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Do not buy Dragon Age II, Part 2

Brad Gallaway's picture

Dragon Age II Screenshot

Sorry to end on a cliffhanger last time, but life can sometimes get in the way of leisure-time blog posting. You know how it goes.

Anyway... Dragon Age II.

So at this point, I'm about fifteen hours or so into the game. I am going to be doing a full review so I won't go into a great amount of detail here, but I will say that if I wasn't going to be submitting a formal review, I would have already quit the game and traded it in for something else. Not even kidding a bit.

In the interest of keeping things brief, here's a quick list of bullet points highlighting the issues I have with it:

  • The combat system is still a mess. Removing the lag time before attacks is only a cosmetic difference, and the overall system of pop-in enemies constantly swarming the player is garbage. Requiring the player to spam the attack button while special abilities cool down is both tedious and aggravating.

  • The vast majority of quests I've been through have been disposable tasks concerned with fetching something or killing something, and they have very little relevance or significance. The sense of making difficult choices is essentially absent.

  • After fifteen hours, there is still no sense of purpose to the game, nor any sense of drama or adventure. There's been precious little conflict, and no overarching motivation to progress what little story there is.

  • The characters are poorly-written and not nearly as interesting as they were in Dragon Age: Origins. The pacing for getting to know them is off, and I feel no camaraderie whatsoever for any of them. I don't even feel annoyed by any of them. Basically, they have no impact at all. Even worse, it's hard to predict how they will respond to choices made, at times feeling as though their like or dislike is completely random.

  • The paraphrased dialogue choices are sometimes misleading, and there's no feeling of playing the main character when each dialogue choice is accompanied by a symbol specifically explaining what the effect is—i.e., "humor", "aggressive", "Romance" and so on.

  • The game spends too much time in the city of Kirkwall, and exterior environments are noticeably repeated, lending the feeling that the development team either did not have the budget or the time to craft unique locations. Furthermore, most locations are glorified hallways with nothing to explore and nothing interesting to be seen.

  • The game only lets players manage armor for the main character, far too many pieces are class-specific and unequippable, and the things that can be equipped have very little visual distinction. Party members' appearance cannot be changed at all, with only weapons and accessories able to be modified.

  • The game has crashed on me twice so far, requiring a full hardware reset in order to keep playing. Load screens are also long and frequent, and I often feel as though I'm spending more time looking at load screens that I am playing the game. It's impossible to achieve any sense of immersion at all.

There are other things I could bring up, but long story short, it's pretty obvious that development was massively rushed and a lot of shortcuts were taken with Dragon Age II.

Maybe if BioWare and Electronic Arts were more concerned with creating an experience that matched or surpassed the original rather than fast-tracking a sequel and spending all their resources on ridiculous DLC promotions, players might have actually gotten something that would have lived up to the big talk prior to release.

The drop in overall quality is staggering on a cosmic level, and there's no way I'd ever recommend anyone buying this game under any circumstances. For being such prestige players, BioWare and EA should be embarrassed and ashamed for turning out such a boring, tedious, poorly-crafted excuse of a game.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox 360   PS3   PC  
Developer(s): BioWare  
Series: Dragon Age  
Genre(s): Role-Playing  
Articles: Editorials  

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Agree with almost everything you said about Dragon Age 2

I hate to say it, but I agree with almost everything you said. I'm currently 12 hours into it. And I am still questioning the reason why I am running around doing all this crap. It's like everything has no value or impact.

Also, a glitch happened in my game, where I accepted an award after a quest.. and I hit the button twice, and I got the reward two times. Then I kept hitting the button and I got endless money and EXP.. so I am currently at level 40 with all skills I am interested in unlocked lol. And I am kind of disappointed of how useless most of them are.

But back to main issue, what is with the loading between every little place I go, if I enter a house, there's a 20 second loading time, I've never experienced this much BS before. In Mass Effect 2 you could check an entire city without any loading.. why didn't that team help the DA2 team with their issues? And the character designs with the exceptions of Isabela and the dwarf are so lame I consider their looks common civilians.

I sure hope the main quest starts soon lol. Because the trailers I was shown sure as hell don't represent the game.

Concur!

Completely agree with you Brad, and unlike last time where I had the advantage of playing the PC version of Origins, this time it makes no difference; the game isn't great, either way.

Problem is, I still bought it. And I shouldn't have - just like you said not to. £30 down the crapper. Don't know if I can ever force myself to even play it to get my money's worth. I just have no desire for it at all. Not good. =S

Also gotta say that having on-day DLC that isn't on every disc is still as annoying as ever. Apparently if you want that Exiled Prince you need to have bought the collector's edition, or else it'll set you back £4-5. Nice work BioWare. I totally respect your integrity right now.

I wish I'd held off just a few more days on buying this game.

I had decided that I was going to do that and then, on Friday, I bought it on the spur of the moment. What a mistake. Your synopsis encapsulates almost exactly my own experience. I'm about ten hours into it and it feels like:

1. An unrelated series of fetch quests.
2. The characters have no real impact on the story.
3. There IS no story to speak of.
4. The combat is mind-numbingly boring. I found myself yawning once during a fight when I was mashing the A button. Yawning.

Any way, thank you for putting up your first impressions. I hope that they dissuade someone from wasting their money on this game. It's just not any fun.

Thoughts

For people hungry for more Dragon Age, I agree that this game should be skipped entirely. Instead of wasting good, hard-earned money on DA2, I recommend starting a new character/race/etc on DA:O and simply playing that again from the beginning. There is no comparison between the two games. DA:O is a classic, while DA2 is fast becoming a cautionary tale for developers and publishers tempted by greed to rush an undercooked game to market. What a disaster.

I believe there is a silver lining here. I spent a lot of time last night scouring the BioWare forums and other places to get an idea of what dissatisfied customers of the Grade A turkey of a game are saying. I found much of it very encouraging.

A few things I noticed:

- Many people are getting extremely fed up with day one DLC, not to mention DLC in general that offers little value for money. Many who bought DA2 have stated they will buy no DLC for this game whatsoever, due to the core game's low quality

- There are a quite a few raised eyebrows out there over the stark discrepancy in user scores vs. game critic scores for DA2. People are getting very suspicious with a lot of game review sites. It's hard to blame anyone for wondering what the hell is going on with scoring these days. On Metacritic the average user score for DA2 (Xbox 360) is around 4/10, while the average critic score is a little over 8/10! In other words, people who got the game for free from the publisher scored the game twice as high as people who had to pay for it

- Thanks to EA/BioWare's actions against a particular user the other day, the backlash against DRM is growing by leaps and bounds

It's too early to say whether the issues with DLC, DRM and milquetoast game reviewers have reached any kind of tipping point, but if they do the fiasco that is Dragon Age 2 may well prove to have been a key catalyst.

- Chris

Can't disagree with this even for a second

Wow, I really have to say I cant disagree with this even for a second. I know some would dismiss it as being melodramatic and over the top, but I agree 100%. The game simply is THAT bad. And not just because its Bioware making a bad game either. This game would be atrocious no matter the reputations attached.

First Mass Effect 2 and now this. I cant see much bright in the future for Bioware, at least for me as a gamer. Im fully expecting a repeat of the dismal dumb experience of ME2 with ME3, possibly with competative multiplayer tacked on to boot.

Its all such a shame really. Not that I pity the devs: their arrogance and greed is as much responsible for this as EAs. I pity myself really, because for over a decade Ive been able to experience what this company could do when it really let its talent and creativity flow. These past few years however have seen a marked decline.

Now I wasnt DA:Os biggest fan or anything, but I thought it was a superb game and I openly admitted my "criticisms" were down to my own faults as a picky fantasy gamer. I still thoroughly enjoyed the experience playing it. DA2 is.... torture. Theres no other word for it.

I loved Mass Effect 1, and even enthusiastically embraced turned a critical eye to the first games many flaws in the hopes they would be improved upon in the second. Instead, they shoved shooter combat and box filled missions down my throat in the second game.

Dear oh dear. I respect Bethesda, but I would never have guessed two years in a row now it would be down to them (well, and Obsidian devloping it last year) to save my gaming year from Biowares dismal failures. Fallout: New Vegas helped me get over Mass Effect 2 last year, and Skyrim will most likely help me get over both this and what could be a repeat of ME2 come ME3s release, if not worse.

/rant.

P.S. Again, major kudos for having the guts to eviscerate this piece of trash game like it deserves.

The combat on consoles...

I didn't buy the game, only played the demo for PC and PS3 version. While DA2 on PC played like a watered-down version of Origins, it was very weird on the PS3. It felt like how someone might think God of War plays if he only knows it from stories told by people who don't like God of War. It was only mashing buttons until everything falls over. The combat got so boring, I didn't even finish the demo on the PS3.

@Chris Cziborr Yeah the

@Chris Cziborr

Yeah the BioWare forums are overloaded with angry people, and I'm not even talking your typical internet moaners that you get with any game, I'm talking like pages upon pages of threads asking how BioWare have gone so wrong.

It's good to see your enthusiastic about the things you pointed out that seem to be getting through on the forums, but if you go back a bit further you'll see BioWare actually did a similar thing when they released Awakening. That game/expansion was just as unfinished as DA2 is, so they clearly didn't learn anything there. They rushed it out ASAP for some easy cash, and as long as people keep buying their stuff they won't even attempt to sort their s*** out.

Also completely agree about the reviews too. How long are people going to put up with websites/magazines firing out dishonest reviews? Again, as with a lot of big titles, there are always reader reviews that will deliberately hate on the game for no reason, but with DA2 the amount of scathing reviews completely contradicts the "professional" reviewers, and yet I am more inclined to trust the non-professional ones. How about that?

Looking forward to Brad pulling down that ridiculous 80+ critic score on Metacritic when his review goes up.

Awakening etc.

Good point about Awakening. I was starting to hope that maybe DA2 was just another Jade Empire for BioWare but clearly something is amiss here with the company.

Former EA execs have a lot of bad things to say about EA. Glancing at a lot of EA's non-sports releases in recent years and it looks an awful lot like something is terribly wrong with that company in terms of managerial competencies.

The Old Republic is a major gamble. If it works out well, BW will be making money hand over fist. If it doesn't, well, the company may simply not recover. The early reviews I'm hearing are not encouraging. It sounds too much like WoW with a Star Wars skin.

I believe BioWare should've stuck with its core strength: single-player RPG's. It has, after all, made some of the best single-player RPG's ever. Plus they were selling very well. Running an MMORPG is a whole other ball of wax. And no one does it nearly as well as Blizzard.

I guess what happens is execs look with envy at Blizzard and how running WoW is like having a license to print money. They think, "Well, if Blizzard can do it, *we* certainly can do it."

Except maybe they can't. Industry people I've spoken with recently don't believe BioWare will able to run TOR effectively enough from a tech standpoint, and that it could mean the end of the line for them. :(

That would be very sad, indeed. Like one other commenter mentioned, I now mainly look to Bethesda to save the day this year with Skyrim.

Minsc says BOO!

Remember back in the 90's when we all couldn't wait for gaming to go mainstream like movies? ...thinking "oh man, we are gonna get such SWEET games when the big $$$ are gettin invested"

Well they've gone mainstream... and it's just like the movies -
with all the $$$ required and a handful of big investor driven companies dominating, we're seeing 2 or 3 cool blockbusters, a pretty decent amount of clever low budget flicks, a truckload of cliche ridden crap designed to sell a lot of tickets in the first few weeks and CRAPPY SEQUELS trading on a franchise name. At this rate Dragon Age 3 will be straight to video.

I own a PC, an xbox, a PS3 and an iPhone. In the last year I have purchased 1 pc game, 0 xbox, 3 PS3 and about 20 iOS games.
Someone bought me Dead Space 2 for X-mas - played enough to realise it had very little to offer over the first game so I traded it. Upshot is that if I wanted DA2 I could get it free.
Well, at this stage it looks like that voucher will have to wait till OCTOBER (Arkham City)

The BioWare we knew has gone. Sad, but we'll always have Paris.

* on a sidenote: the games may have caught up, but advertising $$$ are keeping game CRITICISM in an adolescent state. Folks are gonna agree and disagree with your views Brad but at least everyone who visits here knows they're reading YOUR views.

So, does 15 hours in mean

So, does 15 hours in mean you've already finished Act1 (done the expedition)? Looking at my 10h save it could very well be that 15h are just the first act. And yes, that one's terrible, completely in line with what's in the article. Those were exactly my impressions, minus the loading times (not as long on pc) and the attack button spamming (give order, character keeps attacking without clicking again). I've always hated it when someone told me "it get's better later", but in this case i'd say it, too. Act 2 and 3 have better story, companion quests and characters from what i think.

I'm not trying to justify anything. Being "only" 40h long, 15h bad game is almost unforgivable and if I was asked about the game now that I've finished it, I still wouldn't reccomend it. The combat ist still terrible (seriously, whoever thought the pop-in waves of enemies were a good idea should get another job; and those who didn't stop him probably too) and the repeating environments keep bugging you even more every time you see them. But the few positives, a fair story and some nice character interaction and companion quests, make it bearable at least.

So what I'd say now I've finished it is, it was obviously rushed. There is potential hidden within, which could have made a worthy sequel, had they only given it a year more time. The way it is now, it's a bad BioWare game. Perhaps even their worst one, considering NWN had at least varying locations and good combat. And you shouldn't require people to endure 15 hours before the game starts getting interesting. I bought it day one, I don't feel bad about it or even regret it, but I already told people to better stay away from it.

I've just reached the third

I've just reached the third act and I've quite enjoyed the game so far in spite of most of the complaints here. The repetetive environments and zerg enemy mechanic being the worst. I do however disagree with calling the characters poorly written. The in media res intro struck me as quite interesting, reminiscent of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. I did however find that the look of some of the characters is a bit silly. Isabella looks like a pubescent fantasy and Fenris like he escaped from a JRPG. Talking to the companions is also not implemented as well as it was in Mass Effect or Origins, but once you get to talk to them they do become quite interesting.

It's a flawed game, but I have still had quite a good time with it.

What do you mean New Vegas was good?

You and I are going to be at lagerheads here...you mean to tell me Mass Effect 2 was DUMBER than New Vegas? Seriously? I have owned and played both (PS3 version, full disclosure) and I thought New Vegas was one of the least immersive, most pointless poor excuses for a sequel I've seen. I loved Fallout 3 and liked Oblivion so I'm not a Bethesda hater, but seriously man, nothing New Vegas purported to do it actually did. The faction system was BS, the story was non-existant and the ending was such crap a child could have written it (a where are they now feature on your allies without anything more than what they did afterwards? that worked in 1995 not to mention I never once cared if my allies got killed because of their flat personalities and they didn't stay dead. either so they didn't even make useful cannon fodder). Now on the other hand, I dug ME2 and maybe it's because I own a PS3 so it was my first taste of the series. But you cannot tell me a pointless exercise I kept HOPING would eventually draw me in but never even tried to like Fallout: New Vegas was more intellectually fleshed out than ME2. Fallout 3 who your character was felt a little vestigial, with the ending slightly differing based upon your choices (it wasn't Bioshock to be sure) but New Vegas...I literally bluffed my way out of a climactic fight for New Vegas. Here the NCR spends the entire game WANTING to take control of New Vegas and I just make a little threat with my upgraded robots and they say "you win" utterly pointless....it's one of the rare games of its type I just completed, didn't care to try again thinking maybe I missed something compelling and it's been traded in toward another purchase. If you guys can honestly tell me Dragon Age 2 is worse or somehow dumber and more pointless than New Vegas, I'll argue with you because I can't see how it possibly could be storywise. I'm only a few hours into Dragon Age 2 but one thing I will say is the element that made origins so good was the origins...you felt like in a way you owned your character and there were some variations in story because of this. So far with DA2 I haven't really felt like I owned my Hawke and not being able to change the equipment of others is kind of crappy...but I will reserve judgment until I get further in because it's going to be a long game I'm sure. You couldn't significantly change the look of your allies in ME2 so maybe that's a limit for the kind of games these are. Come to think of it...most every RPG I've played other than DA:O is that way, so are you guys just whining or pining?

I disagree with Brad's comments...

I agree with some of your points Brad, especially about the repeated environments and lack of companion customization, but I don't think you are giving Dragon Age 2 much of a chance.

Saying the that combat in Dragon Age II is broken, when compared to the first game, is an insult. Granted that I have only played the game on the 360, so I haven't experienced the "amazing" tactical options that PC gamers seem to have enjoyed in Origins. But the combat in Origins was dreadful. Every encounter was a long, drawn out slog through repetitive enemies that stopped being exciting at hour 5 of a 60 hour game. Combined with the terribly convoluted UI of the first game, I honestly dropped the difficulty down to casual in Origins to get through it faster.

The combat in Dragon Age II is much faster and can be quite strategic on Hard and Nightmare difficulties. The boss fights, of which there are very few at the 15 hour mark, require a fair bit of thinking and tactical pausing to dole out individual orders. I remember one particular creature taking about 20 intense minutes of team managing to take down, and this was from a side quest boss.

To say that the characters are poorly written is also insulting. Have you listened to the banter between party members between missions? It contains some of the most entertaining moments in the game. Compared to Origins, each companion in DA II seems more believable and morally ambiguous. In Origins, pretty much everyone except Loghain was either good (Wynne), selfish (Morrigan), or a drunk. There were few moments in the first game in which I felt that I was interacting with a real character and not some generic fantasy archetype.

I agree completely with the disappointing equipment system for party members and the reused environments, which reach a ridiculous degree in Act III. And the conclusion of the game is something of a cliffhanger, but the strength of the overall story, improved combat, and character development make the game much less terrible than you describe.

I can tell already that your review is going to be less than kind, probably along the 4-6 range if not lower. But DA II is not deserving of such low scores. It seems the majority of users on sites like Metacritic are so disappointed with some of the changes that Bioware made that they refuse to give the game a proper chance, or worse, they write full reviews of a 40 hour game based off of the demo, or off of the first couple hours. I believe that people need to get rid of the notion that somehow Bioware has become a terrible developer, or that they are being bullied by EA to make a quick buck and judge the game based off of its own merits.

Everything you are finding

Everything you are finding wrong with DA2 I found wrong with DA:O, tho DA:O is a bit more polished story wise its still a complete mess.

The game

Dragon Age Origins / Awakening overall : 10/10, Dragon Age 2 : 7/10, im 34 hours into it, and I like it, I LOVED the first one, im not satisfied with this one though, and I wish that Bioware is gonna put more effort making the next one....

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