Dragon Age 2 PC Review
Despite all of its shortcomings, though, it eventually becomes clear that Dragon Age 2 still gets a lot right. The biggest improvement is the way that the combat system has been rebalanced to get more exciting on a moment-by-moment basis. While the original Dragon Age
dribbled out new abilities slowly and recharged them at a snail's pace, Dragon Age 2 is lightning quick, while lightning bolt spells are even faster.
This change affects all classes, but mages clearly reap the biggest rewards as they're now only reliant on their wimpy staves in the most desperate situations. The rest of the time they're killing machines
, capable of wiping huge numbers of enemy fodder from the map in a few fell swoops. The new
Force Mage spell specialisation is especially handy, enabling wizards to push and pull enemies en masse, like Mass Effect's biotics.
The dialogue system apes Mass Effect 2's too, and for good reason. The character creation aspect of Dragon Age 2 may have been scaled back, but it's at least balanced out by the fact that your character actually has some personality this time around. The voice acting is occasionally audibly under-acted, but even then it's definitely a whole lot better than Origins' approach of skipping over your side of the conversation. The number of dialogue options has been scaled back to accommodate all the recording, but it's not something we took too much umbrage with in all honesty.
Kill them all!
Bioware has taken steps to scale back the obtuseness of Dragon Age's underlying systems too, but thankfully without sacrificing too much complexity. Evidence of this is found in a new iconography that lets you know when characters are stunned, frozen or staggered, as well as in a UI that more cleanly presents essential information, and lets you compare new items against equipped counterparts more easily.
These little tweaks and adjustments will doubtlessly draw ire from some corners, especially as PC gamers clamour to be the first to cry consolification, but the benefits clearly outweigh the losses when examined closely. Dragon Age 2 may look like a far more streamlined title at first glance, but it's really just presenting the same amount of information in a far better way a lot of the time. Most of the sacrifices Dragon Age 2 has made away from the old-school RPG mould are functional, rather than statistical.
Well, not all the time, admittedly. There are a few cases where Bioware has trimmed back the game a bit too far, such as when it comes to the armour of your allies. Only Hawke can change his armour around properly in Dragon Age 2, while everyone else has to stick to a default kit set and rely on a few carefully hidden upgrades.
You've got red on you
Dragon Age 2 ends up being a very different type of game to the first, and fans of Origins would do well to approach it with caution because of this, since what few references there are to the original feel like little more than fan service. Zevran, the Warden's assassin in the first game, shows up briefly, for example, but Bioware doesn't seem to include him for any reason beyond familiarity - his quest is just more of his usual on-the-lam fare. It's actually quite dull, bordering on pathetic if Isabella is around, in which case she tiredly suggests a threesome. Sigh
Despite all of these flaws, however, Dragon Age 2 remains an enjoyable romp on the whole. The combat is suitably challenging on the higher difficulty levels and empowering/infuriating on the lower. The main plot may feel like a pointless blunder, but there are plenty of more interesting sidequests that keep you pleasantly distracted, and the NPCs who aren't sexually over-hyped pirates manage to throw up interesting ethical problems to a reliable rhythm. It's fun, really, even if it lacks some of the focus you'd expect from a company with Bioware's pedigree.
There are parts of Dragon Age 2 that offer immeasurable improvements, mostly when it comes to interface and combat design, but the fact remains that the inconsistent tone and lazy recycling of levels take their toll. It's by no means a bad game, but we can't help being disappointed by its developed-by-numbers feel.