There’s power in stories though. That’s all history is: the best tales.

Dragon Age 2 is a curious beast. There’s much that I think has improved far and above the way it was done in Dragon Age: Origins, and then there are the bits that make me wonder what BioWare were doing during development. Despite its faults, Dragon Age 2 is definitely an enjoyable game. I felt a replay was necessary, given the imminent release of Dragon Age Inquisition.

Dragon Age 2 starts off concurrently with Origins, where your player character, the future Champion of Kirkwall is fleeing Lothering, a small town that falls to The Blight where your first player character, the Hero of Ferelden has just left to begin their quest of defeating the archdemon. What’s immediately obvious are two things. The first is that the graphics are much, much better than in Origins, meaning nobody looks like a mannequin anymore. The environments look far better, brighter and more inviting.

The second is that the gameplay speed is far more frenetic. Where Origins began with a quick tutorial as part of your character’s history with an introduction to the game’s mechanisms, Dragon Age 2 sort of just throws you into it with some darkspawn to showcase the new, vastly different gameplay. Despite the increase in pace and a big move away from the pseudo-turn based combat of Origins, the game is easier, and as a result more accessible to new players. Coupled with the revamped visuals, Dragon Age 2 feels much like a Jackie Chan action movie. Or The Expendables with swords and magic.

From a playing perspective, the game is far simpler than Origins, requiring less thought and understanding of the underlying formulas that make up the amount of damage that X will do to Y. I would called it dumbed down. There’s no two ways about it. However, I don’t necessarily see it as a “bad thing” either, because there are some really dumb games out there that remain fun to play over and over again. Dragon Age 2 is still quite a lot of fun to play because the new combat mechanics are concise and work just as well as the original’s. By adding cross class combinations, such as using a warrior to shatter frozen enemies, the strategic options are still there.

The biggest criticism, I think that can be made of Dragon Age 2, is that there are lots of reused levels and environments. Most of these are used in such a way that sections of the level are blocked off when required. Given the short release cycle between Origins and this game, it came as no surprise to me, that large sections of the game were recycled. It takes time to build environments. Ultimately, this is what made the game feel rushed and lazy, but the new environments created for the DLCs were definitely a step above, and went some way to make the game a better experience.

On a brighter note, the game continues BioWare’s tradition of well written characters, sense of humour and branching storylines, which gives players a compelling reason to keep on playing. With some of the characters returning from Origins, there is continuity between the two games, which acts as a set up for the conflict in Inquisition. If BioWare can fix the issues introduced in this game, Inquisition should be frickin’ awesome. Here’s hoping, right?

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