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Dragon Age 2: The First 8 Hours

No High Scores

New DA2 screenshot! Yay! (Now Bill can ease up off my back about it.)

I’ve got about eight hours into Dragon Effect, excuse me, Dragon Age 2 (PC version), so it’s time to post some impressions. These are in no particular order, but represent a fair sampling of the good and bad so far…

– I’ve got a solid DX11 video card (Nvidia GTX460 from EVGA) and I cannot run on Very Hight detail with all environmental effects enabled. I can run at High detail, using the high-res textures Brandon posted about yesterday. It looks really, really good. That said, if the magnetic weapons across the back thing bothers you, that’s still there, and yes it looks silly when a character with a huge staff on their back can just sit down in a chair. Whatever, that doesn’t bother me near as much as Sheperd drinking his Mr. Coffee through his helmet. (There is an option to hide your PC’s helmet, unlike Mass Effect.)

– Leveling in this game is pretty darn quick. My player character, Crow (yes, Crow Hawke), leveled up after the first battle and again before I reached Flemeth and is already, I think, level six. I noted this in the demo, but I was kind of hoping it was just accelerated because it was a demo. One of the things I didn’t like in Origins is that you put so many points into character attributes that leveling up meant less and less as you went on. All sense of scale to the numbers are lost and leveling becomes a chore. Looks like that will be the case again this time around.

– Your sister’s breasts are bigger in the “make believe” version of the champion’s escape from Lothering than in the “actual” telling and they’re plenty generous in the actual telling. This is exactly what I don’t want to see from the “unreliable narrator.” Do something cool with it; don’t just use it as an excuse to be juvenile.

– I have real issues with some of the “streamlining” they’ve done with this game, but there is good streamlining here too. I like that health and mana/stamina potions have a permanent quick slot at the bottom right corner of the screen. In Origins, having to drag five healing potion variants to your taskbar for every single character was annoying. There’s also a new Junk category for inventory. Items you never actually use (gems, incompatible armor, etc.) and will only sell end up here automatically, but you can also assign other items to it that you no longer want. When you go to a merchant you can then click one “sell all” button to get rid of everything in the Junk category. Wonderful! This is simplifying gameplay in a good way.

EDIT: Mr. Brandon says Origins had a trash option on the 360 version. 95% sure, if that’s the case, it wasn’t there on the PC. Or I’m getting senile. Assuming I’m not, I’m glad to see it here for the PC now.

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– Inventory items use icons and not art. Not a big deal, but it’s a bit of added, cool detail from Origins that is no longer here. (Or am I remembering this wrong? Suddenly, I’m not sure.)

– Friendly fire for area of effect spells and items (AoE) is only available on Nightmare difficulty. In Origins it was a part of Normal difficulty (half damage, I think) and above. This is crap. Crap, crap, crap. The game is really easy on Normal and very difficult on Hard. I don’t want any piece of Nightmare. Just because I don’t want all my adversaries to be damage soaking tanks doesn’t mean I don’t want to have to think tactically when dropping a meteor shower on them. Why is this not simply a check box you can enable or disable at any difficulty level? Let the user choose. Also, there’s a Dalish Elf Mage NPC that says about her magic, “I try not to hit anyone.” Does it matter? (Nitpicking I know, but this irritates me.)

– The loss of the overhead camera, as I said about the demo, is significant. You can pull back some and, if you stick to controlling just one character during combat, it’s not a huge loss. But if you, say, want to play on Hard or higher where you pretty much have to stop and control characters all the time, it really, really sucks. Switching the character resets the camera behind that character; sometimes it’s a convenience, sometimes it’s a real pain. Example: My melee guys are getting slaughtered while my mage hangs back from a safe distance. All I want to do is select her, fire off a spell in the middle of the group, and get back to my guy. Selecting her shifts the camera to her distant position away from the battle, a position completely unsuitable to actually targeting the right spot for the spell. I then have to reposition the camera as best I can (not easy from a distance), cast the spell, switch back to my guy, reposition the camera again and continue. Annoying.

– In Origins if a party member’s health hit zero they dropped unconscious and sustained an injury. There were a variety of different injuries and the effect varied based on what it was. One might affect health, another dexterity or damage. It was really cool, especially because you knew some injuries you could live with for awhile. Your mage loses some dex? Save the injury kit for someone who really needs it. Injuries would also stack and better injury kits could remove more ill effects. This is gameplay. Really good gameplay. Injuries in DA2 are now a straight reduction of max character health; I don’t think they stack, but it’s hard to tell since the character sheet doesn’t seem to tell you exactly the extent of the effect (there’s just a note on the main UI screen by their portrait).

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– Did you kill Flemeth in Origins? Not sure what you’ll think of how they handle that. (I’m fine with it, but then, I didn’t kill her.)

– Threat reduction, the degree to which enemies focus on stopping a specific character, seems a much bigger deal in this game and there are more ways to manage it. I like this. Playing Origins on Normal, I didn’t have to worry that much about who was drawing the most aggro from enemies. The tanks could take it and the ranged characters I would just reposition. That’s harder here, even on Normal. You want to use your skills intelligently to keep your more vulnerable party members in relative safety. Good stuff!

– Character equipment is seriously class-limited now. I know Bioware wanted to more clearly define the classes, but this goes a bit far. I’ve got a rogue, for example. I can dual wield daggers or use a bow. Done. No sword. No shields. Just done. Maybe there’s some other options later, like a short sword? Not sure. This is overly restrictive and limits the how you can build your character in ways that I think are completely unnecessary. Also, you cannot apply armor for your NPCs unless it is specifically for that NPC (something I haven’t found yet). Found a bad ass new set of plate for your warrior? Too bad, it’s only for Hawke. Wait. Your Hawke is a mage, you say? Ah well. Guess you’ll have to sell it. Lost. Gameplay.

– I mentioned before I see no character skills that don’t relate specifically to combat maneuvers. No dedicated skills for: tactics, speech, crafting, survivalism (or whatever it was), etc. More lost gameplay. (I sense a theme here.) You can argue the systems didn’t work well enough in Origins. That’s fine. Then improve the systems. Bioware school of design lately is retreat, retreat, retreat. I can’t tell you one new system they’ve added. They’ve replaced (in good ways) and taken away. That’s it. Stop assuming your players are too stupid to figure things out or at least muddle through and still be happy. Origins was a game first and a movie second. Don’t run from that. Challenge us.

– Again, several spell effects sound and even look like laser blasts. This just sets absolutely the wrong tone for the game. But there’s other stuff I don’t care for either in terms of how abilities are reflected. Again, I’m playing a rogue. I have a backstab skill. I was fine with the days where I had to actually position my rogue to execute a backstab. Bioware wants to do this for me as soon as I click the button. Fine, I can live with that. But do it in a way that makes sense. You could show my rogue charge and backflip over a guy to stab. You could show him deftly swirl around a guy, lashing out with a backhand swing to the back. I’m sure there are other things that would look both cool and physically possible (reasonably so). Instead, my rogue literally sinks into the ground and then rises back up behind the target. What am I? The Mole Man? C’mon. You simply cannot insist you’re not making Dragon Effect and do stuff like this.

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EDIT: Brandon also indicated to me your character is using a smoke bomb to disappear from the screen when backstabbing. I went back and looked closer -the combat is really frenetic, so it’s hard to see- and he’s right. The rogue doesn’t sink so much as kneel and disappear. But then, to disappear right in front of somebody is bizarre to me too; a thought I already had about the stealth skill. Must be magic stealth, I suppose.

Now, all that bellyaching said, if you’re okay with playing Dragon Effect, you absolutely are going to like this game. The production value is outstanding. The voice work is very good. I like the story so far. I like the characters. These are all things that will keep me playing and enjoying the game. If you liked Mass Effect more than Origins, there’s a real good chance this game is for you. I’m upset because, although I liked Mass Effect 2, I thought Origins was the superior game. Origins showed there’s room in the market for a fair marriage of so-called old-school sensibilities with modern day design concepts and technology and Bioware has run from it. I really don’t know why that is and it’s disappointing.

It also doesn’t help that the PC version is $60, which only adds salt to the wound, especially in combination with the Day 1 “DLC” extortion tax they’re levying against anyone who didn’t pre-order the game two full months ago. I bought the DLC because I want to see how much it feels like core content, something cut out so that EA/Bioware could specifically charge extra. I’ll let you know what I think when I get to that point. Note too that this is different than Stone Prisoner in Origins. That was core content to be sure. If you didn’t bring Shale to the Deep Roads, you totally missed out. It was fine, though, because Stone Prisoner specifically incentivized buying new instead of used. You bought new you got the content. Period. There’s some fairness to that notion I can understand. This is something else entirely. People want to drink what EA and Bioware are selling, but the companies are poisoning their own well with stuff like this (the DLC, not the streamlining). I drove home from the store angry about purchasing the game. I’ve never experienced that and were I not reviewing it, I likely would have left it on the shelf. I hope they turn back from this path, and soon.

Todd Brakke

Todd was born in Ann Arbor with a Michigan helmet in one hand and a mouse in the other. (Never you mind the logistics of this.) He grew, vertically anyway, and proceeded to spend over 16 years as a development editor for Pearson Education, publishing books, videos, and digital learning products under the Que and Sams Publishing imprints. Because that wasn't enough of a challenge, Todd has also been a 20-year part-time snob about video games, writing reviews, features, and more for multiple outlets. Follow him on Twitter @ubrakto or check it out his website at ToddsFoolery.com.

52 thoughts to “Dragon Age 2: The First 8 Hours”

  1. This really feels like KOTOR set in a fantasy world. The camera is a huge deal for me. It’s Bioware sending a message ‘yeah we’ve given up making a classic CRPG’. It’s still really good. It’s just not a continuation of the Dragon Age Origins style of RPG. This is a new RPG game.

    Oh and the blaster sound remind me of KOTOR too Ls

  2. Everything in the game screams Cheap!!! OMG the dungeons are all the same ….literally.Pure fail from Bioware

  3. KotOR was different in that you didn’t have to care about targetting area of effect spells; the abilities were always targeted at the selected enemy and that was the endo of that. It worked the design around the camera constraints, and judging from the DA2 demo, was a much better game for it.

    Todd: Someone in the GWJ thread said that you can use the F1-F4 keys to select characters without switching to their viewpoints. It seems like a very inelegant way to work around the no isometric view problem, but if that’s correct, it might alleviate the problem some.

  4. Meh. In my opinion Bioware have always been cheap. If you break it down, they just reskin their game and characters and change the dialogue. You even have the characters that fill particular roles (The womaniser, the one that hates humans, blah blah blah). Apparently most people are alright with that, or have no problem treating a robot that hates humans and a golem that hates humans as two completely different characters.

    Also, all the dungeons in DA1 were the same. Painting the walls a different colour doesn’t make a new dungeon. You’d just run through the halls, find the boss, have a cutscene, job done.

    After saying all that, I wouldn’t brand it “pure fail”. I just don’t like Bioware games all that much, so I buy them cheap.

    Hell, I didn’t even bother with Mass Effect. Just felt like star Wars for people who worry too much about their little ego to be caught playing a Star Wars game.

  5. I have to say, I’ve been very surprised and disappointed with the reporting on Dragon Age here.

    I love Bioware, and I loved both Mass Effect and Dragon Age, as well as their earlier games. I am quite enjoying Dragon Age II. There are odd changes that I don’t get, like the restriction in weapons and armor. But much of the criticism here seems totally unfounded, particularly attacking it for being like Mass Effect, or the pre order/DLC things. They are rewarding fans, and discouraging people from buying from pawn shops like Gamestop. Nothing wrong with that, indeed I applaud it.

    I am all for criticism, particularly when some of it is justified. But the reviewer seems to have a grudge against Bioware, and I just don’t get it. Truly disappointing, given the praise Tycho gave the site, as well as the higher quality reviews in other genres.

  6. I named my character Windeleafe Hawkemoone.

    Not really. I usually name RPG characters after Black Metal musicians.

    But this time, I just left it on the default, Garrit Hawke. Has a 1980s fantasy vibe to it that I like.

  7. The fact they just completely took out any and all the fun of the actual item pictures really irks me. I liked how intricate something as common as an injury kit looked. Now a stamina potion is a red jar with a plus sign on it. so lazy. And I think I did kill Flemeth. O.O

  8. To balance it out, I’m about four hours in and I freaking love the game. I’m not heartbroken about what’s not in the game, instead I love it for what it is. I’ll give Todd that the injuries business is a huge loss, but most of the other complaints I just kind of shrug at. I think Todd is making a good argument against the game and he’s got some valid points that I definitely appreciate while disagreeign with them, but I suspect that what he and I are looking for out of it might be slightly different even though we’re both RPG (and Bioware) fans.

    It’s an ultra-polished, ultra-slick modern RPG. It sloughs off A LOT of dead weight and legacy baggage from what, 30 years of CPRG design. It’s tight, focused, and you can still do all the tactical pausing you want. I don’t miss the overhead camera because I’m playing these on the 360 and I never saw it anyway. And if I was able to play through DA:O twice without, as were many others…was it really essential in the first place?

    Some of the criticism I’m seeing in less awesome (read: non-NoHS) environments, like those wonderful and authoritative Metacritic user reviews, is more about what the game isn’t than what it is, and frankly I think that’s fucked up. There is an emerging fan consensus that is going to shut down this game. There’s a weird sense of gamer entitlement going on in some of the user reviews and comments I’ve seen in other forums that where people are upset that BioWare didn’t make “their”game and instead went for something more progressive and universal- like they did with Mass Effect 2 to great results. I think Todd calling it “Dragon Effect” is pretty apt.

    This is not an old school, Baldur’s Gate-style RPG, and if you’re coming into it with that expectation you’re going to be disappointed. It’s something fresher and more in tune with 2011 design. All of those old BioWare games are still great and totally playable, I’d recommend that anyone disappointed with DAII needs to pick up a five dollar copy of Neverwinter Nights instead. It’s still one of the best old school RPGs. And there’s always the Baldur’s Gate games, Planescape: Torment, and so on.

    I’ve also seen suggestions made by the internet peanut gallery that the game is being “dumbed down”…that is quite possibly the most ignorant statement possible. Editing out inessential material, making the game tighter, and increasing its story and accessibility do not make a game “dumbed down”…it’s a lot dumber to throw in everything but the kitchen sink and make an ultra-nerd game that 10,000 people will enjoy versus a game that 1,000,000 people can.

    So there, balance in opinion restored. Did I just save NoHS for you?

  9. “But if you, say, want to play on Hard or higher where you pretty much have to stop and control characters all the time, it really, really sucks. Switching the character resets the camera behind that character; sometimes it’s a convenience, sometimes it’s a real pain. ”

    That’s how I play Nightmare on Origins, so I don’t anticipate it being a real problem. But since the game’s not yet unlocked in Oz I don’t get to have an actual informed opinion I just get to spend the day feverishly haunting sites reading anything that doesn’t look like a spoiler.

  10. It’s an opinion piece. Are you trying to say that not likeing a game and haveing criticism means poor writing?

    Maybe the writer does have a grudge against Bioware. Does that make his opinions on the game invalid?

    Some people don’t like some games. If that confuses you, I think it says more about you than the writing quality on this site. I felt Barnes was talking out his backside at times in the “Shorter is better” article, but it was still great writing.

    Also, the DLC deal was a cheap dig at getting early pre-orders to show off to the stock holders. Offering DLC with a pre order is one thing, but expecting the pre order two months in advance is just showing desperation and a lack of respect for your customers.

  11. When you offer opinions, you are going to disagree with people. Regardless of who recommended a site, a reviewer, a band, or an author you will butt heads with anyone, eventually, when they are offering up criticism. This rings especially true when you disagree with that criticism. It’s the nature of the reviewing beast.

    If you agree with someone 100% of the time, you are treading into apologist territory, and that’s not something we encourage.

    Todd can and certainly will speak for himself but I don’t think his criticism, which has been specific to the PC version of Dragon Age 2, has been over the top of unfair at all.

    Whether you agree or disagree, to me is immaterial. Todd is about as big a Bioware fan as you you’ll find, but he also is a PC gamer when it comes to the series (and Mass Effect) and the limitations/changes put on the PC platform deserve to be discussed, criticized, and evaluated and I think Todd has doing a fine job of that.

  12. Well “Painting the walls a different colour ” would be nice and wasn’t the case in DA:O for sure.I was i 4 different locations that were the same dungeon.
    And man, i just finish AC2 and the city in DA2 is a ghost town,the funny thing is they say ingame that is overpopulated and no room for more refugees from Fereldan

  13. The thing that weirds me out about the rage of the Baldur’s Gate lovers is that DA:O, on the tactical level, wasn’t very much like BG either. It’s a threat/cooldown based game, just like DA2. Hell, I made a .hack// style module for DA:O that can pass for WoW if you squint a bit.

    For all that there’s a lot of people claiming to be hardcore RPG fans hating on DA2, I get the feeling some of them didn’t have a particularly sophisticated understanding of DA:O, or BG/AD&D2 for that matter. I get that the interface layer makes a big impact, but these games were not just their cameras and their plain-text conversation trees.

    I need to get the game so I can develop my own unique gripes about it. I’m toying with hating the promotional items for disrupting the early learning curve, we’ll see how that pans out

  14. Hey, you like the game. More power to you. I have absolutely no truck with that. Hell, I don’t dislike the game. I’m not happy with it, but I don’t dislike it. But this is a site where we all write what we think. I’ve presented you with a list of facts and told you what I think about them, which is what we do here. You are free to agree or disagree with my conclusions based on your perspective and what you like or dislike. Loss of the overhead camera doesn’t bug you, hey, great. I’m happy for you. (not sarcastic) It bugs me. I’m not asking for a show of hands. To say that criticism isn’t justified just because you don’t share it… well, I reject the premise.

  15. To be fair, the different dungeons in DA1 did have unique (and IMO) well-done level art. There was significant and no doubt expensive work put in, a bit more than a unique coat of paint. You didn’t get Mass Effect-esque reuse outside of the random road encounters.

    I’m a big fan of the Dead Trenches/Bowammar from the Deep Roads. For what’s really just a linear corridor, the level artists pulled off a fantastic look and feel.

  16. Thanks for the reply, everyone. I do not mean to suggest that I only want reviews that I agree with. And I am loving the site, no way I’d give it up. It has just been frustrating to see every article written on a game I’ve been looking forward to a long time so critical, for reasons that often seem unrelated to the actual game.

    I just have felt that the articles discussing Dragon Age have been harsh, and wanted to share my opinion. I certainly have criticisms of some of the changes, particularly the change in equipment. I miss being able to tell my rogues to switch from bows to dual daggers. On the other hand, I like that the characters specialize with certain weapons – it never made sense to me that Sten would use anything other than his sword once he got it back, despite it being inferior to the other weapons you get later on.

    I am glad I commented, because I really appreciated Michael’s comment – he summed up my feelings for the game and the reactions of it far better than I could. In the end, it is about enjoyment, and I am really enjoying the game – I’m glad someone else is as well.

  17. I’m curious what everyone is playing this on. Thus far all of the hate is leveled by those that have played on PC while the praise comes from those that played both on consoles. It’s the first thing I’ve noticed about most of the reviews thus far, mainly as it’s what I’m wondering as I played the first on PC. Even those hating on aspects of the PC seem to praise a lot of it, but that kind of correlation shouldn’t be dismissed so readily.

    As to the starting point of this thread; when I read a review, I expect it to be critical and to point out the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly as much as possible. Those points may vary where they fall based on the reviewer and their preferences, but just because you appreciate the beauty and even if it out-weighs the bad aspects by far does not mean that the bad aspects of the game should thus not be mentioned or examined.

  18. You know, guys, be fair. That post was not universal criticism. Also, at no point do I insinuate that if you like the game there’s something wrong with you. I flat out said if you like the direction Bioware went with Mass 2 then you’re going to like this. I can accept that. I accept that Bioware is moving in a direction that’s probably not for me. That does not mean there’s no room for dissenting opinion from those of us not happy about it. We can all have our say w/o judging the people making the arguments. We’re all gamers here.

    Oh, Mengtzu, I realize there’s a load of difference in gameplay between BG2 and Origins. That’s specifically why I wrote that I thought Origins was a fair marriage and balance of throwback and modern design. I think there’s room for that and Origins supports that case, IMO.

  19. Hey I can understand that. It’s why I did the post on Friday about what I was looking forward to about the game. Also, as I noted elsewhere in this thread, keep in mind that the post wasn’t all criticism. This was a quick rundown of stuff that struck me during my first hours of play. It’s natural that changes I’m not good with would come out in higher quantity and, well, let’s face it, criticism always stands out more than the praise, but I do praise stuff about the game in the post.

    Really glad you like the site and looking forward to seeing more of your thoughts in the comments!

  20. Great review so far. I don’t notice anything subjective or biased in it. Thanks.

    That being said…

    Play this game not as a sequel, but as a it’s own game that happens to be in the Dragon Age universe. I think you’ll be able to enjoy it. I kinda am, and I’m a huuuuuuge fan of Origins.

  21. That’s how I’m going to approach it when I get around to it.

    After I get done with the baseball games and HEY–

    Hello there Shogun 2 press review copy!

    WOO HOO!

  22. Just to be clear- my previous comments aren’t directed at Todd in regards to the “entitled gamers”, and I don’t think Todd has to “deal with it”…those comments were intended to call to the curb the emerging fan consensus about the game, which is something very different than what Todd is making a case for here.

    I’m glad he’s sharing his honest take on the game and I think he’s made his case well. I’m also glad that there is going to be some disagreement over the game, what Bioware is doing, and what the future of RPGs holds because I think there’s some great conversations that can come out of that.

    After looking at comments elsewhere, I am really disappointed that an interent pile-on is starting with this game mostly spearheaded by folks who are somehow personally aggrieved by every nitpicky detail that doesn’t jibe with their vision of DAII. This means that thousands of people will form an opinion without playing the game at all, and that shuts down any dialogue about it which sucks. And I do think that there is a sense of entitlement in some of the comments (again, not Todd’s) that I’ve read elsewhere, and a sense of resentfulness toward Bioware for trying something new with the brand.

    Nothing wrong with disagreeing about it, that’s for sure. I’m looking forward to reading more of Todd’s take on the game and comparing notes with him about it.

  23. Perks of being a writer and a reviewer! I applaud you good sir!

    Delve deeply and bask in the glory of a returning Total War epic. I expect screenshots and more well written pieces of literature.

    Be Gone!

  24. Sorry, Todd, should have been clearer that I wasn’t referring to you. I don’t anticipate agreeing with you 100% when my copy finally unlocks, but I have no problems with your reporting.

    I was referring to our more…rabid…friends around the internet, the guys you can’t help but suspect of having under-bridge properties.

  25. I can’t speak to the internet pile-on beyond a few posts at GWJ and responses to things I’ve put out there, but I’m actually rather surprised to hear about it. I figured it would be a vocal few of us shouting, “Get off my lawn,” but maybe it’s something more. Just means we’re right. VICTORY!!!!!

    In any case, we’re all good. Mike and I are going to square off on a high-rise rooftop and the one that doesn’t fall to his death is declared right. We’re old school like that.

  26. It’s the name I’ve been using in fantasy games for awhile. Not my fault they had to make this last name a bird too. Besides, you only mock because you’re jealous.

  27. And there’s the rub. The game, judged purely on its own merits, isn’t bad. I’d probably make the same argument I made for Mass Effect 2 (in my Gameshark review) that it lacks much game in the game, but the overall criticism would be different. No question. It’s the price you pay for doing something a lot of people thought wonderful and then running from it the very next time out. It’s really kind of shocking, but… well, them’s the breaks, right?

    As for KOTOR, it’s been a couple years since I played it (got to it way late), but it does have a bit of that feel now that you mention it. The plot structure is much different so far (not genre, the actual structure), and much different most of Bioware’s stuff of late, by the looks of it.

  28. It really seems like the major mistake Bioware made was calling this game DA2. If they had called it “Dragon Age Adventures” or some such I don’t think the game would be getting as much flak from the Origins fans. It kind of boggles the mind why Bioware would take a game that was a critical and financial success and change so much of the experience for the sequel (that isn’t really a sequel which again leads us to: “Why call it Dragon Age 2?”).

  29. Even though I’m definitely “pro” DAII, I have to agree that this would have been a good policy. Or, I think they could have even not called it “Dragon Age II” and instead followed the model of the first title and gone with something like “Dragon Age: Refugee” or something to indicate that it’s not a direct follow-up.

    It’s one thing when the characters and setting are continuous, but this really is all new despite references to events in the first game. I think you’re dead right, that “II” brings with it a certain expectation.

  30. As a clarification, I definitely do like the game (or what I have seen of it thus far) and I also liked Origins quite a bit. They are just two different experiences (not radically different but different enough) and I can see why the people that really loved Origins are irked. Dragon Age 2 just isn’t what I would’ve anticipated from a game with that name and I suspect, looking at Metacritic’s users scores for the game, that a lot of people are in that same boat.

  31. Hmm, I don’t even mind them calling it Dragon Age 2 or anything like that. My main gripe is simply that they intentionally cut back on the PC version after making it the focus for the first one. It doesn’t even bother me if they want to do things differently every time out in whatever ways, as that can still lead to good experiences. They just gave me the feeling that they were willfully degrading the experience on the PC and that leaves me feeling a bit bitter in turn… mainly because I got the first one on PC due to them focusing on it. It doesn’t bother me if they want to bring consoles up to par, but when you do so by scaling back the PC version, it really starts hurting.

    I’m still going to get it and likely have a good time with it all things considered, but when you don’t feel appreciated as a consumer even in the PR speak, let alone all the features willfully removed from its predecessors it sours the experience from the start. I think the gap between people’s opinions can be pointed to as what they’re playing it on as a result at least in many of the cases I’ve seen thus far.

    I’m not sure whether that’s fair or not, but I think it’s accurate enough. They simply have ignored their base market from the first game and the backlash is equivalent to the support they would otherwise have garnered.

    *Does anyone know if this one allows mods, btw? I remember a while back they were waffling on the idea of even including it in DA2

  32. Re mods: it is possible to mod DA2, there were even a few mods for the demo. It has exactly the same override structure as DA:O, so for a broad class of mods the only obstacle is figuring out which file to override.

    In terms of the sort of modding I do (stand-alone story modules), it’s going to be tricky unless Bioware can find the dev time to give us an update to the toolset.

  33. You might want to consider this: were it Tom Chick, it would be something like “Chick Hawke”, which I would find very amusing.

  34. If they had named it something other than DA2 though you would’ve been inclined to think, “OK so this is a DA game they did for consoles. When they do a true sequel they’ll bring it back to the PC fold.” By naming it DA2 they set up the expectation that they would operate within certain parameters that they did not, thus irking a certain part of their fanbase.

    It’s still a really good game, it’s just a significant left turn from the previous offering.

  35. It shouldn’t cause much of a change – the Flemeth at the start is… actually, I’m not sure if it’s before the Warden wakes up, or after he sets off on his journey. But anyway, it is impossible to get the quest to kill Flemeth before the destruction of Lothering. The grimoire needed is inside the one-time-only Mage Tower, which upon completion triggers the Lothering Destroyed event. (or, really, any of the plot quests will do that) So, it shouldn’t BE an issue, unless she appears later on in the game.

  36. “…unless she appears later on in the game.”

    Not to go all spoilery on you, but….

    Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!

  37. Before I start spouting off, a neat trick for the aiming of AoE spells on the PC is to hit F1-F4 to change to that character’s view after the spell is selected. For example, if you’re in tight quarters with Aveline blocking a doorway and you want to fireball past her but can’t get a view, select your fireball, then hit F2 or whatever slot Aveline is. You still have the fireball AoE selected and can now aim it from Aveline’s sightlines; also it no longer will target lock on Aveline which is helpful if you need the center just a tiny bit past her.

    What’ll probably be too lengthy a section of quick takes to follow!

    Positives:
    1) It’s a bloody gorgeous game with high res textures and all the options enabled.
    2) I’m really enjoying the pace of the combat.
    3) On hard there’s enough maneuvering required to keep it feeling at least somewhat tactical.

    Hopefully positive: the story seems far too slow in the beginning, but I get the feeling it’s building up to where everything comes together in a glorious fast paced final chapter or two tying all these seemingly unimportant side quests into a nice seamless whole where all these minor moral decisions I’ve made end up having major consequences. I have faith.

    Negatives:
    1) The cave map reuse thing is really bothering me.
    2) If all that loot is going straight to junk why not just give me coins as my inventory never fills before I find a vendor anyway.
    3) I hate the inventory icons; having 6 rings all the exact same icon means I have to double check that they’ve even switched when I click to wear, as they all have the generic name “Ring” except a few here and there.
    4) The equipment variety is very lackluster, nothing but minor variations on the same stats; at one point I had 7 or 8 belts in my inventory all nearly identical statwise.
    5) The dialog wheel, npc reactions, and lack of transparency. I could live with the wheel, but sometimes “nice” isn’t the right choice even when you want to be friendly and since I can’t figure out exactly what I’m going to say until after I’ve made a choice I’m having difficulty tailoring my decisions to how I want my relationships to play out. i.e. I wanted to be friends with an npc, I chose the “supportive” dialog option in a conversation, and ended up getting 10 rivalry points instead of friendship. Maybe snarky or stern choices would have worked out better there, but it certainly seemed in advance I was making the right choice.
    6) Party banter doesn’t seem as interesting to me as DA:O, but as I haven’t seen others complaining about this I suppose it’s just me. Perhaps I just don’t have the right combination of team members, and I do seem to be stuck with Aveline for tanking and she seems boring as can be. I like the fact that a nice normal person is being portrayed here, but couldn’t they have given her a tiny bit of personality?

  38. Really good thoughts there and an excellent tip on using the hotkeys. I hadn’t thought to try and switch selected characters (via hotkey) after selecting the spell. Good catch!

  39. Todd, pretty much agree with everything you said. I’ve only played a few hours but the thing that keeps striking me the most though that you didn’t mention is the enemy spawning. Almost every encounter seems to involve waves of enemies, with certain waves just spawning to surround your party negating any attempt to try and setup good positiioning. While that’s fine occassionally, it seems to happen every time. I’m really not a fan of how the encounters initially play out so far. I haven’t played ME2 so not sure if it works like that there also.

    Still, I’m having a good time and looking forward to playing more.

  40. When I was playing last night I actually wrote down a note about that exact same comment. Every encounter, at some point, throws in the proverbial monster closet with a wave coming in behind or in the middle of your party, only there’s no closet. They just show up. It’s bizarre.

  41. My copy finally unlocked, I’ve put in about 7 hours on Nightmare.

    – Combat is massively improved, and so far much more tactical than Origins. I have to care about threat AND positioning, nice. Actually needed to pay attention to the layout of the encounter area for some fights. I’ve wiped a few times, but haven’t yet had to retry a fight more than once or twice. Feeling pretty good right now.

    – I’ve missed the “tactical” camera exactly once, when I wanted to pull back the entire party up some stairs to a point where I didn’t have LOS.

    – The extra waves of enemies spawning is really good. It stops the fight being massively front-loaded, putting off the lame-duck phase until much later in the encounter than the typical DA:O trash-bash. This is really the factor that’s making me care about position and level layout.

    – Potion and heal cooldowns are good. Need to be used strategically. Damage is pretty slow if you’re managing the fight well, so you can leave a character on non-max health for a while if you’re careful.

    – Friendly fire is pretty interesting. I don’t use Fireball et al, but rogue CC, Winter’s Grasp (powerful spell with a very small AOE) and 2H warriors need to be used with care. Certainly feeling like it matters more than it did in DA:O, though you get a similar factor of just never using certain AOE abilities.

    – Promotional items don’t seem totally out of order; I’ve had several drops just as good. This is a relief.

    – Kiting is powerful but the force system makes it risky. Pretty easy for an offence-focused mage to get stunlocked if they’re caught.

    – I love ninja rogues so much.

    – Haven’t seen a real boss yet. I think the trash encounter design is vastly improved, but it’s still just trash, I’d like to see a boss that wouldn’t be out of place in a WoW raid.

    – Story/characters/Kirkwall all good so far, but early days.

    – Significantly more bothered by dungeon reuse than I thought I would be :< Maybe I just happened to pick sidequests in an order that rubbed my nose in it early, but I didn’t like it. It’s a shame because the content of the sidequests are quite nice so far.

  42. Sounds like you’re liking it all. It does seem to be providing everyone with quality entertainment despite the nit-picks. I’m curious how it’ll play once my copy finally finds its way to my door, until then I’ll continue living via proxy from these reports. :p

    I think I’ll have an issue with the camera, but that’s my own pseudo-neurosis. How is the AI on each side? I’m guessing you don’t see much of it from your side as you’re on Nightmare from the start, but it’s something I was curious about if there were any changes.

    Is the dungeon recycling that bad? I’ve heard a lot of complaints on it more than anything probably. I can see where it’d be an issue, but it’s the last thing I would have guessed at being a serious issue for people ahead of time.

    When you say ‘trash encounter’ and ‘trash-bash’ is that just the random encounters or what? Don’t think I’ve heard that used as slang before or at least don’t remember it.

  43. Really interesting thoughts. I totally agree that having to worry about threat and positioning (instead of just the latter) is an improvement. The rest… I dunno. Different strokes and all that.

    Playing on Nightmare… you and I are not on the same level.

  44. I am liking it. I’m particularly obsessed with the combat system partly because of my experiences as a modder, and partly because it was the weakest part of DA:O. Since that seems to have undergone a huge improvement, I’m pretty happy. I like the fiction-layer too, but in terms of enjoyment it’s not that different so far.

    – AI doesn’t seem dramatically different. It’s still threat-based, so you can manipulate it. I am finding ranged mobs a bit harder to kite out of good positions, maybe that’s a change? Companion AI seems fine, but I’m reluctant to over-automate them anyway, and I’m finding focus-fire to be extremely useful, so I tend to be even picking their autoattack targets.

    – The dungeon recycling (just for sidequests) I think is extra annoying because if a sidequest doesn’t require the entire space, they just wall off a door (filling the doorway with a plain grey stone placeable), but you can see the rest of it clearly on your minimap. That’s better than having you constantly re-exploring unused dungeon bits, but it rubs it in your face a little.

    I can understand why it’s that way (level art is not easy, which I guess means not cheap, and there seem to be a LOT of sidequests), but I’m having a stronger negative reaction than I thought I would. Maybe I’ll get over it.

    – I’m a (very recently lapsed) WoW raider, so to me “trash” is anything that isn’t a major scripted boss encounter. Basically everything I’ve fought so far, but it’s good this time ^_^

  45. But you could be It’s a pausable RPG, being good at it is a matter of learned skills/behaviours, not twitch or innate tactical brilliance.

    One of the big problems with DA:O was the way its poor balance was aggravated by a not-great learning curve. It didn’t train players in the strong behaviours; those were learned either by accident or on forums, leading to really weirdly distributed camps of “DA:O was really hard!” and “I solo DA:O on Nightmare, blindfolded, mashing my palm randomly on the keyboard”.

  46. Ha, I figured you’d be doing everything manually on higher difficulties. That was part of the reason I wasn’t sure I’d like the change of camera angle and pacing they were going with (the AI issues needing more tactical and manual input), but if they balanced it all accordingly and it works…well, it works!

    I think I can understand why that sort of map design would be horrible. It seems like it’s just lazily done on that end. I suppose they just decided to focus on the content of the missions and hope that would fade away in comparison. I suppose if they weighed it out and it cost too much to make bunches of maps it may have been a wise choice, but you’d think/hope they could find some other way of doing it. Still, if that’s the worst thing done I wouldn’t cry too much, as I still love Disgaea!

    Good trash is better than bad treasure, I take it? :p

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