Well folks, after about 25 hours of gameplay I have finished my first playthrough of Dragon Age 2. After being thoroughly impressed with the demo I was crazy excited to finally sit down and play the sequel to what has since become of my favorite games of all time. Was I a tad nervous? Of course, but the overwhelmingly positive reviews of Bioware’s other big sequel – Mass Effect 2 – left me feeling more optimistic than anything else as I started the game.
Perhaps that was a mistake.
Not the kind of mistake that makes me wish I hadn’t played it – not at all – but the kind of mistake that makes me think I was a little blinded by expectations.
Dragon Age 2 is a great game. It really is. It improved on some of the weaker aspects of Origins like endless quests in never-ending areas (I’m looking at you Orzammar) and clunky controls and replaced them with (mostly) fresh and crisp surrounding and gameplay mechanics that shine on the 360. Playing as a mage in Origins could be little boring; I’d find myself just staring blankly as the Hero of Ferelden would pew pew her way through battles. Hawke the mage, however, was every bit the badass she deserved to be. I never, ever got sick of watching her slam her staff into the ground to send an enemy reeling. I also adore the re-design of the Qunari:There is no arguing that Dragon Age 2 looks and feels better than its predecessor but does that make it a superior game?
For me, the biggest draw of Dragon Age Origins was the story. I completely fell in love with the lore of the world and the lives of characters I met. Even the companions that I didn’t spend too much time with like Sten and Zevran managed to endear themselves to me in the quiet moments of camp. Although it took me a few playthroughs before I truly grasped the depth of everything that was happening in Ferelden it only made me care about the place far more than I ever would have expected.
When all was said and done within Kirkwall I cannot say I felt the same, which is especially interesting considering you spend a decade within the city. This isn’t to suggest that I was apathetic to the problems facing me and the city, only that I never really got the feeling that the world around Hawke was really being influenced by her presence. In Orgins, you greatly impacted the lives of almost everyone you met while Dragon Age 2 kind of goes out with a whimper. It’s set up nicely for a sequel but I found the ending of the game to be very sudden especially considering that several key issues didn’t really seem to resolve themselves. Again, you could chalk that up to the preparation for Dragon Age 3 but I was really disappointed with how certain circumstances – including one very large one from Origins – never played out or hell, were even really mentioned. Considering the scale of your actions in the first game, I really expected the second to touch on it far more than it did.
That being said, Dragon Age 2 is littered with little references and cameos from the first game and I adored every single one of them. From a bartender telling me about the declining pigeon population in Ferelden to Anders talking about Ser Pounce-a-Lot and Merrill’s desire to mend the Eluvain, so many cool moments are dependent upon the player having completed Origins and Awakening before this. Which is really awesome but still leaves me scratching my head as to why larger events in the previous games were hardly referenced or brought up at all.
While I miss some aspects of the above overall I think the changes work well for the sequel and help the player stay focused on the actual game itself rather than getting caught up in the more menial tasks listed above.
To sum it up, Dragon Age 2 is a great game. It really is. I’m planning on starting my second playthrough as soon as I get this posted but I do feel that it was a step back from Origins; no amount of improved graphics and mechanics can make up for a weaker story.