Yet, aside from moral dilemmas and taking tough decisions, how does the game actually play? Well, after Mass Effect 2’s leaps and bounds forward for the action RPG genre, DA2 does a good job without particularly advancing the system. On a console it’s a cinch to quickly chain together your abilities thanks to some handily tailorable shortcuts, while the number of simultaneously on-screen enemies does impress.
Visuals on the whole do suffer slightly, however, falling short of the benchmark set by ME2, with environments seeming much more barren than those in the sci-fi epic. It’s a different engine, of course, but comparisons are inevitable and DA2 feels a little bland in contrast to the neon environs of Shepard et al. Loading times can be an issue too, each visit to Kirkwall’s various districts prompting yet another delay.
Character abilities – your special moves, if you like – take a while to charge, as does the required stamina. So, in-between times, hammering away at the attack button is the order of the day. Not the most subtle form of attack for sure, but something unavoidable in a title which depends on close-quarters combat; an issue which gun-and-cover-based affairs – such as the aforementioned ME2 – don’t particularly face.
Don't look back in anger
Progress further into the game’s mid to latter stages and combat, weapons and enemy AI all ratchet up a notch, creating some truly spectacular encounters in which manually controlling and adjusting your AI companions is crucial. The shoulder buttons allowing the player to quickly zip through friendly ranks, commanding them to heal, cast or attack whomever and whatever is required.
Next page: Stayin' alive
Been playing since Tues and this game is FAIL
BTW for future reference, a free demo of FlyVPN gave me a US IP and allowed me to unlock my copy on the 8th.
You really should have compared it against DA:O, because that is where it falls short. If there had been no DA:O, then yes this game may be worth 80%, but IMHO compared to DA:O a score of ~40% (Which is what the user rating is on metacritic at the moment) is probably more accurate.
- The whole thing is pretty much set in Kirkwall, a city that feels like a quake level. It feels a lot less open than DA:O. At no point do you ever set foot in a city or town other than kirkwall, you just port instantly to the other locations in the game.
- Character customization is very limited. No longer can you use multiple weapons for each companion, they are limited only to the weapon type they started with (One handed or two handed). You cannot even equip a one handed sword and shield to a companion that started off with a two hander. Forget about bows, there is only one companion who can use them (Sebastian), or you if you choose that route. The PC is the only character who can use multiple types of weapon.
- WAY too many items are for Hawke (The PC) only. Including the Blood Dragon armour DLC. If you are not a warrior, the BD armour DLC is utterly useless. Also, many items for sale in the shops are equipable by Hawke only. WTF??
- Companions get no specializations, whereas Hawke gets two (Lvl 7 and 14). A major step down from DA:O
- Combat is WAY too easy, even on hard. You must use Nightmare level to get anything approaching a challenge. Even then, I have not spent any level up points for the last 5 levels and I am still hosing everything with ease.
- The graphics suck on the PC platform. Very low poly.
- JRPG style weapons which look ridiculous.
- OTT animations with mages shooting fireballs through their legs. Just plain silly.
- No overhead view, so targetting AoE spells is a real ballache at times.
- Map re-use: Many maps (eg caves etc) are re-used over and over, but sometimes they don't use the whole map so they just place unopenable doors to block off certain bits. The whole map still shows up on your minimap tho, so it just confuses you.
- The storage chest is inside a house that removes all companions from the party when you enter it, so it is impossible to gear your party from the storage chest, you have to dump everything on Hawke, leave the house and form the party, equip them, go back into the house and dump the surplus gear back in the chest. What a pain!
So overall a major step down from DA:O. Lots of stuff that we loved has been ripped out, leaving a lowest common denominator bullshit game.
Does what you expect?
The last paragraph of the review is the most significant. The issue is that DA2 *doesn't* do what you expect. I don't know about console, but for PC, it's a serious let down. And the primary reason for that is because rather than comparing this game to Mass Effect 2 which the review does repeatedly, everyone else is comparing it to Dragon Age: Origins. And it is heavily dumbed down from there.
For instance, in DA:O, you could pan out to a top-down isometric viewpoint. That gave you a strong tactical feel. In DA2, you are locked to viewing from each of your characters. A very minor nice effect of that is that you can no longer see around corners, but in all other ways it is severely to the detriment of tactical gameplay.
The second way in which tactical gameplay is curtailed is by the sheer speed of actions in DA2. In DA:O you had a realistic feel with people running up to enemies (or they to you) and making attacks you could follow. That meant providing instructions to your party was an exercise in tactics. In DA2, cooldowns are but a momentary inconvenience (except for health potions) and sword strikes are a blistering cycle of moves. The consequence is that if you want to control your characters, then instead of DA:O's steady watching of a battle and directing your team to appropriate targets, activating special abilities when desired, occasional pausing when necessary, with DA2 it's a constant cycle of rapid pausing, adjusting, unpausing to watch another explosion of strikes, special abilities and teleporting around the battlefield (positioning is almost irrelevant in DA2), before you pause again and set up more tactics. Very soon, you give up trying to manage how the party behaves because whilst the pace in DA:O allowed "course corrections", in DA2, you've barely set them to a new task (kill this enemy, use this ability) before they've done it and have done three more things you didn't tell them / want them to do. And giving up is not a problem because your party (including the main character) can pretty much manage themselves.
Difficulty has been scaled back considerably. BW have stated that the original game was too hard for people (really? I completed the whole thing on Nightmare incl. the Golems of Angmarak DLC and that last one was *hard*). So Normal is equivalent to Easy in DA:O whilst in theory Hard in DA2 is equivalent to DA:O's normal. But that's not even true because you really need only the barest minimum of tactics for DA2's hard - it's more an exercise in pointing and clicking. This is particularly exasperated by the turning off of Friendly Fire. Your mage can launch Fireballs with impunity, the rest of the party are unaffected. At a stroke, that makes careful tactics almost irrelevant. Friendly Fire suddenly comes back on Nightmare mode, however, and it comes back with a vengeance for two reasons. The first is that the lack of a top-down camera makes positioning area effects very difficult. Even when you're not concerned about hitting your comrades and just want to target some darkspawn far away, actually working out when to hit them can be infuriating. The second thing is that whilst friendly fire in DA:O depended on the type of attack (i.e. fireballs did it, but a rogue's whirlwind attack only targetted enemies), in DA2, anything with an area seems to do Friendly Fire on Nightmare. So each time your warrior does some wide-ranging sweep (which due to the super-fast cooldowns, he'll be doing a lot), he'll knock dead any friends standing next to him. And you can't even rely on careful positioning because your party members zip around the battlefield like Spiderman on crack. You might think your warrior is over on the other side of the hall battling some thugs there, but the next thing you know, he activates his super-zippy-charge-power and is next to your mage again (shortly followed by his doing some super-sweep which knocks her dead). Basically, the difficulty levels for this game seem to go: watching a movie, watching a movie, mild tactics and button mashing, exercise in pausing the game every second to try and guide the endless whirlstorm of action into some sort of semblence of what you want to happen. I haven't really played around with the tactics options in great depth, so it might be possible to mitigate this somewhat, but it's not going to change the fundamental problem that tactical play is no longer necessary and barely possible.
There are so many other areas in which the game is dumbed down, I couldn't list them all. Traps and poison making - gone. No longer, when faced with a battle you know will be hard, can your rogue sneak in and place some handy traps for the enemies before you start the battle. Inventory options for your party are severely curtailed. You can still kit out Hawke how you would like, but if you find a Platemail of +10 Wazoo and Hawke is a mage, you can no longer give it to Carver (a warrior).
Dialogue is frustrating. The addition of an icon to indicate the tone of what you're going to say is good (as very occasionally you mistake that just from pure text), but it's immediately undone by not actually knowing what you're going to say. Often, you select something and are quite surprised by what Hawke actually says. I suppose this is a consequence of having the main character fully voiced now. If you actually saw the dialogue you were choosing, then it might feel a bit namby to then have to listen to someone read it out again afterwards. But the consequence is less control (and thus less identification) with your character.
Finally, realism is thrown in a pit and pissed on. There is such a thing as "realistic fantasy" and Origins was it. Combat happened at believable speeds for the most part, as did movement. Enemies could be sneaked up on, etcetera. Now rogues teleport around a battlefield, warriors put on sprints of Super Speed (I'm not kidding, the animations actually add a blur-line effect as they run), mages do cheerleader style baton twirls with their staffs each time they attack. I can actually forgive the last one - my disappointment with this game hasn't blinded me to the things in it that look cool. But when you see darkspawn popping into existence in mid-air because it's time for a new wave of enemies in the encounter you've triggered, the computer gameness of the whole affair is thrust into your face once too often. And let's not even get started on the Isabella who seems to battle evil dressed in a nightie. So much in DA2 seems dumbed down and tailored for the lowest common denominator.
I haven't touched on things like how the exact same dungeon is re-used for different locations, etcetera, as others will cover these sorts of things. Basically, if you want an action game, pick something that will actually require some skill. If you want a tactical game, pick something where tactics are actually needed, rather than something to play around with if you're bored. And if you liked Dragon Age: Origins, run like Hell. On it's own, DA2 is a passable. but nothing special time-filler with some nice story elements. As a sequel to DA:O, the come down is just too disappointing to let you enjoy what good remains.
All imho, anyway. I wish those that do enjoy it fun of it, but don't buy this just because you liked Dragon Age: Origins, is my advice. I haven't played DA:O on consoles, the differences might be less telling there. This is all based on PC play.
Think I'll be giving this one a miss. Played the demo and frankly haven't played such a mindless, dumbed down piece of crap console port for a very long while....
Bioware seem to have gone to the dogs lately... Wonder if it's anything to do with taking the devils coin (the EA buyout that is)
Nice game, shame about the EULA
Although I've been looking forward to this game for months (and have therefore rather skimmed this review for fear of spoilers!) it does seem to have been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding EA's "account bans" (see links below). I guess those of us who wish to be able to play without interruption should be careful what sort of opinions are expressed on their forums... So much of EA's bold claims that its days of restrictive DRM are behind them. :(
Relevant Bioware thread:
Try again ?
Serious question here....
Is there a chance of having a new review comparing this to the first game and other comparable RPG's ? Say Oblivion/Skyrim.... essentially a fantasy RPG rather than a sci-fi RPG.
If not then fine but I'd suggest to the reviewer if they are aware that a comparision choice is "unusual" then it would be nice to open with some justification/reason. All we really got was this "However, in terms of style and gameplay, there is perhaps more here that fans of Mass Effect will find familiar than series veterans.".... left me thinking "wtf, but why ??"