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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun (with flaws) but not as engaging as Origins.
I'm about half way in and I'm enjoying the experience overall, but there are many design flaws, and odd choices that keep me from giving this game a higher score, which I would probably rate at 7/10.

Pros:
1) Graphics are lovely. Improved over the last one. Character and area designs are nice.
2) Some likable characters. All have good voice actors,...
Published on March 18, 2011 by Booya! Werewolves!

versus
126 of 145 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars They Fixed Everything... That Was Never Broken
My girlfriend and I were huge fans of DA: O. We played through each class and race from beginning to end so it was only natural to anticipate part two with baited breath. After all, Bioware games almost never take a step backward, but it seems there's a first time for everything!

If you've played Mass Effect 2, you will quickly see where they were trying to go...
Published on March 12, 2011 by Matthew Arieta


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126 of 145 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars They Fixed Everything... That Was Never Broken, March 12, 2011
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
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This review is from: Dragon Age 2 - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
My girlfriend and I were huge fans of DA: O. We played through each class and race from beginning to end so it was only natural to anticipate part two with baited breath. After all, Bioware games almost never take a step backward, but it seems there's a first time for everything!

If you've played Mass Effect 2, you will quickly see where they were trying to go with DA2. Tried but failed. Mass Effect 2 was a fantastic game. Similarly, DA: O was a great game that didn't need to be "fixed" in order to be more like Mass Effect! If they'd only built upon the original game's rock solid foundation, this could have been a spectacular follow up. So what went wrong you ask?

DA: O gripped us from the very onset with the different origin stories, an epic plot, and fascinating characters. It kept the overarching mission clear throughout while offering tons of diversions. Decisions felt like they mattered. Side with the werewolves or Dalish? That's who helps in the final battle. DA2 on the other hand had a decent plot, but even when I could keep track of it, it never swept me away. While on the surface decisions seemed to matter, in the end it felt very linear. The story ultimately seemed like little more than a device to move the game along from one quest to the next.

Never thought I'd be writing this about a Bioware game, but the companions in DA2 are straight up boring and of all the ones to bring over from DA: O they chose Anders from Awakening? While some of the inter-party dialogue was amusing, it didn't have me laughing like DA: O. Dog is an activated power and not a companion. The relationship building system was kind of interesting. If you're nice you build friendships and if you're not, rivalries. Both can have benefits. They added in a third "in-between" option of being clever -- something I'd not be surprised if they added into Mass Effect III coming out at the end of the year. Once you get 100% friendship or rivalry it locks in for the rest of game, whereas in DA:O relationships could keep changing right up until the end.

Combat has been sped way up to be less tactical and more hack n slash. Half the time I couldn't even tell what all was going on within the menagerie of power effects and blood splattering everywhere. As they said in Anchorman, "Loud Noises!" It's widely held that PC gamers got the better combat experience in DA: O, but I really enjoyed combat on the PS3. DA2 is supposed to be much more "console friendly". If that by that they mean a button mash then job well done. Setting up tactics for the NPCs is still there, but again the turbo speed of combat never lets you appreciate your decisions because of the rain of arrows / exploding magic / blood splashing / swiping blades / chaotic blur on the battlefield.

Equipment has been vastly simplified in a very unsatisfying way. First of all, only Hawke can be fully customized. All the other companions have a single "armor item" that can receive upgrades. Boring upgrades like "under quilting". (Oh, mighty! No rash. Sweet.) The equipment artwork on the character screens is minimal to the point of being dis-interesting. The items are often named things like "ring". Ring can have wildly different stats but it's still called ring. Many items are "Hawke only" (because only his armor can be customized), and limited by stat requirements so you'll get tons of cool gear that you have to sell. In DA: O there was always someone that could wear the cool new item.

Much like the rest of DA2, the interface has been simplified too, from merchants to the skill trees. Much like other attempts to fix something, they seem to have broken it in the process. They split buying and selling into separate screens and each skill tree onto its own screen. The net effect of which is that I couldn't get a high level view of either. While the interface in DA: O had it flaws, overall it was more informative and useful.

Bottom line: Don't fix what ain't broke! So why did I give DA2 3 stars? It's really not a terrible game. If I'd never played DA:O I may even have even liked it, but compared to its predecessor it's a watered down pale comparison.
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75 of 89 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Massive Step Backward, March 20, 2011
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Dragon Age 2 - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
Some reviewers have suggested that the main problem with Dragon Age 2 is that it adapts the world of DA to the strictures of Mass Effect's gaming style, resulting in an unpleasant masseffectification that saps the playing experience of its uniqueness. While there are a few small senses in which this is true (especially with the adoption of the dialogue wheel), to make this claim is to miss the mark: Dragon Age 2 is simply a downgrade from its predecessor in virtually every way. If anything, we should be stunned that Bioware, a company which responded to nearly every criticism of Mass Effect 1 for its development of Mass Effect 2, appears to have completely ignored the feedback that they received for this series' previous title, Origins.

Perhaps the most crippling issue--and also the most surprising--is the game's poor writing quality. Dragon Age: Origins set the bar for clever dialogue in gaming, giving gamers an unforgettable experience. From Morrigan's imperious jabs, to Zevran's lewd humor, to Alistair's goofy commentary, each character's remarks seethed with carefully crafted personality; even the Warden's speech options were routinely witty. By contrast, the cast of Dragon Age 2 (with the exception of the suave dwarf brigand Varric) is uniformly uninteresting, wooden, and above all, angsty. You'll groan as Anders and your brother Carver assail you with angry tirades about the mages and templars, sigh apathetically at the totally forgettable Aveline, and shake your controller at the screen in frustration as Hawke routinely makes comments that fail to reflect the options you select on the dialogue wheel. Possibly worst of all, in a flagrant "screw-you" to Dragon Age's considerable female fan base, this game is utterly devoid of charming male characters to romance, and thus members of the Alistair fan club will find themselves scratching their heads in puzzlement. One imagines that Bioware's real writing team went on vacation during the development of this game, leaving their collective pens in the hands of the Substandard Amateurs wing of the company.

Yet all this does not touch on the second, and equally dismaying, element of failure in Dragon Age 2's writing: the plot itself. If you were hoping to recapture the sense of epic, sweeping adventure that the lush fantasy world of Ferelden immersed you in during Dragon Age: Origins, then prepare yourself for disappointment. Instead, as the Champion, you'll be trapped in the dreary hell-hole of Kirkwall, an unimportant city whose defining aesthetic feature is its statues of wretched, emaciated, shackled slaves. There is nothing wrong about the choice of a "dark" aesthetic per se, which has been utilized to great effect by games like Dead Space, but what is wrong is that there is no corresponding feeling of risk or gravity. No, you're not fighting against an oppressive force, evil demon, or diabolical tyrant--rather, as Hawke, you plod about aimlessly, wallowing in the general unpleasantness of Kirkwall, proceeding with documentary nonchalance as you complete an endless series of bitch-work tasks for needy and ungrateful citizens or teammates. But for the occasional swarm of enemies, you might as well be playing Animal Crossing: Ugly Ghetto Edition. There is no larger goal or driving motivation, no looming threat or call to action, and even the potentially-clever presentation of the narrative through Varric's interrogation is dull and anticlimactic. ("So, tell me, what did the champion do next??" "Well, then he traveled north, where blah blah blah...") Moreover, the entire story is fueled by the conflict between mages and templars, which worked fine as a footnote in Dragon Age: Origins, but as the driving thematic force behind DA2 is nothing short of excruciating.

(As a side note, I ask: What's with all the blood mages? Becoming a blood mage was a huge deal in the first installment, like selling your soul to the devil--something really rare that evoked a strong reaction from people. In this game, everyone and their dog is eagerly lining up to slit their wrists and summon sinister demons. Seriously, large roving bands of blood mages will repeatedly attack Hawke's group for no reason whatsoever, and half of the quest arcs end with some character coming out of the blood-magical closet.)

I'll admit that the graphics and combat of this game have undergone a significant makeover. The lush visuals and fast-paced action of DA2 are extremely satisfying. That said, most of the other technical aspects of the game have either remained in stasis or deteriorated in relation to Origins. Your teammates' AI is routinely moronic, with healers forgetting to heal and characters bunching together as they're pelted by area-of-effect attacks. The old cumbersome crafting system has been unwisely retained, if somewhat revamped. The campsite has been eliminated, and to initiate group dialogue you're now required to visit characters at their own separate households, obnoxiously scattered throughout Kirkwall. PC armor tends to be visually underwhelming, often leaving Hawke the least interestingly dressed member of his or her band. Loading times are endless--a factor which I would normally overlook, except the individual landscapes are so tiny that you're hit with a loading screen every thirty seconds to three minutes. These landscapes, furthermore, are reused, such that you traverse the same dungeons and environments over and over again for different quests. Finally, the game even freezes from time to time; not ultra-frequently, but often enough to be annoying and mar the quality of the playing experience.

All things considered, I have to admit that it's difficult for me to be objective about this game. Dragon Age: Origins was an incredible experience marred by only a few flaws, and its sequel seems to have exacerbated those flaws while jettisoning some of its better qualities. If I squint my eyes and imagine that DA2 was made by some obscure indie developer, I find myself thinking that it's good--not great, but merely rental-caliber good; perhaps a notch or two below the Fable games. However, there is ultimately no escaping the impressive standards which Bioware has set for itself through previous titles, and as with a substandard Pixar movie or Zelda game, I can't help but judge this to be the inferior work of a creative team that knew better.

Let's just cross our fingers and hope that the next Dragon Age installment will, like a Fereldan hero who slays evil when all hope appears lost, restore this series to its former glory.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun (with flaws) but not as engaging as Origins., March 18, 2011
By 
Booya! Werewolves! (Lincoln, Ne United States) - See all my reviews
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
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This review is from: Dragon Age 2 - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
I'm about half way in and I'm enjoying the experience overall, but there are many design flaws, and odd choices that keep me from giving this game a higher score, which I would probably rate at 7/10.

Pros:
1) Graphics are lovely. Improved over the last one. Character and area designs are nice.
2) Some likable characters. All have good voice actors, and while the personalities may be up to personal taste I though they were mostly good. I like Varric and Merrill the most, myself.
3) Companion uniqueness. I thought this was a big upgrade over DA:O. Each character now has their own unique skill group to go along with their class specific skill groups. As well as getting a passive effect for being your friend or your rival.
4) Ability trees improved. Things are much more open in this game, more choices, more abilities.
5) Companion relationship improved. It's more than just dumping gifts on them now. Your actions are the main factor in getting characters to like or dislike you, which some may not think is an upgrade but I personally do.
6) Runes are simpler than before, but I think its an improvement over all. The efficacy of your runes now depends on the item they are attached to rather than the rune itself. So the rune you have in act one will be the same rune in act 3, but will have a better effect because the items you set them in are improved. No more useless +1 fire damage etc, runes.

Cons:
1) Exploration: Don't expect much. Well to be more exact expect to re-explore constantly. First off the areas you find while playing will "renewed" at the start of each act. So if you had explored "Lowtown" in act one, you would have to go back to the exact same map, and re-explore because there are now new codex entries, and new crafting resources and crates/chests to find. It doesn't seem like much, but per act you run through these areas like a dozen times it seems, so it gets real old real fast. Secondly, and far worse is dungeon reusing. There are only a handful of dungeon maps in the game, and they get reused and they attempt to diffuse this by often blocking off/opening up areas to make the place seem larger or smaller respectively, or having the entry point be different to change your point of view. This is just lazy, so either they were being rushed or just didn't care to add unique areas.
On a similar note lots of reused item art as well. In act one there are like 4 kinds of daggers, they all just have different names and each "type" looks the same as any other in it's type, etc.

2) Some annoying combat issues. There were two big ones for me. The first of which is some monsters will knock you down, then before you have a chance to move once you've gotten up, they knock you down again, until you are dead. This is avoidable if you have other living party members to draw fire away but if you are solo, its just pretty much instant death. This is due to a game mechanic called "fortitude" which goes along with the strength stat. The ONLY class that will have any noticeable room for stats in strength is the warrior class. That leaves the other two classes SERIOUSLY vulnerable to inescapable death. I see what they were going for, trying to solidify class roles, but it was just too pronounced a chance at low fortitude to be chain knocked down.
The second is similar to the first, sometimes when you are attacked you become "staggered" (not stunned, it's just a little animation) making it so you cant move or take an action for about a second, problem is that there are times when you can be getting attacked every second so you have no chance to move or do anything to escape. Again, party set up, luck, and situation make these avoidable but I was highly annoyed by both in several places.
Also, adding in button mashing for attack... I'm not a fan. It doesn't add anything to the game, it just makes your thumb get tired after a while.
Running seems more effective in this game too. Ive had several fights where I just lead the boss around, turned when my skill was refreshed and cast it, then took to running again. Takes a while, but sort of feels like you're cheating.

3) Companion equipment. Why. This annoys me a lot. No party members can equip armor of any kind. They all come with "built in" armor that can be upgraded a few times. So 2/3 of all armor you find will be useless to you (depending on which class you chose). Varric wont even equip a different weapon! It gets really old finding cool armor that is of 0 use to you.

4) Plot. The game is mostly side quests. The side quests are satisfying enough, but they are all just sort of nothing. The main plot is not very engaging or sweeping. There is no sense of urgency or importance.

5) Bugs. Game freezes in dialogue not "often" but it happens. Its happened to me like 4 times now, freezes the system. Another interesting bug I got hit by went along with my complaint #2 above... At some point during a fight, everyone was dead, but Merrill and one foe, for some reason the game took the combat as being over, so every second Merrill's health bar refilled. The lone enemy with every attack struck Merrill to the ground, then precoded to continue striking her before she could get up back, to the ground again. So, quickly (and I was 100% powerless to stop this once it had begun) I was knocked into a corner and the foe proceeded to chain knock her down as the game healed her. Basically the game was over at that point. I couldnt more, drink a potion, use any kind of ability... nothing, I was just knocked down again and again and again. Tried to weasle out of it for about 10 minutes, then gave up, and restarted.

Overall, it's fun, and worth playing, but seems really rushed and all the little improvements are overshadowed by the poor design choices and slightly boring plot.

Isn't nearly as captivating on any level as DA:O, but the core Dragon Age mechanics, and game world are still good, and make the game worth playing.
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117 of 147 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dragon Age II Caters to a Wider Audience - Not as Good as DAO, March 9, 2011
By 
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
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This review is from: Dragon Age 2 - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
3.0: This Dragon Age sequel tries to maximize on the popularity of God of War games and its ilk by including more "exciting" action in this role-playing game and tries to make the series more accessible to mainstream audiences who don't like the already simplified Dungeons & Dragons type system of DAO or the multitude of choices offered by Dragon Age Origins. In trying to streamline and gussy up this game, the developers have doomed it to fall far short of the original: fewer choices (for example, race), smaller scope (one city), less grand story, inconsistent with DAO - just plain LESS, unfortunately. Continue on for an in-depth review.

I have played Dragon Age Origins: Ultimate Edition (three times through), Awakening (twice), and all the downloadable content available. I really liked the high level of customization, the simple interface, and the options available to get to know other characters. It was probably closer to perfect than any other game I've played. With this in mind, I played through Dragon Age 2.

My review has a fair amount of comparisons to Origins, but as the second installment, I think that needs no explanation - a sequel inevitably gets compared to its predecessor. I by no means am looking for an Origins continuation, but a game that matches the quality DAO provides or even excels expectations.

|||General first impression: Nice graphics, interesting opening
The idea of a story within a story already pulled me in from the first couple minutes. The game begins with the story of "the Champion" being demanded from Varric. It leads me to ask, what's the disaster going on right now, that this story is so sought-after? And also, what happened, who is the champion, why is s/he important?

***(+ for pro, - for con)***
|||Character Creation: Less Customization than Origins

- You cannot modify the first two presets. I like being able to take a preset and modify it to my liking. Unfortunately, if you use the first or second preset for male or female, you cannot change it at all. The rest of the presets you can modify.

+ You can't choose your voice, but both the male and female voices are great.

- You can't choose a race like in Origins. You can only be human. This is already the first sign that DA2 is more limited in choice and scope than DAO, but okay, I'll let this one go.

- There is no origin story choice like in the first game - everyone gets the same one. Once again, this is not DAO, so while it's more limited, I gave it a chance.

+ Choose your history. I did like that you get to pick what happened historically. You get the option to load a save from your Origins game if you want history as you played it! This is pretty much expected of a BioWare title, but I am grateful nonetheless.

|||Story: Interesting, but not as epic in nature as Origins

+ First impresions: This is going to be epic. The search begins for not just a champion, but THE Champion. Sounds important! Additionally, my fiance and I both started new games yesterday, I a female rogue, and he a male mage, so we both got to see a difference right off the bat.

+ Cameos. It was great that we got to see/hear about some characters from the previous game.

+ Brutal. While Origins had its tough moments, from the get-go, this game presents you with impossibly tough scenes and some real bada$$ characters (NPCs included).

+ Saving the world? No, this game so far does not seem to be about saving the world from the Blight. The story has centered around betrayal, both in the main and side stories. I may be alone on this, but I was pretty much done caring about the Archdemon after my third playthrough of Origins, and I was eager to fight a new kind of Big Bad.

|||Gameplay: Action.

+ First impression... Fast-paced. You don't really get a chance to catch your breath between the battles and scenes. The excitement the developers were going for is clearly there, and they at least succeeded in this much.

- Mass Effect-type dialog mechanic. Because up & down was not awesome enough, instead, you get to rotate your stick for dialog choices (and the Start menu)! Some may like it, but for me, it was a needless aesthetic change with a more difficult control. What was the point other than "it looks cool"?

+ Speech icons. At first, I thought this "dumbed down" the speech system. I didn't like that Hawke didn't say verbatim the option I would choose. However, after about 20 hours of playtime, I have come to appreciate the speech icons. Where some people might have had trouble in Origins saying the right thing (tone can be hard to decipher in writing), this trouble is completely avoided in DAII. The icons indicate exactly the tone in which your comment will be delivered. It's unlikely you'll find yourself saying, "But I thought that was going to be sarcastic!" (DAO players, you know what I'm saying?)

- No speech challenges. That's right. As a rogue, I put all the precious points I got from leveling up into dexterity and cunning, and I noticed no "skills" (ex: potions, traps, coercion, survival, etc.) section, just attributes and talents/spells. I was expecting, when talking to the guard, to have a Cunning speech option. Nope.

- Talent/Spell Trees. If you're like me, you enjoyed having all your talents or spells on one page. You can look through everything quickly and compare skills to decide which one you want to spend your points on. DAII has abandoned the sensible one-page system. Instead, you get multiple skill trees you have to select to see what skills do. And oh, you want to compare to another skill on the fly? You have to exit out of the skill tree you're in, flip through the others, find the one you're looking for, click on that, find the skill... Oh, forgot what the first skill you wanted to compare it to was? Here we go again, flipping back through...

+ Skills. The skills themselves are great - backstab, in particular, I enjoyed. The Rogue got some very interesting new skills.

+ Talent/Spell animations. They're great - this game is a thrill to watch. I also like the toughening-up they gave the mage class.

+ Jobs! If you were hoping for something like the Mages' Collective or Blackstone Irregulars, that seems to be present in the game.

- Setting. The city exploring kind of feels like Assassin's Creed in a small way; the atmosphere is pretty interesting. That said, "Seen one, seen them all." I've found that if you've been to one cave/cavern/house, you've seen them all. Many of the areas seem to have been reused. Additionally, some sections of an area will just be blocked off, even though they appear accessible on the mini-map.

+ Characters. They're interesting enough. I really liked Aveline - she has my sympathy from the start, and I like that she's moral without being an old lecturing biddy on a soapbox. Each character seems to have his/her own motivations and depth. The character building they did for this game was obviously top-notch. Your companions' stories have depth! Each companion has their own specific quests (nothing new there), but I do like that BioWare took it a step further and made them much more interesting. There seem to be several waves of companion quests, and I've enjoyed every one. This aspect was definitely a step in the right direction.

- Companion armor. This is purely subjective, but I rather liked being able to equip whichever armor I wanted to on my companions in Origins. Not so in DAII - you must buy specific "Companion armor upgrades" and cannot equip whatever you want on them. If you've played Guild Wars, this is familiar to you.

+ Unique Companion Specializations. As I've unlocked talents/spells in the unique companion specializations, I really do appreciate them. This makes the characters less interchangeable and more fun to have along. OTOH, I noticed some "standard" skill trees missing from certain characters - for example, Merrill cannot learn "Heal."

+ Jokes. There have been some hilarious moments in DAII that I've quite appreciated! There are a couple letters that appear on Hawke's writing desk that should bring a smile to your face, and there is a rather humorous quest of Aveline's that breaks up the serious tone of most of your quests. Merrill also has quite a few funny things to say.

+ Post-game save. This means there will be some DLC in the future if the game does well.

- Inconsistency between the two games. I waited till the end of the game before making a comment like this to give DAII a chance to win me over on it. You may have noticed some changes in the races of DAII, as well as in the characters you used to know. Take, for example, the qunari. DAO's Sten was a big guy from a different culture, but still looked human. The qunari of DAII are horned giants, humanoid but not human. The Elves (DAII "Elvhen") became far more "fey," as my fiance put it, in their appearance. While in DAO, they appeared as smaller humans with some minor racial differences, DAII has further differentiated them. This game is about differences, the tension brought by the boundaries groups have drawn between each other, and this change in the races symbolizes it. However, due to the inconsistency with DAO, it bothered me. You don't just change fundamental things and then pretend that's the way they always were.

- Inconsistent character appearances. Now, by far, the worst of these inconsistencies, were changes to individual characters. While you may remember Isabela as a fiesty redhead in the The Pearl of DAO, in this one, she is quite different. While I liked the new version of her, it was still taking a known character and completely changing her. This already was a sign of the things to come. Zevran reappeared and looked completely different! His face, but for the tattoo, looked like that of a different character. To take a major character and remake his face in DAII annoyed me greatly. This was not the same character at all. [***Spoiler alert*** A certain ex-templar also appeared looking like he got plastic surgery and became addicted to meth. This was not the same character we all knew in DAO. Yes, 7 years passing means some changes, but we're talking crow's feet and NOT a jaw replacement and eye transplant. ***End Spoiler***] In short, I hated this change, and I wish they hadn't done this.

- Bugs. I've encountered a couple annoying bugs. I'm not sure if they're present on other platforms (I'm using PS3).

1) Hawke's arms have frozen in the weapon-holding position when she no longer has weapons equipped. I ran around and zoned, equipped and unequipped, and even had cut-scenes where she looked like she should have been holding weapons. (My fiance repeated, "I'm an airplane!!" and made airplane sounds as I had Hawke run around.) I was curious just how long it would last, and it lasted about an hour before I tried reloading. That didn't work. I had to exit the game and then load my save before the bug corrected itself.

2) There is a key you must find in a certain mansion to unlock a door. Without it, you cannot proceed in the quest, and you are also unable to exit the map. I reloaded several times and turned up every rock looking for the key. I was just about to give up when I did a search online - apparently a specific enemy had it, but you have to kill him LAST and IMMEDIATELY pick up his loot or it disappears. I followed these exact instructions and was able to get the key.

3) Some quests were bugged. The last quarter of the game or so, I ran into many quests in my journal that were not indicated on the map, neither by the general map indicator, nor on the mini-map. I went to the locations and scoured them entirely and could not complete those quests. All this, by the way, happened as I did everything while using the game guide - not much guidance there, I guess. My assumption is that perhaps quests had a certain order, and if you put one off for later, it became unavailable without the journal updating it or removing it.

+ The game ending (I replayed the ending to see the other outcome) was exciting and made your Hawke essential to its outcome. While it wasn't as epic as Origins' ending, it was brutal, full of drama, and while the two opposing sides both did wrong, there wasn't really a completely "good" side: each has its own shortcomings, its own problems, its own shades of gray. This added a layer of complexity to this second installment beyond "doing the right thing."

|||In sum:

I finished the game two days ago. I took my time and did every side quest I could find (that weren't bugged, anyway), putting my game time to about 35 hours.

Ultimately, if you haven't played Dragon Age Origins: Ultimate Edition and are looking to try something with an RPG flair, you may like this game. While it has some shortcomings mechanically and is inconsistent with the first game, DA2's action is fast-paced and impressive. There were also plenty of skills to choose from, even if the skill trees went for flashiness instead of practicality. I'm disappointed that a lot of the details, like different playable races and origin stories, have been abandoned in favor of what appears to be a bid for a more mainstream action-loving audience and that several things that worked in Origins have been left behind for bells and whistles that don't quite make the cut anyway.

It is painfully obvious that the redesigning of the races and characters from DAO was not for the veteran players' benefit, but for the big "general" audience out there EA is hoping to lure in. These mainstream new players won't complain that characters from the first game they didn't play looks completely different, and they won't care if they can only play a human... because they didn't have the pleasure of playing as a City Elf out for vengeance in DAO, for example. For these new players, DA2's offerings might be great, but for the DAO players, all this sequel does is narrow your options.

If you've played DAO and want to have a more positive experience with DA2, go into it cold, and evaluate it on its own merits, without comparison to DAO. I'm sure you'll then find a decent game. If you go in having played DAO several times, hoping for something that stays true to its predecessor, you will likely be disappointed, as I was. As for me, I will not be replaying this game. In fact, I think I'll go put in DAO instead. :)
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32 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lazy and Sloppy Sequel, March 15, 2011
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Dragon Age 2 - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
On its own Dragon Age II is a decent game. Next to its predecessor though, it is a shameful product. It is a slap in the face to the series and gamers in general. Its only redeeming qualities are the aspects it took from Dragon Age Origins and speeding up the combat. Dragon Age II has improved its graphics a little and the gameplay is much faster paced than the original which I personally liked although it's harder to execute strategy with this technique. The story branches quite a bit which helps to keep you interested. The game stays captivating enough that you'll want to see it through to the end. That is about all I can say that is good about Dragon Age II.

Dragon Age II fails in so many ways it's difficult to tell where to start. There is a ridiculous amount of backtracking in this game. In fact, most of the game IS backtracking. You will be restricted to a very limited number of areas throughout the entire game. These areas may change ever so slightly as the game progresses but not in any way that will make you feel like you haven't done this a thousand times before. Dragon Age II also lacks story. In fact, there really isn't a story beyond a sort of documentary style of storytelling of your main character, Hawke. The threats are constantly changing and there is no overall goal or main story arch of any kind which leads me to my next problem: the characters. With no overarching plot/enemy to deal with in the game it makes absolutely no sense for most of your party members to even be following you; especially the ones that tend to dislike your decisions. Throw that on top of the fact that most of your party members are not all that likable. Hawke is a great character but for the most part, the rest of his/her party is terrible You can load a save from the original Dragon Age Origins but it serves little purpose and really changes nothing.

In closing, Dragon Age II was a sloppy, thrown-together mess. This sequel will not bode well for gamers who like a story that serves more purpose and has intriguing characters that they care about which is pretty much the entire Dragon Age fan-base. Even twitchy fingered, action-oriented gamers that this game tried to cater more to will most likely not enjoy this game much due to the lack of environments and the awful amount of backtracking. Dragon Age II is a three star game ONLY because of the branching story and decent combat gameplay which I still feel was done better by its predecessor.

PROS:
-Improved Graphics
-Branching storylines
-Fast paced combat

CONS:
-No main plotline
-Uninteresting party members
-Way too much backtracking
-Only a handful of environments to go to
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good RPG that is quite different from its predecessor, June 1, 2011
By 
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Dragon Age 2 - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
Dragon Age II, the sequel to 2009's epic fantasy RPG Dragon Age: Origins, is a very different game from its predecessor. This unfortunately seems to have led many to judge Dragon Age II very harshly, as is often the case of any "sequel" in any medium. While Dragon Age II doesn't quite reach the heights of its predecessor, it is still a very good game that stands on its own, does a lot of things right, and delivers a very satisfying gaming experience.

Dragon Age II's biggest distinction is its narrative structure. Somewhat experimental within the realm of video game storytelling, the game's story is more episodic and drawn out. The best analogy that I can think of is that Dragon Age II's story much more closely resembles an entire season of a well-written television show, where as its predecessor, Origins, is more like the epic movie. Dragon Age II takes its time and slowly lets everything unfold in a series of acts, rather than present the conflict right off the bat and send you off on an epic journey to confront it. I personally really, really enjoyed Dragon Age II's story and I applaud the writers for taking a risk and trying something new with the medium of video games. If your expectations are to get another story similar to Origins, you will be disappointed. Dragon Age II is simply a different story taking place in the world of Thedas, making it feel much more like a spin off of, rather than a sequel to, the first game. And it works. Dragon Age II's story is loaded with some really great moments that really surprised me, and pleased me both as a gamer and as a lover of a good story.

Within this setting and story, Dragon Age II delivers a really solid experience that makes a lot of improvements from the original. You play the role of Hawke, the central character of the story, and guide him/her from being a desperate Ferelden refugee to becoming a legendary figure of Kirkwall, the city that comprises the majority of the game's settings, over a decade-long period of time. The characters who help you achieve this are interesting, humorous, and very well-written into the story, and the fact that Hawke is also a voiced character gives the interactions between the characters extra weight. As you complete quests and rise through the hierarchy of Kirkwall's society, you will engage in battles that feature, in my opinion, a hugely improved combat system. While keeping most of the strategic and tactical nature of the combat from the first game, this game features visceral combat that is much faster, more fluid, and very exciting. The skill trees used to develop your characters are somewhat streamlined and easier to use, yet still give you great control over your party's growth. And lastly, the game looks and sounds absolutely wonderful...a big improvement in that department.

Dragon Age II's biggest weakness is its recycled environments. Many times in the game, you will revisit the same environments, even though they will have different names and your objectives will be different. I am not sure why this is like this, but the only two reasons I can think of are either developer laziness or a product of a rushed schedule due to adherence to a release deadline. Exploration is a key element of every good RPG, and because of this, it is an activity that should never feel stale. Dragon Age II came dangerously close to this point after crossing the 40 hour mark, and I hope this is something they address the next time around, which I'm sure they will.

So while Dragon Age II may not reach the heights of Dragon Age: Origins, it is certainly a really good game in its own right that fans of the original should enjoy if they keep in mind that this is a very different game with a different, almost experimental, way of story telling. It's still much better than a good deal of the RPGs out there, and I feel bad that it will be standing in the shadow of its predecessor for a long time, because it really has its own identity and actually does many things better than its predecessor did. Go into the game with an open mind, and you'll find that there is a lot of excellent content here that will deliver a really enjoyable experience.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's not Origins, but that's ok, April 20, 2011
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Dragon Age 2 - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
Added 5/16/11: Just wanted to add, now that I'm almost done with this that the reused environments are really getting old. Couldn't they have at least moved some of the items inside around a bit? Wow. Really bad. And it wouldn't be so bad if the environments themselves weren't so uninspired and dull. Who art directed this? The wounded coast is just awful. Just bland sand trails, trees that look like palm trees and very little to interact with throughout. Awful. Just lacks any thought or creativity. With game designers competing so heavily for jobs you'd think they would have gotten some touch notch designers. These environments are just bad. And Hightown, Lowton, etc are all very boring. They feel small and empty. There are very few people walking around and very little activity. Overall, the environments are so dull it makes it hard to find you way around since everything looks the same. There is no "fantasy" feel here. It's all too bright and sunny most of the time, no weather, no dark, moody, foggy environments. The Wounded Coast looks like a beach town. The characters look stupid running around in all that armor. I just imagine they are sweating to death and getting sand in their gear. Absolutely awful art direction--who thought that design looked like it fit into a fantasy world? Huge flaw in my book. I'm still enjoying the game but after I finish I doubt I ever pick it up again.

I got this game on the day it released, but only started playing it about a week and a half ago. I'm about halfway through now and I can easily say that I like this game very much. I look forward to getting home to play it. I think about it when I'm away from it. And I'm curious to see how it will all end up.

Although I enjoy it, I can also understand why others might not. If you're expecting a more tactical game, like Origins was, you might not like this. But I try to enjoy each new game, movie, album, book, etc for what it is. True, if the original formula is messed with too much it's going to be a disappointment. So I guess it's just how you perceive the changes to the original formula. The changes that were made from Origins to 2 were not great enough to ruin it for me or take me completely out of the Dragon Age experience. At the end of day, I'm ok with the changes that were made and I feel that many even make this a stronger game, in some respects, than Origins.

Briefly, here's what I like and a few things that I don't:
1. Graphics: I didn't mind the graphics of Origins, but I really like the art direction in 2. It's a very good looking game for the most part. The reused areas are just plain lazy and some environments, like Sundermont (sp?) are just plain boring and lack detail.
2. Dialogue system: I actually like this better than Origins and I like that your character is voiced.
3. Combat: I like the fast-paced feel of the combat but I do miss the strategy from Origins. Some of the moves are over the top, but it's fun, really.
4. Soundtrack: awesome.
5. Armor for companions: I'm not sure why the decision was made to not allow you to change armor for your companions, but I think it was a bad decision.
6. Story: this is probably my only real big complaint as I understand what people mean when they say the story lacks the epic feel of Origins. That's true, for sure. It still has its moments but it does have a lot of holes. And with 8 million little quests going on all at the same time and nothing really tying them all together I got confused about what I was doing and why on some of them. So when it was time to select a "path", make a decision, I was sort of just guessing.

All in all, I'm really enjoying this game. I would have been happy with more Origins but I'm not unhappy with the new direction. Works for me. While I think Bioware took some shortcuts and the game could have benefitted from a longer development cycle, I think they had some good ideas and good intentions, even if they didn't all pay off.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some things improved, some not, March 27, 2011
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Dragon Age 2 - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
I loved Dragon Age: Origins, although I never played Awakenings. Dragon Age 2 is a good game, and it improves upon some things while not living up to others. NOTE: I have almost, but not fully, completed the game

Improvements
~ Better graphics
~ Hawke can talk! - I really like this feature - it makes you feel more like your character is actually a part of the game
~ Conversation icons - help you figure out whether what you are saying is helpful, funny, sarcastic, etc. Useful considering that occasionally in Origins I would pick what I thought was a good option and then get -10 friendship
~ Friendship/Rivalry system - don't need to always sweet-talk your companions to get them to stay with the group, you can do things they don't like and they'll still generally stick around
~ Skills/talents trees - sets everything out nicely so I can figure out how I want to advance
~ Runes, potions, traps, and poisons are created by merchants - now you only have to find the source of ingredients and then go buy unlimited amounts from merchants instead of running around and finding individual plants every time you want to make something
~ Cameos from old Origins characters
~ Item ratings - stars help you know how useful an item is to you
~ Junk category in the inventory - easy to sell all the items that are useless

Downsides
~ Story - not as epic as Origins, everything takes place in and around Kirkwall and you don't get the sense that your character is involved in something as big
~ Companions - I liked Varric and Isabella, but the other companions were only so-so. I missed Alistair!
~ Romance - still there, but I missed the day-to-day romance options from Origins (e.g. kissing the companion whenever you want)
~ Locations - because you're always in Kirkwall, the locations can get a bit repetitive
~ No origin stories
~ Can only play as a human - not an elf or dwarf
~ Companions have set armor - can only upgrade them, not change them
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dragon Age II, April 13, 2011
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Dragon Age 2 - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
Dragon Age II is fun and entertaining. However, it could have been a series of DLCs instead of a second installment due to the lack of a story line that interconnects the three acts. I am happy with the purchase and recommend it to those who played the first for its expansion on lore and faster fight sequences. The additional content that comes with the new game, and through the various other sources, lasts well into the second act. Picking up a new copy of the game is worth not having to constantly switch between bad gear.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible!, April 4, 2011
By 
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Dragon Age 2 - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
I loved Dragon Age: Origins and in my opinion Dragon Age II is every bit as good as Origins and even better in some areas. First and most important is the improved graphics, better and faster combat and a far more stable game as far as framerate/slowdown and freezing issues go. While the story in Origins is a bit more epic and focused DA2 still has an excellent story, the only real complaint that I have with the game is the one that many others have already mentioned, the reused dungeons do get old. However other than the story and more varied locations in Origins I feel like DA2 is better than or equal to Origins in every way. I loved the characters from both games equally but as i've already stated I found the graphics and combat in DA2 to be far superior to Origins. I want to end by giving the boss battles in DA2 a special mention as they are also far better than any in Origins, in fact the final boss fight of DA2 is easily one of my most favorite boss fights of all time, it is awesomley epic and worth the price of admission alone. I'm already working on my 2nd playthrough and can't wait for the DLC, bring it on!
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Dragon Age 2 - Playstation 3
Dragon Age 2 - Playstation 3 by Electronic Arts (PlayStation 3)
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