm confident it'll be fun enough to warrant my preorder but I'm more proof that fantasy gamers don't shy away from complex stats.
I can see them trying to lure in a larger action demographic… but seriously only Hawke has the fortitude to through on a sheet of metal?
Mages commonly aren't allowed but anyone from the setting should be capable of lugging around a few extra pounds.

Beamboom
Beamboom
10 years ago

Yeah I had not fully realized the armor limitations when I wrote the post. To limit armor choises to main character is dumbing down indeed. Wonder why they did that…! A strange choise.

kylemac6
kylemac6
10 years ago

I do think that if you liked origins, you'll probably like this. It is dumbed down a bit in ways that infuriate me (the companion armor), but the overall game is good and a bit improved in a lot of areas. It is kind of strange, though. it's like they took DAO and combined it with Mass Effect 2, including some of the things i didn't like about ME2 (the companion armor).

I really don't get the armor thing. in both DAO and ME1, you had full customization over group armor. I'm a regularly participating member of bioware's forums and, as far as I can tell, no one (or very few people) on their own boards liked that in ME2 the companions only had one outfit with another unlocking after you make them your friend. So… they thought it would be good to do in DA2, too? No. Bad. Bad idea. It seems like there's just about as much armor drops and finds as ever, but only one guy can use them. Dumb.

The biggest reason I can seem to rationalize for it is that they don't want just any armor available for the other characters because they want to feel distinct and like individual characters in their visuals, as well as their personalities.

Okay. I can buy that. So, make personalized variations of different armor that fit who each companion is and looks like something they'd wear. Or just make totally different armor for each of them that can be bought and found, just like Hawke's. There's so much thought and detail into everything else – why not this? Is it laziness? Is it because EA demands a certain time to get things done, so this is a corner that they will think will be less missed if cut?

Could we at least get two versions of each character right off the bat? One version the relaxed fit, armor lite version and another version that makes more sense to battle in? Each companion looks great and has a very cool design and distinct feel to them, but like ME2 they don't look comparably battle ready. Everyone's wearing skintight leather or flowing robes, while I stand over here covered head-to-toe in bulky metal.


Last edited by kylemac6 on 3/13/2011 1:02:44 PM

Alienange
Alienange
10 years ago

Sounds pretty good to me. Of course so did the first one and I have yet to finish it. Damn you andamantoise for taking all my time away from other RPGs!!

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

You still fighting those big turtles?

Alienange
Alienange
10 years ago

Nope! I platted that b**ch game a few weeks ago. Then I went back and finished Just Cause 2 on hard because I really needed to shoot something after that. What a BRUTAL grind FF turned out to be.

just2skillf00l
just2skillf00l
10 years ago

Don't know if I should get this? This year is too demanding on my wallet. What to do…what to do?

hadouken
hadouken
10 years ago

I played the demo and thought the game was good but I'll wait for a price drop. I've been in back log hell since my ps3 went down for the count last fall.

Nlayer
Nlayer
10 years ago

I couldn't really get into Dragon Age for some reason. I will, however, give the books a chance. I love the storylines in these types of games but don't care much about the gameplay.

Yes, I know. I'm "weird" for not liking the gameplay.

___________
___________
10 years ago

im kinda let down by this.
reading all the reviews, i was expecting it to be allot better!
oh well, hopefully by monday ill find out.

Gabriel013
Gabriel013
10 years ago

I enjoyed DA2, despite the 'improvements' not because of it.

For my own personal gaming tastes I would have prefered then to have taken the gameplay and mechanics of Origins and just made it prettier.

I think I'm around 2.5 hours in and I really miss not being able to fully customise the load-out of all me party. I am also not a fan of needing to press x every time I want to attack.

The conversation dial is nice but possibly over simplified? I know I'm going to play through as the 3 character roles selecting where possible only one style of response. I'm currently a sarcastic rogue.

As I said, despite the changes they made for the worse, I do still like DA2 and will undoubtedly keep it in my collection for multiple play throughs.

I do just think that some of the changes they have made to simplifier the game have also made it worse in some areas than the original.

Bioware, Why didn't you have DA as the indepth inventory-classic rpg franchise, and Mass Effect as the simplified, focus on the lead character franchise?
That would have suited both types of RPG gamer out there.

Gabriel013
Gabriel013
10 years ago

I should say, Good review Ben. Always an interesting read and I look forward to the video.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

I agree Gabriel, haven't gotten to play it yet, but the fantasy game should remain the deeper one of the two cuz that's what fantasy fans like.

CrusaderForever
CrusaderForever
10 years ago

Well said, I couldn't agree more or have said it better! 🙂

Ludicrous_Liam
Ludicrous_Liam
10 years ago

The demo was rubbish…this must mean the game changed drastically or ben is picking favourites 🙂

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

Probably more likely that the full game has more to offer than the demo.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
10 years ago

The demo was technically flawed – audio drop-out that isn't in the game, for instance – but it was hardly "rubbish."

And in fact, no critic called it that, either. If this isn't your thing, it isn't your thing.

Ludicrous_Liam
Ludicrous_Liam
10 years ago

While it is indeed not my type of game in the slightest, it doesn't change the fact the game is incredibly flawed. The chracter development in the demo was flat-out weak, and wave after freakin wave of the same enimies makes the game feel rushed. 8.6 is rergarded as a very good game on this site, but I'm seriously doubting it's that good. Oh and framerate is one of the worst I've seen in a while, I mean their was hardly alot going on, yet it got choppy 70% of the time. I mean that's just a game-killer for me. It was the same in skate 2, I was ready to take it out before I found out you could enable v-sync, which actually made it playable.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
10 years ago

The frame rate is also a lot better in the game, and you're not understanding the epic scope of the game. The demo just has you fight a bunch of faceless enemies; two completely unrelated sections that have nothing to do with each other.

It's basically just a combat preview, more than anything else. It's hardly indicative of the game.

THEGODSLAYER
THEGODSLAYER
10 years ago

8.6 seems a little high. id give it an 8 tops but thats just my opinion, great review from ben as always.

D1g1tal5torm
D1g1tal5torm
10 years ago

I played the demo and ended up button-mashing.

Give me twitch-gaming over button-mashing any day of the week.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
10 years ago

'sigh'

You can't button mash and get very far in Dragon Age II. In fact, you won't get anywhere at all past the first few battles.

D1g1tal5torm
D1g1tal5torm
10 years ago

Sorry Ben just my experience of dragon age.

Just can't get on with that type of game. Same as Dante and ninja sigma

tridon
tridon
10 years ago

I don't know… I played the demo and I found it to be incredibly boring. I actually thought the first game had better graphics, too. This game's graphics are a lot smoother but I thought there was more detail in the graphics of Origins. I loved the first game but I don't like the changes the were made for the sequel. I'm sure I'm not the only one, either.

Codeez
Codeez
10 years ago

If you make a game that scores well with critics and gamers alike, why would you not try and tweak and perfect what everyone loved, instead of what looks like rebooting a title just two games in? I loved the first one, and im sure I will still love this one, but some of these changes have me scratching my head…I have yet to play this, so maybe I will be eating my words for breakfast and I will absolutely love this, but I'm still a little hesitant. Thanks for the review!

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

Same reason as anything this gen, they want to open it up to more players. But you always risk alienating the original fans ya know.

Excelsior1
Excelsior1
10 years ago

i'm hesitant as well. i did not care for the graphics at all.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

Few RPGs should be played for their graphics, just sayin.

CrusaderForever
CrusaderForever
10 years ago

Yeah, with the changes and the direction they took away from Origins I will wait on this one. Origins was fantastic and I don't understand why they would streamline Dragon Age? Sounds like they are working on to many projects at once, I don't know. I will wait for the Ultimate Edition and then get it. Great review Ben, as always.

WolfCrimson
WolfCrimson
10 years ago

I was expecting to see the video commentary along with the review, but it seems it'll take a bit more time. Anyway, reading through the review, it seems that DA2 suffers from a much milder case of what I'd like to call the "FF13 syndrome". God-damned mainstreaming. I've already played the demo, I thought I could forgive the "X"-mashing with everything else in the game intact. But now that I found out that I can only equip armor on my main character, it seems like my quest into the Dragon Age world officially ended when Faren, my heroic Commoner Dwarf Rogue, gave up his soul to save the world from the Blight, and died a true hero's death, with not a misdeed to his name. He shall not be forgotten.

But who knows, I might change my mind and get DA2. Looking forward to the PSXe video commentary (hopefully we'll get to see the man behind the articles (*fingers crossed for Ben with a beard*)).


Last edited by WolfCrimson on 3/11/2011 9:26:09 AM

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
10 years ago

The video commentary will never come at the same time as the text review, because we don't want people gradually shifting towards the video and away from the actual review; soon, nobody would be reading, anymore.


Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 3/11/2011 10:18:11 AM

WolfCrimson
WolfCrimson
10 years ago

Ah, I see. That's a great point.

coverton341
coverton341
10 years ago

Thank you Ben, for not adding to the fact that no one reads any more.

FM23
FM23
10 years ago

Put 20hrs into it already and though the storytelling is strong, there's no actual story so far. Feels like a bunch of side missions with somethings that's not visible yet in the dark. I also don't care for this fantasy setting so maybe this is a reason why I am not being pulled in. It's enjoyable, but this Mage, Templars, Dwarves, etc thing is very nerdy. Like I said, never cared for games with themes like this and DA2 really isn't doing it for me when it comes to blowing away my imagination. I will definitely finish it, but I have a feeling I might be trading this in when I'm done. I thought I was about to stumble upon another ME2…guess not. More like another FFXIII without the wonder.

Geobaldi
Geobaldi
10 years ago

Almost 30 hours into it now and so far I'm just not feeling it. The original had a much better story and immersion than this one does. Though the combat is better now, and the visuals are nicer thanks to the hi-def patch that was released on launch day as well, the rest of the game just doesn't reach the level of the original. Disappointing, especially considering Bioware's track record. Still a fun game, just don't expect anything spectacular.