This article has been archived and may have some errors due to a previous design of MGL. None of the review has been altered however. I should really hang my head in shame here since it took me until 2013 to actually play one of the greatest RPGs out there, made by one of the best studios out there too in Bioware. I was given a copy of Dragon Age 2 and given the announcement that Sony were making a PS4 and Next Gen was approaching, EA also revealed that Dragon Age was coming to next gen. Since this was the case I went out and got a copy of Origins to start from the beginning, another one of my many fussy points with gaming!

Click to see just how big the overall world is! This is where DA Inquisition is heading!

For those like me who have missed this, Dragon Age is set in a medieval styled continent of Thedas, focusing on the land of Ferelden in Origins and Kirkwall and the surrounding lands in DA2. Much like the Eldar Scrolls the game always feels like there is bigger and greater things at work here and you are involved in a small part of what is a massive world only let down a little by the significantly smaller areas to explore in DA2. The fact DA2 is not as good as DA Origins should not stop anyone from playing what is an outstanding RPG series, check below for reviews of each game. Since its a long post, you can click here to jump to Dragon Age 2 ==========================================================================

UnmissableA modern classic would be the best description for this title, it came out in 2009 after all and was in development for six years according to the development team. It really was taken very seriously and broke a number of records at the time for voice acting and conversation trees within the game, considering the detail you get in Eldar Scrolls titles this is no easy task.
This truly is a game all about story and experience, interacting with characters and creating a story around your own decisions. There are many side quests and other areas to explore other than the vast main plot along with some great DLC that comes included with the Ultimate Edition of the game.

Look and feel

Showing it’s age but the battles and story are still excelent

The game plays a lot like the original mass effect in general movement and play, the third person view is a good distance away from the characters which gets you involved in the surroundings more plus you can see your party members as they frequently talk, and even argue, among themselves as you travel. Of course graphically Origins is showing its age now, there are some nice touches here and there that you can appreciate and well thought out cut scenes do their best but it’s still a little dated. The interface for movement is an interesting one, the world map allows you to navigate to the various areas of Ferelden but you do not actually walk there like you would in a Skyrim or other Elder Scrolls type game. Again it’s like Mass Effect using an adaptation of the galaxy map idea but unlike planets too fly to, its an old school map with villages and towns marked. Despite this seemingly limiting manner of travel it’s still very large and although some maps are used more than once, the areas are varied and all have a different feel when you go to say the land of the Dwarfs or the Mages.

Story

Your party includes some of the best characters in RPG gaming that all have their own personality for you to befriend… or not!

This is where the game excels. Firstly, you have 6 different origin stories at the beginning of the game depending on you character’s race and class. Each are worth a play though at some point (and you get a trophy/achievement for each one!) just to see what happens if you pick another path. Ultimately you are to become a Grey Warden, an elite soldier in the upcoming battle with the Darkspawn. The Blight is coming, an archdemon in the form of a giant dragon is massing an attack on the world with the Darkspawn emerging from their lair underground to fight the battle and kill as many people as possible. This overarching plot is one than forces you to pursue uniting the people and races of Ferelden against the Darkspawn and fight corrupt humans that would betray you and the king. But the game is far from just this tale to follow, you make big decisions on who to allow to live, die or even waste your time on. You have characters in your party you can befriend, make an enemy of and even romance. The depth to the characters and story is really incredible, even down to side missions for companions or other NPCs. The voice acting is brilliant with some good actors used to play the roles, some of the random conversations between party members as you are walking around are very good too.

Gameplay

Strategic gameplay requires preparation and thought during battle rather than button mashing.

Controls are very straight forward for the game with a simple inventory system although you pick up a lot of things on your travels and need to get rid of stuff regularly which can be a bit of a chore. There are a lot of conversations with people in general and members of your party, you do not need to have them all but if you want to get the best out of the story and build their trust its better to do so. This is all before the Mass Effect wheel so you have a numbered list to pick your reply from which makes you think a little more about what you are saying. Combat is where you are either going to love the game or struggle. It’s not hack and slash and it’s not turn based, its more command based. You have a lot of settings that you can add to your party members to make them act in certain ways, a lot of strategy can be implemented so its worth setting them up. In combat you control whoever you like, I stuck with my rogue Grey Warden. If u press “attack” your character will continue to use basic attack on targets until u give another instruction. You then pick from special powers/abilities to mix in with your attacks. If you have played Nights of The Old Republic you will be familiar with the system, I wasn’t a big fan at the start but soon got to like it and after a few hours I loved it.

Overall

This is a heavily story driven RPG with some good strategic fighting and amazing characters. If you like RPG games then you have to experience it or you are missing out. Being a Bioware game your decisions have an impact in your game as you play and subsequent games in the series, so if a character dies then they will be dead in Dragon Age 2 and ultimately DA3 which I personally like. Its big, rewarding and worth a good 40-50hrs of your time to complete.

Individual Scores

Game overall quality – 7.5 Had this been a few years ago it would be higher but the graphics are starting to show their age. This does not dampen the experience however; the looks are the only thing that are suffering here. Story – 10 Truly wonderful in every aspect, top voice acting with brilliant and varied characters plus you get to make big decisions that make an impact in the game and beyond. Challenge – 7 A tough one since you can play on easy and still have the same experience as someone on hard. On hard some battles are very, very tough and require a lot of planning, on easy its very simple and would be a score of about 3. Lifespan – 10 Big game, massive in fact if you add DLC or pick up the Ultimate Edition which has it all on the disk. 40-45hrs for the main game including the side quests but easily beyond that if you played Awakenings DLC. Good replay value as well with different classes and character backgrounds. Fun Factor – 7 It’s not a fun game really but the story really engages you and gets you thinking about the characters and how you interact with them. It’s strategic more than its fun, rewarding though. Overall score – 9.5 – Just a must play if you like RPGs or a story driven game, you won’t even notice the aging graphics after a while, the combat system may prove a little unusual to hack-n-slash fans but it’s worth investing your time in and getting used to. ===========================================================================

Dragon Age 2 starts during the end of Origins, while the Blight is taking over Ferelden and the Grey Warden is to take up arms against the Archdemon. However this takes a different path, focusing on Hawke or rather the Hawke family. You play as “insert name here” Hawke, much like Shepard in Mass Effect, and he/she is destined to be the champion of Kirkwall but you decide how they get there. This game makes many improvements over the last technically, providing lush graphics particularly on character faces and outfits. The gameplay has also changed to a more action-based combat that requires hack and slash fighting mixing in special abilities/magic that varies massively between the different classes (mage, rogue and warrior). For all the improvements here there is also a lot lost, but when you considering the 1year development cycle it’s hardly surprising

Look and feel

Much more detail and expression on the characters in DA2

The game is much sharper in all aspects in comparison to Dragon Age Origins. Faces are very well detailed and display emotion on what they are saying very well. The environments are atmospheric and have a good amount of detail however there are a lot of repeated maps which take away from the good work done in other areas. Control of your character is smoother and the animations are superior to origins and work well in general play. Menus and options are similar but more polished too, plus items you find that are sellable are automatically put into “junk” which helps to keep your inventory from overflowing. DA2 is very much influenced by Mass Effect 2 and has taken a lot from that engine, the conversation wheel is in full swing and lets you get used to positive and negative responses so you don’t pick the wrong one. There are however a lot less conversations to be had here and the immersion with character and story is lost somewhat.

Story

Dialogue is easier to manage with the ME style wheel but there is much less to get involved with.

This is where the game lacks compared to Origins which was as good as anything out there, when you take origins away it’s still a good story and has some interesting people in there it just doesn’t live up to the original. In this tale there is a huge issue brewing between the Mages and the Templars, one that will eventually turn into all out civil war. Kirkwall also has a huge number of immigrants from Ferelden due to the blight and struggles to cope with crime and an aggressive race of people called the Qunari, led by the Arishok who proves either friend of foe for Hawke depending on your choices. But the main story is not all that there is to do, there are a number of side quests, companion quests and just random bits you can get involved with, all with interesting characters and rewards. There are some standard fetch quests but if you do missions and explore the areas properly you will find them anyway and get the bonus of extra XP you weren’t expecting. Once again the voice acing is good and the character interactions work well, particularly some of the romance options you can have. Unfortunately, unlike Origins you can’t strike up a random conversation anytime now, they are much more prescribed and less frequent which isn’t in the same vain as the original. One element that also lets the story down is the repeated maps, and when I say repeated I mean exact replicas. A cave one place will be exactly the same as a cave you went through elsewhere, down to each rock and it’s the same with certain buildings within the city too. When you consider most of the game is split between Kirkwall’s few internal areas, at daytime or night, and the few lands just outside the wall, the game just doesn’t feel very big considering the scope of Thedas as shown at the top of the post. Yes there is a lot to do split over three acts, but they are all the same locations with little variety, even during the final battle.

Gameplay

Hack and Slash combat mixed with some strategy

The gameplay is much more action based and, like Origins, it will be the decider for most people. You hack-n-slash though enemies now rather than auto attack and give instructions. It’s much more taxing on the thumbs and less strategic although you have similar auto-options on your party members that give some strategy but, on normal difficulty at least, you don’t need to do much more than get them to use a health potion when their HP drops below 25% and then hack away at enemies. For hack and slash combat it is very smooth and fun with some very cool abilities if you pick the right class. All have their fun but the Mage and the Rogue are a lot more enjoyable than the warrior class and it leans itself to have you play as the former two really. Overall It’s a good RPG with a lot of fun elements, decent storyline and characters with some bits that really will make you glad you played though. But the recycled content can get a bit tedious especially if, like me, you happen to do three quests that all have the exact same dungeon layout as each other all one after the other. More time was needed to make it deeper for me, it almost feels like a story written at the same time as DA Origins that they just built up into a full game. Don’t let me put you off, I enjoyed doing it and have a beautiful shiny platinum trophy from the game. Origins set a certain standard that this did not quite meet but it is still very much worth your time. Scores Game overall quality – 8.5 Much higher standard than the previous game, graphic quality is better and the character models are very good. Story – 7.5 A let down after Origins but on the whole is still a good tale with some good characters and events it just needed to be a bit more expansive. Challenge – 6 Again, no real issue as you can change difficulty at any time but can be tough on hard. Hack-n-slash makes it easier, avoiding the need for strategy in Origins. Lifespan – 7 A big game even though there are recycled parts, easily put in 35hrs but you would be able to get that down to 20 avoiding extra quests. Still repayable with different classes but you have to be human in this game. Fun Factor – 8 More fun abilities and more involvement with the hack-n-slash fighting system that makes it more appealing to non-RPG fans. Overall score – 8 – It’s a good game, fun to play and you will like the characters it just doesn’t quite meet the standards of the original game and should have had more time spend developing varied areas and more locations. That’s it for the series until Dragon Age inquisition hits this winter, check out the teaser video below and see what you think. Remember your save will carry all your decisions though, who lives who dies, who you side with so make sure you keep those save files waiting for November! Game On http://youtu.be/SpEsgxlZqro

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