PS3 Review – Dragon Age 2

March 17, 2011Written by Tyler Minarik

Between the story line, interesting characters, and the balanced, easy to use battle system, Dragon Age 2 has a variety of good qualities. Unfortunately, it is not without its faults. By the end of the first chapter, many areas within the city of Kirkwall will have been visited multiple times, and most players will be ready to move on to the next area. However, they’ll be disappointed to discover that the next chapter takes place in the exact same areas several years later. You’ll revisit all of those places, which are now repopulated with new quests and enemies. This redundancy only gets worse when completing the second chapter, and finding that the third simply repeats the pattern. As a result, you’ll never leave Kirkwall and its surrounding areas. Dungeons you’ve explored will be visited again and again, often times under the veil that they are new areas, when in reality they’ve just had different doors opened and others locked. What is initially an interesting setting quickly becomes dull and drab, and any exploration becomes boring.

Besides the repetitive environments, the battles also get slightly repetitive too. Save for a few monsters, such as dragons and spiders, most fights are against some darkspawn, and some humanoid opponents. The humans often take on one of the major class roles, like a warrior or mage, and use a few of the core abilities from that role. By the end of the chapter, you’ll have encountered almost every type of enemy, except for a few bosses. Battles evolve to become more difficult afterwards by simply providing tougher versions of the enemies, and in larger numbers. It’s a shame, since the character development and control scheme provides a rich opportunity for interesting battle sequences, but once you’ve developed a primary strategy for a group of enemies, it will remain useful the entire game. A few boss battles late in the game help mix it up, but they are few and far between.

There is no level grinding to be had either. Many would consider this a good thing, since you can continually progress in side quests and story lines without getting stuck due to under leveled allies. Enemies are always an appropriate level to fight, but all battles in the game are scripted as well. There are no random encounters. Once an area has been cleared of enemies, no more will appear there until a new quest is activated for the location. This means returning to an area for something forgotten previously will be a boring run through empty corridors. Experimenting with tactics and abilities must be done on the fly, with no battles to repeat and compare results. Once all quests have been completed for a portion of the story, there will be nothing left to do or fight until moving on to the next chapter. It’s good in the sense that every battle is of an appropriate difficulty, but the drawback is that the more you’ve completed, the less there is to do, and the world becomes boring again.

Unfortunately this also holds true for the end game, where upon completion of the ending, you are not left to free roam and wrap up any unfinished business. Thus comes the advice to not finish the game until you are absolutely ready, or be sure to create an additional save file first. Once the credits are done rolling, Dragon Age 2 will launch right into a new game, which initially was unexpected, and frightening. Saving the new game reveals that all previous saves are missing! Fear not, for from the loading screen tapping square revels that the saves are simply organized by character, and all is still there. Upon loading up the post game save instead, you’re left stuck in Hawke’s estate, with nowhere to go, and all remaining quests eliminated from the journal. At the moment it makes for an odd, and empty post game, but BioWare has promised that further missions will come soon in the form of DLC.

Dragon Age 2 also suffers from minor graphical issues. For the most part, the visuals are on par with what anyone can expect from a multiplatform title. They look good, but without the advantage of being optimized for any one system, the result is far from exceptional. On the PlayStation 3 version, various glitches and some screen tearing is noticeable. Sometimes textures randomly pop in and out of view, and on rare occasions characters who are talking don’t appear on the screen. Luckily, almost all of these issues are only noticeable during the cutscenes, and don’t actually affect the gameplay. Within battles, there is often so many explosions and effects being cast that it can be hard to make out what is going on, so perhaps the issues are there too, but it’d be difficult to tell any way.

Overall, the good outweighs the bad in Dragon Age 2. While the environments and fights may get a little redundant by the end, a well written story, plenty of side quests, and great character development save the day. Any time fighting gets boring, switching characters to use different tactics and abilities refreshes the feeling of combat. The main plot line sports a decent length, and exploring the various character stories and side quests along with it should take about 40-50 hours in an initial play-through. The story is structured in a way that events can play out vastly different based on your many choices, giving the game a good level of replayability. Since Hawke has three speciality talent trees that are completely different for each character class, a second venture is made more interesting by experimenting with these new specialities and playing styles. So, while Dragon Age 2 may not be the ultimate RPG of the year, it’s fun to play through, delivers a good story, and is generally worthy of a purchase.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Well written plot and dialogue

+ Deep character development

– Mass Environment Recycling

8 out of 10

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