Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Dragon Age Origins & Dragon Age 2

Part II

Welcome to Dragon Age Games evaluations part 2. In this post I will try to introduce Dragon Age 2 (DA2) in comparison to Dragon Age Origins (DAO). Let me begin right away:

DA2, in many aspects, is very different than DAO both in technical aspects and content-wise.

Firstly the graphics are much improved and the slightly blurry world gives way to a crystal clear resolution. But Bioware has not forgotten those with computers that can not support a high resolution game so you can run it on lower levels as well.

Character creation has gotten a lot better in the sense that what you create is what you see on the screen when you start the game. The only thing missing is body adjustment, a mage with biceps is a little weird thing to behold...

The fights are relatively quicker and by that I do not mean unchallenging bosses and fights. I mean your toon's movement and attack speed have increased and the effects have been improved. One might think that maybe this time they overdid the speed a little but if I have to chose between too slow and too fast I will definitely go for too fast. Yes maybe it looks a little unrealistic but at least it doesnt make me want to poke my own eyes and shrink from a fight because it is too damn boring. I did not much like the respawn mobs in DA2 though. The skill system is basically the same including a great many of the skills themselves from DAO (actually I think 90% of the skills are the same) but in DA2 you will find them in a better organized table.

One of the best features of the game was how you were able to transfer your save files from DAO to DA2 and according to the decisions you had made in DAO the story, the family tree and on occasions the quests you got in DA2 changed. Now that made me play DAO even more times in order to unlock the extra footage I had never seen before.

But what I loved the most about the game, DAO fans criticized the most and I can see why; Only I do not agree. Most of those complaints concern the content of the game rather than the technical aspects.

It is true that when compared to DAO the content of DA2 seems limited. You can not play an elf or a dwarf and what you got is only the Hawke family. If you remember from my previous post what I said about your character's not being voiced in DAO, then now its time to discuss this. The limited content of the game might be due to the video footages in DA2. In these footages your own character is voiced and you can see him/her act. It was quite the different format of interaction with the npcs, one which I had never seen before save for a few Play Station games where it was done only for a very small portion of the game but never the entire game itself (not the games I had played anyhow). It must have taken a lot of work to get it done and I must say it: I simply fell in love with this style. I did not mind having a more limited game content (not one bit especially since it made the game fairly quicker) , I did not mind having a smaller map, because the way I could see my character's anger, despair, joy, love made it all worth it for me.
Another point which the fans harshly criticized concerns the dialogue options: How your hero does not say what you choose in the dialogue options. That has put a lot of people off. Well not me. When you sit back and think on it more calmly you will understand that it can not be done. What you see on the screen is a short little sentence and yet the video cut is a lot larger so I am thinking to myself: I prefer my character saying something to that effect rather than just speaking in short sentences. Maybe as a compromise Bioware could begin the dialogue with the visible sentence on the screen and then widen it. Besides I liked the little surprises thrown here and there especially when you play a mischievous character. It seemed more fun to me than pain.

It is true that the story sometimes feels a little confined though. The countless outcomes of DAO can not be found in DA2. But then again at the end of the day there is a limit to the times you play one single game (at least for me there is). I did not explore all the outcomes of DAO after all, just 4 of them, out of a possible... what 10? 15? I played DA2 more often than I played DAO despite the limited outcomes because it was fast, the fights were not endless and it was so much more easy to reach the different content without getting bored over the same battles.

For me three things lacked in DA2 that DAO had:
1- Various Dungeons: The recycled dungeons of DA2 looked pretty cheap. The interiors of the dungeons were the same over and over again
2-  The ability to interact with your companions without having to jump through loops: In DAO (not The Awakening just DAO) you can converse with your companions any time you like. You do not need to visit them at their locations or homes to do that. I honestly missed that a little while playing DA2.
3- A modding tool. The great variety of mods in DAO made the experience so rich. The mods of DA2 mostly included the character creation and npcs.

A few more things were also criticized by the fans. The ending came as a shock to the most and some did not like it. I also felt as if I was shot through the head at the end of the first play through but I can not say that I didnt like it. Objectively speaking I found it well developed. The way the story leads you to that end without you knowing it is impressive. The development and the psychology of the characters were well arranged and although my Hawke did not like how things ended, I did like it as a player. 

As for the expansions: The Mark of The Assassin is a nice little expansion with pretty good drops and really intriguing story. The appearance of Felicia Day (from the series The Guild) as an elf was a nice touch. I liked this expansion better than The Legacy. I think they are more or less the same length but The Legacy always seems a little larger to me, whether or not because it actually is or simply because I find it less fun is still up for grabs. The Exiled Prince is not a stand alone expansion, it is an extra companion with his own story embedded into the game and mingled with the story of your Hawke. It is cheaper to purchase when compared to the other expansions and I like having an extra companion along.

All in all, DA2 simply captured me. I played it for 6 times (so far but I still get in and make characters) despite the limited game content (thats right) and every time I played it I loved it even more. The technical aspects were satisfactory, the story was intriguing and the video cuts were absolutely fantastic. Very few times have I had such a deep connection with a character I had created in a game save for the old on paper D&D games where I got to play the character myself. I definitely recommend it to the other Fantasy Role Players out there.