This site does not represent the views of

Bear with us while we get this organized. This site does not represent the views of Send submissions to Send tips to if they are not posted there, wait a while & send them to Take care, Stay Awesome.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Press A to Win!: Dragon Age 2


[Just a quick note: Hi everyone! I was struggling with coming up for an idea of how to contribute to MOBFD. I toyed with sharing my artwork, but I'm just not that boastful. I thought about writing about design, and even I said "UGH!" at the thought. But upon playing/talking about Pokémon Black and Dragon Age II, I think there might be enough interest in videogames for people to hold an interest in an article about videogames. So here it is! Press A to Win!]

One hundred and twenty hours, plus. That's five full days. A work week, and then the drinking afterward. It's 7200 minutes, about the time it takes for you to get your arm stuck under a rock and then cut yourself free off (but, you know, I'm bad at estimates). It's also incidentally the amount of time I spent playing Dragon Age: Origins.

I'm not bragging or trying to show how iBig my eDick is, but I really enjoyed Dragon Age: Origins. Enough to play it more than two times. There was a certain draw of the (finally NOT Lord of the Rings) high fantasy – dragons and mages and swords and dwarves – that I just fell in love with. It was fully engrossing, and I became frightfully lost in Dragon Age's world.

So this spring, Dragon Age II was released. Naturally, I played it.

Dragon Age II comes to us from western RPG powerhouse Bioware. Bioware is responsible for the landmark Mass Effect series, the equally landmark Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series, and yes, the slightly-less-landmark-but-still-pretty-good Dragon Age series. It was released March 8th for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3; I played the 360 version.

Dragon Age II (which was so lazy it could not even come up with a sufficient subtitle) takes place kind of concurrently with, and beyond the time of, Dragon Age: Origins. While the events of DA:O are taking place, the main character of DAII – who goes by the unisex last name Hawke – is running the fuck away. Hawke is getting his family away from an invasion, and makes way for the city of Kirkwall. It is there that you must settle in and make a name for yourself and become the Champion of Kirkwall. Why? Because the game said so. I would be just as happy living a quiet existence in the middle class slums of Kirkwall, BUT NOOOOOOO. I've gotta be all "important" and "make my place in history." Ugh. And why Champion of Kirkwall?! It's not even my home!

Anyway, that's where the over-arching story dies. Afterward it's a mishmash of one goal to the next. Each of these goals is followed by a period of a few years, making the game take place over about a decade. First its a preparation for an expedition, then three unexplained years later it's completely unrelated political turmoil, then another three years later, it's a power struggle for control of Kirkwall. This is fine and can be used effectively, but (and this is a bit nitpicky) nothing changes over these years, least of all Hawke. I was playing as a mage, and over these years, for instance, I didn't get new clothes. I had money to afford them, but I didn't seem to buy anything? My stats (for the uninitiated, stats meaning my strength, dexterity, cunning, etc., stuff that determines how well I play the game) didn't move. It's like, okay I'm a mage; I didn't use magic at all in three years time? I didn't grow in the least? The weather was consistent; Hightown was always sunny, the Wounded Coast always overcast at sunset, even years on. The season never changes. I don't know, it just seemed time had passed only because I was told it did.

All these little threads seem to make up a bigger sweatshirt, but it never really feels like it's all the same sweatshirt. Suffice it to say, the story is not the main draw of DAII. It does a serviceable job, and you truly do anticipate the sequel that the game leaves wide open for.

What DAII does do right is how it looks. It looks really great. From a graphical standpoint, it's a bit behind what the current generation is capable of. But keep in mind that there's a crap ton of stuff on that disc, and sacrifices must be made. It doesn't even look that bad, but if you're a stickler for graphical quality, you might want to go pick up Crysis 2. Again.

What I mean is that Bioware does set dressing so well. Every environment is impeccably dressed. The Deep Roads spring to mind. The Hanged Man is wonderful, notably Varric's room. The Wounded Coast is beautiful, is haze and the sun burning through is fantastic.

The costumes and character designs are fantastic, some of the best in the industry. Someone needs to get Bioware some awards, whatever awards the give for making excellent costuming in videogames. Probably something about polygons. The Poligonies? Get them some Poligonies.

Defense rests.

The characters themselves a great as well. Bioware is nothing without the strength of their characterization. The dialogue is quick and their banter witty. The writing kind of lulls when trying to go for the dramatic, but its the humor that sticks with you: "Opinions are like testicles: if you hit 'em hard enough, it doesn't matter how many you've got."

I liked DAIIs characters more for how I reacted to them more than how they may have aided me. On two separate occasions, I wanted to kill one of my companions. Because they were bad people. I wanted nothing to do with them. I was getting upset at this videogame, when it hit me. "Oh my," I thought. "This game is inciting an actual emotional response from me."

Actually playing the game is a whole lot of fun. It has had a significant upgrade in terms of battle. It's faster and more gratuitous. The transition from raining fireballs from the sky and switching immediately to spreading an arc of icicles from my hand was more satisfying that I anticipated. It all happens so much faster. The most noticeable change is the shift from selecting a target and your character attacking 'til one of you dies in DA:O, to attacking each time you press A, mashing the poor A button into pieces, in DAII.

Is the difference of being tactical command away from front lines, to being the lead officer on the field. You're essentially doing the same thing, but it feels very separate. It's more dire and intense in DAII, which I can really appreciate.

There were a few bugs of which to speak. Twice I had showstopping freezes, when I had to hard reset the entire console. The Exiled Prince downloadable content also is plagued with problems. I couldn't complete one quest because it bugged out, and instances where the game would crash because it couldn't access assets from that DLC. Screen tearing was noticeable, as well as some jumpy animations, mainly dealing with the Arishok. All in all, a bit sloppy, but not so bad it interfered with the game. (Just remember to save a lot. A LOT.)

I dislike giving numerical or lettered grades to games, so I usually deal in "recommended" or "not recommended," with quantifiers as necessary so in closing I say…

…with the condition that you played and enjoyed DA:O. It's not as good, but if you preferred Mass Effect's styling, you could have a good time with DAII.


  1. I love Space Channel 5. I love all rhythm games really, but sc5 had chutzpa and such. I'm always looking for games that i enjoy, since violent, sci-fi & fantasy games bore me. Could you recommend some like SC5 or Pikmin for us girl gamers?

  2. Geek alert!

    I will pass this review on to mistersmash since it's not quite my type of game.

    In the meantime we are both playing Pokemon Black/White because we are adults. He has already beat the final four, but I'm still grinding away trying to make my dream team. Mostly I just don't feel like losing in the final battle of the final four because that is too much frustration from something that is supposed to bring me joy.

  3. Only one game I'm looking forward to right now and that is PORTAL 2! I'll get that cake yet.

  4. Oh shit! I had no idea Portal 2 was coming out so soon. YAY CAKE!

  5. I really liked this game (no duh to anyone who read my twitter feed)! I agree with your qualms, but I was entertained nonetheless. My main issue was that the decisions in DA:O really did not seem to have a huge impact, although I fully expect that these seeds will bear (evil!) fruit in DA:3.

    But OMG the characters! Bioware is really the best, IMO, with characters. I CARED WHAT HAPPENED TO THESE FAKE PEOPLE AND ELVES AND DWARF (ESPECIALLY THE DWARF VARRIC IS THE BEST EVER I STAND BY THAT TO MY DYING DAY). For the most part I really liked the return of DA:O characters, although Flemeth being super hot was confusing and alarming to me on many levels.

    I also really like Bioware in general. I am playing Mass Effect right now and BAM. It is awesome. Anyway, I second your recommendation.

    (P.S. Anders sucks)

  6. "(P.S. Anders sucks)"

    Pun intended?

    My roommate was the chief audio programmer for Dragon Age II. For almost six months he'd go to work at 7am, get home sometime between 10pm and 1am, hit his head against the wall a few times, go to bed and repeat. Apparently he loved it?

    I haven't started DA2 yet (I was halfway through Mass Effect 2 when it was released), but I can't wait to give my roommate shit for every part of the game I don't immediately approve of.

  7. SPOILER ALERT: I'm probably going to recommend most games I review, because I won't care enough about a bad game to finish it to review it.

    LBT: OMG I know right?! I loved the characters. Yes, I have a thing for the tall lithe dudes, so naturally I went right for Fenris. And my relationship with him really formed my opinion of how my character was. Like I said, I was a mage, but because I didn't want to piss off Fenris (and get some of that Elven lovin'), I kept going against the mages. Thus, I decided that my mage was in favor of mage restriction, but the management was all wrong.

    What I mean is that I was applying what I would do in real life to a videogame because the characters were so full. Good work, Bioware.

    Pam: Tell him the sound was pretty good. No issues on this end aurally. Hooray!