Ok, so I didn’t actually PLAY Dragon Age 2, I just watched and helped out with looking things up in the Wiki or in the guidebook. But it’s a pasttime I’ve enjoyed since Final Fantasy VII, and apparently not that uncommon among gamer couples. Fighting games, RTS, FPS – we fire up the second gaming rig and go at it with our own private LAN party, but for RPGs, I prefer to kick back, trying to figure out the puzzles first, and watch the FMV. I’m not left with much to say about the actual mechanics of the game, but how often to get to watch a movie where you can actually yell at the characters to do something different? (Now, if you can actually convince your game playing partner to do what you want… that’s a whole other issue.)
So from that perspective, I loved Dragon Age 2. In the game as really long interactive movie goes, it was a really enjoyable sequel. Much smaller in scope, yes, but I felt like the amazing attention to detail that went into creating a nearly perfect continuity, especially given the amount of different choices you could make in DAO, really made up for that. I thought the mechanic of having the game go through your old save, and actually carry over the results of that play through to give you a tailored sequel experience was amazing. It was especially fun as we got closer to the end of the game and favorite characters from the previous game not only made appearances, but referenced stuff we did in the previous game! So fun.
Since I was spending more time watching than actually playing, I also appreciated that the animation showed remarkable improvement over not only the previous game, but pretty much every other RPG we’ve played recently. The facial expressions were especially well done – you could actually tell when a character was being snarky or slightly annoyed or skeptical by facial expressions that were amazingly subtle in their cues, something even Pixar seems to struggle to get right. That they actually managed to capture something as small as that slight turn up of the cheek under the eyelid that gives one that “Really?” look really impressed me.
Along those lines, the voice work was once again full of awesome, but made even more awesome because the main character finally speaks! And has a pretty cool Ralph Finnes sounding voice that made him very pleasant to listen to for the 60 some odd hours we put into the game. Also, as with the last game, the characters are all really funny, with some extremely amusing side commentary going on even when you’re just wandering around the city selling junk. The game also featured some really good writing, with some really interesting story twists that did a good job of challenging your impressions and relationships with various characters. I found the story really engaging and liked the romance angles, although if I had one complaint, it’s that this game had much less freedom in it’s romance possibilities than the previous one. I DID NOT like the fact that once certain characters moved in with you, you were basically stuck with them for the rest of the game, even if they turned out to be annoying, or betray you, or you just got bored with them and started to really wish you could dump them for someone else.
Also on the downside – you basically never leave the city, and they repeat alot of the basic maps (i.e. every fancy house has EXACTLY the same layout). So you get kind of sick of seeing the same “sets” over and over and over again. However, for turning around this game so fast, and since the game itself goes pretty fast as compared to the last one, I didn’t mind TOO much. But I’d like to see improvement on this in future DLC or games.
Also, less bugs that can only be fixed by shutting down the whole XBOX and waiting for everything to load up again.
So, I give Dragon Age 2 two thumbs up, with the small warning that this is a smaller game than last time and is kind of buggy.