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Dragon Age II 4-Years Later Review

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Graphics:

One of the first things many will likely notice when launching Dragon Age II is that its art style is quite different from its predecessor. Before the graphics were somewhat realistic; here they are more stylized and lacking in specific detail. That is not to say Dragon Age II is lacking in detail, but that there was more to read from before. Also some entities have had their appearances completely changed.

The Elves and Qunari are two good examples of these changes. Elves now have a slender appearance instead of effectively being humans with more youthful features and pointed ears. The Qunari, however, have gone from looking like larger humans to practically being horned monsters. I do not know why these changes were made, but I personally do not care for them [editor's note: Qunari were always meant to have horns, just Sten did not because it would interfere with a helmet]. That could easily be because of my memory of and acceptance for the first game's graphics. Still, the differences between entities here are very obvious, where before they were more subtle and kept your eye looking for them. It is almost like the question was, 'does it look like a rock?' instead of, 'does it look like the best rock we can make?'

As can be expected of a game this old, many details are kept in the textures of objects, instead of the mesh. On its own there is little wrong with that, except that the textures, even the high-resolution textures EA provides, can be pretty blurred. This makes any added details to them stand out a great deal. For example, one of your companions, Anders, wears ropes with feathers on its shoulders. The texture of the feathers is very blurry, but some sharper sprites were added to help give a 3D effect to them. Such juxtaposition between the effectively same materials is very obvious. In a way that is the main issue I have with the textures; detail is not always consistent and things that likely could have been sharper were left blurry.

 

 

 

 

 

Luckily many of the animations, especially combat animations, do look very good. I played as a rogue, dual-wielding daggers, so the character was leaping around the screen very acrobatically. Mages, too, are quite animated with their attacks, twirling their staff around to project energy or directly strike an enemy with it. Cannot say much about the warriors though, because I rarely actually watched them. Being tank characters, I would leave them to kill things and manage the more fragile, yet still powerful characters myself.

 

Facial animations work, but tended to go between unimpressive to awkward. Simply put, they never felt all that emotive to me, or had a forced emotion to them. Sometimes when your character smiles as they talk, the smile only seems to be there because they are saying something funny or charming. The smile may not fit the moment at all, like someone trying to force a laugh with a joke that no one wanted to hear. As you can imagine, this makes it harder to form an emotional attachment to the character.

Lighting was nothing special, although the game does feature ambient occlusion so you and the environment are casting shadows. Sometimes the shadows, actually the lighting, would break along some line. I noticed this in a few places and cannot hazard a guess to its cause.

 

 

Fire is really the only fluid I can think to talk about. There is water in the game, but really you just walk by it, so you have little reason to notice it. Fire is pre-animated and flat on objects, and for that reason it does not look alive. However, it is a fairly fast animation, which actually helps its appearance some. It is not just hanging onto something, but actually seems like it is vigorously trying to consume it.

 

With the appearance covered, time for my computer specs and performance information:

  • Processor: AMD A10-5800K @ 4.40 GHz (44.0x100)
  • Cooling: Corsair H110
  • Motherboard: ASUS F2A85-M PRO
  • GPU: NVIDIA GTX 980 4 GB
  • PhysX: EVGA GTX 770 2 GB
  • Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 4x8 GB (32 GB total) at 1866 MHz 10-10-10-27
  • PSU: OCZ Fata1ty 750 W
  • OS: Windows 7- Professional 64-bit

As you can expect of a four-year-old game, I was able to put everything on its maximum setting with little issue. That includes using the high resolution texture pack (in case you missed me mentioning that before). That also includes MSAA at its maximum 8x setting, which I mention because the game definitely still had aliasing in it in the usual places. The aliasing was normally not bad, but still noticeable.

Performance tended to be excellent, but there was also an occasional stutter. Sometimes it was just a single hitch, like the game was autosaving at the time. Other times it seemed like my machine was doing something else and taking away resources. As this persisted after restarting the game, I tried restarting Origin, which I had to play the game with. That seemed to solve the problem, most times.

 

 

Something else that happened occasionally were parts of models vanishing. Nothing too major, just skin disappearing. Okay, I guess that is kind of major, but it was not common, so at least there is that.

After four years, Dragon Age II does show age, but the age is not too bad. The blurry textures can annoy the eyes, but they should not be much of an issue, except during dialogue when you get close ups of the characters. The performance issues were annoying, but again, you can get through them or try solutions to solve the problem. Really it is the change in art style that gets to me the most. That very much comes down to personal preference, so while I personally do not like it, that is not something I will hold against it in this review.




  1. Dragon Age II Review - Introduction
  2. Dragon Age II Review - Graphics
  3. Dragon Age II Review - Story
  4. Dragon Age II Review - Gameplay
  5. Dragon Age II Review - Additonal Gameplay Media
  6. Dragon Age II Review - Conclusion
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