Just like with the Mass Effect video game covers… I have no idea who this well-dressed bloke is.
I absolutely adored Dragon Age: Origins when I played it on the PC a few years ago. Actually, it was the first Bioware game I’d ever played. I fell in love with the characters, battle system, and world. I was completely engrossed in it’s stylish storytelling and relationship building. I hadn’t played a game anything like it before, and I fell in love with it. Under normal circumstances, I’d be the first in line for a sequel to one of my favorite games. Gaming Gods know I’ve forked over my hard earned money to play BAD sequels too many times over. For some reason I listened to the fanbase’s concern this time around and refrained from playing it until Steve bought it used from Gamestop. We decided it was time to get up to speed before Inquisition is released later this year.
All I can say is, I’m glad I didn’t buy this game. And I’m glad my friend didn’t pay full price for it. I wouldn’t necessarily come out and say it is a bad game, per se… I mean, I did enjoy the hack-and-slash approach it took to battle. And the leveling system was solid, mainly because it imitated Origins. Despite my boredom or straight out hatred of some of the characters, their banter was edgy and hilarious most of the time. Unfortunately, it is a shallow and rushed game, evident from beginning to end.
I completely agree with the general sentiment that Dragon Age II has no real feeling of accomplishment. Or, you know, plot. The experience is akin to playing about 30-40 hours of side quests. The first act is, quite literally, doing enough side quests to earn 50 gold. I’m being 100% serious here. And it sets the tone for the entire game, as DAII feels like a string of forgettable side quests with no real purpose. Some of the character-specific quests are interesting, I’ll admit.
After you do a bunch of seemingly unrelated quests, BAM! You’re at the end of the game. The grand climax with no climax at all. In fact, the only reason I knew we were at the end of the game was because they did a similar “point of no return” room with one-on-one conversations with each party member, akin to Origins and Mass Effect. We were sort of like, “Wait… we’re at the end of the game already?” It wasn’t “already” as in the game was too short (It is shorter than Origins, but long enough for me) but because there were no significant events that felt remotely close to major end game revelations. I don’t know about you, but when I’m getting to the last couple of hours of a really good game, I can feel it in my bones.
As Dragon Age II is sorely lacking in anything else for me to discuss, and Bioware’s main selling point for me is usually the great cast of characters they write, I’m going to talk about all of the cast members and what I hate about them:
Here’s Bethany. The main character, Hawke’s, sister, and the reason you can’t side with the Templars in the Mages vs. Templars battle if you have any family values whatsoever. Don’t get too attached to her or start relying on her as your healer. The developers figured you didn’t need a third mage, so they take her away from you for the vast majority of the game. I’m convinced it’s because she was one of the only characters I actually liked. And just to be jerks about it, during the 2/3 of the game you don’t have access to her, they kept her image on the character select screen. Jerks.
Here’s Fenris. This game’s version of Zevran, with funky markings and an uncharacteristically deep voice. Most of his dialogue and character background revolves around him whining about his time in servitude and being on the run (even though he’s all settled in Kirkland with his own house and everything. At least Isabela hangs out in the bar). Due to our group dynamics and preferences, we never really used him so I can’t attest to whether he’s useful in battle or not. All I can say is that when he got pissy with me for siding with the Mages and stood against me, I didn’t miss him in the least. Go whine about your crappy life to the Templars. Don’t hold your breath waiting for them to give a crap.
Behold Varric. I know you can’t tell he’s a dwarf for lack of an abnormally large and/or braided beard, but he is. I wasn’t aware there was such a thing as dwarves without beards until Dragon Age. Anyway, I did actually like him. He’s a sarcastic, opportunistic smart-mouth who also happens to be a bard. As I chose the snarky conversation options 95% of the time, he and I got along smashingly. A lot of his dialogue is funny and interesting. He has a unique equipment trait as well. Unlike the other characters whose weapons you will change out periodically throughout the game, Varric never loses sight of Bianca, his beloved crossbow. His unique skill tree is dedicated to abilities for it/her, and Bianca levels as he does. You can also count on him having something to say every. single. time. you enter The Hanged Man bar.
This is Merrill, another pointy-eared, pointy-nosed elf with facial markings who insists on talking funny and using blood magic. She’s so… mousy and naive, despite the fact that she uses BLOOD MAGIC. As cute as it was when Isabela made fun of her, the whole naivety act got old real quick. “Gee, I don’t know why the Dalish hate and fear me. I’m so sweet and innocent and, look, a rainbow!” … “Because you’re using black magic and trying to use a demon to put a cursed mirror back together, you idiot!”
Ugh. Okay. This is Anders. He’s one of the characters I absolutely loathe. First of all, we were barely into act one and he was assuming our female Hawke had the hots for him. Um, no. Not even close. Seeing as how you’re possessed by a demon and in total denial about it, “He’s not bad! His name is Justice for cryin’ out loud!” Then Anders basically blackmails you into accidentally assisting him with doing something completely off-the-wall and “What the hell were you thinking?!” stupid… All for “Justice.” It’s actually revenge, but it’s how he justifies the dumb, uber-violent thing he does. Which, supposedly, the spirit-demon thing didn’t make him do (Yeah, right). As another complete annoyance, because Bethany is taken away from you as a party member for most of the game and Merrill is a Blood Mage, Anders is your only choice for a healer unless you decide to play as a Mage. We played as a Rogue, for the record. And we decided to go without Anders most of the time. That’s how much we disliked him.
In case you couldn’t tell from this image, here is our resident T&A for the game. If you care about something silly like her name, it’s Isabela. She’s received a major makeover from Origins. You may not recognize her, but she was the skill teaching pirate you could engage in a threesome with if you played your cards right. Her character hasn’t changed much at all. She really exists just to set the feminist movement back about 100 years. Isabela is a walking stereotype. A hyper-sexualized town bicycle. Or whatever the pirate equivalent would be. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t laugh at her jokes and banter (most of which were quite funny.) After all, we chose her as our romance partner. She’s not the type to get all jealous over us visiting the local harem from time to time. And I didn’t particularly like any of our other options. She’s a great partner in and out of battle, to be sure. I’m still wondering how her assets can be that perky without wearing a Victoria’s Secret Bombshell bra.
Here we go. Prepare yourselves for a super rant. This is Aveline. In direct contrast to Isabela, she’s your total Girl Power character. A female TANK, who leads Kirkwall’s Knight Guard. She literally commands respect from dozens of soldiers and works to keep the city (and your party if you didn’t decide to play a tanky warrior) safe. Normally this is the archetype I root for. There should definitely be more woman in roles like this in video games. But there’s a slight problem here… She is an insufferable, holier-than-thou know-it-all. I can’t stand her! And, like Anders, we were basically stuck with her because she’s the only tanking character you get. I’m also convinced the writers either gave her a multiple personality disorder or they were just messing with the players, because she just doesn’t make sense. As in Origins, the decisions you make affect your party member’s opinion of you. Nothing I did ever made her happy, even when I thought it would. Then, when I thought I had her all figured out and started making decisions just to spite her, I’d get friendship points! WTF? At one point in time I gave Aveline a shield as a gift and she even managed to turn that into a negative! Finally, my Hawke was like, “Look bitch, it’s just a gift. Take it or leave it.”
There you have it. This time around, Bioware managed to create an entire cast of characters that I either tolerated because they were funny or I completely loathed. Well, there’s Bethany, but she hardly counts. They even managed to screw up the cameo appearances from Origins. Alistair, Zevran, and Leliana (My previous flame) all have short, meaningless cameo appearances that left me scratching my head asking “What was the point of that?” Except for Zevran… His cameo appearance existed so he, Isabela and Hawke could partake in a little naughty time together.
This game is so descaled and rushed compared to Origins, I actually don’t blame the fanbase for being disappointed in it. Instead of adding onto the great character customization options and gearing, you barely get to choose what they’re wearing. Weapons and accessories only. The side quests all blend together with the main quests. I only knew what was what when I bothered to check my quest menu. The maps were recycled over and over again, with cheap fake walls put up to cut certain areas off. Overall, the game was bland.
Now that Dragon Age 2 is cheap to purchase, it might be a good idea to pick it up and get caught up before Inquisition comes out. Don’t expect a grand, epic game like Origins or you’ll be disappointed. Instead, look at it as a decent medieval fantasy action/RPG game that thinks it belongs in the Dragon Age universe, and you should be okay.