Friday, April 8, 2011

Video Game Assessment: Dragon Age II (2011)

So, I haven't reviewed anything for a while now. Part of the reason for that is that I was busy, and the other part of that was this game right here as well as bits of its predecessor. The Dragon Age franchise is a fascinating one. It's like one part The Lord of The Rings, another racism and hate, all mixed together with a video game series glorifying the sweeter parts of the thoughts of any person who has ever swung a sword around in their yard or dreamed of being some great adventurer or hero fighting evil things and taking names and never giving up.

The story here is beautiful and stellar. Compared to Dragon Age: Origins (my first review here actually, and a bit of a sucky one at that) this game's story is so much more complicated. It's really wonderful to see. The choices made within this RPG determine your character, Hawke's, story as well as the story of the world itself. The characters here all feel like living and breathing people... albeit maybe a little bit snarkier than most live people I've known. Some of the characters will get on your nerves, others will become your best friends. It's interesting just how the characters were built to have personality conflicts, not only with each other, but the  player character himself. I like that.

The visuals and graphics are amazing and a wonder to behold. I don't care if you read any other video game reviewer and they say "This game sucks." or "This game looks terrible." it doesn't. This game is one of the best looking games I've seen... comparable to the Mass Effect series in that regard.

The gameplay is phenomenal. Oh jeez... it is hack-and-slash gaming with tactics at its best and I like it.

There are some issues here as well. Don't take this as blind praise. The whole game takes place in a single city, and although that city feels like home after a while, it also feels like you're doing the same thing over and over again, especially when the same caves and dungeon maps are used over and over again. I understand that it probably saves on some kind of loading time or something, but with the long loading times already, couldn't it have been preferable to just make a new freaking cave or sewer for different quests? I guess I just don't get that.

One complaint I've seen time and time again is that the game has no coherent narrative, and that the story goes and does random and stupid things, never setting anything, like the main villain, up. Well, this is true... sort of. I think this is one of those games that has to be played completely from beginning to end. What I mean by that is that to get into this game and actually understand what is going on, you must play it as a completionist. It's the only way to really get into the story and see the foreshadowing and understand the world that this game takes place in. Some main stories do kind of come out of nowhere, but not really, not if you're paying attention. There is a lot of foreshadowing.

One thing I will relent on is that the actual climax of this game seems to take place during Act II (of the three acts of the game), and Act II is also and easily the best act in terms of both storytelling and everything else. Act III seems rushed, certain quests not being completable and the quickness of the act really push that. I actually have to wonder if there was a rushed completion of this game and it is partially unfinished. The bugs I've encountered probably go hand-in-hand with that.

So, ultimately, do I like this game? Yes. I think it's fun. It reminds me of the crusades with mages. There is a very Jerusalem feel to the city of Kirkwall where the entire story, save the very beginning, takes place. I like that. I've also never seen or played anything like it before. There are politics in this story, race relations, and dealing with almost sensible prejudices. It's all very fascinating and a really fun game to play. If you've played that first Dragon Age game, you may not necessarily love this one, so watch out and beware. Personally, I find the games very different, with the first having better party companions and romances in my opinion, but the second having an actually unique and interesting story rather than just fantasy cliche. I'm a story guy myself, so I tend to like DA II for that, although I do wish it didn't seem quite as rushed as it actually does.

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