Bioware is one of those companies who’ve created a staple of achievement for themselves. With a high standard of approaching releases with a quality that rivals Blizzard Entertainment. As they create game after game, the bar for each of their releases rises in the consumers mind. While Dragon Age: Origins is a wonderful RPG, it didn’t necessarily appeal to the more casual mind. Which is why Dragon Age 2′s focus, is to appeal to everyone while trying to still be a competitive RPG. Does Bioware accomplish this grand scheme, or has the game been scaled down too much?
• Changes, changes, changes… there are tons of them and I love it. Let’s start with the much needed and appreciated cosmetic overhaul. Dragon Age: Origins is not an ugly game, but it failed to impress at anything visually. Most of it was mired by drab coloring, detailed but lightly textured locales, and some outright disgusting armor and weapon choices. The only thing that popped was the character models themselves.
Dragon Age 2 rectifies most of these issues. The city of Kirkwall is detailed in every nook and cranny. It really sells the personality of the city well, and that’s a very good thing since you’ll be there a LOT. Which also applies to each of the lands you’ll explore outside of the city. While you may be playing in linear locations, the design of each area portrays enough expansive scenery that you won’t notice.
Textures on the character models faces have been scaled up greatly, while other races have undergone an overhaul completely. The elves have taken on the appearance of a more goat like race. While the Qunari have almost become demon like creatures, ditching the human hairstyles for horns. They are covered in an assortment of tattoos, and give of a much more menacing air than Sten did in Origins.
The armor doesn’t make you squeamish at the sight of it anymore. Even though there aren’t many sets to choose from, you’ll appreciate them more than those used in Origins. Zooming into a piece of armor shows off intricate detail, or how as the game progresses, the plate armor becomes more gaudy and oversized. While the weapons each have their own distinct skins, especially the ones that come in the Signature Edition.
Another game changer comes in the form of a vastly enhanced combat system. The tempo for combat has been turned up tenfold in Dragon Age 2. In fact it may be a little overwhelming at first, this applies even more so to Origin players. As the combat is so action packed and in your face, it will be hard to adjust for the first hour or so. Yet, as time passes on, the exhilarating pace will become standard and you’ll wade into battle without mercy. It’s a major change from Origins, as it allows you to feel like a devastating monster in most battles.
Finally, we have the most appealing change for the series. Which is easily the voice over that is given to the main character, Hawke. Let’s face the facts here, in Origins your character was more of an onlooker in conversations. He or she would initiate a discussion and stare blankly forward, or gaze to the side as everyone else voiced their opinions. In Dragon Age 2, your choices during dialogue affect how the character Hawke expresses themselves. So if your responses are mostly sarcastic, Hawke’s demeanor will change to match.
The story of Hawke situates you in the seat of someone who eventually becomes a hero. However, how this man or woman becomes a hero is shaped by the player’s choices. The entire story is told from the point of view of a dwarf named Varric. Who only recalls the situation in whatever direction you’ve lead Hawke into. So certain storyline elements will change how the next chapter of Hawke’s life advances.
In this, we notice the lowered scale of saving the world, and instead we watch Hawke and his companions grow through their lives. The saltiest rivals who are forced to fight together, grow older and become friends before your eyes. While the various people you’ve saved or outright ruined, play a significant role when you meet them in the next couple of years. What you get, is a story where you care more about the characters as they grow on you.