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Dragon Age II 4-Years Later Review

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Gameplay:

Typically one expects with a role-playing game to have the ability to control various aspects of your character and their development, such as the weapons, armor, attributes, and skills. For your character, this is true, but significantly less true from your companions. You are able to find and equip new armor pieces for yourself, but your companions use only their own armor. You can find upgrades to their armors, but you have to find them, instead of just picking up stuff from enemies and chests, like for yourself.

Weapons and skills can also be limited for your companions, and not just by class. One of the warrior companions can only use two handed weapons while another can only use a one-handed weapon and a shield. One of the rogues is restricted to his special crossbow. One of the mages is also not allowed to learn the spell Heal. That one seems especially odd to me because Heal is such a useful spell - why would you restrict its use like that?

Like the previous game, you build relationships with your allies, but instead of having a spectrum from bad to good, you go from Rival to Friend. Both extremes offer potentially useful bonuses, so it does not matter which way you push them, so long as you push them as far as you can. Once at the extreme, it seems they are hardened against changes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I mentioned in the Graphics section, the combat animations can be quite good and makes it fun to watch fights. Of course you will want to be involved in the fights to most efficiently clear an area. Most fights I found myself just using my own character, and maybe a mage for a second to use some AOE attack. Combat rarely felt difficult, but the times it did, reloading to before the fight and making a few adjustments would be enough to win. Still, there were times it was challenging.

One thing that is useful for combat, but can also be a minor annoyance, is a button to target and attack the "closest" target. The quotes are because it is not the nearest target, but the nearest you can see, so if you have enemies in view that are far away and others nearer, but around a corner, you will go after the farther enemies. Pressing the button again will not shift the target unless you have killed the original target. It does have another very useful application, however. It will target and bring you to lootable objects, like dead enemies, chests, crates, etc., but not NPCs to talk to. This makes it a bit more convenient for cleaning up and aware of all drops.

 

 

There have been two significant changes to the item system. One is that instead of collecting crafting ingredients and doing the crafting yourself, you instead find ingredient sources in the world and order items. According to the game, once found, craftsmen know where the ingredients are and will use some, so provided you found enough sources, the only cost to you is money. While this does make crafting simpler, as you do not need to maintain a collection of supplies, you are limited on where you can get crafted materials, like potions.

The other change that is very useful, but a little awkward, is the junk system. Many items you find are of no use to you, so they are put into your inventory's junk tab, and when you next visit a merchant you can sell all of it with a press of a button. You can also mark items as being junk, like weapons you no longer want, and they will be moved to the other tab and sold as well. What is awkward is that sometimes you are given special items by NPCs, which are of some significance to those characters. Because you may not have a direct use for them (ie. you cannot equip them), these items are put into the junk inventory. You just received a gift that has meaning to it, and the first thing that happens is it gets thrown into the junk pile, just waiting to be sold? Good thing these NPCs never ask you what you did with their gifts.

 

 

As irritating as some of these issues may seem to be, there are two issues that are impossible to ignore. Many of the areas you visit use the same map, despite being different areas. Basically, if you enter a cave, there is a good chance you have been in it before, or will be in it again, coming in from a different entrance and with different doors open to you. If these were randomly generated map tiles that have been stitched together, so you are recognizing the repeated tiles, it would not be so bad, but no, it is entire maps and it is easy to see. All you have to do is look at the mini-map or bring up the larger map. Despite the fact that not all doors are open to you everywhere, the maps will still show the full area as though you could go everywhere. Why this is allowed I cannot guess at, because it makes the repeated maps completely obvious.

It took me 30 hours and 17 minutes to complete every mission I had available to me. I do not think I missed any missions, but because some are triggered by unmarked items on the ground, I cannot be sure. Thanks to the sorting system of the mission log, it is easy to keep track of what are and are not main missions, so even though side missions can distract you for a good amount of time, it is easy enough to return to the campaign.

As I do not have any of the campaign DLC, I cannot say how much time they will add. After beating the base game, you are allowed to run around in your estate and visit DLC locations. For me that means the Black Emporium, but if you have the campaign DLC, you would be able to access them as well. Every other area is unavailable. On its own that really is not a big deal, but considering the amount of gear and junk you can pick up at the end, without access to a store to sell it before the finale, it seems odd. Why I am getting stuff only good to sell, if I cannot sell it for any use (without having additional DLC)?

 

 

Largely the gameplay is fun, but in some places it seems to have been oversimplified, especially its RPG qualities. I can understand a desire to simplify gameplay so it is more accessible to more people, but this just feels like it was a step too far and removed some of the depth expected of RPGs. It was a fun experience, but some odd choices were made for it.




  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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