Bioware has unveils the next chapter in the fanatically loved Dragon Age series. Under the tag line “Rise From Warrior to Legend," Dragon Age 2 continues to evolve the dynamics of the modern role-playing game.
Before I start reviewing 'Dragon Age 2,'
I need to clarify the fact that I'm not a 'Dragon Age' fan. Although that doesn't stem from a lack of trying. Multiple times I fired it up, started rummaging around the world, but I just couldn't get into it. For some reason, either it be the lack of voice acting, the controls, the staggering number of options, or the time it took to invest, it just wasn't happening. So with the release of 'Dragon Age 2,' I thought it would be the perfect time to give the series another go and review it from this alternative perspective, that is no doubt in the minority.
The first change Bioware has addressed is pacing. Instantly, you will be thrown into battle, tossed into the character creation and out for the adventure in lightning speed. The story swiftly throws you into a group situation, a family affair to be more precise and expands as the story grows. Unlike Origins, you will be forced into playing a human (gender and class selectable) labeled “the champion” with the last name Hawke -- a decision that will likely sour fans who love playing alternative races. First told as a recited tale, 'Dragon Age 2' easily draws you in with the tradigty called the blight, the melodrama, suspense, climatic events and clever characters. If you have played a Bioware game in the past, you know the Edmonton team knows how to tell a story and 'Dragon Age 2' is no different.
For length, you're still looking at an expansive days-long adventure. The tale takes awhile to get epic-sized, but eventually in ramps up in a well crafted and entertaining tale. One reason why 'Dragon Age 2' flows so well is its always interesting supporting cast, the contextual choices, and the room the story is given to grow and mature. The city of Kirkwall, where you spend most of your time, will start to feel like a second home. The demographics, the political weaving, the solo character driven missions and back-and-forth runaround can be a little dull on the surface, but once you're invested in the world, it only adds depth. 'Dragon Age 2' might be a little unconventional without a nemesis driving the story, but i found it rather refreshing to just exist in this time, going with the flow.
The mission structure can easily be tracked through the intuitive menu system that toggles between outside locations and day and night locations within Kirkwall. This makes everything a little more manageable with quests broken down in your journal under the headings like rumours, main plot, companions, secondary and side quests. Here you can set you mark on current quests. One thing I did like, is all the active quests will show up when you are viewing the city-hub. It really helped diversify my travels and shake things up.
The only negatives I can say about the questing/narrative is that it can feel a little monotonous at times as you follow arrows on a mini-map running errands. At least the majority of the quests are interesting with options, while others lacked the developers desired impact. Secondly, 'Dragon Age 2' never begs to be explored. This is a good thing, if you want to be handed the answers, but the feeling of accomplishment dwindles as you coast through the story's narrative.
Wheel of Dialogue
One simple, yet effective addition to the dialogue heavy world of 'Dragon Age' is the “Mass Effect” dialogue wheel. A radial wheel used during conversations that let you quickly and fluidly navigate discussions. Continuing to resemble 'Mass Effect,' different choices are reflected in your alignment, broken down into three tires: saintly, cheeky (a kind of humour filled neutral) and aggressive. Having your character speak this time around makes the story flow more naturally. It also helps to keep players interested when you can hear/see yourself speak. The only negative point that I noticed in this transition to the wheel is that you're dialogue choices reappear after you've already said them, a pet peeve more than anything.
The new wheel also introduces a new friendship/rivalry system that is attached to each one of your companions. The rating goes from neutral to friend or the other way rival. Agreeing or disagreeing with a party member will usually sway it one way or another, and like any good Bioware character dynamic relationship management can be tricky. Following relationships on a casual level is a romantic tough that can spark with five different characters thorough the game. Romance has no prejudiced against friendship or hatred as gift giving and romantic conversations can take place at anytime. While the system feels a little behind the times when compared to 'Mass Effect 2,' it is still beneficial dynamic added into the mix.