Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Now that I'm done...
...with Dragon Age II, let me just say: wow. When I left off in my review of Act I, I was unsure how I really felt about it. I was still getting used to the vastly different gameplay, but more importantly, the story hadn't quite gelled yet. Well, it didn't take long in Act II before it clicked- or I clicked, or whatever- and it really started to heat up. The story grew and grew and wrapped around itself, hurtling towards a denouement that was nothing less than...sorry, I have to use the word- epic.
Dragon Age II doesn't have the scope of Origins in terms of geography; where previously you could travel around an entire country (Ferelden), now you're limited to the sprawling city of Kirkwall and a couple of outlying environs. What it lacks in scenery, however, it more than makes for in terms of scope of story. I found this tale of politics and religion to be ultimately more intriguing, mature, dark, and deep than the "stop the Blight" tale of my Grey Warden in Origins. I can't help but feel that huge complaints in that department must come from players who haven't finished yet, or are prefer action to story and blah blah blah.
While early on DA 2 feels like little more than a bunch of random sidequests, they nearly all weave together by the time the tale ends. What you do in Act I- sometimes even the most trivial of decisions- will have repercussions later on, for better or for worse.
As I knew I would, I dug nearly all of my companions- some of them, however, I didn't bother to get to know this time around. By the time it was over, I ended up killing a couple of them and romancing a couple of others. They're constantly surprising, whether it's their reaction to something you say or do, or their in-game actions. The friendships, when you acquire them, are ultimately more satisfying than those in Origins- here, you can't necessarily kiss ass and give presents to get someone to like you. You can't please everyone all the time, and for various reasons and in various ways, you can lose most of them. Permanently.
Likewise, my Hawke became fleshed out as the story went on, as she evolved into the Champion of Kirkwall. The Hawke family drama never ends, and on several occasions...well, let's just say I had to bust out a "There's just something in my eye." as my vision got all water-blurry.
All of this is to say: I loved it.
This doesn't mean it's a game without faults, because it certainly isn't. Personally, I never experienced graphic and texture glitches, but I've seen plenty of complaints about them. PC players are largely unhappy that the interface has been console-ized. The re-used environments smack of "rush job" and are disheartening. It's one thing to be stuck in Kirkwall and its environs, but it's another when every house in Kirkwall has the same interior and the bandit cave looks just like the cave inhabited by Shades. It's just...you know, something you have to deal with, and the story, to me, more than makes up for these sorts of quibbles.
As I've noted, the combat is certainly more button-mashing than tactical. That's going to matter to you, or it's not, depending on your own preferences as a player. A profound statement, I know! Warrior and rogue are a hell of a lot of fun, and while I miss the sweet animated finishing moves of Origins, there are ample "Did you just see that?" moments and some incredibly difficult battles. One huge fight in particular...good gravy. When BioWare themselves say "Heaven forfend you try this on Nightmare difficulty", you know it's a toughie.
And as I've also noted, the inventory system is a bit caca, but you get used to it. It does have improvements over its predecessor, though, like the fact that there aren't potion sizes anymore. You get a "lyrium potion" and that's that. Ordering runes and potions from your home is a nice, convenient touch as well.
Right before the credits roll, there's one small, seemingly throwaway line that hints at what's been going on in Thedas in the decade since Origins began...and that something is coming. For all the "Hey, where's my Grey Warden?" shock when the protagonist of Dragon Age II was announced...well, we should have known that this is all some big master plan on the part of developers and that the stories of The Hero of Ferelden and The Champion of Kirkwall are far more intertwined than we could have imagined. All I know for sure is that my drooling for Dragon Age III has already begun.
BEWARE: SPOILER DISCUSSION IN THE COMMENTS. Like, full-blown, game over, say whatever you want, everything is revealed spoilers. You've been warned!!