Dragon Age II
Dragon Age: Origins was a love letter to old-school RPG fans. It featured a sprawling world, an involving fantasy story and tactical combat. The PC version of the game received adulation, bring to mind the glory days of Baldurs Gate and Neverwinter Nights. The console version was a different story. Still a great game, just one with lacklustre graphics and clunky controls.
So let’s cut to the chase: Dragon Age 2 has been console-ified.
If I were reviewing a PC copy of this game, I’d talk about how the loyal PC fans of Bioware had been utterly shafted with this release. The combat is much more action oriented, the tactical overhead camera has been removed and the RPG elements have been streamlined.
However, I played Dragon Age 2 on an XBOX 360, and it was actually a smoother experience than the original for me. The button-mashy combat feels more at home with a controller rather than a mouse, and the end result is that combat feels a bit like a more tactical Fable. You can still pause the action and issue commands, but in general the fighting is far more visceral and action-oriented.
Other gameplay elements have been trimmed. Your character is now voiced, the Mass Effect conversation wheel has been brought in for dialogue, and you can’t change you companions’ armour. Some of these changes make for a better game (it’s nice to have a voice) and some are a little sad (the lack of customisation). Overall though, this stuff was neither here nor there for me. It’s still very much an RPG.
What did disappoint however was the overall lack of polish.
The original game was huge. It could take well over 60 hours to complete. Dragon Age 2 takes around 30. The original gave you a whole country to explore. Dragon Age 2 gives you a city and the surrounding countryside.
That’s probably down the short development time. EA wanted this game released early to capitalise on the original game’s success.
This also means that art-assets like dungeons are reused over and over again, which is simply not on. The graphics are better here, and more stylised too, but that doesn’t save you from the repeating colours, tones and areas.
The heart of an RPG is the story, and here too Dragon Age 2 doesn’t live up to its heritage. It’s just a bit lacklustre, and it never really approaches “epic.” It can at times feel like a hodge-podge of sidequests thrown together, with a climactic cliffhanger ending tacked onto the end.
It may sound like I didn’t enjoy this game, but I did. It was a very good game. But Bioware is my favourite game company, and by their standard Dragon Age 2 falls short. It feels like they cut corners, like they didn’t put as much love and effort into this game as they did into the original, or for that matter into Mass Effect 2.
By the standards of other console games this is a good game and worth playing. But it doesn’t stand out as a classic, and coming from Bioware this is disappointing.