Critics and gamers alike have been overall inconsistent in their reviews of Bioware’s Dragon Age 2. Some have praised it as the superior to the first game, Dragon Age: Origins, while others have condemned it as watered down and a step in the wrong direction for the series. The truth of the matter is that Dragon Age 2 really did change the direction of the series, but whether that direction was the right one or not is really up to the player. Personally, I enjoyed the hell out of it, did a 60 hour playthrough, and am on my second helping as a different class. Sure, the complaints about the limited environments and cookie cutter dungeons are legitimate, but those who are breaking the game down and judging it on those menial elements are missing a deep and fulfilling experience in the Dragon Age world. If you are still on the fence about playing Dragon Age 2, this is why you should get your head out of your ass and try it for yourself.
For those that have been saying that the game has been dumbed down to a boring button masher, I say stop being a wuss, put the difficulty on hard, play the game longer than the first thirty minutes and buy PC (no mashing with auto attack). The developers had mentioned that the game was a bit easier, so veteran RPG players would do well to kick the difficulty up a notch. Admittedly, the game did seem a bit easier than the original, even on hard, but I’m not sure if that was the game or just me kicking so much ass! Once you start picking out the right skills as your party levels and mess around with the character tactics a little, your team will be cross class comboing the opposition into oblivion. With the right skills you could see a Mage freeze an enemy to make them brittle and watch as a warrior jumps in and shatters the effected enemy into bloody bite-sized bits. The combat is much more exciting than it was in Origins. It is streamlined, clean and surprisingly deep, giving the player the ability to develop their own unique strategies, never become overwhelmed and simply enjoy stickin it to the bad guys.
Between the Dwarf that doesn’t like to be underground, the hunted Elf slave with lyrium etched into his flesh and the goofy, airheaded future Keeper of a wandering elven clan, the characters in Dragon Age 2 are some of the most unique you will come across in the fantasy RPG genre. Dragon Age 2 is a character story through and through. Much of the game surrounds Hawk’s experience building relationships with the people who follow him, whether they be his friends or rivals. The culmination of those efforts come to interesting ends as well, depending on what was done in particular situations throughout the adventure. Helping your companions in their personal endeavors will not always end with something good coming out of it.
Your interaction with each of the characters also gives you a different perspective into the established norms of the world. In Dragon Age: Origins, the dwarves were a proud race with a rich culture, but Hawk’s dwarvin companion Varric rejects his race’s culture and lives his life as a street savvy surface dwarf. The discriminated city elves find their opposite qualities in the vengeful Fenris, while the plight of the mages is brought to light with interaction with Anders. The characters make the story of Dragon Age 2 unexpectedly rich. Even with the events of the game being centered in a single city, Kirkwall ends up being much more than just a spot on the map because the characters and their struggles bring it to life.
The history of the Dragon Age series is fully realized, delving into the every aspect of the immense world. The cultures of all of the races are well defined, each having their own history, and these cultures take an interesting approach on the human, elf, dwarf dynamic used in medieval fantasy stories. Those who play Dragon Age 2 and skip through all the reading, “cuz it’s dumb” or “boring” (or whatever lame excuse) are really missing out on what makes Bioware RPG’s so great. So much attention is given to the text found throughout the world and when you read about a long lost hero who repelled the first Blight or the adventures of Brother Genitivi, it makes you realize just how big the world of Dragon Age is and hope that the next game in the series will take you to those fantastic locations.
The Story Goes On (SPOILERS)
Dragon Age 2 is a game that should not be taken as a single entity by itself, but rather as a chapter in a story. It very obviously ends with a cliffhanger that Bioware plans to carry the series through to at least the next game. The choose your own adventure customization of the story also lends to a unique storyline for each player that stays consistent from one game in the series to another (like Mass Effect). The great thing about beating a Dragon Age game is the anticipation of finding out what happens in the next chapter. Is Hawk going to meet up with the Hero of Ferelden? How about the god baby? How will the heroes’ stories intertwine? It’s like watching a TV series where you decide what happens to the characters and all of your choices craft the history of the world. You can’t get more interactive with your entertainment than that.
Dragon Age 2 is one of the most fulfilling gaming experiences of the year. While it does have its flaws, it is definitely not a game that should be missed. After all, how are you going to know what is going on in the next Dragon Age game?