|System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: March 8, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
The problem with Dragon Age 2 isn't that it's a bad game. It's that just about everything (besides combat) that has changed from the original has changed for the worse. I was excited about the new style of storytelling, but it falls flat. I don't think that's Bioware's fault. I think they just took a risk on something that sounded good on paper, but didn't quite pan out in reality.
Some problems from Origins have persisted in this game as well. Most notably, the level design is exceedingly poor. Nearly every level consists of narrow pathways that allow for positively zero exploration or player agency. The environments aren't very good looking to begin with, so there's not a whole lot of incentive to explore anyway. This problem becomes worse when the storytellers don't take the time to actually explain where things are. The next leg of a quest is rarely explained to you and now just appears as a blip on the mini-map. This leads to huge swaths of the game being essentially played not with high-res modern graphics, but by watching a few blips go across a 2D mini-map until the cutscene triggers. This, again, is consistent with a game that simply wasn't taken slowly and carefully.
Thus far, this review has been pretty much a laundry list of complaints, and perhaps that's misleading. Dragon Age 2 has a lot of problems, and many of them are new to the series which makes them worth talking about in a review. However, the game is still based on one of the best fantasy RPG structures ever built. Even a huge list of complaints can't drag it down too far. No matter what happens, it's still fun to fight darkspawn, converse with fun characters, try to seduce your party members, and do all of the other great things that Bioware games have brought us.
There are even a couple areas in which the game feels better than the original. The controls, for instance, feel much more natural on a controller this time around. Whereas Dragon Age: Origins felt shoe-horned onto consoles, this game definitely feels as though it was designed from the ground up for consoles. The other improved area is that graphics. It's not a big improvement, but the new style lent a refreshingly new feel to the series. Bioware continues to show us new fantasy style that we've never seen before.
This is a solid game, but it's a step backward for Dragon Age and Bioware alike. The question we all need to ask ourselves is whether we'd rather Bioware spend years (seven, by some accounts) working on an epic like Dragon Age: Origins, or if we'd rather they pump out markedly more flawed editions every eighteen to twenty-four months. I really don't know the answer.
CCC Freelance Writer