Customer Reviews: Dragon Age 2 - PC
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on March 19, 2011
For the 'TLDR' crowd DA2 isn't a *bad* game per se, it's just very rushed and often schizophrenic about what kind of game it wants to be. Fans of Origins in particular will want to be wary, but even newcomers should give the demo a try and probably wait for it to go on sale. It likely won't take longer than a month or two, so you won't have to wait long.

For anyone else wanting a bit more detail...

Many, many fans of Dragon Age: Origins have lamented that a more appropriate title for it's divisive sequel would be 'Mass Dragon Effect 2.' I disagree, as aside from the new conversation wheel the two have very little in common. Dragon Age 2 is, in many ways, far more similar to another title of Bioware's: the often forgotten Jade Empire.

Like Jade Empire, DA2 is a console-focused RPG with much of the choices stripped out, shallow party members you don't interact with much, a set protagonist with a set background, an almost completely linear story, and features a combat system with a bent towards action RPGs/button mashers.

Unlike Jade Empire, DA2 is the sequel to a game that was the opposite of all of that and doesn't have the strong overarching story, pivotal decision moment, and detailed art design of Jade Empire to back it up.

I've spent a significant amount of time with DA2 across two different playthroughs in an attempt to be fair and try to understand some of the changes. My first game was as a DPS warrior on Nightmare, I finished the game with all the non-fetch quest (we'll get to that soon) side quests done in 32 hours. My second playthrough was as a mage with healer leanings due to my loathing of a certain party member on Normal, also with all of the quests done, in 22 hours. Act 3 of the second run was incredibly hard for me to get through, not because of difficulty but due to my own boredom. I have no urge whatsoever to replay the game anytime soon. That should speak for itself.

The absolute worst part of DA2 is how it shows the sign of a rushed development in nearly every facet. Music and codex entries from DA:O and it's DLC have been reused, environments and locations are reused over and over and over again, environments in general are nearly barren and devoid of things to interact with, and there is a surprising amount of purely filler fetch quests to try and pad the amount of content.

In terms of locations, I felt like I spent 80% of the time in Kirkwall, 10% of the time in Reused Dungeon X (Beach Dungeon/Cave Dungeon/Sewer Dungeon/Catacomb Dungeon), 1% of the time in the Deep Roads (much of which was reused for the Catacomb Dungeon), and 9% of the time staring at loading screens as I fast traveled between Kirkwall and Reused Dungeon X. The reused dungeons are a huge problem, anyone that is trying to dismiss it as a minor fault is underplaying it. You *will* get utterly sick of seeing the Wounded Coast and Sundermount tilesets to the point you simply don't want to play anymore. Nearly every side quest in the game takes place in these reused locations, and the game is almost entirely made up *of* side quests. They were reused so overtly that the map wasn't even edited, you'll see areas where the dungeon continues but you can't actually access due to suspiciously placed rocks or non-interactive doors or -- and I am not exaggerating -- INVISIBLE WALLS. When Hawke ran uselessly against an invisible wall in one of the repeated areas I exited the game in disgust and didn't come back to it until a few days later. It really is that bad.

Kirkwall isn't much better, and even has one of it's districts reused for a tileset, as it is nearly barren. Streets and important buildings are practically empty with only motionless non-interactive, largely silent NPCs loitering about amongst the occasional vendor or the rare quest NPC. For the ones that do speak when you walk by, they are shockingly repetitive. DA2 takes place over a span of 10 years, and yet the loitering crowds barely change. There will always be that one NPC in the Keep that bemoans not being able to see the Viscount for the entire game, even after a certain event in Act 2 that makes that line completely bizarre. You will quickly memorize who says what when you walk by them. This wouldn't be so bad if Kirkwall was just one of several major locations you spent the game in, like DA:O's Denerim, but this is literally the ONLY major location. At night the streets are even emptier and you will instead find the occasional spawn of enemy thugs/mercs instead, another blatant sign of being rushed.

Remember back to when you played Mass Effect 1 and how sick you were of the reused cave/bunker map for it's side quests. Now imagine if the game was gutted of it's major quest hubs and you were forced to stay on the Citadel the entire game, complete with loading screens for the different districts instead of elevators, and fast traveled to those caves and bunkers for every single side quest. You now have a pretty good idea of what DA2 is like.

DA2's main plot is a very, very slow starter that depends on side quests for almost all of Act 1 and 2 to fill it out. By the time it picks up at the end of Act 2 it's too late, and you're stumbling your way to the ending and realizing just how utterly linear the game is with a sense of "That's it?!" before you know it. The side quests themselves have the occasional high point, but for the most part they're quite simplified compared to DA:O with superficial choices at best and at worst they're little more than MMO fetch quests. This is largely due to the dialogue wheel and voiced protagonist, it's simply impossible to have the amount of ways DA:O had to solve quests with all the dialogue recorded for both a male and female Hawke. Unfortunately this means there is often only two (blatantly good or naive vs blatantly evil or practical) solutions for each quest, with the rare third option usually depending on what companions you've brought along. Even those third options can be deceptive and can result in one of the two good/bad results anyway. The consequences for these decisions have also been almost completely removed, especially in regards to how party members react. There is exactly one side quest that causes companions to turn on you (it's forced, nothing you say/no amount of friendship can stop it from happening, and it's only temporary), one companion quest that can result in that companion never coming back, and two forced main story events that can result in losing a companion each (one of which requires the prior companion coming back only to be sent away again). This is a far cry from how DA:O handled quest decisions and companion reactions. Now the worst that can happen is you'll earn Rival points if you do something completely against what that companion stands for. Lovely.

Your character in general is so much worse than DA:O as well. Dialogue suffers from the change to the wheel, often having "What? Why did Hawke say THAT?" moments even with the new 'emotion' icons. One of the few interesting additions to DA2 was the way Hawke's non-wheel lines would change in tone depending on what you've chosen before, so a snarky Hawke would be more inclined to be flippant or an aggressive/jerk Hawke would be more likely to behave as a jerk when you're not picking the lines yourself. This is hampered by the fact that Hawke is, in general, a complete jerk. The snarky "funny" lines tend to not be funny at all and even if you pick the "nice/peaceful" option all the time every time, Hawke will still spout incredibly inane/idiotic things when you're not in control. And that's the thing about Hawke, you're never in control. You're given a backstory right at the start, with a family you're supposed to care about, but nothing tangible in game to *make* you care about Hawke's personal story. So something tragic happens to Hawke's family member and one of two things happens: A.) Hawke will say something absurdly stupid (this is easily seen in the demo at a certain point, but it isn't the only time) causing a disconnect between the player and their character or B.) Hawke reacts emotionally but the player doesn't care due to the lack of development and is, again, disconnected. Hawke is never YOUR Hawke the way Shepard became YOUR Shepard in Mass Effect, instead it's on level with Jade Empire foisting Dawn Star on you as your best friend at the beginning. The character is incredibly bland and you never form any kind of emotional attachment to her, but you can never actually make her leave no matter how much of a jerk you are. She's just kind of *there.* So when Surprising Plot Revelation Y comes around you simply shrug while your character reacts much less ambivalently.

The companions fair slightly better than Hawke/Hawke's family does, but they're well below DA:O and Mass Effect standards. With the exception of Varric, they're stereotypes that are given little to no depth or just poorly written in general. Isabela is the stereotypical flirty hot video game chick that provides innuendo in banter, her only development (aside from her bust line from DA:O to DA2) is whether she's only slightly selfish or morally bankrupt selfish. Merril is supposed to be similar to Tali as the geeky/adorable character, but comes off as incredibly childish and frankly stupid. This is especially true in her companion quest, which was so obviously a bad idea with no real way to change the ending short of not accepting the quest that it's frustrating; the end to her quest also highlights just how bad the dialogue wheel's summary misrepresents what you actually say in an awful two-for-one representation of what's wrong with DA2. Fenris is a Broody Elf(tm) that stays a Broody Elf(tm) and seems to be inspired by the worst of anime and the Twilight series mushed together into a video game character, though his storyline at least had some promise before it's abrupt ending. Anders loses all of his often bizarre cheer from DA:Awakening and becomes an angry, ranty, obsessive plot device. Aveline is the stereotypical paragon/Knight character, and is as inoffensive but uninteresting as Jacob ("the priiiiiiiiize" romance aside) was from Mass Effect 2.

There simply isn't a character as interesting as Alistair or Morrigan or Shale or Leliana in DA2, and they never develop as much either. This is especially disappointing because Hawke has known these characters for 10 *years* by the end of the game vs your Warden traveling with the original crew for a single year.

Much has been made of the combat, and I can really only nod my head in agreement to a point. Nightmare is genuinely hard, but it's hard for the wrong reasons. The game has been balanced around the console gameplay of "Push the A button and Awesome happens!" leaving you with little room for party makeup. You *must* take Aveline as she is the only tank companion or make Hawke a tank as the 2-hander tanking that worked in Hard won't cut it. You *must* take Anders as he is the only companion that has heal spells or make Hawke a healer mage. With Anders this forces you down a certain story path in Act 3, leaving one of the few choices in the game as a non-choice. In DA:O I could have Alistair or Shale or even Dog tank and I could have Wynne or spec Morrigan to heal. I wasn't forced to make my character a tank/healer or take a character I hated and forced to make a plot decision due to the difficulty level I was playing on. This is because the game is balanced around having NO tank and NO healer and simply popping potions.

This is also the reason why there is no overhead camera or freeform camera, making the placement of AoEs with friendly fire on utterly frustrating. This is the reason why enemies come in magical, teleporting waves every fight, so console players won't get overwhelmed and be forced to swap to a character other than Hawke whilst Nightmare players have a group of enemies randomly spawn onto their mage and gib him. This is the reason why auto attack is borked (watch your selected melee character get knocked back or knock back whoever they were attacking and then stand there stupidly until you tell them to attack again), as auto attack was completely left out on the consoles. This is the reason why Hold Position is now a party wide toggle, so you can't individually tell your range not to move while allowing your melee to pursue. And so on and so on. On Casual and Normal the game is so easy they may as well just present a "Skip Combat?" option at the beginning of each encounter and simply give you the xp/loot.

I could write pages more to express my disappoint and where DA2 went wrong. The change in art style is irksome, as Darkspawn now look like Skeletor wannabes and Elves are hunchbacked skeletons with anime-huge eyes and weapons are reaching Final Fantasy levels of ridiculousness. Companion armor being locked serves no purpose as it's not simplified, you still need to swap out belts/amulets/rings/some weapons, it was solely to cut down on the number of models they had to make for the armor. The friendship/rivalry system is frustrating due to it's limitations. The story was especially disappointing, but it's hard to get into why it's so disappointing without giving out spoilers. In the end if you really like RPGs and in particular really like Bioware RPGs, you'll find something to like. It's just a matter of how much it's worth to you and how long you're willing to wait to play it. Myself, I wish I had waited for the inevitable Ultimate Edition to go on sale for $10 or so. Bioware games were amongst the few games I'd be willing to pay $60 for and pre-order, but that's no longer the case.

DRM note - There has been a lot of bickering and confusion over what, exactly, DA2 comes with. Some claim that SecuROM was used and installed, others say it only used the Release Control functionality and left behind inert files. Suffice to say, if DRM is a huge concern do some research and read through the thread on the Bioware Social forums. Mine didn't install anything extra on my PC before I completely uninstalled the game, but outside of that I have no idea.
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on March 9, 2011
EDITED--I've edited this review, giving the game 3 stars instead of 2. Having played the game numerous times now I've started to find some of that old Origins charm tucked away inside Dragon Age 2. Still not a great game, but now better than 2 stars to me.

I should say that I love Dragon Age:Origins. I put hundreds of hours into it, playing all 6 origin stories, trying every specialization, experiencing every romance, making all the different choices available, etc. The strongest points of Origins were it's immense customization options, intriguing and deep characters, in-depth conversation system, and moral choices that effected the game.

Dragon Age 2 has taken away much of the character customization in favor of focusing on a specific figure, Hawke, much like Shepard in the Mass Effect series. This makes for a much more detached feeling towards your character than in Origins where you could make them anyone you wanted them to be. And since the Hawke character is much more like Shepard he or she is voiced, whereas your character in Origins was not. Some praise this decision and felt that a silent protagonist was jarring or unappealing. I did not feel that way. I feel like the silent protagonist adds depth to the role playing aspect as you can imagine your own voice for the character. You are, after all, playing the role. I also felt that the voices for both the male and female Hawkes were quite lacking in personality and range, much like the male Shepard's voice actor. As such, I never felt like I was this person, more like I was just moving them around.

The companion characters this time around are more of a mixed bag than in Origins. In Origins I only felt that Oghren was lacking depth while everyone else had depth in spades. In DA2 only a a few of your companions truly have depth.
-Varric, the game's narrator in addition to companion, has real depth and is an interesting character. I think he had more of the writing team's focus than the other companions. Probably rightfully so since he plays two roles in the game.
-Bethany, your sister, is as bland as can be. She utterly lacks personality.
-Carver, your brother, is more interesting but doesn't really have much depth. Where Bethany is supportive and loving, Carver is essentially your rival, questioning many of your decisions. But he mostly comes off as annoying.
-Merrill, a young elf, is interesting most of the time and has some great banter, but she is mostly one-dimensional. I expect she will be a popular character though, simply for the fact that she is a love interest and fantasy fanboys seem to drool over elf women.
-Anders, making a return from Dragon Age:Origins:Awakening, should have been more interesting than he turned out to. He is inhabited by the spirit of justice, Justice(...) but his hatred of the Circle of Magi, the governing body of magic that employs Templars to keep mages under control, has turned Justice in Vengeance. He has to keep Vengeance in check, lest he lose control of his body and power. Unfortunately his plot sort of fizzles out and he's mostly just there for fan service(fangirls like him. A lot.)
-Isabela, the lusty pirate. She is fan service for teenage boys incarnate. She has very large breasts, lots of cleavage, no pants, and no inhibitions. She was in Origins as a minor character whom you can have a threesome with, so it is in keeping with her character. I just really hate her oversexed design. It's so blatantly juvenile that I can't get past it. And she's a duelist, but she fights with throwing daggers. What?
-Aveline, the proud female warrior named after a powerful historic figure. She is a cool character, but not very complex. I wish I liked her more, but the writing just isn't there.
-Fenris, an elf warrior. He's already very popular with the fangirls. A handsome, brooding elf with a dark past? Cue fangirl drooling. But he is honestly pretty interesting. Unfortunately his story sort of fizzles out like Anders'.

The conversation system is essentially the Mass Effect conversation wheel with icons added to show intent. I do appreciate the icons since Shepard always ended up saying things that the abbreviated text didn't imply. But the wheel and voiced protagonist compound to give you fewer choices in dialogue. And less is not more in this case. It's just less.

The moral choices presented in DA2 are much less thought provoking than in Origins. And they really have very little impact. At least much less than they had in Origins. And unfortunately the story isn't as rich and immersive as Origins' quest to stop the Blight of Ferelden. Since DA2 takes place over 10 years the story is broken into chapters that highlight important moments. Unfortunately it just makes the game feel like a series of short episodes instead of one long journey. And the ending is just abrupt and unsatisfying.

I've left the combat for last. Origins had a focus on strategic combat, implementing a "pause and play" style with an auto-attack feature than enabled your character to keep fighting while you were issuing commands and selecting spells. It made for really great boss battles and dealing with mobs was really fun. Dragon Age 2 made pause and play all but pointless since the combat has been sped up to a frantic pace. And the console versions don't even have the auto-attack feature(even though the developer claimed it was present) so you're left with a button mashing, frantic action game that doesn't even have very fun battles. Since you can just mash the attack button and win most battles, when a hard boss battle ensues you'll be left feeling overwhelmed because they didn't optimize the battles for the button mashing style.

It seems to me that Dragon Age 2 was trying to appeal to the fan base established with Origins while also trying to bring in a new fan base of non-RPG players. In the end they turned out a game that doesn't have much appeal for either.

I'll break it down into pros and cons.

-Looks much better than Origins, graphically
-Offers a new storytelling approach for the genre

-Lackluster story
-Wonky combat
-Less than stellar companions
-Not made for the fan base established by Origins

One last thing. Not to sound like a nut, but many of the reviews out there by seemingly reputable sources seem to be less than unbiased. You need to pay attention to what the reviews say because some of them make mention of features that the game simply doesn't have, such as auto-attack on consoles, and things of that sort. I'm not going to say that these reviews were bought, but many of the websites and publications have ads for this and other EA games all over their site/magazine.
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on March 8, 2011
The original Dragon Age was a true masterpiece that marked gaming history forever. It was an epic cRPG that not only absorbed you into a world of scheming nobles, romantic witches and invading darkspawn but it was also an exercise in morality choices and balancing the clashing personalities of your companions. Following in its success, everyone and their grandmother is waiting to play the sequel (for some reason, the grandmother usually opts for a handsome rogue character). However, the question is this: does the sequel prove worthy of the original?
Well, like an embellished Varric's tale, it seems to be a mix of good-news and bad-news.

In most cRPGs, leveling up involves adding points to strength, constitution, dexterity, intelligence etc - which, in turn, have an effect on health points, dialogue options, defending ability and damage dealt. By reading the manual you know what affects what, however, in most games, you cannot readily see those effects as you level up. Not so with DAO2. Every point added to an attribute will increase the derived statistics on the same screen.

Your hero, Hawk, lives during the times of the last blight, fleeing Lothering as it is burned to the ground. Your decade-long story is narrated by Varric Tethras, a companion of yours. However, how the story will twist and turn is entirely up to your actions and choices. The story will absorb you completely because it reaches so many bifurcation points that, in the end, it is entirely your personal creation. And, yes there are companions with...benefits here as well;))
I am guessing blood-branding the bridge of one's nose will be the next fashion fad.

In a nutshell: you are not actually playing the promo video but the graphics are beautiful.
The armor and clothes could use some more work in depth and texturing but the environments, the warrior moves and the spells look spectacular (keep in mind that said moves and spells will also start to look familiar after a while, especially since they look much more impressive than the actual damage they inflict - and have to be repeated again and again in every battle).
What I truly missed though was the isometric tactics perspective! The camera does zoom in and out and it pans around but it is no longer possible to get a bird's eye view of the battlefield and plan your attacks accordingly. And this was not the only thing I found missing.

In DAO I favored a dual-wielding warrior, building up both strength and dexterity, equipping him with both Maric's blade and Starfag and giving him all the cool moves of double-yielding. Well, although DAO2 is hardly short in cool moves, it offers less specialization options in order to make warriors and rogues visibly distinct on the battlefield - hence a warrior in DAO2 cannot dual-wield.
Do you find being human in a fantasy game trivial and prefer to play the role of an elf or a dwarf? Sorry, Flemeth did not see that in your cards: EA decreed you can only play a human in DA2 (and I am laying the blame on EA simply because something tells me it was a cost-cutting decision).
Personal preferences aside, the number of abilities and skills has also decreased - and some, like coercion, I outright missed.

What I also missed was real dialogue options. If, like me, you found DAO laconic, you will sure find DA2 almost, well,...illiterate. Sure, your hero now has a voice but did the dialogue options have to consist of such short summary-phrases that give you only the gist of what is to be said? And why did those options have to be presented on a (Mass Effect!?) dialogue wheel with...visual hints on the attitude of the responses available? More often than not, you end up saying a completely different thing than what you intended...
Give some credit to your customers Bioware, we can read!

This is the first thing that hits you actually. Playing, and enjoying, a fantasy cRPG requires immersion - and the graphical interface plays an essential role in this. It was not by mistake that Baldur's Gate had menus designed as if chiseled in stone, whereas Icewind Dale's were as if carved out of dark wood. The interface sets the mood of the game. Now, can someone please explain to me what are ...SciFi (read, Mass Effect!?) menus doing in a medieval fantasy game?
Not only does one expect to find himself in a spaceship whenever the skills-tree or inventory menu is closed, but the in-game information is now displayed in smaller portraits with horizontal bars for health-&-stamina/mana. The portraits have moved from the upper to the lower left side of the screen; however, if opening up the screen for gameplay was the aim, well, they now seem to take up more space than before. Not to mention that they are harder to see.

Watch a gameplay video of the upcoming Dungeon Siege III and Diablo III and try to answer this: can you really tell a difference in the gameplay? Sure, their stories and graphical styles are bound to be somewhat different but action games, hack&slashers and RPGs seem to have merged into a single hybrid-genre of quick cinematic moves, looting, bartering, re-equipping and leveling. And DA2 did not escape this.
Whereas DAO had lots and lots of character, its sequel appears to have clearly favored style. I am sure it tested better on the teenage (console-seasoned) target groups - but I am also sure that said target groups did not include any RPG purists.

EA dropped the ball with the recently released and over-DRMed DAO-Ultimate Edition so, hopefully, they learned a valuable lesson. Going the draconian way of UBISOFT & 2K GAMES only manages to shoot your own sales on the foot. Surprisingly, DA2, although not perfect, sports a reasonable DRM scheme.
The game requires initial activation (add half a star to the overall rating if this is not important to you) and it will re-authenticate every time it is run and it has access to internet connection - but it will not require to do so in order to run. In other words, once activated at installation you can block its internet access and it will run fine. Moreover, it contains neither disc-checks nor any form of SecuROM - at least not according to the official EA/BIOWARE announcements. Let's only hope this customer-friendl(ier) trend holds when the DLCs start rolling out...

Initially I had rated the game at 3.5-stars game - and then rounded my rating up rather than down because of how much I enjoyed the series overall. However, as I progressed I realized that I could not honestly give this game more than 3-stars, pedigree or not.
DA2 is a good-looking game that relies more on its stylish hacking&slashing than any uniqueness of character and on the appeal of forging a personal story rather than following a deeper preset one.

Without any hesitation, I would choose the original game over the sequel. DA2 may not measure up but it is still a fun game on its own, one that will stay with you long after the last blade is swung and the last spell is cast.
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on March 17, 2011
I'm not sure if anyone else shares this opinion, but I just feel that Bioware RPGs are becoming less and less RPGish with time. I still think that NVWN and KOTOR are some of the best RPGs ever made. DAO and Mass Effect are also great games. But it seems that the games are progressively becoming worse with every new installment. Their games are just turning into carbon copies of eachother, simplest example is to look at the characters between ME2 and DAOII. Is there really a difference between Tali and Merril? Its almost same exact storylines but the names are different... to me that just shows laziness.

As far as this game goes, the few things that really bothered me:
1. Why cant it have been set in the same place immediately after the blight? It would have been very interesting to play a game where some sort of power struggle among the survivors to be a central issue, and involving the Wardens... how they could make a DA game without wardens is beyond me.

2. Dont think that there is a map to travel in, or different cities to visit, its ONE city with different quarters that are more or less the same. I felt that I played the same maps OVER AND OVER AND OVER, dungeons are mostly identical and very repetitive down to the foes you face and the location you face them in. I can count on one hand the different types of enemies... 90% of what you kill is spiders, one or two kind of deamons and skeletons, and maybe some humans who ALL dress the same out in the city nights. The game made me feel very clausterphobic, I felt cooped up inside the walls of this one city, with very little variation in scenery. There is no travel or a camp where all your companions can be located. I had to constantly jump from one companion home to another to interact with.

3. Loot was the worst, your companions wear their own armor so that means if you were a warrior, you will vendor 80% of the armor you find and you will never know what it looks like because your companions dont wear it! There was really no quests in the game for any sort of special armor or weapon, I changed my armor a grand total of 3 times during the 38 hours of gametime, it went like this: Dragon armor (same one you get in the first one) to Stone-something or other set then to Champion armor... I vendored everything else that I found. There is no smith in the game, (or none that I found) which is amazing to me that a city that HUGE has no damn shops in it, everything you buy from stalls. So there is absolutely no custom crafting in the game.

4. Characters: They used the same formula of character interaction as the expansion, you cant really interact with your characters other than when you are ALLOWED to interact with them. Most of the time I didn't want to interact because I honestly hated every follower. Their personalities were thin, predictable and uninteresting. There is no Leliana to sing you a sweet song, no Morrigan to break your heart, no Allistair to annoy you, yes, I actually missed Allistair (and I would have had him killed if I had an option in the first game). They also effectively killed the romance aspect of the game, which is a shame but no big loss if they compensated for it with some interesting interactions, in which they did not.

5. The combat was stupidly simplified... I literally activated 4-5 things during combat and had 2 sustained abilities on... THATS IT. Answer this for me please... why cant a warrior duel wield?

6. The ending was completely unmemorable... the Sopranos has a more meaningful ending than this game. Unlike DAO, there was no list of consequences to your actions, so whatever decisions you made in the game, you will just have to guess as to the outcome.

There are many other things that was wrong with this game, Im sure someone here mentioned some of them.

I have no interest in buying any DLC for this game, because no matter how much glitter you put on a piece of crap, its still crap. I don't feel that any DLC will add anything of value to it.

I am so disappointed that its actually upsetting and I wont make the mistake of buying Bioware games on release dates (like I usually do) from now on.
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on March 21, 2011
Most of what is being said in the negative reviews is true. Bioware went from making some of the most epic, interesting, insightful RPGs (Baldur's Gate II, Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, Mass effect, even Jade Empire to a degree) to making a game that emphasized almost nothing but irrelevant combat and semi-interesting side quests. I didn't realize until the end of Act 1, for instance, that a few of the quests were actually "main quests" and the rest were side quests. They all seemed like side quests. I kept waiting for the plot to start and thought I was just being a perfectionist. In fact, being a completionist is probably the only way to get a lot out of the game, as really this is just a series of very-short stories that, when combined, provide a pretty interesting glimpse into a major city in Dragon Age lore.

That said, the lore and side quests do not make up for the relatively boring (although conceptually interesting) companions, the roves of random (seriously, completely random) people trying to kill you in the city, and the fact that identical caverns and houses are used numerous times. It isn't surprising at all that this game came out only about a year and a half after the first was released having now played it. The first was announced in 2004 and released in 2009. Assuming that Dragon Age 2 wasn't started until at least the release of the first game, you'll notice a huge difference in amount of time put into creating each. It shows.

At least on the PC, I do believe combat has mostly improved, and is somewhat more difficult. There are aspects of fighting that can be annoying, such as the new (or modified, at least) "force" component that determines the degree to which your character is staggered after being attacked, or when you try to make your character move and he does not. Given that this is an RPG that is based on a game that is primarily story- and character-based, however, it is hard to feel that improved combat is worth such a drop in overall quality of the game.

As much as I love literally every other Bioware game that I've played (or spin off from Obsidian), I am having a hard time convincing myself this is a game worth recommending to others. If you do play, however, be sure to play all of the side quests. They are certainly more interesting than the main plot (as they call it).
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on March 8, 2011
I have been a fan of Bioware since I played Knights of the Old Republic. For years, it looked as if this company could do no wrong. Every title seemed to be lavished with the love that its creators bestowed upon it.

Enter Dragon Age II...

Wow, what a mess. Essentially, Bioware has spit on the faces of the PC crowd with this simplified, clunky and rushed release. It's a console game, nothing more. It's bad by typical gaming standards, and horrible by Bioware standards. I'm sorry, but I've come to expect more from them. Their long track record of stellar releases was broken here.

The story is disjointed. The combat is mind numbing and the zones are repetitive.

The whole thing seems to have been done by an EA focus group. And, given Bioware's track record with this and the issues on Old Republic, I'm beginning to wonder if that's not indeed the case.

I'm afraid they've sold their soul to EA, and now we're starting to see the fruits of that decision. This does not bode well for the Dragon Age franchise, nor the Old Republic franchise. The things that made Bioware great in the past -- their storytelling, the depth of their games, new innovations -- all take a backseat to carting out a product that can cash in on a franchise base. All the while screwing over the very gamers that made them popular in the first place.

I wouldn't say never to get it, but $60 for this game is outrageously overpriced. I would spend $19.99 for it down the road, when it's on sale somewhere. It's worth that, but not a penny more.

EDIT -- I misclicked on my overall review with a 1 star. It is certainly not that, but I think 2 stars is fair, given the way the game was titled "Dragon Age 2," when it's really not that. It's not a true sequel. 2 stars would signify some redeeming value for fans of the series, and I think it may appeal to certain fans. Just not to me.
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on March 22, 2011
There are plenty of other, great reviews on this game already so I'll just do a quick summery of what's good and bad about this game in my opinion:


- Makes for a decent Action RPG


- Simplifies the game down to the bare-bones of what makes an RPG an RPG. The companions, storyline, spells, equipment, and quests have been dumbed down to a point that is almost insulting.

- Ignores the original DA almost completely.

- Feels cheap, rushed and unfinished. There are very few moments in the game that make you think "Wow, this is the reason I love Bioware!" The sweeping worlds, memorable characters and epic quests that were found in their past games remain there, as they are no where to be found in Dragon Age II.

- Combat has been reworked to flow very quickly, where the focus is more on slaying enemies en masse instead of more thought out, tactical style that is found in most RPGs. Area of Effect spells only have friendly-fire when playing on the hardest difficulty so if you want to launch a fireball at your warrior, go for it.

- No interest in the outcome since there is no real storyline. You are ushered from one quest to another but they all feel pretty interchangeable and weak. Very little exploration or locations make the constant repetition of maps painfully apparent.

Think of this game as the Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance of the Dragon Age world. If you like mindless combat, then you will probably find some value in this game. However, if you are wanting something meatier, I would suggest moving on to something else.
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on October 1, 2011
I was a little nervous about buying this game based on the bad reviews I had seen from so many people, but I'm glad I ended up buying it. Like other reviews have said, there are many features in this game that are better than the original Dragon Age, and there are some things that are worse:

What's better:
+Combat (it's faster, more visually impressive, and overall a lot more fun)
+Dialogue (I enjoyed having the main character actually speak as opposed to remaining silent in the original game)
+Talent trees (much better system imo)
+Player choice has a much bigger impact in this game - your choices very often impact how the rest of the game plays out, which is interesting to see

What's worse:
-Storyline (now it's not as bad as so many reviews make it out to be, it's actually good, but not quite as good as the original game. It doesn't have the same epic feel that the original game did)
-Relationships with characters (one of my favorite parts of the original Dragon Age was the camp where you could talk to all of your companions and build relationships with them. You don't really feel the same connectedness with your characters in Dragon Age II)
-Music (I'm really big on music when it comes to video games, and I thought the music soundtrack in the original Dragon Age was amazing - I can even play many of the songs in my head. The music in this game though is completely immemorable)

Overall it feels like they improved most of the technical aspects of the game but lacked in some of the elements of the original game which made it so much fun. However I still really enjoyed this game - not quite as much as the original - and I think it's worth buying especially if you catch it on sale. I hope this review helps!
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on March 25, 2011
It's really odd when there is a mini-map in the upper right corner of my screen showing me the layout of a cave or dungeon or landscape, and I can't enter areas that seem completely open on that map. Say, now that you mention it, that map looks very familiar! Oh yes, I've seen it twice before in the last hour. I've been here before... no, it's supposed to be a DIFFERENT area, it just has the exact same layout, except certain areas that I could enter before are now blocked by... a doorway that just doesn't open. Yet the mini-map still shows that those areas are there!

Kind of takes away from the whole immersion thing, doesn't it?

This game is fun to play in the same way that the last Star Trek movie was fun to watch. It is pretty, but lacking any of the depth that made the original something really special.

The whole thing feels less like a good RPG and much more like a console port. If you're more into action than storytelling and role playing, then you will enjoy this game. Unfortunately, I prefer the latter. Be warned, the settings, story, characters, and gameplay are much, much less epic than in the original. The interface, level up options, and dialogue trees feel dumbed down. As others have said, the dialogue wheel and lack of character customization feel much less like an RPG than they did previously, and not being able to outfit my NPC companion armor is a HUGE letdown.

As far as bugs go, I found one side-quest that was impossible to complete based on certain choices. There were some bad graphic glitches that required me to download a beta driver for my video card, but the new driver did fix most of the issues. Still, there are a few oddities with a character standing next to a door or a wall and part of their body is invisible ('swallowed' by the wall).

Unlike the first title, I won't be buying any DLC for this one. Nothing I played here left me wanting for much more of the same. I suggest others who feel the same way to do the same. Maybe Bioware will get the message. If they really wanted to make another epic RPG but time was a problem, I would have been happy to wait another 6 months or a year to get one. If they simply want to make more games for the folks who like action-only console titles, that's fine, but I won't be buying those titles. I'm nearly 38 years old, and have been playing RPGs since the days of the SSI Gold Box series. It's sad when those feel more epic than a new title like this.
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on March 9, 2011
This would be a decent stand alone game in the Dragon Age universe but by naming Dragon Age 2 as a direct sequel to Dragon Age 1, Bioware set expectations that core game play would remain mostly unchanged but now on normal difficulty, we have Dynasty Warriors, no need or ability to strategize due to design choices such as if being able to right click or spam 1-3 abilities through almost all combat encounters and lack of isometric view.

Story: I'm somewhere between 10 and 20 hours in and I still don't know what its about. From my online searching, it seems to be something about the chantry vs mages or something. Its definitely not clear in the game what the main point is. There isn't an identifiable "main boss" at over 10 hours in. Very shallow character development for the most part.

Graphics: RPGs aren't known for their amazing graphics but no complaints from me.

Sound: Lack of inflection and emotion and Voice Acting making me hit Esc through most of the conversations.

Combat: Its fun but unfulfilling. No room for strategy as mentioned earlier. Suffice to say 1 fire aoe spell can get you through 90% of the game. Since all mana and health are restored as soon as combat ends, no need to conserve or anything.

RPG elements: No non-combat skills, no creative ways to resolve conflicts for the most part. Inventory system is severely crippled even worse than Mass Effect 2. Combat and game statistics are severely simplified and unclear as to how exactly they work, can't see the mechanics like in previous Bioware rpgs. Mostly just flying damage numbers if that option is enabled.

Its a good game by itself but by declaring it as the sequel to one of the best modern rpgs, it set expectations. So far it has yet to exceed or meet any of mine except for graphics which isn't even a big deal for rpgs anyhow.

If I had to say just 1 thing about the game it would be: generic

Edit: I finished it, it does get better as it get on mostly Act 3. It does save the game from mediocrity but its not a spectacular game by any means. It lacks a central thread like the first one did but I suppose its a matter of taste. Its more akin to the slice of life genre than an epic. The writing it pretty good for what it is but there's less options to solve encounters than Mass Effect 2. The Voice Acting can be good at times. As a result I would change my score to a 3.5 but rounding down as a 4 would imply a great game with some flaws and 5 being perfect and 3 being good but nothing special.
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