Reader Review: Dragon Age II

The Fistbeard is prolific - we had his review of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 last week, and now he's giving us his well-formed opinion of Dragon Age II in one of the best Reader Reviews I've read in a while. Take it away Fistbeard.

Dragon Age II has hit, and with me being a fan of the first game I couldn’t wait to give this one a whirl. But how does it stand up to it’s predecessor? Time to let my beard do the talking.

Loved Everything. With an exception.

Oh boy, here it comes. But hear me out on this.

Dragon Age II is a good game. The graphics are nice, Storyline is solid, and the combat is fast, fun and bloody. It’s a good, solid RPG.

I loved the story, which is more personal than most because your main character has a family to anchor them with some kind of emotional attachment. Your party members are interesting, from the beardless dwarf Varric who exaggerates on stories and is a novelist, to Isabella, the hard-ass pirate lady.

The combat is fast and steamlined, with attacks you will actually use constantly rather than maybe once or twice just to see what it does. Setting up tactics for your party (Think Gambits from FFXII) allows you to tailor the AI to be as effective as possible, and you get a good sense of progression as you level up.

Hated Everything. Here’s the exception.

But the biggest misstep with Dragon Age II is that it’s nowhere near as good as it’s predecessor. It’s almost as if Dragon Age Origins was supposed to be the sequel to this game, because when held up to the first game, it’s a mess. Dragon Age II’s end result is a solid RPG, but the first Dragon Age was a solid RPG at it’s foundations, and had everything built around it.

The combat strips everything bare from the first game, removing unique kill animations, getting rid of spell combos for useless “cross class combos”. The blood and violence is cartoony, with one stab from a dagger causing an eneny to explode as if a grenade went off in their torso. Your party members just seem to enter the story without any sort of narrative groundwork, and the story itself is neutered from the first game’s incredible, epic scope.

Then there’s the issues of fixing something that isn’t broken. Isometric camera is gone, for reasons beyond my understanding. You can’t outfit your party members with anything other than weapons, and the class skill trees have been totally stripped bare. Even the dialogue was switched to a Mass Effect 2 style conversation wheel, which I initially had no problems with, until I realized that it boiled down to 3 separate ways of saying “yes” to someone.

The main issue I’ve found is that Dragon Age II is trying to cater to people who didn’t like the first game, or who don’t like RPG’s, and it’s ended up alienating fans of the first game.

Yes, Dragon Age 2 is a good, even great RPG. But the fact it holds the Dragon Age name is it’s biggest flaw. The first game was a love letter to old school RPG’s such as Planescape and Baldur’s gate, but the sequel just ignored everything that made the first game such a hit.

To sum it up: Dragon Age II is what Invisible War is to Deus Ex.

Is it a good game? Yes. Just forget Dragon Age: Origins ever happened as you’re playing it.


    That was hard to fit into 500 words. I had so much more to say, but to sum it all up:

    It's a good game, really. If it didn't have the Dragon Age name attached, I would really be enjoying it. But as someone who really enjoyed Dragon Age Origins, It can't compete with it, and I can't help myself from comparing it to it's predecessor.

    It's like noticing a dead pixel right in the middle of your screen. You can't not see it.

      Also, I was tempted to make 2 separate reader reviews, one as Fistbeard and one as Bizzaro Fistbeard, with my two points of view. I just feel so conflicted.

    I just have to ask. How the hell did you review this that quickly? It is only out today is it not?

      I unlocked my steam copy early by switching my account to be from "California". Been playing it since Thursday.

      Tomorrow in our region. Hurry up gods of OzGameShop postmen!

        Mine just got posted from them, will be lucky if it arrives next week!

    Also: Played 20-ish hours so far, after unlocking it on steam by posing as an American.

      can you get american prices that way?

        Nope, strictly for unlocking on American release dates, and even then you need to stay offline in steam otherwise your game will be re-locked.

        I did it with New Vegas as well, after our steam release got knocked back 3 days.

    Well I was all excited about my copy waiting for me ay home... Now I'm somewhat apprehinsive. I'm sure you've saved me a great deal of dissapointment.

      Just drink a whole lot to remove the thought of Dragon Age 1 from your mind.

      Don't get me wrong, I *do* enjoy Dragon Age 2, but it's just so disappointing as a sequel.

    I enjoyed the first one, but from everything I have seen about the 2nd one, it just doesn't do anything for me.

    "The main issue I’ve found is that Dragon Age 2 is trying to cater to people who didn’t like the first game, or who don’t like RPG’s, and it’s ended up alienating fans of the first game."

    an unfortunate trend in the industry at the moment, hope they stop trying to cater to people whom aren't their audience sometime soon

    [10/03/11 1:50:59 PM] Fistbeard: You need to play dragon age, dude. Make a Dwarf named Fridge Slamtrunk.
    [10/03/11 1:51:10 PM] Fistbeard: or Lumber McStoneballs.
    [10/03/11 1:51:23 PM] Lord Crumplebottom: LMAO
    [10/03/11 1:51:32 PM] Fistbeard: MAKE A FEMALE DWARF AND NAME HER LOSHANDROCK!
    [10/03/11 1:51:36 PM] Lord Crumplebottom: Beef Thickchest
    [10/03/11 1:51:49 PM] Fistbeard: Stink Foodbeard.
    [10/03/11 1:52:04 PM] Lord Crumplebottom: !!
    [10/03/11 1:52:17 PM] Fistbeard: All gravy and food scraps in his beard.

    Ok, Screw this, Playing Dragon Age 1 this afternoon and making a Dwarf. Sorry Hawke, you're just not beardy enough for me.


    It seems a lot like the game was thrown together quickly by a B-team while the rest of the company work on their MMO and Mass Effect 3. Seems like what Jade Empire was to Knights of the Old Republic, except Jade Empire had the benefit of not coming with the baggage of an existing brand.

    PC port feels very buggy too. I had to do all sorts of screwing around to get it to let me install the DLC, which you have to get via their website rather than inside the game like with DA:O.

    Maybe if they'd given it a subtitle rather than calling it Dragon Age II, we wouldn't feel as conflicted? Like, if it was Dragon Age: Champion or Dragon Age: Hawke's Quest or something. It feels like a spinoff rather than a sequel.

    So glad I didn't pre-order this now. Then again I also got stung with the Test Drive Unlimited 2 pre-order and the weeks that have followed the game still isn't up to par. Could maybe have something to do with my reluctance to pre-order any more too.

    Me ol' mate Fistbeard has convinced me to play DA1 this weekend. With a character named Stink Foodbeard. Fistbeard's slob cousin. I shall succumb.

      Hambread Baconpubes.

      I'll make a character with that name.

        Chunk Foulwind.

        Pics or it didn't happen. Is what I'll say when you've had time to do this.

        Make it so!

        In an ironic twist he'll also be a Rabbi who demands kosher deli meats and has an unhealthy relationship with canines smelling his crotch.

    Meeting overseeing design of DA2

    Designer 1 - "The feedback we are getting from players is that there are too many confusing items and skills, plus a distressing lack of blood and awful sex scenes. They do seem to enjoy our repetitive enemy types though"

    Designer 2 *looks up from giant pile of money* - "CUT ALL THAT USELESS CRAP AND GET BACK TO OVERSEEING THE CLEAVAGE DEVELOPMENT TEAM" *smashes a copy of Planescape: Torment with a hammer*

      Distressingly plausible.

        Yes. :(

    Honestly, nothing will ever compare to Baldur's Gate 2....

    I feel cheated I got the game now. I should have waited until it was cheaper..

    Dragon Age series was the "old school RPGer's" last bastion of hope, but unfortunately in the quest to bring the game to a wider (uncaring) audience, the RPGness has been diluted, what a shame. Making a game for people who don't like the genre? It's like making Starcraft 2 more appealing to FPS fans. It just doesn't work sometimes.

    If we wanted Suedo RPG layed over FPS action, we'd play Mass Effect 2. Why try to make Dragon Age II a Mass Effect with dragons?

    I could really live with all the rest but the part that really got me was no changing of any armour for party members: A WATERING DOWN OF LEGENDARY PROPORTIONS. *cry*

    I'll still play it through, but with teary eyes...

      Actually, I thought a move similar to the jump from Mass Effect 1 > 2 would be interesting for Dragon Age if done right. I honestly have no issues with the wheel conversation system aside from the fact the dialogue tied to it really isn't up to Mass Effect 2's standard.
      Also, Icons to let you know what kind of reply you're making? Really? You need to shove that in our faces as well? Ugh.

      Yes, I know I'm being a bastard. That big red icon of a hammer doesn't hammer it in any more. That Halo icon wasn't needed. Gah.

      For *every* conversation option.

    Blast. Why try to fix something that isn't broken? Origins wasn't a brilliant masterpiece but it was definately the best fantasy RPG I'd played for a while.

      Origins was far from brilliance, and had some pretty boring moments (The Dwarven section of the main storyline dragged terribly), but overall it showed that these sorts of RPG's do have a place nowadays. Pity Dragon Age 2 feels like Bioware leaning out of my monitor, Slapping me across the face while yelling "GROW UP, Those days are gone forever, shem! EMBRACE THE NEW DIRECTION, BECAUSE WE KNOW BEST."

      The Witcher 2 Can't come soon enough, because I f***ing *LOVE* The Witcher. Sure, the Combat might have been lackluster, but my god, was that an incredible RPG. Just wish Chapter 2 didn't drag horribly, Those fetch quests, man.

        Agreed. Witcher 2, already preordered on Steam and can't come soon enough.

    Only 8 months till Skyrim...

    I just played it on High-res and its so damn choppy on 480 GTX sli, this game is poorly optimized.

      Runs buttery smooth on my HD5850, even with the high res textures and DX11.

      Optimization! Yay!

      There are known issues with NVIDIA cards at this point. Hopefully to be fixed soon!

    Good review, pretty much confirmed my impressions from the demo.
    Shall get it when it goes cheap and get back into Planescape in the mean time.

    Fistbeard: AWESOME review and excellent comments in this section. Much kudos.

    Now, this may sound silly, but I think now I'll view it as Dragon Age 2 being the first game (small scale) and DAO being the second game? 2nd may look prettier but it'll probably make more sense in the long run. *shrug*

    Honestly, I really look forward to playing DAII. I've only played the demo, but so far I like most of the changes. I like the voiced player character. While I love to to be able to make my very own character, and I know a lot of people have been a bit anxious/skeptical about the change, to me voiced Hawke is just different, not worse. Oh, and faster combat - no more making a cup of tea between swings of the greatsword! I also really look forward to a more streamlined inventory - geez, the amount of useless crap I carried around in DA:O 'just in case' was ridiculous (not quite the omni-gel madness of ME1 though).

    I get that it's not as much of an old-school RPG, but it's about time the genre was shaken up a little to looked at new ideas. Even if not all the changes work out, I like seeing Bioware looking at ways to evolve the genre.

    I really liked Dragon Age: Origins, but like ME1, it felt like such a slog to me, and I have trouble going back and playing it again because it feels like a big commitment to play through.

    Perhaps none of the change is an issue to me because I always saw 'Dragon Age' as the setting the games are in, rather than the style of game itself.

    Not having played the original, and with my unnatural love for mass effect, this review and the subsequent comments actually made me keen to grab a copy!

      Definitely give it a whirl then. Play Dragon Age 2 first, then slap down $30 to grab the first game after you've beaten DA2.

    I know that they said DA:O was a re-imagining of Baldur's Gate and the like which put me in the wrong frame of mind ie. expecting an AD&D game. When I got it, I felt betrayed and hated the game simply because I was expecting something radically different.

    I finished DA:O after a long hiatus, and it still didn't seem that great to me. It felt repetitive as a warrior, environments felt a bit bland in places and it felt far too familiar to other Bioware games namely KOTOR.

    The demo for DA2 has not filled me with optimism as I stare coldly at the EB Games bag, nervously wrapped around a fidgeting DA2 case with a receipt.

    Very good review. I felt exactly the same way.

    A big disappointment compared to DA:O. Being a PC player, my nightmares came true for this game: They'd dumb down the game to suit the consoles and leave the PC with something that just isn't as good for the platform.

    The biggest annoyance is no top down camera and that the action happens way too quickly.

    The game has become more action orientated rather than tactics orientated like DA:O for PC

      I don't know what everyone is complaining about, the game is much harder than DA:O, it hasn't been dumbed down at all, every system is better than the previous incarnation, shops, inventory, fighting, dialog. It is also far less set on rails than the first as it takes place over a long time so you see the results of your decisions, and so far i haven't found any quests as terrible as the one you enter the fade in DA:O

      I'm about 20 hours in on nightmare and it is very hard compared to origins on nightmare.

        That is because of the new combat mechanics, and not because the game itself is terribly challenging.

        Playing on hard, which is comparable to normal on Origins, and a Revenant barely makes me sweat. Origins Revenants were beastly things to tackle.

        Well i think DA2 is a hard game if i picked a rogue to begin with it is way harder to win cause i don't have the range or defense in the other two classes, and i think it is very a strategy game as other games like it. I have played number one a little and know the story line but i think DA2 is better because you get so many enemys you need to keep them in check or have some other party members kill them before they take you down. but one thing that i don't like is that they are trying to make it like WoW (world of warcraft),i seen a video and the guy said blankly that you would need a tank for the game (a player who can take damage) i don't know if number 1 was like this but thats all i see is wrong with DA2.

    Thanks for the great review Fistbeard, you've pretty much confirmed most of the stuff I've been reading about over the past few days.

    The general consensus is that DA2 is entertaining enough, but doesn't hold a candle to the quality of its predecessor.

    This is pretty disappointing, to be honest. With all the acclaim and sales of the first game, Bioware had the chance to make something amazing for the sequel. But instead of updating DAO's graphics and dialogue, they seemed to try to overhaul everything and produced a pared-down, less epic shadow of the original.

      That's exactly how it is. It's not a bad game by any means, I'm still playing through it and admittedly enjoying myself a great deal, but it doesn't hold up to the original.

      That's not my rose tinted nostalgia goggles either, I played DA1 again tonight for a good 3 hours and it just feels much better than the sequel.


    So another SupCom 2? A game that, by itself, would be okay... but since its predecessor was awesome it just feels craptastic? All just dumbing down for consoles really doesn't bode well... PC gaming (outside of MMOs and Indy games) really does feel like it's dying, craptastic ports just don't cut it.

    Even starting to prefer FPS games on my xbox over my PC and it wasn't long ago I swore that wouldn't happen.

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