Clocking in over 83 hours into the first Dragon Age: Origins game, I was really looking forward to the next installment, Dragon Age II...
Now, 25 hours later and the game completed, I don't think I'm going to be starting up a new character again... Here's why:
First of all, the game is very repetitive. Levels are recycled constantly, and you find yourself revisiting the same caverns/warehouse/foundry over and over again. Even one of the main characters makes a remark "With all the bad guys we're finding in this warehouse, I wonder if the owner charges rent!"
The only motivation to keep playing is the story, and trying to gain exp. points to unlock abilities. Other than that, the game is a bore. The idea of tactics pretty much goes out the window because they've streamlined everything so much. You just let your companions do their own thing and make sure their health doesn't dip too low and that's about it. This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but as far as battles go, it's either way too easy or way too hard.
I started my first campaign as a mage. And as you progress in the story, you unlock area damage abilities... So you get to a point where all you have to do is hit a clumped up group of bad guys, and they all go down like dominoes. Then there are bosses that are just plain over-powered. I played every single side-quest up till the end of the game, so I knew I couldn't get any more exp... when you encounter a very large boss npc... that no matter what I did, always killed me and my party... It would be ok if it was just 'challenging,' but this was just annoying, having to keep reloading so many times I just simply gave up.
Another thing that is keeping me from trying another game is the lack of "origins" that the first game had... In this game, you are only allowed to play as a human... male or female... with 3 classes, mage/rogue/warrior. The first game had these options, plus the option to be a dwarf or an elf, and those options had even more options such as being a noble dwarf or a commoner. Each origin story was radically different and the whole game felt different every time you played it. So even if the gameplay was at all repetitive, it felt fresh because you were in a different level/map/area.
Now, for the good stuff about this game:
Romances felt much more natural. Rather than buttering up your companions by giving them a ton of gifts and having to talk to them and hear their whole life story to get them to like you, your companions' opinion of you changes based on your actions on how you respond to situations. I managed to sleep with 2 of my companions without any of the bickering that happened when you tried to do that in Origins. The romance choices are available for just about every companion, even male/male options, which can be a bit awkward if you don't "see them like that". It's sort of unfair, because I had a companion that I wanted as a friend, but because I didn't choose romance options, his rating of me constantly dipped down, even after I helped him with his side quest, until eventually he became my rival... Which was completely unrealistic because I treated one other companion like crap and he ended up fighting with me regardless!
Another difference is that your character actually speaks (has vocal dialog) whereas in Origins, all you had was text to choose from... Now when you select a choice you have only 3 approaches (with sometimes other options depending on the context)... Peaceful, Sarcastic, Angry
For my first playthough, my character was sarcastic mostly because it was the most neutral option that wouldn't have sounded weak nor would it have pissed off who I was talking to. The male character reminds me of Alistair when he's being sarcastic, and I didn't like Alistair because I don't like sarcastic humor :\
As far as design elements, the species of the game have been all updated... In the first game, the Quinari and elves looked a lot like humans, but now they have very distinct differences as far as their look go that make them appear more distinguishable than before. This is a good thing, though I wonder why they didn't do that to begin with... Quinari before just had corn-rows in their hair, and now they have big steer-like horns... Oooo k.
The mage's special effects were revamped and looked a lot cooler, and from what I can tell, the rogue's are a lot faster/cooler as well.
Now, on to another pet peeve of mine...
The story is being told through one of your companions (after the fact)... This story telling gimmick always bothered me.. the whole "LET'S TELL THE STORY THROUGH FLASHBACKS" plot device. It makes me feel that what I am doing has no effect and doesn't matter because it's already happened. Every event I encounter I feel like it doesn't matter how I handle it because of the looming big "EVENT" that this story teller keeps eluding to. Meaning I will have to face it, not matter what I do, because it's already happened.
And here's another thing that bothers me... This dwarf, Varric, that is telling the story.... what if I didn't want him to be my companion in the game? Let's say I always selected 3 other companions to play with and not him? How would he be able to tell those parts of the story (side-quests mostly) that happened if he wasn't there?! So to stay true to the whole role playing element, I always had to bring him along (in my mind) just so the game's story made sense. Nothing I had to do, but just felt better doing it.
The enemies come at you in waves... Meaning once you've killed enough, another group will literally spawn out of nowhere in front of you and keep the battle going... This is a unique system, which isn't bad, but the it would have been nicer if they considered that some NPCs have more health than others... So if I killed off 5 of the guys with little health, it would spawn 5 more guys with moderate health even before I killed off the other guys with moderate health... Meaning it is better to focus on the bad guys with the most health FIRST, even though all those other guys that are bugging you like flies could be taken down with a single blow, because if you dont' take down the big guys first, other big guys will show up sooner.
Anyway, the point is, get this game, but get it when it's cheaper and after they release all of the DLC in a packaged edition that will inevitably come out later this year... Don't buy it now because you're not going to get as much gameplay out of it for the money, but the story is well written, if nothing else.
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