Dragon Age II PS3 Review

Darkspawn scamper across the land, heading seemingly towards their next destination. Wherever they arrive, devastation is sure to follow. A bolt of magic strikes a darkspawn lackey, sending him flying in the direction from which he came. And with this, we have the first image of the Hawke siblings. Over the next few minutes, the player slices through hordes of darkspawn one after another with ease. The six skills you are granted are end-game worthy; giving the player the ability to cut a darkspawn like a hot knife through butter. After slaying a gigantic Ogre with ease, a large amount of darkspawn surround Hawke and their sibling. Just as things are starting to look bleak, our heroes look up to see a large dragon breathing fire and flying off the peak of the mountain.

“Bullshit. That’s not what really happened!” A quick flashback to reality reveals our dwarven friend Varric is still being interrogated by Cassandra, the Chantry Seeker. The interviewer keeps pressing Varric on his knowledge and relationship with ‘The Champion’. After demanding he tell the truth, Varric slinks back in his chair and begins the story of The Champion.

You play as the human male or female Hawke, and you can either make them a warrior, rogue, or mage. Each class offers variety; for example dual wielding dagger or bow-using rogue. When Hawke or a companion levels up, the player is given three attribute points and one ability point. The attribute points affect stats such as strength, constitution, intelligence, etc., while the ability points are used to gain access to new skills and upgrades for skills as well. As the main character, Hawke also gets three specialties depending on which class you chose; such as Spirit Healer or Blood Mage for Mages (however you are only allowed to choose 2 of the 3).

Combat plays a little differently from the predecessor; Dragon Age Origins. Instead of a highlight/click interface (which played better on the PC, in my opinion), Dragon Age 2 is very action oriented. You now fully control The Champion’s actions; down to each single stroke of the blade or wave of the wand. At first it may come off as button mashing, but once you develop enough abilities the game becomes somewhat tactical. Party positioning can be crucial in some of the tougher fights, but a lot of the times you and your party of three can rush through the minor mobs very easily. However, simple combat is completely different between all three roles and I suggest trying them all out. Whether it’s through multiple playthroughs or through your companions; each role offers something fun and different when it comes to combat.

The conversation system is upgraded in the sequel as well. Leaving behind the four-five conversation options from the first game, Dragon Age 2 offers three choices for conversation; a positive message, a sarcastic reply, or a rude(and usually evil) response. Through these conversations, you will shape the world and the story of Dragon Age 2. As with most Bioware games, your choices and how you interact with others can affect anything and everything in game. If you were to spare an enemy in an earlier quest, they may come back for vengeance later. Or perhaps if you kill an enemy instead of sparing them, you could find out later you made a mistake when you are still chasing the same murderer.

My favorite part of the game, however, was how a lot of seemingly minor quests tied into the main plot and affected characters close to The Champion. Something as simple as helping your friend seek vengeance can very well have strong ties to the final boss fight. And it isn’t just one instance; it’s throughout the entire game. The story plays out through a ten year span and is covered through three acts. There are multiple references to the first entry to the Dragon Age series as well as the ability to load up your data from Dragon Age: Origins and have your choices from that game affect your current playthrough. You can play this game without any knowledge of the first one and still enjoy it, but you’d probably get more out of it if you have the overall Dragon Age experience.

The audio, for the most part, sets the tone for the knight/magic era. Very regal, battle epic tunes will be playing throughout the game. The battle music fits very well for each situation; whether it is a dark, gloomy cave or a mystical, lush forest. At times when there are a lot of characters on screen the noise can become distorted. The sound of swords clanking together almost like a screech on screen, but that’s only when there are maybe 20+ characters on screen. In battle the swords cling and the fire balls sizzle, and it all comes together nicely.

The major complaint about this game is the map recycling. At first it’s manageable, but after 20+ hours of running through the same five or six maps it’s understandable for players to get frustrated. There is hidden treasure within every dungeon and most maps and the enemies drop weapons and items like the previous entry. However, instead of equipping everyone with weapons and armor; as you do in Dragon Age: Origins, you only fully equip The Champion. You can still give your companions weapons and accessories likes rings or trinkets; but they each have their own personal armor that you can upgrade buy purchasing them when shops carry them.

All in all, Bioware has done well meshing the Baulder’s Gate-era RPG with today’s standard action/adventure game. This game relies heavily on its combat system, and thankfully it is done very well. From simple attack combos to abilities and spells, the battles never really seem boring. The story keeps you hooked from the beginning and has some real character development that is enjoyable to watch from beginning to end. However, the single noticeable flaw is a big one. My first playthrough clocked in at roughly 40 hours, and I felt as if I was replaying a lot of dungeons; especially towards the end. But for console RPG lovers, this is a must have.

Score: 8 out of 10

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