Dragon Age IIESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Game Save Importing
Dragon Age: Origins is an amazing title that impressed, captivated and entertained many gamers upon its release and I happened to be one of them gamers. Dragon Age II is a title I eagerly anticipated, being a fan of RPGs and the series in general, and I could only count down the days until it was in my hands. The time has now come to embark on a new journey within the realms of Dragon Age.
Dragon Age II is a good looking game with detailed characters, monsters and environments for players to explore. However, Dragon Age: Origins was also a decent looking title and one would assume the developers built on this when creating the sequel. In the end the graphics for Dragon Age II, for the most part, are similar to the first title with major improvements in the level of detail, most noticeable with the characters.
Character generation is typical with choices of sex, facial features (eyes, hair, nose, lips, chin, etc.) and class. There are three available classes that include: Warrior, Mage and Rogue; this may not seem like a whole lot but each class has its own set of spells/talents that they can learn to create a more specialized class. Each of these choices will obviously determine how your character looks with a bulking warrior, lithe mage and athletic rogue. Class choice for some reason even determines the height of your character, which I found a bit odd.
Although the graphics did not advance much from the previous installment, the overall presentation is solid and looks amazing in high definition. Yet, typically with so much attention put toward improving the quality of games when it comes to sequels, it is surprising to find that Dragon Age II did not make a significant jump.
Dragon Age II boasts an experienced voice cast and individually the voices for each of the characters are well done. However, the voice cast suffers from lack of overall chemistry between the main character and his/her companions. Varric is by far the best acted character, which seems fitting since he is a narrator of sorts for the story and is very charismatic throughout the narrative and within the gameplay.
The music composition of Dragon Age II brings back Inon Zur who was also the composer for Dragon Age: Origins. Inon Zur may not be well known to gamers, but he has worked on very well known titles for the past 10 years such as Baldur’s Gate II: Throne of Bhaal, Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, Crysis, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. With such an extensive resume of game music composition expectations are often set high and Inon Zur sets that bar even higher with a wonderful composition and emotionally compelling soundtrack to set the mood, be it in battle or romance. Music takes a huge role in evoking emotions and is sometimes overlooked, but not in the case of Dragon Age II where the powerful music shines through from start to finish.
Dragon Age II continues the story from Dragon Age: Origins with a slight overlap of the two stories at the beginning. The bulk of the story takes place on another continent in an area called the Free Marches with the city of Kirkwall being the home to your character, Hawke. With Hawke you pick gender and the class of your choice, be it Warrior, Rogue or Mage. You will also be able to spend some time customizing the look of your character, or you can go with the stock appearance.
The story is told over a number of years with one of your companions, Varric, being interrogated by a woman from the Chantry. She wants to know more details about the “Champion,” from his/her humble beginnings as a refugee leading up to becoming the Champion and beyond. As Varric tells the story the game returns to gameplay where you take control of your destiny, and roughly every three years or after each important plot point the narrative portion of the game returns to Varric revealing a bit more about the Champion's story. Not only does Varric uncover details about the Champion’s story, information about what happened in the previous Dragon Age will be revealed through back story provided by the developers, or through what you did in Dragon Age Origins if you use the imported game save. The import feature is nice to have, keeping the story throughout your Dragon Age campaigns consistent from one game to the next.
The storyline for Dragon Age II is full of a variety of quests where you aid your companions and citizens through side-quests and sections that make up the main quest. The Champion has many goals to achieve such as saving her family, getting her family's home returned and becoming rich and famous. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a major goal or even a story arc to get you caught up in the game on an emotional level. For example, in Dragon Age: Origins the major story arc/goal is to defeat the blight by battling the Archdemon and defeating it in battle. Completing Dragon Age II will reveal something about why this feature, typically found in traditional RPGs, was absent from this title. However, this absence makes Dragon Age II more of a segway title into a third Dragon Age, rather than standing alone as its own story like Dragon Age: Origins did.
The quests are enjoyable though and the stories told through the quests are well written, be it from a comical standpoint or something more serious such as a serial killer prowling the streets. Although the quests are plentiful and well written the areas these quests take place at, from caverns, ocean side cliffs, warehouses, sewers, mountains and homes within Kirkwall, present repetition using the same exact maps with slight changes. For instance, the only differences between one stock dungeon to the next might be changes to accessible points, such as locked doors, fallen trees or cave-ins barring a passageway. Other than that they are exactly the same. In the end there are way too many recycled areas used in Dragon Age II and a bit more creativity should have been used.
The controls are great to pick up and jump right into the game where all of your basic attacks, spells and talents are accessible with a press of a button, or two buttons at the most to access a secondary menu. To say the controls are simple is a bit of an understatement as these are by far the easiest controls I have ever played in this genre of game, to the point where combat becomes a menial task of button mashing to get through a combat sequence. Even with the difficulty set at higher levels the regular run of the mill combat is lackluster, but changes to a whole other spectrum when you are battling a boss. When battling bosses at higher difficulties the best technique is to pause the game and assign each party member tasks to take down the boss. Otherwise, you will be slaughtered quite easily by jumping right in and letting the AI make choices for you.
The Warrior, Rogue and Mage all have specialties you can build and you select new talents or spells as your character levels. Each class has a variety of specialties for players to choose from, providing attack, buff or some sort of healing ability. Warriors have combat heavy specialties, such as Templars, Berserkers, Warmongers and Vanguards. Rogues on the other hand are quick, deadly and sneaky so specialties lean towards those abilities, with Assassins, Scoundrels and Archers to choose from. Finally, there are Mages who can deal out a lot of damage, heal the party or buff to aid in battle. Mages draw on different spheres of magic such as Spirit, Elemental, Creation and Blood magic. As there are many different specialties it is best to just to go through them and find the ones that suit your style of play, keeping in mind that you will also be able to choose abilities for each of your party members to round out your group.
Dragon Age II is an enjoyable title to play through but the gameplay difficulty yo-yoing at some points, the simplistic control scheme and the repetition of environments really takes a lot away from what could have been a superb role playing game. The storyline is not typical of the traditional RPG style, but is commendable in the attempt to try something new. In the end the story is lacking the central focus that could have made this title a lot more enjoyable, since one of the main points of playing an RPG is through the amazing story that seems almost impossible to complete.
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