WIT: The Opening Hours Of Dragon Age II

By John Walker on March 14th, 2011 at 6:44 pm.

See game, you made Merrill sad.

It’s often the case when reading a review of a longer game that you’ll see the phrase, “The first few hours struggle to get going,” or perhaps, “It takes a while to find its feet.” Which I think is enormously unreflective of the experience, and indeed the experience others will have when playing it. When other games regularly last five or six hours, an RPG having a poor opening five or six hours seems pretty hugely significant to me. And so it is that today I’m writing about the opening eight hours or so of Dragon Age II, before the improvements I’m already starting to see wash the memories from my head.

Who am I? Is the question I’ve wondered the most often since starting Dragon Age II. Simon, the warrior Grey Warden I played as for something like 120 hours across Origins and Awakenings, was a man I understood. Beginning in his family home, in his hometown, I fought as his parents, nieces and nephews were tragically killed. I escaped the onslaught, then started a life of my own, first by becoming a Grey Warden, and second by spending dozens of hours travelling the lands of Ferelden to recruit an army that could counter the attacks of the Blight.

Samantha Hawke, the mage I’m playing as in DA2, is, um, a person. Dumped on me in a deliberately obfuscated series of flashbacks, I’m apparently with my mother, brother, maybe sister? I’m not sure. Someone got killed in a cutscene and I think I was supposed to care. We were in the middle of nowhere, apparently during the Blight, and then we weren’t. I was sold into servitude by an errant uncle, and then it was year later, and everyone seems to know me except for, well, me.

It’s such a gross misunderstanding of how we identify with characters we play as in an RPG. It took me a while to figure out who Hawke was, before realising it must be me. Nothing had told me that was my name. I’m accompanied by what must be the most egregious example of BioWare’s “First Male Companion Is Always Tedious” rule – my brother Carver, who apparently hates me for reasons everyone knows but me, along with my ever-complaining mother. What a treat.

Combat remains very similar, but for a streamlining of elements. It’s tempting to decry the consolification of things, but I think the reality is the console version has been brought more in line with the PC. Little is sacrificed in terms of interaction and involvement in favour of a smoother, cleaner interface. Crucially, you can still pause at any time and issue orders to all your party members, and indeed program intricate tactics slots so they do your bidding when you’re elsewhere.

However, the battles themselves have changed in one uniquely moronic way. Enemies now attack in waves. So as you walk into a room you’ll see the usual 6 to 10 enemies waiting to attack you. Freeze, place your characters, issue orders, let loose your spells and attacks, rationing mana and stamina carefully to ensure the big bad in the middle can be taken down, selecting when to use your heal spell… And then more suddenly arrive.

This isn’t sometimes. This is every fight, whether it’s a big story moment or a random attack mid-journey. How many waves you don’t know, so rationing abilities becomes completely meaningless. And it’s not smoothly done, either. While demons and the undead suddenly crawling out of the ground is at least in keeping with the themes, watching a row of five archers fade into existence in the middle of the battle area, immediately in front of your character, is abysmal.

It changes the mood significantly. Despite the same combat skills, techniques and controls being in place, it becomes little more than spamming abilities and waiting for them to warm back up again as wave after wave appears.

So much is so unclear this time out. The tutorial as part of the codex seems completely abandoned, instead loading up tips that disappear of their own accord before you’re finished reading them, normally on the third or fourth time whatever it’s relating to has happened. So at no point has the game told me about the day/night options for the maps. I can choose to visit areas of the game in either timezone, with some quests only available in one or the other. But the game didn’t feel the need to tell me that.

Worse, quests are often just as opaque. There’s a story once you’ve reached Kirkwall which involves finding out more about the goings on with your uncle, mother and brother. Wills, inheritance, relationships with late fathers, and so on. What it should do is make up for a lot of the absence of an origin for your character. What it did was make me feel even more alienated.

I explored old buildings, fought enemies, and discovered the documents needed to resolve matters. Along the way I found other notes that related to other details, the game telling me I needed to speak to other complete strangers regarding them. And I could see none of them. Nothing is available to read, nothing appears in the Codex. I go to the next quest marker, and people react to a letter I’ve never seen, never properly explaining what they say.

Quests appear in my list because I click on someone in the street who doesn’t even say what they want me to do. But I follow the marker, kill someone, and then click on them again and I see some money go into my purse. There’s maybe a line of dialogue that relates to something I was never really privy to. More weird are the objects you discover in various areas that trigger a side quest. Sort of. You find a book, or a bit of cloth, and the game maybe tells you it belongs to someone. Somewhere else you see someone with a quest marker over their head, click on them, and it tells you you’ve completed a quest. Maybe I’m some sort of psychic who can discern the owner of any object.

The disconnect tragically even reaches your party. For the first few hours you might not even have three companions available to select, let alone be choosing from a pool. So you’ll have Carver, your brother, with you. So why, when I’ve got a quest telling me to talk to him, do I have to go into my characters’ home to be able to do that? Walk in there with him and he greets me, telling me what he’s been up to since I was away. Just what?

Later, the gorgeously sweet Welsh elf Merrill joins my party, and adds in a quest saying I should visit her house. Together we walk in, and a surprised Merrill welcomes me saying, “I didn’t think you’d come.” Er, well, um.

All these examples are typical of the consistent atmosphere. It feels disjointed, as if anything you do that doesn’t take place in a cutscene isn’t considered to be real by the game. And yes, many RPGs do similar, but Dragon Age: Origins was one that did it infrequently. Dragon Age II just doesn’t seem to care at all.

Clearly influenced by the enormous success of Mass Effect II, and the excellent ways that game was executed, DA2 seems determined to try to be as accessible, without compromising on its combat. But in the compromise appears to be lost another crucial aspect of such an RPG: dialogue.

My character, The Female Hawke, is utterly unlikeable. Smug, smarmy, and needlessly rude, her having been given a voice means her identity has little to do with my own influence. Good old Grey Warden Simon was mute, but immensely likeable. And helped by being offered nuance in his responses.

Hawke has Mass Effect’s three options. While they occasionally vary, they boil down to, “Good”, “flippant” or “evil”. The latter two are always rude, the first one only sometimes. And with no conversation skills apparent in the game, that’s your lot. Creating a character whose gift of the gab can talk their way out of situations appears to have been completely eradicated – something that’s really shocked me in a BioWare game. If it appears later, it appears far too late.

I desperately miss the range of possible responses, none so crudely labeled. Here, I was able to flirt, or agitate, in a way that felt nuanced, even subtle. Now I can sometimes choose the conversation option with the heart by it, where Hawke will then say something barely related to the words I’d clicked on, often so crawlingly crude that I’m surprised my companions don’t file a sexual harassment complaint.

It’s safe to say that for the first chunk of the game, a good eight hours or more, I’ve not enjoyed it at all. Which astonishes me, after Dragon Age: Origins gripped me from the opening moment and became an all-time favourite straight away. It has felt more like playing the beginnings of a tiresome MMO – just walking between quest markers because it will increase XP, barely interested in the story behind why. (If indeed it’s divulged at all.)

It’s beginning to improve, which is why I’m writing this now. I’m so delighted Anders is back (even if he’s minus Ser Pouncealot), and Merrill is beyond adorable. It’s about time there was a decent Welsh character in a game! I hope in a few days time to be raving about the story once it kicks in, and the adventures I’m having. Those ahead of me in the game tell me great things are on their way – emotional moments, epic situations, gripping tales. I really can’t wait. But this is a terrible opening – a disjointed, ambiguous, emotionless start.

PS.

Here’s a few thoughts I forgot, some responding to comments.

Why am I organising an expedition into the Deep Roads, exactly? I agree with people who say it would be good to play a game where you’re not always the hero of the day, but since you’re told you are from the very start that seems a little moot. And I’m going on this expedition to make money? I’ve got more money right now than I can find things to spend it on.

What is going on with Merrill’s blood magic? She has these abilities, which creates an entertaining, if not interesting, contrast to her cheery innocence. Then I go to her stats and, er, she’s not a blood mage. Huh?

I strongly dispute all those claiming all the quests make sense. They absolutely all do not – you find letters you can’t read that contain information you’re not told that cause people to change their minds about things they don’t share. If you’re lucky. Most of the time you run to a yellow marker and find out it had something to do with that thing you stumbled on earlier.

Who took Anders’ funny? Justice? That’s not justice. Etc.

Why is every item I find only to be used by Samantha Hawke? It’s making me feel paranoid. And making my companions feel naked.

Oh, and this I really had intended to include: For what possible reason have they removed the reason to get an overhead angle? Why include the same battle game, and then remove the ability to look at it? The game of course looks great from a lower angle when exploring, but if I’m organising four characters I would like to be able to see them. Picky as I am. What mystifies me is what is gained by taking it out? It seems a complete unnecessary decision.

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468 Comments »

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  1. steggieav says:

    What a mind-numbingly disappointing game.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Those were my exact thoughts about Dragon Age 1, but I’m quite enjoying the second one. It’s nothing more than an entertaining hack and slash with a half decent story and mediocre acting. The first was a CRPG with bland combat, a terrible story and some of the worst acting I can remember in recent memory.

    • Danarchist says:

      Being usually an optimist myself I find myself liking the game less the more I play it. My main issue is the locked down gear (except for weapons and jewelry) of my companions and the endlessly recycled dungeon maps. Seriously this is just plain lazy and rushed to market. I did two quests in a row last night that used the same interior warehouse map, the only difference was i started on the other side of the map the second time. The “encounters” and traps are in the exact same place every time too.

      I loved dragon age to the point of obsession. This is so lazily done I can’t believe bioware are the ones that put it out. The story isn’t bad and I have had a couple oh wow moments, but overall its just designed to appeal to a much younger and much less patient console crowd. It is a cooldown timer whack a mole game. And I agree that one of the worst things they have added is the “waves” of enemies that make any effort at strategy absolutely pointless. Why hide your casters behind your tanks if enemies are just going to magically spawn behind your skirmish line anyways?
      And enemy archers/casters can fire through walls and terrain etc making trying to line of sight things pointless too.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Sometimes there are people with opinions you find so alien, they do not belong on this earth. DrGonzo’s is one of them.

    • Tyshalle says:

      It’s so weird to me how opinions can vary on this so much. I though the acting in DA1 was very adequate, and the dialogue nuanced and intelligent. I thought the story was only bland if you focused on the over-arching tale and not on the numerous smaller stories told throughout, not to mention the story between you and your companions, which in the right combination could be truly spectacular. The combat was repetitive though, and while I was able to enjoy it for 80 hours or so, I barely made it through the abysmal Awakenings, and have not been able to bring myself for a second playthrough because of it.

      After having talked to enough people about DA:O, I suspect that the people who have completely fallen in love with the game are the ones who chose to be a human warrior or rogue, and then wind up sticking with some combination of Morrigan, the French Rogue, and the Smart-Ass Someday King. Meanwhile the people who tend to not understand why people find the game so engaging and spectacularly powerful wound up starting off as a spellcaster, and wound up sticking with the perhaps more outwardly interesting, but far more shallow characters.

      That’s just my assumption, mind you, but I do think Bioware would be much better served sticking with like 4-5 companions and making them all incredibly interesting instead of like a dozen, with several who are boring as hell except for a couple of schticks that make them seem superficially interesting.

    • sebmojo says:

      Nice troll!

    • dadioflex says:

      DA2 was off my radar because I found the original dull and unimaginative. It’s actually possible to hold opinions that differ from the hive mind. But I haven’t played a decent Bioware RPG since KOTOR1 and BG2 before that.

      I had more fun with Kult than NWN 1 or 2.

      Kult.

    • mandrill says:

      ‘Nothing more that an entertaining hack’n’slash’ you’ve summed up why people are disappointed right there.

      Dragon Age: Origins was much much more than that and this is not a worthy successor.

    • Edgar the Peaceful says:

      I didn’t enjoy Dragon Age 1 enough to finish it. Orzammar is one of the dullest places in gaming history and it sapped my will to play on. I won’t be going anywhere near DA 2

    • malkav11 says:

      I adored DA1, including Awakening, and played an elven mage with Morrigan, Wynne and Shale my constant companions. (I hated to ditch Alistair, he was lovely, but he also wasn’t nearly as useful as the above three). So I think your sample size is too small.

    • MadMatty says:

      I found the one, like Dr. Gonzo said, being a bit rubbish. Crappy story (i noticed they stole “the water of life” ceremony from Dune, or was it the Jom-Gabbar?)- and the acting very very cheesy, on par with 0-budget american sci-fi series.
      The combat was basically Baldurs Gate, a style which i´ve grown tired of over the years, but i´d forgive anyone who had a bit of fun.
      I lasted about 4 hours in, until we came to some witch´s house, and the cutscene was just so laughably badly written and acted, pure cheese, that i left the game and didn´t pick it up again.
      I did have a very good time with, say Mass Effects opening 8 hours, and while it was hardly Dostojevski, story and acting were mildly passable.
      I often find that young people often gulp up the cheese instantly, because they lack the media literacy, or personal experience to discern what is cheese and what is good.
      I read BOOKS also, and that makes me even more picky when it comes to plot and acting.
      Anyway, i will forgive all of the crappy acting/plot in the world if you give me a game with good solid game mechanics, but DA was not it.
      I simply can´t see what the fuss is about.

    • Wulf says:

      I like how Gonzo is outright called a troll for having an opinion. It reminds me of the heartwarming character assassination I had to endure on RPS by clawing, zombified DA fans for saying much the same. Yep, it warms the cockles of my heart, that does. That there’s some thought police which dictate what people are permitted to like or not like.

      I thought Dragon Age was dire, too. I found it wooden and emotionless. I know that’s going to sound harsh to someone who loved it, but I couldn’t get anything from it, and I tried. This isn’t to say that I’m not an RPG fan, either, as there’s a long list of RPGs that I’ve played and loved the hell out of. I suppose there are some games that just don’t do it for you. You don’t feel them. That spark that makes it just isn’t there. But one thing to keep in mind is that if you’re tired of something, it’s going to make all the subtleties really stand out.

      I’m going to bring up Oblivion, here. If Oblivion had a setting akin to Morrowind’s, then all the other aspects of the game would’ve stood up better. In fact, there are a lot of ways that Oblivion is like Morrowind, but because of how tired I am of the Lord of the Rings setting, I actually found that the negative aspects just stood out for me so much more, and I got fed up of it really fast. Whereas Morrowind was another one of those games that I really did love the hell out of. Quite literally. It was a fantastic gem of a game.

      There are undeniable problems, even with Origins, but I think that how tired one is of the Lord of the Rings style setting is going to impact upon that. No end of grit is going to change that. No amount of edginess or awkward, nerd-written sexiness is going to alter that. And that bit with the Dwarven tunnels… *twitch.* Am I alone in absolutely despising that? It was the most staid, archaic, and cliche of fantasy dungeon romps. And it had me stuck down there HOW LONG??? Can. Never. Forgive. That was a lot of the problem for me. I just want fantasy to go to new places.

      The thing is is that Origins didn’t really take fantasy to new places. It took Lord of the Rings and dropped some televised thriller stuff on top of it, then mixed it in. I mean, if you’ve seen a bunch of telly thrillers, you’ll see that same awkward sexiness and edginess, and that’s what it felt like. I’m familiar with that too, because RL relations of mine love watching those damn things, and sometimes I get roped in to watch them too. So neither side of Origins was a revelation for me… and I’m just tired of it.

      I want more fantasy games to take a page out of the book of Uru. Which had an Age with a two minute day/night cycle, flying mantises, breathing trees, and all other sorts of WTFery. I want to actually have the desire to stop and look at things because they’re so bizarre. I don’t want to ‘explore’ something I’ve seen in a film a billion times before. And I don’t want to make choices that are far too close to the reality I’m familiar with. I want games to take me outside of my comfort zone. To put me in situations that I can’t be familiar with, to ask me questions that I may not have already read the answers to in a hundred books, to show me worlds that are brilliant in their raw creativity.

      Maybe there’s just some xenophobic side to the vast majority that I’m missing, and that makes people want everything to be the same all the time. Honestly not trolling here. Genuine emotions. I’m honestly baffled. I’m not playing anyone, I just don’t understand how people aren’t as bored of it as I am. And when you’re this bored of something, it’s hard to be forgiving when a game already has so many other problems to boot. When stuff like Uru, Planescape: Torment, and Morrowind showed me how out there fantasy could get, it set a benchmark. A benchmark that apparently Bioware is ignoring.

      I long for more craziness in RPGs.

      (In fact, I’ll just drop this Uru video link as a grand visual aid. How often do we see stuff like that in games any more? Don’t you think it’s all become very cynical and far less imaginative? I want to see more like that. Just… raw, crazy creativity. Nutty stuff. If it alienates people too much… well, that’s sad. I kind of do pity that if only the few can see the beauty and wonder in really alien environments like those.)

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Alistair was basically a sex pest. I was a female elven mage. I had a lovely thing going on with Leliana. He kept sleazing on me. It was creepy. I ditched him at the first opportunity. I wasn’t at all upset when he stormed off in a huff at the end of the game.

    • Urthman says:

      Wulf, I agree with everything you said, especially your love for the imaginative Uru, until you lashed out with your “xenophobia” accusation again.

      Seriously, people would respect your opinions so much more if you weren’t calling them nasty names for liking stuff that’s different from what you like.

    • kyrieee says:

      It’s okay to say you think DA:O was rubbish now? Yay
      I thought it was rubbish!

    • dysphemism says:

      Wait, so Wulf didn’t fall head-over-heels for Dragon Age? Man, glad we have that settled. Let’s talk about something new, shall we?

      I’m just kidding, Wulf. You know I got your back. Anyone who likes their breakfast toast with a side of Tolkien is a fascist!

    • anduin1 says:

      Im about 12-13 hours in and honestly, I’m having trouble to keep going and with the looming release of Shogun 2, it might be put on the back burner. I’m just struggling to find the enjoyment that I did with DAO 1 and Awakening (which I found to be better than the original in many regards). It just felt like I got a nasty punch in the testicles near the beginning and the pain isn’t subsiding…. oh Bioware, I hope this isn’t the beginning of the fall.

    • Ryz says:

      Didn’t Wulf say he was leaving over the outrage of the RPS Hivemind not liking New Vegas? Did I imagine that? I could have, considering my eyes tend to completely glaze over every time he rants about DA:O and xenophobia or New Vegas or whatever he’s on about today.

      Wulf, the reason you experienced “character assassination” over DA:O wasn’t because you didn’t like it. It was because you couldn’t comprehend so many disagreeing with you and bringing it up at every. single. opportunity and slinging around insults like the above ‘xenophobia’ comment along the way. You did the exact same thing with New Vegas when a significant amount of commentators didn’t see it as the pinnacle of RPGs and I recall more rants over Alpha Protocol getting slagged, too.

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      Makariel says:

      I wouldn’t go as far as calling Origins rubbish, but I don’t think it was that great either. It was a solid RPG with some pacing issues. Writing was good (for a video game), nothing earth-shattering, voice acting was good (for a video game).

      The demo of DA2 convinced me to at least wait for the price to drop considerably. I’m not planning to pay more than 20.

    • sonson says:

      “It reminds me of the heartwarming character assassination I had to endure on RPS by clawing, zombified DA fans for saying much the same. Yep, it warms the cockles of my heart, that does. That there’s some thought police which dictate what people are permitted to like or not like”

      Or: You posted a robust criticism as to why you didn’t like Dragon Age, as you are entirley entitled to do. Others disagreed with you, as they are also entitled to do.

      You then changed tack somewhat and suggested instead that the problem was that those who liked it were probably not as culturally experienced/literate/aware as yourself (an attitude which you still clearly maintain by referring to fans of the game above as assasinsn, Zombified or facist. Incidently, these are really boring characters we see in games all the time, I would have thought you of all posters would have come up with something more orginal!). People naturally got pissed off at this.

      You then declared that people were annoyed becuase you didn’t agree with them, rather than becuase of the conceited attitude you adopted that anyone who liked DA had to be critically immature, and refused to listen to those pointing this out.

      At this point, having convinced youreself that this was the forum equivalent of Russia circa 1917, you sought to retreat into a bourgeois bastion of blogging, informing the Dragon Age loving serfs that you had published your thoughts about the matter at your advertised blog, an entry which contained discoures on Witch Hunts and the immortal phrase “Now I know how Iraq feels”.

      I remember it well, becuase it was one of the best moments on a forum I have yet encountered. Drama, farce, comedy, tragedy, hubris, all rolled into a comments thread. I would play that RPG in a heart beat.

    • The Colonel says:

      Sad I missed that exchange. Put the hate to bed lads (see what I did there?). For what it’s worth I never managed to like DA. Or ME2. Or Fallout 3. Although I don’t particularly condone any kind of nastiness on forums and message boards, I can understand the feelings of anger from other dinosaurs who can’t find anything really enjoyable from the recent crop. I suppose that’s the difference between playing a game when you’re 13 and playing games when you’re in your late twenties…

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      So, anyone who likes DA, or ME2 or F03 does so because they’re 13 (or the intelectual equivalent) rather than because they’re an adult with different opinions/tastes to yours.

      But, I suppose as you don’t condone nastiness on forums, that’s alright. I mean, what adult could possibly take offense at being openly compared to a 13 year old?

    • Karazax says:

      Just finished the game today. I played the first 2 acts on nightmare, before it just got too tedious at hitting the Bone Pits ******spoiler***** Dragon. Nightmare combat was challenging at times, but as many others have mentioned this was primarily due to the waves spawning on top of you. Unfortunately this made the most viable tactics to run the entire party to a different room or area as soon as you entered combat, so that the waves came all from the same direction, and in nightmare it meant many of the boss battles involved long extended kiting the boss sequences which frankly were as boring and tedious as the normal and hard with no friendly fire. Ideally friendly fire should have been a switch available for every difficulty. I swapped to normal for the last half of act 3 just to get it over with.
      SPOILERS:

      The story was ok. There were serious breakdowns in logic, and as someone who was supporting the mages it got more than a little frustrating when every mage you helped kept resorting to blood magic. There was definitely a feeling that many of the choices were completely superficial, with the same out come regardless of what you say.
      My main complaints:

      1) Repetitive combat with arcade game like wave spawning. Either play nightmare and have the combat drag out, with the risk that assassins can one shot your mages and bosses require exploiting bad AI to beat, or anything else and have friendly fire be meaningless. There is some Diablo-esque level fun there, but it isn’t particularly strategic, especially if you set up strong tactics for your companions.

      2) Restriced ability to outfit your companions. I felt the armor upgrades being mostly restricted to Hawke was a major disappointment. Part of the fun is finding new gear and some of that was eliminated with the set armor for each companion and all the gear restricted to Hawke only. It also took away from immersion of the game.

      3) Very vague dialog options. Often what you mean to say and what your choice leads you to believe you are going to say are very different.

      4) Quests are mostly follow the gold arrows to kill some mobs, grab an item maybe, and repeat.

      5) For all being in one city, the city itself is not very developed. Exploring the city in Baldur’s Gate II felt more like a city, where this city feels so small and underdeveloped. Probably because of all the areas that are reused over and over. The one bar, the one brothel, the one church, and the MMO like NPC’s that have nothing better to do but stand in the street at the same spot every day. NPC’s like this aren’t specific to DA2, but it is more noticeable when you are stuck in the same spot for the whole game. How about having dozens of different buildings to explore in each zone in the city? I was expecting an epic undertaking on the Deep Road expedition, but it was like 5-6 rooms and over with. It just seems like if the whole game is going to be in one city, that city could be a lot more extensive in scope.

      6) Part of the advantage of a single player RPG is that you can have a player really change the world with their quests, but I didn’t really feel like I was changing much. I mean this wasn’t really much different from the other RPG’s where you save the world, except here you are just saving a city. Sure you advance from immigrant, to mansion owner, to champion of the city, but it doesn’t feel like any decision you make has any effect on how it ultimately plays out, which is more typical of an MMO. It’s understandable in an MMO, after all it’s hard to make EVERYONE have changing effects on a world shared by thousands of others. But in a single player game, it feels really restricted how little your choices change the final out come of each act.

      The game had some good spots, but over all I went from enjoying the game going in, to just wanting it to be over by the end of act 2.

  2. Mr_Day says:

    The worst part of the dialogue is that the summary description on the choice wheel doesn’t always match up with what you then say.

    “I take responsibility” during one of Merrills quests being utterly, infuriatingly moronic. I was hoping my character would try to deflect some of the anger in a situation off of my favourite Welsh Elf (though the others are Irish or American/Canadian), but instead he said “I will make sure Merril doesn’t do this again.”

    Not what I wanted to say, and not what the summary implied. And now she hates me, nice one. At least it saved first.

    Also, at no point does Merrill say “I’m the only blood mage in the village”, which is a missed opportunity.

    EDIT: Apparently Merrill is from a different clan and was given to her current clan. Which isn’t mentioned in game, and doesn’t describe her ridiculously strong bond to her adopted group of people that don’t like her much.

    • Dante says:

      She does actually say that, during your first meeting, it’s presumably the reason she’s Welsh while the other Dalish sound more Irish.

      I know it was at her first meeting because I’ve never taken her with me since, I’m having too much fun with sleazy seventies porn star dwarf and inappropriately dressed pirate wench.

    • Mr_Day says:

      It’s entirely possible. I was just reading up and apparently she was in the first game if you played as a Dalish elf character.

      Reading your class choices, something that has bothered me about the game is that I don’t get much choice as to who I take with me. If there is an easy way around this, do tell, but having taken a mage and decided not to specialise in healing, I find my character choice is limited to:

      Aveline or Fenris as a tank, after respeccing Fenris.

      Anders as a healer.

      Isabella or Varric as a rogue, otherwise you miss out on locked chests in places that you can’t return to later.

      I have to say, it irritates me greatly. Unless I play as a character which tanks, heals or picks locks I am screwed. It actually makes me think fondly of Divinity II, which I actually liked as a game anyway, but moreso because unlike DA any locked door or chest has a way of being opened other than being a lockpick. They have these wonderful inventions called keys, something DA only puts in when the plot demands you fight someone before you move on.

      It wouldn’t have surprised me if at one point in Origins I picked a lock on a door and fight a group of people inside who were guarding a locked chest only to discover they did not have the key to either the chest or the door on them.

    • Archonsod says:

      ““I take responsibility” during one of Merrills quests being utterly, infuriatingly moronic. I was hoping my character would try to deflect some of the anger in a situation off of my favourite Welsh Elf (though the others are Irish or American/Canadian), but instead he said “I will make sure Merril doesn’t do this again.””

      That whole situation is idiotic. I’m not sure at what point the Dalish figured it was a good idea to threaten a guy who’d already taken out something that was butchering their best hunters, was leader in all but name of the nearest city and generally had slaughtered things they were scared to face at their keeper’s behest.
      Explains a lot about the situation of the Elves though. It’s nothing to do with ancient wars, slavery or the like and everything to do with a complete lack of survival instinct (then again, considering where they’d pitched camp this was probably evident from the start).

    • Jahkaivah says:

      (Origins spoilers if that is any bother)

      A notable mistake I had playing Dragon Age: Origins was when I was talking to Alistair about how Duncan died.

      I had mentioned something about Dwarven views on death and Alistair remarked how he wished Duncan’s death was one worthy of him. I responded with “He got what he deserved.” as to mean that Duncan had gotten a worthy death in battle and Alistair flipped out believing I had meant that Duncan deserved to die.

      But the thing is, because those were my exact words that I chose, that was a somewhat believable misunderstanding, one whose blame can be pinned on the flaws of human conversation as opposed to one whose blame can be pinned on a bunch of game developers screwing up.

    • ezekiel2517 says:

      @ Mr_day

      Bash lock mod fixed it in Origins greatly. Hopefully one comes along for DA2 soon.
      I was upset at HAVING to take Varric or Isabella too, until the latter got a 100% crit chance and 80% dodge chance. I will likely be trying a rogue next, seeing what a killing machine she turned out to be.

    • Archonsod says:

      Locked chests don’t generally contain anything worth taking a rogue along for in the first place to be honest. Extra loot and money, but then money was never an issue in my game (it wasn’t till Act 3 my finances dropped below 80 sovereigns).
      I didn’t find party setup too constricted myself, you can rely on healing potions, Mythals favour bombs and similar rather than a healer, and you can spec a stealth/disorient rogue to use in place of a tank (and similarly a warrior can go pure DPS rather than tanking to replace a rogue too). If anything, the various talent trees make it easier to bring along the character you want rather than the class you need.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Archonsod: And chests not containing any unique or worthwhile items is a huge design flaw.

    • Archonsod says:

      I’d consider locking a unique or worthwhile item in a place only a third of players are capable of getting it a bigger design flaw.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Archonsod: What? Missing out on content in CRPGs is a bad thing? I never thought I’d see the day when the population have been successfully streamlined by game developers! Sorry but you are so utterly wrong that I don’t even think I can muster up a reply. You clearly don’t actually like CRPGs.

    • Archonsod says:

      Yep. Clearly I dislike cRPG’s et al. How wonderful of you to be able to tell me that, because for most of my life this has been a pressing question. All the way through school in fact I suffered a constant identity crisis because I didn’t know whether or not I actually liked cRPG’s. But now you have shown me the light! Evidently my problems stem from being surrounded by idiots.

    • Maxrmk says:

      I actually liked it. The fast oaced combat really makes everything feel a lot more exiting. Though I agree about a few problems, like the irritating mid-battle spawns and the sometimes stupid irritating dialogue options.

    • rivalin says:

      @Archonsod, although he could have put it more subtly, frankly I’d agree with Wizardry, a preference like that suggests you’re in Bioware’s new “target demographic”, ie the sort of people who like killstreaks and getting an achievement every five minutes; Being the centre of attention.

      CRPG’s used to be less “streamlined” (i.e. yes, dumbed down) and more about feeling part of a world that wasn’t centered around you, a world not made up of cardboard cutout buildings which would blow over if you looked at them too closely, where everything wasn’t signposted and laid out in front of you aside from occasional left/right path choices. I loved after completing the first Baldur’s gate looking up all the amazing items that I’d missed; because they were hidden away in some crypt in the middle of nowhere. or carried by a powerful wizard hiding in his forest keep, because that’s what makes them amazing, when the “Sword of kickass awesome” is dropped in to your lap every hour or so, perfectly appropriate for the enemies you’re fighting, so that you keep playing for as long as possible, it just feels so… streamlined. So yeah, I suppose it’s like the difference between a meal at a good restaurant, not guaranteed to be platable to everyone, and a mcdonalds happy meal; perfectly skewed to keep a six year old from having a tantrum.

      This sort of design choice exemplifies everything that is going wrong with modern game design, from the catering to idiocy, to the mercenary view that content not seen by the average player on their single player is essentially content wasted.

    • Archonsod says:

      I do like cRPG’s. I’m just not yet a half senile old coot who can use his failing eyesight to don rose tinted glasses and pretend ye olden days of turn based adventuring in poor 3D mazes while static sprites popped up and demanded you choose between melee or swing for your sword were some kind of glory days of gaming. Nor do I believe there is something wonderful about character sheets that resembled spreadsheets, which when all is said and done were primarily there because we couldn’t model things like physics on the hardware at the time and so arbitrary checks of obscure skills were a method of keeping the game slightly more interesting than it otherwise would have been. Just like the endless lists of equipment which differed only in the rows of numbers which followed them, because they needed thirty stats to integrate with a system attempting to abstract the physical processes of an entire world.
      So yes, I’m part of Bioware’s target audience – cRPG fans – rather than someone who insists the Columbia Electric Car is superior to a modern Ferrari because driving has been dumbed down ever since they started including headlights on the vehicle. But that’s because I expect games to actually improve over time rather than repeatedly retread a niche we all dreamt of the day they would escape fifteen years ago. I’m funny like that.

    • Urthman says:

      A world without cool stuff you can easily miss if you aren’t exploring carefully and trying different kinds of tricks to open doors and chests and get past barriers is a world that’s not worth exploring.

      I want worlds that reward exploration.

    • Dworgi says:

      “But that’s because I expect games to actually improve over time rather than repeatedly retread a niche we all dreamt of the day they would escape fifteen years ago.”

      Not all of us did. Many of us, in fact, wish they would go back to doing the things that CRPGs did well before, and which DA:O attempted to do. Yes, it was flawed at times, but its world felt alive and bigger than just you.

      I’d say that the school of thought you’re espousing is largely the difference between Morrowind and Oblivion, as well. Morrowind had its fair share of randomly-generated, same-y dungeons, but sometimes they weren’t the same. Sometimes there was something unique in there, which made you forget about all the times you’d gone into a dungeon and it had been boring. In Oblivion, nothing important was put in non-essential dungeons because god forbid anyone missed out. Even the Oblivion gates, which most of the game revolved around, were boring after the first one and a chore to get through.

      I just can’t get my head around the idea that not putting anything important in chests or off the beaten path is a good thing. Baldur’s Gate 2 had entire optional quest lines that provided you with some of the hardest encounters and best equipment – Kangaxx, for example.

      Talking to friends about all the things you found that they missed made that experience yours. There’s little point asking anyone if they did anything specific in DA2, because of course they did. They might have done it by saying a different set of words, but the end result was still the same.

    • Archonsod says:

      “A world without cool stuff you can easily miss if you aren’t exploring carefully and trying different kinds of tricks to open doors and chests and get past barriers is a world that’s not worth exploring.”

      Not all exploration is geographical. DA1 already did the world exploration, DA2 is a thematic exploration.

      “Talking to friends about all the things you found that they missed made that experience yours. There’s little point asking anyone if they did anything specific in DA2, because of course they did. They might have done it by saying a different set of words, but the end result was still the same.”

      No it wasn’t. I’ve already given an example of how my playthrough of DA:O was likely incredibly different from others (since I killed Wynne). The same is true of DA 2, depending on the player actions events and people can be different from one playthrough to the next. To some people Sten was nothing more than a dour silent type, to others he was a firm friend with amusing interjections; all based on how each individual player approached him.
      There’s room for exploration in RPG’s, and again the whole world exploration tends to be more Bethesda’s line than Bioware; but not every RPG story has to be about exploring the world.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Hypatian says:

    It is sad to see Mr. John Walker be so so very wrong on every level.

    (Well, okay… except the waves of enemies. Those are pretty much trash, simply because they come so consistently.)

    • Bilbo says:

      He’s definitely unhappy with the game. I definitely got that vibe from him.

    • Ondrej says:

      Care to elaborate, Hypatian?

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      His opinion is wrong! OH NOES.

    • sebmojo says:

      John’s complaints match the things I disliked about the demo (which is all I’ve played.

      But he’s allowed to be wrong (or rather we’re allowed to disagree with him). I think he was way off beam in his loathing of ME2’s minigames f’rex.

      A big part of it it is the letdown from DA:O, which was a lot of people’s favourite game ever and a wonderful love letter to the oldschool RPG. This… isn’t.

      But I look forward to playing it in a year or so after buying it for $5 in a Steam sale. I’ll have rockbottom expectations and probably have a wonderful time (see: Alpha Protocol).

    • Premium User Badge

      Hypatian says:

      Unfortunately, there’s not much I can say to invalidate what he said. :) From what I see over in the thread on gamerswithjobs.com, this is one of those games that some people really like, and some people really don’t like. For me, the questions about “Who am I?” are total non-issues, and the time-skipping leaving-things-implied method of storytelling makes things hit harder and make more sense, not less.

      Specifically, Mr. Walker said: “It’s such a gross misunderstanding of how we identify with characters we play as in an RPG.” So… it’s totally broken for him, leaving him utterly adrift and unable to connect to anyone. But for me, it’s a complete win, because it’s atypical of RPGs (and more typical of what I consider to be good novels), and invites me to think about and explore the connections on my own. I ended up with a much better feeling than with most RPG setups, because I’m left with a sense of place in the world as a refugee and up-and-coming underworld fixer, but without all of the little meaningless questing that would have inevitably clashed with the idea of the character I was building in my head.

      Everything in the game, to me, has been about piecing together the picture of the person the story is about, one bit at a time. And that makes a person seem more alive to me: because we are not linear processes, we’re set of hopes and dreams and drives that are exposed by the choices we make, as we make them. Every choice I make sets me a bit firmer in my idea of what Hawke is doing, and I’m very very happy with that.

      Clearly, Mr. Walker didn’t feel the same way. And as far as I can tell, not much I can say will change his mind. But that doesn’t keep it from working very very well for a lot of people, and being (in my opinion) a great success in terms of using a non-traditional narrative structure for an RPG.

      I’d love to see more of this style of story-telling in the future.

    • Bilbo says:

      Thanks for elaborating. I more or less 100% agree with you. It’s something different, but that doesn’t make it “wrong” or “misunderstanding”.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Yes, but I thought the point of having the main character be one person was that they could better tell you who that character is. By having you be the one guy, and not telling you anything about your past, it defeats the purpose. It worked in the Elder Scrolls specifically because you were told nothing and then encouraged to figure out what you wanted to be. No one at the boat tells you that you’re the Nerevarine.

    • Lavs says:

      I think the defining line between people who really enjoyed the game and people who hated it is roleplaying. If you are the kind of guy who likes to make his own character and wants all of your responses to be exactly what it says on the tin when you choose them, then you won’t enjoy the game. if you want to just go along with the ride as Hawke makes choices with a little bit of a guiding hand, then you’ll enjoy the game. It seems to me, it boils down to this: If you want to play as You, you won’t like the game. If you want to play as Hawke, you’ll probably be fine with it. Also, age probably factors in. As sad as it is, 18 year olds are more likely to play through it and love the absolutely ridiculous explosions of blood and gore and fire, ignore the cheesy dialogue (either due to not caring about the plot or due to not realizing it’s cheesy in the first place) and come out with a good impression, and 30-40 year old weekend gamers are more likely to dislike how shallow it is, and the content designed by the same people who thought adding Subject Zero to mass effect 2 was a good idea.

    • Bilbo says:

      I prefer having to learn about the character as I play to being given hamfisted exposition at the beginning of the game like I’m a five year old who needs everything carefully explained to me before I can start having fun. I’ve got a suspicion the whole “shallow plot/shallow dialogue” thing is really a matter of taste – it’s just a very different narrative structure to what we saw in the original, and fans of the original’s approach are by and large disappointed. For my money, I think the plot is structured more maturely in the sequel than the original – the first’s a sprawling, epic yarn, like the Lord of the Rings, the second is a more tightly focused, modern piece of fiction. Labelling fans of varied approaches to writing “teenagers who don’t care about plot” is snobbish and unfair, sorry.

    • Premium User Badge

      Snidesworth says:

      I’m enjoying the structure of the narrative as well. Shepard was not a character you completely defined yourself and Hawke seems to be cut from the same cloth. I like discovering the little details about the character and, while I didn’t have a choice about whether I had a family or not, I like that they’re around. I did play a warrior and thus have Bethany survive, of course, which leads to a very different scenario. Protagonist Hawke protecting her from the templars where a mage PC will have to put up with the grumblings of Carver.

      I’m enjoying the three act structure as well. First act is Hawke going from rags to riches, trying to strike big and elevate him/herself from the life of poverty you’re stuck in. Act 2 and Act 3 each focus around a focal point in his/her life and a crisis for the city. It could have been handled a little more gracefully, though. I’ve just entered Act 3 and I don’t think enough weight is given to the jump between years. It feels to abrupt a leap and lacks the sense that several years really have passed between events. The city changing little across acts is another problem. I think John seized on something important when he mentioned the absurdity of walking into a house with someone and then having them talk as if they’d been there a while; the secondary (non-main quest) content each chapter is set up like a collection of vignettes but you travel between them in the manner of a linear narrative. As I said before, I like what they’ve done but they could have done it a bit better.

    • Wozzle says:

      I forgot that disagreement has to equal hostility and “UR WRONG” calls.

      It’s ok to disagree. It’s not ok to disregard others because you do so.

  4. mkultra says:

    The only emotional moment, epic situation or gripping tale I’ve experienced in Dragon Age 2 was the cool, refreshing wave of relief flooding over me when it ended.

    • mrjackspade says:

      Really? So you’ve completed it? I refuse believe that, even if you found the first half boring, you don’t have some vaguely good things to say about the second half. It is truely epic.

    • Unrein says:

      Epicly contrived, more like…

    • Bilbo says:

      Kinda surprised at the number of people who say they hated it so much they were glad it was over, but somehow didn’t just…stop playing once they decided they hated it so much.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      How is that surprising? I’ve played lots of games to completion or near-completion that I didn’t enjoy. It’s called “I paid $40-60 for this and I’m going to sit through the entire damn thing if it kills me”.

    • Bilbo says:

      It just seems really stupid. Don’t take that as a personal attack, I’m calling the concept stupid, not you. I mean, if I’ve plumped £30 on a game, but decide after six hours that it’s total crap, why on earth would I waste more time on it? If it’s not enjoyable on any level, why am I still playing? How is continuing to play something I’m not enjoying better value than accepting the lost money but not investing further time? Unless, and now I mean, this is just crazy talk, but maybe the game isn’t as bad as your hyperbole makes it out to be. If, you know, it’s still worth playing. Doesn’t that follow?

    • Koozer says:

      Maybe they don’t know they don’t like the whole game until they’ve actually played the whole game? Crazy idea, I know.

    • Premium User Badge

      Crimsoneer says:

      The ending is TERRIBLE. Sorry, it is. Acts 2 and 3 made me feel so completely cheerful, and the final hour was just – what?

      Suddenly, all your choices become UTTERLY IRRELEVANT. You can make choices, they just don’t affect anything whatsoever. And the story becomes utterly non-sensical.

    • Bilbo says:

      I just have trouble picturing a scenario where one can play a comparatively lengthy game through to completion and then, once it’s finished, state that the game had no entertainment value whatsoever. And woah, spoilers.

    • Premium User Badge

      Snidesworth says:

      @Crimsoneer

      I haven’t finished the game myself but my friend has and he’s alluded to an “interesting” ending. I suspect I know what’s going to happen now, especially given the opening scene of the game. Hopefully it won’t seem too contrived when I get to it but, given Sebastian’s quest in Act 3, I have the feeling that events were very much taken out of your hands early on.

  5. Dante says:

    John, I usually agree with you on RPGs, or at least story within them, but I honestly can’t get your problem here.

    I found everything very easy to follow, I could certainly tell I was Hawke and my brother and sister Carver and Bethany were with me, along with my mother. I could tell I was Hawke because people said it to me every five minutes, because it was written on the screen during character creation and because every single preview of the game (some of them on this website) mentioned it.

    Quests are written in your journal, press J to read the details, much like in every other RPG ever made.

    Seriously, I can agree with a lot of your criticisms, but these just sound like you weren’t really paying attention and decided to blame the game.

    • mrjackspade says:

      Agree.

    • Wizardry says:

      I’d just like to point out that quest journals have appeared in less than half of all CRPGs. Personally, I like journals that mix up quest entries and information entries such as in Baldur’s Gate 1. When journals started separating out quests and ticking them off as you complete them, CRPGs became a meta-game of clearing your journal. Load the journal up. Pick a quest. Complete it. Repeat. I prefer my lines more blurred.

    • Nickless_One says:

      Disagree.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Personally, I like journals that mix up quest entries and information entries such as in Baldur’s Gate 1.

      I prefer no journals at all, and playing a good RPG with pencil and paper at my side. What bit of information is going to be important? You need to judge for yourself. I still do that with games like Patrician IV and Football Manager, because it’s necessary.

      Requiring the player to *think* deepens involvement with the game, invoking that all-important “immersion” buzzword. With a quest list and arrows and shiny markers, it’s a genuine struggle to avoid switching off your brain and mindlessly clicking along.

    • Archonsod says:

      Requiring me to track what every miscellaneous NPC desires me to do for them without having an auto-journal has a tendency to make me uninstall it in favour of a game which realises computers were invented for a reason.
      It’s like the old RPG’s which required you to map out dungeons on graph paper. Weirdly enough, nobody played those games because they liked graph paper.

    • Dante says:

      I think that’s one of those things that is only going to play like that if you play it like that, and it’s unfair to blame the game makers because you apparently can’t help yourself from treating it like a ticklist.

    • Wizardry says:

      @TillEulenspiegel: I agree with you. I meant that I prefer the journal in Baldur’s Gate rather than in, say, Oblivion or Dragon Age: Origins because it is minimal at best and doesn’t make quests feel like a type of content. I probably do prefer no actual in game journal if that’s an option. That’s why I love older CRPGs.

    • Shagittarius says:

      I happen to be replaying the Wizardry series right now all because I wanted to draw maps on graph paper. Also Etrian Odyssey says hello.

    • Archonsod says:

      Crusaders of the Dark Savant put me off RPG’s for a couple of years.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Archonsod: Didn’t we come to conclusion that you’ve always hated CRPGs? Because Crusaders of the Dark Savant is one of the finest RPGs of all time, any my favourite Wizardry game.

    • Dante says:

      This is a ridiculous conversation. Seriously, does one assume that players of computer games want to:

      a) Use computers

      or

      b) Not use computers

      Tough one.

      When you start writing down journals and making your own maps you’re basically playing a pen and paper rpg but using your PC to replace the dice and friends.

    • TCM says:

      I would say a PC game requiring those is significantly worse than a PnP RPG, on most levels. Less freedom, less imagination involved, more tedium.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Dante: It’s not really about physically writing stuff down. It’s about requiring the player to work out what is relevant and what is not relevant. It means that the player has to think about every bit of information displayed. It also, more importantly, completely blurs the line between information and quests. NPC A may tell you than NPC B knows something about a particular topic. Is that a quest or is that just information? Well, you ask NPC B about the topic and you are told that there is a unique artefact waiting in a particular dungeon for you. In another instance NPC B may just tell you that a certain enemy type is weak against a particular type of damage. Which one is a quest? Is only the first one a quest? The truth is it doesn’t fucking matter! The huge divide between quests and regular information do not exist. There is a huge scale of content that cannot easily be categorized. It feels 100x more natural. Just play Ultima V and you’ll see what I mean.

      Another obsession I dislike that link up with “quest journals” is being able to set the “active quest” and receiving a bloody quest compass. I can’t tell you how stupid a quest compass is. Get them out of my CRPGs!

    • Kadayi says:

      Also agree with Dante.

      As regards the combat, albeit I think it’s a tad ‘easy’ on normal (from what I’ve played so far), and the appearance of the waves isn’t well implemented at times, personally I much prefer it to the MMO style approach of DAO, where in (especially in the later stages) it was far too easy to use ranged attacks to draw the majority of the opposition into mage fuelled kill zones. It was only really where you encountered ambushes, undead or demons that things ever got tricky.

      “When you start writing down journals and making your own maps you’re basically playing a pen and paper rpg but using your PC to replace the dice and friends.”

      Cutting but absolutely spot on.

      Also in DAO at least it was actually worthwhile reading the journal/codex entries because there were lots of things in them that revealed if not exactly quests then useful rewards, such as rituals that weren’t shown until you completed them (such as the Chasind Trail Signs in the Korcari Wilds for example).

      Also I’m not sure about Johns hate on the female Hawke voice, I like her calm reassurance in herself. It makes her feel like someone who people would turn to for help.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Dante: I reckon knowing your character’s name is not the same as knowing your character.

      I certainly get where he’s coming from. I haven’t played DA2, but the openings of RPGs with a pre-defined PC often leave me feeling the same way. Everyone seems to know a hell of a lot more about me than I do. Creates this massive disconnect between the player and his character. I guess that’s what John’s complaining about.

      Fallout New Vegas is having that effect on me slightly, too. I’ve played some 60 hours now according to steam, and I still don’t have a clue who my character was before the intro movie. Feel like I need some context, you know? “Good at hacking computers, using guns and being shot in the head” is pretty much all I got to start with, and that’s nowhere near enough, for me.

      Obviously this kinda thing can be avoided by giving sufficient context or by making acquisition of context the fundamental game mechanic (PS:T understood the way a player relates to their character absurdly well).

    • Starky says:

      Wizardry 7 was an awful game, easily the worst of the trilogy – and the Wizardry series was never that good to begin with, though I never played the first 4 (started with 5).

      But then given I’ve played about every cRPG I could get my hands on from the age of 10 (1992) – I guess I don’t actually like cRPGs either.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      You know what would be great? A journal system that didn’t do everything for you automatically, but still allowed you to easily and efficiently organize your notes. The game would log conversations and allow you to cut snippets of them out, put them into your journal, let you add your own notes where need be, and organize the information so that the things that you felt were related to each other somehow could be grouped together and/or sorted by your priorities.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Starky: The first four weren’t special. They were actually pretty poor games and not very playable today. However, I think Wizardry 7 is slightly better than Wizardry 6, which in turn is better than Wizardry 8. Wizardry 5 is probably slightly weaker than 8, though that might just be the graphics playing with my head.

      I never said that Archonsod doesn’t like CRPGs because he hates Wizardry 7. Scroll up the page. I said he doesn’t like CRPGs because he doesn’t agree that they should contain content that only 30% of the players ever see.

      I have no problem with you. What was your favourite CRPG from 1992 onwards, if I may ask?

      @Jason Moyer: I agree. I would love to see that.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Did you guys miss out entirely on CRPGs of the early-mid 1990s? Many of them were fantastic, and few had in-game journals. You either kept notes or had a good memory.

      Requiring me to track what every miscellaneous NPC desires me to do for them

      But I don’t want garbage filler quests AT ALL. Can we please remove them? Removing the quest list is about rethinking the game design entirely. The ticklist is not just a helpful user feature that gets slapped on top, not something to be considered in isolation. It massively influences the rest of the design.

    • Wizardry says:

      @TillEulenspiegel: I fully agree with you. How many quests do we want per area? How many quests do we want to allow the player to currently “be on” (whatever the hell that means) at any one particular time? How long should each quest take on average? Should all quests be of similar size or should the standard deviation of quest length be large? Should these very small objectives that don’t involve NPCs be quests or not (referring to the DA:O “quests” that only appear in the codex)? These are all questions that developers ask themselves once they are told that “the game will have a number of quests for the player to solve” and that “a log will be provided to the player that records their current progress towards their quests”.

      Having a quest log means that developers think of quests as an actual type of content. This is ultra-artificial. Developers shouldn’t be locked into thinking about quests but rather about actual content and how they fit together to form the game as a whole. Seriously people. Just play something like Ultima V or an early Might & Magic game. They are games full of… content. You don’t even think of quests much while playing them.

    • Archonsod says:

      “I never said that Archonsod doesn’t like CRPGs because he hates Wizardry 7. Scroll up the page. I said he doesn’t like CRPGs because he doesn’t agree that they should contain content that only 30% of the players ever see.”

      It’s the type of content, not the fact players won’t see it. If you’re putting something only a warrior can use into something only a rogue can open then you’re having a slight issue understanding the idea of asking the player to pick a class. Having content only accessible to rogues and only applicable to rogues on the other hand is fine, for bonus points you can include warrior content only accessible by warriors and so forth.
      Admittedly a larger problem there is the use of locked chests as rewards in the first place. I’m sure even in fantasyland people will be stashing their valuables somewhere safe and secure rather than locking them in a box and dropping them down the nearest sewer. Similarly, I have problems believing that the wooden chests used by the Ancient All Knowing Race who built the ruins you are exploring are miraculously intact when the stone city isn’t. It’s dumb, and the only reason it’s done is to justify lockpicking as a skill without having to think about it.

      In fact DA 2 has a better approach than many in that regard. Most of the unique / powerful items are wielded by your enemies, possibly word has gotten around Fantasyland that if you own a +20 staff of doom it’s probably a better bet than a wooden stick +1 for taking on heroic adventuring types. Pick the chests and usually you find coins and miscellaneous loot, which is the kind of stuff I expect people to lock away in strongboxes. Although explaining why they dump them in the sewers rather than stash them under their bed or similar has yet to be answered. Perhaps DA 3 ….

    • MadMatty says:

      I had a long think about auto-maps and magic markers, and i actually decided i like them in many games.
      First off, why noy let the computer do the boring jobs of drawing maps, one could imagine ones character doing this by the campire or while travelling.
      Also magic markers are good, because if you´d get a quest IRL, you´d almost certainly be getting directions by the quest giver, and probably a note on the map from the person aswell.
      Also having a map of your starting location and where the locals are seems to make sense, cause you usually have been living there for a while, and would know from your characters memory where stuff and people would generally be.
      That said, it can get a bit overkill, and totally ruin the exploration/navigation aspect of the games, which i personally enjoy….. and it also takes the mystery away from the games.

      Oh yeah, and another thing i hated about my first 4 hours in DA 1: It´s totally bloody linear. Theres these exotic fantasy landscapes in the background, but if you try to go anywhere near, theres a big BUMP as you hit into Yet Another Invisible Barrier….and water yeah… your characters cant go into small puddles of water because of the erm…magical barrier that protects it…or something.

    • Starky says:

      @ Wizardry

      Fair enough, I misunderstood your post then – people who dismiss others opinions because they dislike one title in a genre rubs me up the wrong way – the comparrison would be someone saying something like “you don’t like or get Punk unless you love the sex pistols” – which is stupid no matter what medium/genre you apply it too.
      As you were not doing that – I apologize.

      As for cRPGs

      My favourite is probably a tie between:
      Final Fantasy 7 – I’m just of that generation, I had a mega Drive as a kid so missed out on earlier SNES RPGs, but as a 15 year old it literally consumed over a year of my life, and probably over 500-600 hours gameplay. I completed it about 10 times.
      And, Vampire: Bloodlines – mainly because I was a massive, massive World of Darkness gamer – I ST’ed (DM’ed) on the official while wolf WoD online game, Designed, ST’ed and Admined my own 200+ user (online at once, easily 1000+ registered players) online game (which is still running today, using my setting and city). As well as played all their games table top a few times a week for years…
      So to play a game that was so good, and for the first 3/4ths got it so right blew me away.

      Second place would probably go to Betrayal at Krondor – if only because I’m a Feist fan, and I think it was probably the first PC based cRPG I ever played. Before that I had a Megadrive (genesis) and an Amiga 1200. Even though my first PC was a windows 95 machine (so I was a couple of years behind release) which I blagged my parents I needed to school – when really I just wanted command and conquer. It was a great game too though, which is nice.

      Honourable mentions would be the Baldur’s series, Diablo 2, Morrowind, Fallout 2, Arcanum.

    • Lavs says:

      A good way to judge if a game actually requires you to think or not is to download a mod to disable the HUD (the waypoint marker leading you to the next quest objective and the journal YOUR NEXT TASK IS TO BLAH BLAH BLAH interface, at least) and see if you can make any progress in the game. if you can’t figure out how to solve a quest without mindlessly trotting off towards the next floating golden arrow, the game developers have done something wrong.

    • Kadayi says:

      ‘A good way to judge if a game actually requires you to think or not is to download a mod to disable the HUD (the waypoint marker leading you to the next quest objective and the journal YOUR NEXT TASK IS TO BLAH BLAH BLAH interface, at least) and see if you can make any progress in the game. if you can’t figure out how to solve a quest without mindlessly trotting off towards the next floating golden arrow, the game developers have done something wrong.’

      So you deliberately removing central features and the game not functioning is then somehow a failure on the game designers part? Yeah that makes total sense. You have every right to play a game in whatever fashion you choose in order to add complexity to the experience, but zero right to lay the blame at the foot of the developers for not possessing the hindsight necessary to accommodate your personal masochistic peccadilloes.

    • Premium User Badge

      Snidesworth says:

      I for one like knowing where I’m supposed to go. I’m not asking for a breadcrumb trail, but if I pick up a few quests and leave one till another day it’s nice to have a set of notes that tells me which area to go to. Nor do I particularly enjoy roaming around a place which I’ve previously explored (such as the city areas) trying to find the some guy I organised a meeting with. Exploring should be fun, not tedious. When it would otherwise be tedious I welcome the map marker.

    • Dante says:

      “Dante: I reckon knowing your character’s name is not the same as knowing your character.”

      A fair point, but he does specifically refer to not knowing who Hawke is.

      As for not knowing what kind of person it is, I was under the impression that the point of the game was to define that. You aren’t presented with a hero and told to save the world with him (a la Mass Effect) you’re given the chance to build a hero.

      Think about it, Varric is telling the story of Hawke and he starts with Lothering, why? Because anything that happened before then isn’t important, or he would have told you about it.

    • Wraggles says:

      @Dante

      Yeah, I’m with you here, though it would be nicer if it started a little bit earlier in loethering, and set up the family dynamic a little before its just thrown at you.

      We’re all aware that the journal also has both a codex section and a notes section right? So all those notes he’s saying he can’t read are actually right there in the journal.

      @Wizardry

      A lot of what you’re asking for basically makes it seem like you dislike an efficient GUI. Map markers make sense, as a gamer you’ve spent maybe 1hour in a city that your character is supposedly entirely familiar with, the gamer would get lost, the character wouldn’t, map markers solve that disconnect.

      Journals and “quests” aren’t really a bad thing either, a Journal is a logical place to store tidbits of information in easily sortable ways, quests aren’t really a problem, what I think you’re disliking is how quest structure is actually laid out, most of DA2’s quest fall into the category of quest giver gives quest, do quest, not gather information from disparate sources do quest. But even if you get a tidbit of information from someone that you may or may not act upon, why not give the player a “Quest” entry with all relative collected information?

  6. Premium User Badge

    daphne says:

    WIT a shame.

  7. apricotsoup says:

    Whilst the odd plot disconnects, recycled dungeons, no overhead camera and wave spawning enemies irritate me massively I am finding that I’m enjoying the game, possibly more than the first.

    I like a more personal story and haven’t felt as alienated as is made out with the majority of quests giving enough dialogue to more than grasp the situation.

    I think some of this may stem from coming to the first game expecting baldurs gate and getting a series of unconnected areas with random fights between, a dull levelling path and a plot I mostly didn’t care about. I still highly enjoyed the first but can’t sing it’s praises any more than the sequel.

    [Edit] Also I apparently missed visiting a location I’d been to before at the right time and now cannot hire the pirate wench, which I find quite poor design and a shame :E

    • Gormongous says:

      That’s been my biggest complaint with the game. I enjoy immensely the more modest story and the focus on a single place, and you’ll hear me say as much to anyone, but there seem to be far too many places where you can deny yourself content out of ignorance. I can’t complete the Act 2 set because I refused to start a fight in the bar, and I couldn’t finish a quest because I didn’t choose the goody-goody option. Mixed signals, there!

    • Zenicetus says:

      Yeah, I noticed Isabela and was able to get her in the party, but you aren’t steered as directly towards meeting her like you are with the others. It shouldn’t be that easy to miss a significant companion option.

    • Archonsod says:

      Origins did a similar thing though; I missed Wynne the first time around due to having Morrigan in my party and thus being forced to kill her (I didn’t even realise she was a potential companion until my second playthrough). Same thing with Sten and Zevrain.
      I actually like it in a way, it makes recruiting companions feel a little less forced than otherwise.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      That has to be a bug because Bioware would never implement Choices & Consequences into an RPG on purpose.

    • Kadayi says:

      @Archonsod

      Albeit it didn’t happen to me, I’m aware of the fact that a friend opted to entirely skip Lothering and consequently never had either Leilana or Sten in his entourage, as once you pass through you can never return. I quite liked that finality in terms of decision making.

      I recall that in the talks the developers gave on ME1 they made a point of saying that Wrex was an optional companion. In fact my xenophobic Paragon Shepard has refused to take him as a crew member (alien scum). Albeit I haven’t reached the final section of the game yet (I’ve yet to raise the strength of will necessary to face that godawful inventory system), I’m curious to see whether the storyline foists him upon me again Deux Ex Machima , or whether it plays out according to my wishes (something for the summertime).

  8. mrjackspade says:

    Few things I disagree with there. The introduction for me set the perfect tone for this game. For the first time ever, I wasn’t some guy with an excuse to save the world from a known evil. I was a person starting off as an unknown, just a random guy in a random world struggling to make his way. HOWEVER, the introduction sets me up as a future mythical, amazing, legendary being, and it was up to me to get there. This kind of impetus is, for me, far more exciting then being tasked with defeating some crazy evil.
    Secondly, I haven’t found quests to be opaque. On the contrary, they’re your standard quest fare, and some introduce some pretty amazing characters with very interesting things to say.
    The combat is really, really well done. There’s huge scope for tactics, and if you’re doing it right (playing on hard/nightmare) you will be constantly fiddling with tactics trees and microing. It still leaves 50% of the time for playing with WASD, quickly firing off hotkeys and stringing crazy moves together. I agree that the waves of enemies are annoying, but stamina and mana regeneration are very lax in this game and if you’ve built your character correctly you shouldn’t have a problem. Also, there are several cross class combos that should be available mid-way through act 1 which can wipe out entire groups in seconds.
    The only thing I find really grating is how much maps are recycled. Pretty annoying for such a high budget game to see the same cavern system in three Act 1 quests in totally different locations.

  9. Bilbo says:

    I feel like you’re being pretty hard on the game, but that’s a popular standpoint at the moment and I’m not one to adamantly insist that it’s everyone else that has the problem and not me. I agree with your point about enemies appearing in waves, though – odd decision. Very arcadey. But generally you’re being super negative about the whole experience, and some of it’s even a little misleading, I think. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not winning any game of the year awards from me either, but your experience – particularly the parts about finding your character unlikeable, not working out your own name, and not meeting any companions until several hours in – bears very little resemblance to my first few hours with the game. I recall meeting my 3rd companion pretty early on, it showed me the name Hawke when I chose my first name, and – perhaps through more fortuitous choice of dialogue options, or by virtue of playing male Hawke – the character started to take shape pretty quickly and become admirably stoic and kind. But like I said, the majority position seems to be one of disaffection and annoyance, so they probably have gone wrong somewhere. I’m just glad the complainers are complaining about the game, and not DRM, this time.

  10. TheDreamlord says:

    Very disappointed with the first 8 hours myself, too.
    I find the worst offender to be combat, which is overtly simplified, and camera, as in lack of isometric view. In dungeons, it’s next to impossible to do any meaningful combat, since in small corridors (if you try to lure critters) you simply cannot view your enemies. What is up with the extreme zoom on the characters??
    The map and area transitions are badly implemented, the night and day areas concept is *moronic* in the least and DX11 is utterly broken, at least on nVidia cards.
    I trully regret preordering it on steam and paying £30 for this.

    • mrjackspade says:

      I’d be interested in what difficulty level you’re playing at.

      Loads of people are jumping on the ‘simplified combat’ train. It’s a load of rubbish – I don’t know if any of them have actually played this game properly.

      I honestly don’t find the combat to be simplified at all. It might seem that way because of the ‘SUPER KILL COMBO SMASH’ animations, but on hard and nightmare you simply cannot survive without a well constructed party, a *deep* tactics tree, and lots of micro. There’s huge scope for different play-styles, and there’s a lot of cross class combos which produce awesome effects, that you have to micro very hard to pull off. The potion in the black emporium is intended for you to respec your parties and try out different tactical mix-ups.

      Tell me you’re using all the tactics slots, constantly using multi-step combinations to wipe out large groups or do insane damage to single targets, respecced and experimented with your party to produce ideal tank builds + tactics and experimented with combinations of mages + rogues with different abilities, then tell me the combat is ‘simple’.

    • TheDreamlord says:

      I use normal settings, like I have used for every single game I have ever played in the last 20 years. I also find the combat over simplified, because due to lack of proper camera view, I cannot really control my actions the way I want to (mostly for the other team members).
      Note, that my view is such because I actually play these types of games for the depth of combat, as well as story, graphics, etc. But absolutely nothing has topped BGII on that respect. I wasn’t expecting that, of course, but this is crap compared to DA:O and feels more like an action RPG than anything else. Which is fine if this is your cup of tea, but it’s not mine I’m afraid.

    • Archonsod says:

      DX11 is working fine for me. Though I don’t think I’ve updated my drivers since December or thereabouts.

    • mrjackspade says:

      This game is as tactical as you want it to be, and if you’re going to play it like an action RPG then that’s all you’re going to get out of it. It’s not an action RPG. It’s no where NEAR an action RPG. The number of people saying this means that it’s turning into a huge bug-bear for me.

      I would love all of these people to write down how their typical fight goes when they encounter a group of enemies. I’m assuming it’s ‘WASD main character, click hotkeys, hope ai party members survive’.

      I’m not going to type out how my typical encounter goes, and explain how my party tactics are set up, because it would take too long for this thread. Suffice to say that I haven’t got a single empty tactics slot, my party typically uses about 20 unique abilities in a fight, all of them necessary, and all of them timed thanks to custom tactics trees as well as micro-management, and 2-3 cross class combos per fight. On nightmare my party can wipe out 3-4 normal waves and a couple of high-health ‘bosses’ extremely quickly.

      I’ve had huge amounts of fun experimenting with tactics and different combinations of character builds and abilities. This game is ability based, and is beautifully tactical – *if you use the tactics*! I have to say again: it’s as tactical as you want it to be, and if you’re going to play it like an action RPG then that’s all you’re going to get out of it.

    • Zenicetus says:

      @ mrjackspade:

      You’re making some valid points about cross-class combos, and yes it requires a little more thought on Hard than Normal.

      However, there are so many other things working against “tactics” in combat, that it doesn’t balance the flaws, at least for some of us. The multiple waves defeat positioning tactics for everything but the first wave. Lack of friendly fire damage encourages AOE spamming, with no penalites.

      Since aggro seems to be entirely based on armor class and not damage, in an outdoor area or large cavern the mages are often completely untouched. You don’t have to worry about defending them. In a more cramped area you STILL don’t have to worry about defending them from any of the standard enemies, because they do just fine on their own in close combat. There are no “squishy” mages in this game, which removes yet another layer of tactical thinking.

      More than anything else, it’s the sheer speed of the combat, and how quickly it’s over, that spoils the fun (again, just my opinion). There are a lot of things I could be doing with those deep talent trees in the party, but unless it’s a major boss fight like a big dragon or something, there just isn’t time to do much. It’s all over in a spray of blood and entrails before I can even hit all my Rogue’s ability icons.

      P.S. DX11 working fine here.

    • lxnvll6 says:

      People saying there isn’t friendly fire and get mad about it need to look at the difficulty settings when they start the game up. If you so desperate for friendly fire and a more tactical experience just change the difficulty to nightmare. All problems solved in that arena.

    • TCM says:

      I suspect those same people would procede to whine about the game being too hard.

    • vagabond says:

      I’m playing a warrior, and my typical combat goes like this:

      Right-click on nearest enemy to attack them, wait until they die, repeat until next wave spawns in.
      Use A or D key to spin 360 degrees because the camera is so bad I cannot actually see what is going on around me. Repeat until fight is over.

      With the exception of the Ogre fight at the start, I have not had to use a potion or a special ability, and I have not had a companion knocked out.

      Yes, I’m playing on normal. No, I’m not putting the difficulty level up, because it wont make the fights harder and more tactical. The difficulty will instead come from me needing to take care of certain enemies first, or area of effecting groups of enemies at specific times, and not being able to see them. I already hate the camera so much that I’ve stopped playing the game, adding frustration to tedium will not help matters.

    • TCM says:

      For the record, you can do the exact same thing in DAO on normal, it just takes longer.

      No, I’m serious, I just finished a run of Awakening on normal the other day. Right click on enemy, spam all currently usable abilities, repeat until all enemies are dead. I never even had to upgrade my armor or weapons for the entire run.

      Crank that sucker to hard and never look back.

    • Zenicetus says:

      “Crank that sucker to hard and never look back.

      I tried it, I’m back to Normal. The combat in the game is 80% mindless filler with generic enemies spawning in waves, sprinkled with a few boss battles. Cranking the difficulty past Normal means the boss battles can be more “tactical,” but all those mindless filler encounters are still easy to dispatch, and the extra time it takes is just more annoying. No thanks. Right now I’m just finishing the game to see where the story goes.

    • Premium User Badge

      Snidesworth says:

      I’ve found the combat very similar to DA:O. It’s just quicker, has flashier animations, clearer roles for each class and less useless abilities. Playing on normal I can more or less trust characters to take care of themselves and a little micromanagement will see me through the average fight. Tougher fights require more careful control; place paralysis rune here to stop reinforcements, hex that guy so he doesn’t destroy that character, micro the archer to he can hold back a pack of lesser enemies with knockback and so on. I imagine I’ll need to take that approach in most fights if/when I replay on Hard.

      I also like the idea of waves, but not that they should happen all the time. I remember the few times in DA:O where a secondary group of enemies snuck up on you. They were real panic moments. Now it’s just expected; you know you’ll have one or two more waves coming so you plan accordingly; run the ranged characters towards the others as the first wave dies off, don’t use all my abilities annihilating the first pack of foes, etc. If it were a little less predictable it would be more fun. As it is expecting and preparing for secondary waves is just one of the basic parts of DA2 combat. Like “how do I exploit this bottleneck?” was a part of DA:O’s.

      Also, let me clearly state my love of weapon swing arcs. My warrior feels useful now; he’s there to butcher packs of weaker enemies and brawl with the tougher ones while the rogues do what they do best; dealing ungodly damage to a single target.

  11. Bantros says:

    Played about 20 hours and haven’t finished Act 1 yet. Think it’s quite good, not better than the first (which was good, not great) but certainly not worse. That said I do prefer Mass Effect and sci fi over fantasy bollocks, actually I wouldn’t touch fantasy before Dragon Age.

    Appearing waves are a bit shit, although sometimes they jump down from rooftops which is a nice touch. Side quests are MUCH better than DA:O, they are actually interesting and the story of your character progressing from refugee to Champion is better than Save the World, again!

  12. oatish says:

    Witcher 2, Witcher 2 and I will say again Witcher 2.

    Thanks for the thoughts John as you have informed me of what RPG to put my stake in this season.

    • rhizo says:

      Yep, all my hopes are on Witcher 2 as well, I’m going to stay a safe distance away from DA2. Mystifying design decisions, the combat alone seems so unappealing. I was looking forward to this but after the demo, a couple of reviews and some video later it’s a definite skip. It’s an oddly divisive game, I keep checking videos and impressions to find something that others have praised but it just doesn’t seem to be there. Maybe good for a fiver somewhere down the line.

    • Archonsod says:

      Heh, I’m thinking the same thing about The Witcher 2, but then I thought the original Witcher was awful (although it cost me £7). Different strokes for different folks.

    • dr.castle says:

      Unfortunately the first Witcher had pretty much the same list of problems that John describes here (aside from the combat, of course).

      Mind-numbing opening that relies on genre tropes–check.
      Forcing the player into a boring and stereotypical hero rather than giving the option to create/roleplay a unique character–check.
      A lack of nuance and breadth in dialogue choices–check.
      Unhelpful tutorial/insufficient explanation of gameplay mechanics–check.

      In my opinion the Witcher overcame these problems to be a pretty enjoyable game (based mainly, for me at least, on strength of setting and narrative), so I wouldn’t give up hope for DAII. But that said, if the problems John is talking about here are dealbreakers for you guys, I don’t know that Witcher 2 is likely to be the game that you really want.

      Planescape is available on GOG now…

    • Kadayi says:

      LOL. You should hunt down the early RPS articles about The Witcher, you might be quite surprised at how dismissive certain members of the Hivemind were towards it, at the time.

    • CommentSystem says:

      The combat system in The Witcher just felt so tedious to me. It was like controlling one character in Dragon Age.

      With all the praise The Witcher gets I feel like I am missing out on something. Does the combat get significantly more interesting after the opening few hours?

    • TariqOne says:

      The Witcher? For me, it loses to DA2 in the opening seconds. In The Witcher have no choice not to be a long-haired Fabioesque male mongo with a set (and for me odious) personality. In DA2 I have a fully customizable two-gender Hawke with three class archetypes containing 9 or more subspecializations and a raft of choices on how to behave. Also a bunch of engaging NPCs I can swap in and fully control as well (or sell into slavery).

      And yes, the combat is easy on Casual. Crank up the diffo if it’s too easy. And if you can’t see the battlefield scroll back on your mousewheel, pause the action, hold down right click and wheel the camera around for great justice. If you don’t like the view, take control of another party member in another location and do the same. The difference between full isometric and what you can accomplish with the DA2 camera is minimal at best. I have yet to over-the-shoulder-WASD a single fight and according to Steam I’m 58 hours in. Way too much fun to pause-command-unpause-repeat and bounce all over the battlefield with your camera like a manic control freak.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Gundato says:

    I can definitely agree with a lot of that, but I have to say that it is a whee bit harsh as well.

    Following the plot, outside of the jump between Act 2 and Act 3 with regard to Merril (won’t spoil, but I think there was a timing error or something in one of the scripts), has been fairly simple.
    I think one issue may be that you are clicking through conversations like we used to in DA:O (and even ME2 and ME1). There are a LOT more multi-line statements. So you might think you are just clicking past the text on the screen, but you are actually clicking past another two or three sentences.
    But yeah, strategy is a hell of a lot harder now because of the waves. The first wave or two might go great, then all the enemies spawn behind your archers and mages and you have to just go into a free-for-all.

    Also: Merril is awesome. Totally my favorite non-HK-47, non-Boo, NPC in a Bioware game.

    That being said, I too am waiting for The Witcher 2. All this game is doing is getting my thirst for some hot Geralt action going.

    • Ateius says:

      Wait, wait. Does that mean clicking to continue doesn’t bring up the next line of text, but skips everything up until the next … let’s call it ‘paragraph’?

      Because in, say, ME2, I could click past a line of text, and the subtitles would continue on to the next line, and so on until they finished their entire sentence or thought.

      You seem to be implying that trying to skip ahead will jump right to the end? What about people who read fast and don’t want to sit around waiting for voiceovers to finish?

    • Premium User Badge

      Gundato says:

      It depends on the conversation. To use a Dragon Age: Origins example:

      During the Mage origin, you have the cutscene/convo about the Harrowing. Because things so seamlessly transition (kudos Bioware), you might keep clicking because you read fast (I know I do). Then, suddenly, you miss half of Irving’s speech and are in the Fade.

      Same basic principle for a lot of conversations in DA2. Bioware wanted to make things seem a lot more active. So instead of everyone just sitting and talking, people actually ACT while they talk. But, as a result, clicking might make you miss a physical action, or (in some cases) a few lines of the “paragraph”.

  14. Red_Avatar says:

    I still say the combat/tactics is nerfed – the waves are just one problem out of many (although a VERY big one). Because AoE spells don’t cause any damage except at the very highest difficulty, positioning is almost pointless now. There’s too much to mention but it’s so many little things that are gone that make a big difference – like how most combat happens in tight areas instead of the mostly-open combat areas of DA:Origins. Also, the fact that I could create traps on the move or pickpocket enemies in stealth mode is gone. Not to mention the amount of decent builds you can make has been heavily reduced. In DA:O one of my main pleasures, was tweaking my two mages to work perfectly together – in DA2, mages are nerfed and skills are cut and combining them is a lot more pointless now, combined with the AoE spells being changed.

    And to be honest, the tactics tree sucks anyway you look at it – if you turn it on, you have to deal with annoying AI of your team. If you turn it off, you constantly have to babysit them. DA2 is WAAAAY more ability-centered – in DA:O you could kick ass without constantly spamming abilities. In DA2 you pretty much HAVE to use them so every combat situation is swapping between team mates, telling them to attack the same enemy (the idiotic AI will each attack a single monster instead of focusing on one which is the smartest thing to do) and using every skill that has cooled down.

    if DA:O is a 9, this is a 5 or so.

    • mrjackspade says:

      It is extremely ability centered, and I would argue that this makes it far more tactical, not less. It’s no longer ‘spec your character’ then ‘position, click, attack’…you now have to use abilities in the right order, in the right combinations and at the right times.

      I’ve nearly finished my first nightmare playthrough and I’m finding the tactics tree to be absolutely outstanding. You can set up cross-class combos with it easily (e.g. mage 1) – cone of cold, 3 x enemies clustered; varric 1) – 3x enemies brittle, bursting arrow). I’m microing Anders as a healer and my main character (2h warrior) who has been set up to deal insane damage in bursts but the rest of my party can very quickly decimate large enemy groups thanks to very detailed tactics trees.

    • Nick says:

      And Dragon Age wasn’t about positioning and using the right ability? What about using knockdowns to free someone grappled? Or that archery ability to debuff a particularly tough foe? Heck, what about being able to see what the hell was going on without stupid fucking blood explosions and darft animations cluttering everything up? Yeah its so awesome when they exploding into a pile of limbs for no reason! Kick ass!

    • Hoaxfish says:

      exploding for no reason you say?

    • vagabond says:

      I remain convinced that the waves of enemies and exploding bodies are because the Xbox360 no longer has sufficient hardware to do what they want and they had to take shortcuts to fit it all in.

    • Archonsod says:

      Nah, it’s from trying to please two groups of people. They could simply not bother with the respawning except for the more important battles, but you’d get players complaining (as they did in DA:O) that the random mook battles were too easy.
      You could remove the random mook battles altogether and only have the important/significant fights instead, but you’d get other players complaining the game lacked excitement.

      There’s games which have tried both approaches and been condemned for doing so. Unfortunately Bioware has picked a particularly frustrating/annoying/plain stupid method to try and resolve it this time out.
      Personally, I think tweaking Dragon Age a little would have been better – slightly easier mook battles in return for more challenging/interesting boss/plot battles.

    • Ryz says:

      For the record, I have finished the game on nightmare. There seems to be a lot of “You only played on Normal so you don’t know what you’re talking about! HUR HUR!” going on from the few people still trying to defend this game. I also play with tactics disabled.

      It’s much harder. But a lot of that difficulty comes from it being completely unbalanced and tacked on in comparison to DA:O.

      The waves have already been mentioned (a lot), so there’s no need to bring those up again. But they completely and utterly suck when combined with a certain trash mob (and that’s what they are) which can literally one shot anything that’s not a warrior. It’s not that this particular mob is meant to be that difficult, in which case that’d be fine (Revenants in DA:O, for example, could be extremely painful on Nightmare if unprepared). It’s the fact that after the initial wave of enemies, they have a high chance of spawning right on top of your mage or rogue and BLAM. That’s it!

      Playing on Nightmare without a better camera is extremely frustrating. *WHY* am I trying to peek around the rest of my party, all the enemies, and all the ridiculous death explosions, to try and place an AoE on the sliver of viewable ground while avoiding gibbing my melee? Why, when that fails, am I switching between characters with the AoE still selected to try and get a better view point but ending up just having to guess? Why, for that matter, can’t I move the camera free-form for AoEs like before? The console version can, but the PC version can’t! Well, at least we have a working auto attack…

      …except when we don’t. Auto attack is bugged, and when your currently selected character is knocked back or knocks back their currently selected target, they will patiently stand there and refuse to take two steps to keep attacking. You have to manually tell them to auto attack again. BRILLIANT!

      Hold position is now a party wide toggle. I imagine it was because of a certain fight in the Deep Roads that requires Casual/Normal players to Ctrl-A their party to safety, toggle hold position so they don’t all go running around like dinks once they’re deselected and their tactics kick back in, and switch to one of their DPS in preparation for the enemy wave that’s about to occur. Combine it being a toggle with the auto attack bug and bang your head on the desk repeatedly when all of your melee is knocked back and then stare stupidly at the dragon while you were on your mage prepping a heal.

      The party characters are 100% balanced around Casual/Normal. If you naively decide to make Hawke a Rogue or be a DPS warrior/mage on Nightmare, you are forced to A.) Always bring Aveline as a tank as she is the only one with a specialization for tanking, B.) Always bring Anders as a healer as he is the only one with healing as a specialization, or C.) respec Merril or Ferris as gimpy tank/healers due to not having specializations for it and having no control over how their armor upgrades. Even with a tanky Hawke, you’re better off bringing Aveline as her specialization is far better than yours for it. This influences any decision regarding these characters, especially Anders. I can never choose a certain direction with him later on because that would mean not having my healer anymore unless I drop the difficulty down.

      In DA:O I could spec Morrigan as a healer no problem. I could take Shale instead of Alistair. I wasn’t completely doomed on my DPS warrior on Nightmare if I did something to cause Wynne to leave.

      But hey, at least we have class combos now. That makes everything better!

      There’s a lot more wrong with the game than just combat though. John’s observations about how meaningless many of the quests are and the problems with the dialogue and the repetitive dungeons are all dead on.

  15. Ubik2000 says:

    I more or less totally agree with John (especially about the waves of enemies. That is just woefully poor design). I think the party select screen sums up the differences between this game and Origins beautifully. In Origins, your characters stand in a natural group in a fully detailed background, and when they’re selected, they do an animation and say a line. In DA2, featureless black background. Characters in their normal pose. Zzzzzz.

    Also, I’m only a few hours in (preparing for the deep roads expedition, which I have to go on because….uh…), but I’m also finding the quests mostly unengaging. And there are SO MANY being thrown at me, by totally interchangeable NPCs, I can barely keep straight what I’m supposed to be finding for who. Not that it matters; like John says, it’s a matter of just following the little quest arrows, talking to someone, killing someone, and on to the next. I’ve been trying to be a good little completist, and clicking “investigate” whenever I have the option, but anything they tell me passes right through my brain because it’s so goddamn unimportant.

    And the “unlockable” equipment you can get for preordering, or running errands for Bioware, or whatever, continues to strike me as a horrible idea. All the stuff I have (and there’s a pile of it), is vastly overpowered compared to everything else you can get in the early part of the game. I almost feel like I’m cheating by using it. But this was a problem with Origins as well, frankly, and seems like it will continue to be.

    Regardless of all that…..I’m still enjoying it quite a bit, and finding it weirdly addictive. I played a warrior in Origins, and I’m having fun as a mage here, with an unquenchable thirst for more and more spells. And Anders is back, which is nice, although he seems to have had a fun-ectomy somewhere along the way.

  16. Archonsod says:

    Never had that issue with the tutorials. Quite the opposite in fact, they refused to go away till I closed them, which got a mite irritating when I couldn’t see a quarter of the map due to a box explaining I was looking at a map.

    Not sure how you got confused with the name (did the fact it’s an unchangeable surname on the character creation bit not give that away somewhat? :P ), and similarly I didn’t find the quests opaque. Most in fact are explained pretty clearly, at least if you investigate the conversations leading to them. The finding random items then knowing who to give them to thing is strange, but given the conversation when you turn them in and the nature of such items I figured those were joke quests to begin with.

    It seems Hawke’s personality is influenced by your choices (so if you use snarky a lot, he becomes something of a wiseass in general) but it seems to take till the end of the first act before it starts working properly, with the result that the opening act can make you sound like a complete basket case.

    The relationship with either sibling isn’t really detailed beyond the basic synopsis in the codex. Whichever one survives gets fleshed out a little more in conversations with your family and if you take them with you, but ironically enough your family is one of the weakest characterisations in the game.

    Agree with you on the combat. Mechanically it’s better than Origins in many ways, but it’s completely ruined by the ridiculous and sometimes frustrating encounter design. I could see the wave spawning being interesting if it were used more selectively, but with it happening in every battle it tends to degenerate into a simple attrition grind.

  17. Hoaxfish says:

    I bought BG2, believing it would give me a second hit of Planescape: Torment awesome. It didn’t, but it was good enough that I bought the expansion pack, and BG1.

    The next game from Bioware I picked up was NWN1+expansion packs. I followed Dragon Age and Mass Effect during the early days (when Dragon Age was still a “native PC game”).

    And that was kinda it.

    Black Isle, and their legacies (Troika, Obsidian, Fallout under Bethseda) always seemed tighter on story, and their names will perk my ears (eyes?) up almost immediately.

    Bioware built some cool things (especially the MMO-style persistent worlds that NWN’s toolset allowed), but their “plot” execution was always a bit short. re: numerous articles about their endlessly rehashed plot (a part-member betrayal again?), the weird focus on “romance” (culminating in “sex scenes” in the recent games).

    I think their new focus on “consoles/action” is a bit of a bad move, since their games never really stuck me as “graphically” strong, or “flowing” in design. They’re now competing with visually glossy games with an evolved sense of “kinetic combat”, with none of the “depth” to balance it out when they fall short on either count.

    The recent “disasters” surrounding DA2′s release give me a weird sort of “oh, I used to like them?” complacency. SW:ToR does not really give me any anticipation either.

    I guess I never really liked them, so my lack of interest now isn’t that much of a change.

    What’s weird, is that I like Fable, arguably more “actiony” and “consoley” than Dragon Age (but maybe I’m just a bit of a Molyneux fan… and chicken-chasing)

  18. DarkFenix says:

    There are a few silly things and a few downright awful things in the game, but I’m with Dante in saying that it doesn’t sound like John was paying a whole lot of attention. The game is usually exhaustively explanative via cut scenes about quests and characters.

    That said, I agree with a lot of what John said too. The conversation options are frequently dire, offering saintly good, satanic evil and flippant twat with nothing in between. I’d sooner have a mute character if it means Bioware will bother to include a decent choice of dialogue.

    The waves of enemies is very annoying too, eliminating half of the game’s tactical depth in one fell swoop. Positioning characters is pointless because the next wave will probably see three enemies pop up next to your mage anyway and as John said saving abilities/mana is also pointless because you don’t know when the fight will end anyway.

    Possibly my biggest complaint is the removal of choice. Aside from the removal of choice from dialogue; over half of DA1’s abilities have disappeared, the ability to choose a path for companions is gone, equipment choice on companions is gone too, half the specialisation classes are gone and the remaining classes are far more limited to their choices too.

    Recycled maps are a pain too. I’m pretty sure there are about two different cave templates, which are used again and again and again, just with a different start location and different doorways blocked with stone. It’s like Bioware just stopped giving a shit at some point.

    A crying shame, Bioware have lost a lot of my respect with DA2. Game developers make games, businesses churn out cash cows; Bioware have clearly become the latter and it’ll take quite something for them to see any more money from me.

    • Archonsod says:

      How is choice removed from the dialogue?

      Let’s see, Dragon Age, Baldur’s Gate et al dialogue choices presented you with a numbered list, and you picked your response from that.

      DA2 presents you with a list arranged around a circle, and you pick a choice from that.

      Not seeing the difference here. Do people find circles harder to use than numbered lists?

    • Nick says:

      Um, because he doesn’t say what the circle says, often resulting you saying nothing like what you intended? How hard is it to understand the difference between seeing EXACTLY what you are going to say and a rough idea thats, on occasion, not even close?

    • DarkFenix says:

      You usually get three vague options which you can never be certain will be what you even want to say. You’re either saintly good, satanically evil or a flippant twat. As often as not, I don’t want to be any of those three, DA1 made a much better job of offering me dialogue choices.

    • Archonsod says:

      Go back to Baldur’s Gate and conversations generally revolve around the lawful good/saintly response, the neutral/snarky response or the evil/more money response. The only difference is that it lists the response in full, which had it’s own problems (as someone already noted, not having enough context to know if a given response would be meant in a given way) and makes little difference, since the NPC’s respond to the alignment rather than the actual words.
      In fact the ME2 system is an improvement. In both cases you’re unlikely to be able to select the exact response you want (unless the developer is psychic), but at least with the wheel system the mechanics are more opaque (i.e. you can tell whether you’re going to say “I will destroy you” as a threat or a joke).

    • DarkFenix says:

      I just felt the range of available options in DA1 was usually fairly spot on, DA2 frequently has me going “wait…. what!?” when my character says something, because it isn’t even close to what my intention was. This wheel system seems to make them shoehorn everything they can think of into a scant three choices, in DA1 they went with as many as was relevant.

    • JackShandy says:

      Archansod: Having three options gives you less choice than having four to six options. Thus, Dragon Age 2 gives you less choices when it comes to dialogue than it’s predecessor.

      Whether each of those choices were good or distinct is another argument.

    • Archonsod says:

      They open it up to more choices at key points. It’s not really a problem with the system as the scripting though. The issue is what Hawke says (I assume you’re capable of picking the mood of the response fine) rather than the system. I mean you can argue the lines are bad, but the only real difference here is the lines are voiced rather than printed.
      Dragon Age is a good example of why they’re not condensing it. If you look at the conversations, most actually only have three or less NPC responses. You might get five or six potential options, but the NPC will give an identical response for two or three of them. So for the most part it’s purely an illusion of choice. I mean it’s really down to preference then, you could argue giving the player an illusion of choice is a good thing, but at the same time it’s also good to have more narrative control if you want to tell a story.
      One of the things which is interesting is the way Hawke’s personality is defined by your choices. In theory, someone who has picked mostly snarky responses will have Hawke saying different lines for the same choice that someone who picked mostly aggressive responses will have. I haven’t had a chance to test this yet though. If it works (and I suspect at the moment it takes too long for whatever script is doing it to get a good handle on the type of Hawke you’re going for) it might be an acceptable fix, since the game will try and understand what kind of a hero you’re going for and adjust the lines accordingly.

  19. darthmajor says:

    I completed the game in 4 sittings, it just wouldn’t let me go! (That and the fact that i only had 4 days to be at home near my gaming pc then 2 weeks away)

    While the beginning of the game isn’t spectacular, i have to disagree with much of the WIT. The waves of enemies was indeed retarded, but the combat is infinitely more fun than in DAO. The story is much more interesting because it’s a personal and political tale, not the ‘whaa darkspawn! save the world hero!’ rubbish from the first. And the companion characters were wonderful, i especially loved how some of them did TRULY HORRIBLE things, and you couldn’t stop them with whatever you said, much more believable than in DAO and ME.

    DA2 entertained me better than DAO, it took a few forward steps, and a few backwards. The important thing is that Bioware isn’t afraid of changing things around, unlike some studios that keep making 3 games over and over again, forEVER. I’m looking at you blizzard.

    • Jeremy says:

      Yeah, I actually loved that characters kind of did what they wanted regardless of your comments. More than anything, your comments shape the personal relationship, which is a little more realistic. One of my complaints about DA:O was that you influenced and determined almost every decision, and I didn’t feel like characters had much input, outside of just learning about them and bumping up their approval. Now, you have input, but they can disagree and just do whatever they want anyway.

  20. ezekiel2517 says:

    I remember reading “Dungeon Repeater 2″ by a disgruntled Bioware forums poster. John will surely bring that one up in the full WIT. That and the bugs (3 quests I could not finish because of them) were annoying, but I disliked the waves and corridor manshoot maps the most.

    Surely I was not the only one who got his mages slapped by random waves that somehow appear behind your party?

    Even with all of that, I had a lot of fun with the game and will be replaying soon.

    • mrjackspade says:

      I agree. Waves of enemies and repeating dungeon maps are very annoying, but are the only two complaints I have about the game.

      Set your mages to ‘ranged’ tactics and your tanks to ‘defender – tank’. Your mages should run away from nearby enemies and your tanks will go and taunt them. It just needs a bit of micro on top of that (targetting non-taunted enemies with all your ranged party members and an ability or two) and you’ll be able to keep them constantly alive, even on nightmare.

    • Archonsod says:

      My mages weren’t much of a problem, but since my character, Isabela and Merrill could all teleport to allies if there was any threat I always had a couple of people who could pull back for support.

    • ezekiel2517 says:

      I did have them as ranged and Aveline as tank (provided I didn’t bring her along much), but the problem was when they died so fast that I didn’t even notice. I would be cutting the grass at the front with my 2h warrior and Isabella, only to see that Anders was knocked out already. I did manage to notice and save him sometimes, but that was little over half of them.

    • mrjackspade says:

      Have you got Anders set to heal when his health is low? You do need to keep an eye on the health meters (ahem, tactics) and occasionally you’ll need to use the health potion quick button.

      If you’re having trouble with attracting characters with your tank, you should disable Aveline’s auto taunt, and trigger it manually. At the start of the fight, and at the start of every wave, run Aveline towards your ranged characters and press taunt, then run her away.

      Another thing to note is that stunning enemies resets their targetting so they go after your dps characters. You should have all stun abilities on manual trigger and use them only when necessary (e.g. Varric using miasmic flask to disable one large group while you quickly finish off another, then Aveline can taunt the first group after their recover). If you have stun abilities in the tactics tree, then your tanks ‘taunt’ gets wasted as soon as someone sets off an AOE stun.

    • Archonsod says:

      If they’re on ranged they’ll try and keep a distance between enemies and themselves. If you see them taking any damage in that mode it’s worth pausing and checking the situation.

      Also make sure you put some points into constitution when they level up. Generally 15 or 16 gives them enough hitpoints that you’ve got time to run back and save their backsides if they get into trouble. I increased Merrill and Anders to 20 by the end, but that was primarily because increasing magic didn’t seem to make much difference once it hit 40, and neither were running out of mana entirely during battles.

    • ezekiel2517 says:

      I will try that. I suppose it would not have been so bad if I had found the recipe for that revival grenade. I was only able to buy 3 of them in the whole game!

  21. godkingemperor says:

    DA:O was pretty much infantile garbage, why is anyone surprised?

  22. MiniTrue says:

    Nice to see a professional game critic who hasn’t been suckered into the great corporatist cult that is Bioware worship. Honestly, they’ve not done anything good since KOTOR, and they haven’t made a proper RPG since Baldur’s Gate 2. Their games are just horrendously uninspired dross, with tired gameplay mechanics recycling puerile storylines with petulant characters. It was only after giving up on DA2 in disgust that I was able to appreciate the true brilliance of Morrowind and its ilk: games that don’t treat you like a child or a moron, and actually have the courage to let you be whatever you damn well want to be, in a plausible and credible world.

    Bring back Black Isle.

    • Archonsod says:

      The fact you consider Morrowind to be a plausible and credible world would suggest your opinions are safe to ignore. Provided we keep you away from sharp objects, pets and children.

    • MiniTrue says:

      Nonsense. An empire losing its touch over its colonies, undercurrents of barely repressed opposition from one such colony, rampant xenophobia against all people not from said colony, political power struggle between three major groups, local colonial government impotent in the face of a criminal syndicate who really ran the show, illegal slaving operations which are quietly tolerated so as not to upset the status quo, a native religion doing all it can to drive out the officially-sanctioned imperial religion and vice versa…all these things come straight from the real world.

      I bet you just saw the mushroom towers and thought that was that.

    • Archonsod says:

      No, I saw the mushroom towers and thought “Oh, it’s Dune with toadstools”.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Morrowind was, if anything, a credible world, with interesting creatures, and landscapes to roam across… whether it was a particularly engrossing game (at least plotwise) is another matter.

      In the Planescape vs BG2 arguments, it was often cited that BG2 was better for the character choice and free-exploration aspects… things which DA2 seems to be missing altogether (an apparent about-turn entirely).

    • Bret says:

      But he just said he loved the first DA and previous RPS has indicated a deep-seated love for Mass Effect 2. Almost as if his opinion on this one game is not an indictment of Bioware as a whole, and an indication your issues are wholly personal.

      Just a thought.

    • MiniTrue says:

      You don’t have to think that all Bioware games EVAR have been terrible to not bow to the zeitgeist, you just have to acknowledge that the firm no longer makes RPGs any more. I am not personally biased against Bioware, if they resumed their former habit of making epic RPGs then I would defect back to them in a shot.

      Interesting fact for you: in the space of a couple of weeks, Mike Laidlaw all but denounced the heritage of Baldur’s Gate, suggesting that you have to move on. (and patronising those that didn’t agree, may I add). His opposite number at Bethesda, Todd Howard, admitted that Skyrim had to be more like Morrowind to succeed, being something of a half-way house between ‘blivi’s accessibility and Morrowind’s sense of wonderment. Now, which company am I as a hardcore RPG enthusiast most likely to spend my money on?

    • Tristram Shandy says:

      Archonsod, I have to say I’m impressed. I’ve never heard a criticism of a fantasy story based on it’s failings in plausibility and credibility. I was under the impression that people were drawn to fantasy based mainly on how it’s, you know… fantastical.

    • TCM says:

      The company that is at all capable of writing an interesting story or characters.

      (inb4 first response claims neither of them)

    • MiniTrue says:

      @TCM: Black Isle. I cared more for Fall From Grace than I did for any other RPG female by a country mile, and there wasn’t even a hint of an adolescent-ised “romance”

    • TCM says:

      With regards to Black Isle, I’ve often said that Obsidian has all their ambition, Bioware has all their technical skill.

    • MiniTrue says:

      True, but Obsidian are getting there. F:NV had moments of sheer genius, as did AP.

    • Archonsod says:

      “Archonsod, I have to say I’m impressed. I’ve never heard a criticism of a fantasy story based on it’s failings in plausibility and credibility. I was under the impression that people were drawn to fantasy based mainly on how it’s, you know… fantastical.”

      You’d think so, but amazingly enough you’ll find ample complaints about any of the above mentioned RPG’s being “unrealistic” if you search the net. Beats me why people complain about realism in a world where men pull fire from thin air and chuck it around like snowballs, but I guess some people find that far more plausible than a world in which mankind didn’t invent the crossbow.

      Besides I was being flippant. Bioware always use a tight narrative in their games, Bethesda tend to go for a more open world with story added as a secondary concern. To complain that a Bioware game doesn’t give you the freedom to do what you want like a Bethesda game is comparing apples to oranges; the entire point of Morrowind is to give you a world to roam around in with a story tacked on (or in this case borrowed) to add something of interest. Bioware tend to do the opposite, they have their story template and then add or borrow a world to tell it in.

      Morrowind in particular is a world that wouldn’t work. Frost bound islands at the same latitude as tropical rainforests? Swamps bordering deserts? At least Bioware has believable ecology…

    • MiniTrue says:

      Well, whilst I am prepared to concede that geographically Vvardenfell has its irregularities, socio-economically it is spot on. Cyrodiil, by contrast, is ecologically homogenous but socio-economically on a stratum parallel with a Disney cartoon from 1946. Bioware are similar.

      Mass Effect is as juvenile a space-opera as Dragon Age is a juvenile bastard child of Tolkien (Who was good PRECISELY BECAUSE his world made sense) and D&D. Even Faerun and Neverwinter, never worlds I particularly liked, are better than this unimaginative, well-worn cookie of Templars persecuting magicians (which is not handled in an at all original or interesting way).

      In short, you argue that the game lives or dies by its story, not its world. I respond that both are terminally flawed, and therefore it doesn’t make a ha’p’worth of difference.

    • Tristram Shandy says:

      Believable ecology? It’s a unique selling point, I’ll give it that.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I didn’t really “get” Fall From Grace. She never seemed to say or do anything interesting. She just burbled on in the pleasant, prim manner of a primary school teacher who knows that the kids have long since stopped listening.

    • MiniTrue says:

      Well, Succubi are supposed to be incredibly beautiful creatures who lure men in and then kill them and consume them. FFG rejected that, and became a celibate who had a brothel solely designed to broaden minds. She was also a fundamentally sad character, since she could never have a male partner. I really felt for her.

    • Archonsod says:

      ” Cyrodiil, by contrast, is ecologically homogenous”

      No it’s not. Snowy mountains down to long grass Savannah with nary a border between them? Madness.

      “In short, you argue that the game lives or dies by its story, not its world. I respond that both are terminally flawed, and therefore it doesn’t make a ha’p’worth of difference.”

      No, I’m simply saying what Bioware set out to achieve with their games is different to what Bethesda are trying to do. Neither are perfect, Morrowind is pretty much Dune starring the Dark Elves of Michael Moorcock, most of it’s quests are utterly banal and the open nature of the world leads to some ridiculous situations (like the Nevarrine, Archmage of the guild and scion of a house still being referred to as Fetcher by a merchant. I mean seriously …)
      Key thing is though I don’t go into an Elder Scrolls game expecting a good narrative, strong storyline, interesting quests and characters or even a particularly sane setting. I do however expect plenty of freedom, no constraints and an over-arching plot to pick up or drop whenever I feel like it. Similarly when it comes to Bioware I expect a strong storyline, good characters and decent (even if derivative) writing, not a free-form sandbox . Complaining that one isn’t the other would be silly; I don’t want TES to be a story dominated game (particularly not if Redguard is the best Bethesda can do), and I don’t want Dragon Age to become an open world sandbox RPG. I like both styles, and I can appreciate them for what they are rather than criticise them for being something they’re not.

    • vagabond says:

      When people complain that a fantasy game or setting is “unrealistic”, they do not mean “it does not conform to reality as we experience it on a daily basis”, they mean that it lacks internal consistency.

    • Archonsod says:

      I thought that once too, but I’ve seen one too many threads complaining about dual wielding, attack animations and the lack of crossbows in Oblivion to be that optimistic. Some people really do translate “fantasy setting” as “real world with orcs and elves”.

  23. Bluebreaker says:

    40 hours of game in the same 10 ugly maps, not fun.
    Wait until you reach, cheap korean mmo quality quests. At first they are few, but as the game goes on they fill completely the game.
    The plot makes no sense at all, to make it worse it keeps jumping all over the place. You have no choice at all other than killing or not random npcs and companions.

  24. Derk_Henderson says:

    I agree with some of this and think other parts are pretty off-base.

    Yes, the waves of enemies are annoying and made the game feel a lot less tactical to me. It’s also clearly the reason why they turned friendly fire off for the lower difficulty levels – you get surrounded and there’s nothing you can do about it because enemies constantly spawn around you, so it’s horribly difficult to set up AOE spells in a way that doesn’t mean they land on your head. It’s a shame because I do like the way the combat feels faster and more responsive, and they got rid of some of the annoying shit from the first game (like the inability to attack moving targets).

    It is a bit frustrating that the combat becomes SO much harder if you have the wrong team composition, because it meant that playing as a rogue, my favorite NPC combo for background chatter (Isabela, Varric, Merrill) was rogue-rogue-rogue-mage (and total fail in boss fights).

    Also, the reuse of maps is absurd – there are so many less areas in this game than DA:O. They really couldn’t come up with, like, two different mansion layouts? Or caves? Sigh.

    That said, I actually liked the character development a lot. As others have mentioned, you do develop a distinct personality based on your choices (if they’re consistent) – meaning that once I started playing Captain Smartass, my Hawke started making flippant remarks all the time (even when not explicitly directed to). It made me feel like I had a distinct personality, and I actually thought they did that part of it better than the Mass Effect games.

    I liked the framed narrative for developing questlines. You actually revisit the same quests a couple of times over the course of the game and I ended up feeling a lot more invested in the outcome of some of them (which made it frustrating that the outcome ended up being ‘horrible death’ in a few cases without much I could do about it).

    I liked a lot of the characters. Merrill, Isabela and Varric were fantastic, it was nice to see Anders again even if he’d turned a LOT angrier, and Aveline is actually pretty fun, especially if you play Captain Smartass. I felt like the relationships between the characters ended up being better defined in this game – often when you start a conversation with someone, you’ll walk in on them talking with another character (Isabela visiting Aveline, for example) – and some of those relationships are pretty cute. Isabela and Varric end up basically adopting Merrill as a little sister of sorts.

    Overall, though, I think my biggest gripe was with the ending. It’s a big downer (I won’t give any more details than that) and it actually ended up depressing me to the point that I wasn’t immediately interested in replaying the game, which I almost always do with new Bioware titles. My issue is basically that even if Things Get Worse (a la the ending to ME2), you still need to feel like you’ve triumphed in some way. That you won SOMETHING. The ending of Dragon Age 2 felt like you’d failed – that, in fact, a large part of things going to shit was your fault, that there was no way around this, and that your actual survival was little more than a hollow victory. It’s not a good place to leave a player. I’m not sure what they have planned next for the franchise, but man, I hope you can end it better than THIS.

    • John Walker says:

      A couple of rather crucial points. I’m not sure how I can be wrong about things that happen after the first few hours of the game. Along with everyone else telling me off for that, um.

      And secondly, I’m being the nicest possible Hawke imaginable, and she’s still making smart-arse rude comments against my will. I think that’s coincidence you have on your hands there.

    • Derk_Henderson says:

      It could well be coincidence – I’ll see how it plays out in another run when I’m not trying to play Captain Smartass, but from talking with friends who made different choices it sounded like you only really started acting quite that flippant if you used the sarcastic responses enough. I can see how you would be frustrated if you want to play Nice Hawke and feel like the game isn’t letting you – I just tend to play total smartasses when I’m allowed to, and it felt like DA2 built a personality out of that better than any other game I’ve played. So I found your complaints about Hawke’s characterization off-base compared to my own experience, because (the way I played it) that was to me one of the strongest parts of the game – even during the opening bits you played.

      My post probably could have been broken up a bit more clearly – the latter parts, where I talked about a lot of the stuff I liked besides the Hawke characterization (and how it developed over the course of the game) weren’t really meant in a ‘you were wrong about this’ sense. The parts of your article that I thought were off-base were mostly related to characterization (I also didn’t have the same problems with the quest stuff, though that’s been covered better elsewhere). I can see how you thought I was criticizing you for things that happen after the section you’ve played, though, so sorry for that.

    • Kadayi says:

      @Derk_Henderson

      Likewise I’ve heard some chat from friends who’ve poop socked the game, that the tone in which you talk generally does change dependant on the kind of responses you’ve given before. Which if it is the case is quite an interesting dynamic. Haven’t had the time to test it out myself, but I’m thinking of restarting soon (I always like to do a dry run, just to get familiar with the game space & mechanics), so will try a few different things.

    • Derk_Henderson says:

      I’ve started a second playthrough now with Epic Beard Hawke, Diplomat. Focusing on the top option has led to at least one case of being able to talk someone down that I had not been able to do in my previous playthrough, and I definitely don’t sound like anywhere near as much of a smartass as I did last game. So there do seem to be real differences in personality depending on the choices you make.

    • Kadayi says:

      I tested this today with 2 quick play throughs up to Varric joining the group. I went female rogue and played nice and female warrior and played no nonsense. A couple of things I noticed. Firstly the appearance of my family members changed both in terms of faces and hairstyles (save mother) and secondly when I went to greet the Dwarven rune merchant the way he talked to me, and the way I greeted him was distinctly different.

      Haven’t tried it with the jokey/neutral voice yet, but I might give it a go just to see (though I’m bored of killing that Ogre tbh).

  25. Freud says:

    It feels like Bioware played Witcher (set in a city, political shenanigans, grey morality) and tried to copy it. But they kinda missed the point of why Witcher was great.

    I’m enjoying DA2, but I’m not loving it. It is very sidequest heavy and very few of them are all that interesting. So basically you are indeed doing stuff for xp and gold, not because you are particularly interested. And some of the lazy stuff (waves in battles and the same layouts for everything) does a good job of ruining immersion.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Why was the Witcher great?

      Genuine question.

    • Freud says:

      I liked the Witcher first of all because it decided to be a story driven game. Hardly any gear upgrades and very little gamey stuff. The combat system was lightweight but had a fluidity to it that made you never think of it as tedious. It’s mostly story. It wasn’t afraid to put you in lots of situations where you had limited information and there was no clearcut good/evil options. It did have some filler quests where you are just an errant boy which detracted from the experience, but that’s a genre staple I guess.
      While I did think the sex in Witcher was juvenile, it’s still not as cringe worthy as the romances in Bioware games. When I see the heart conversation icon, I know it is just a vehicle towards a sex scene before the last fight. It always it.

    • JFS says:

      It had a great vibe. Sure, there’s bound to be clichés in it, I believe fantasy can’t do without, and maybe other flaws, but nonetheless it gave off beautiful vibes. I think it just creates a unique atmosphere, something where a lot of games (not only RPGs) fall short.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Hmm. Yeah, I guess. It’s one of those ‘more than the sum of its parts’ games. Each bit considered in isolation it’s not a great game, but it had a great atmosphere to it.

    • Kadayi says:

      @Lilliput King

      The Witcher did some very interesting things in terms of long term payouts. You’d make decisions early on and they’d have consequences down the line. Also the Witcher traded in a lot of grey morality. You were presented with dilemmas that weren’t necessarily clear cut or had obvious choices beneficial to all.

      I don’t necessarily hold with the idea that Bioware haven’t managed to bring those aspects to the table in their more games though. I think aspects are found in DAO, ME2 & DA2 (from what I’ve seen).

    • Archonsod says:

      The combat got annoyingly repetitive for me, but I suspect that’s more to do with the never-ending “kill 10 ghouls” quests it kept handing out.

      I didn’t really see much grey morality either. The writing didn’t particularly show many redeeming features of the various sides you were expected to choose from, so rather than picking the lesser of two evils you were charged with choosing between two identical evils. Or as I liked to call it, “Choose Your Own Racial Supremacist”.

    • Fastkarate says:

      @Freud: while there’s no love lost between me and Bioware romances, I think it’s patently absurd to compare them to the Witcher as “oh, yeah, I mean, the Witcher’s pretty lame but Bioware’s just as bad.” Bioware has never given me the option to have sex with a witch I just met in a cave IN FRONT OF ORPHANED CHILDREN after I just murdered a shitload of people.

      And then rewarded me with a nudie playing card for doing so.

      Bioware romances are not the essence of high class writing (except for Garrus’s scene), but The Witcher’s stuff is just fetid.

  26. Jeremy says:

    I didn’t feel the disjoint at the beginning with my family any more than in the original Origin stories to be honest. Plenty of family died during the Human Noble origin, and I cared not a bit for any of them really, I had about 4 minutes to get to know them before they died. On my second play through, as an Elf rogue, I literally forgot who was my cousin, brother or father. The guy I thought was the elven patriarch was actually my father, and apparently that other dude became a slave in Tevinter, go figure. I still can’t remember their names, and I just finished the game for the second time a week ago.

    In the Human noble origin, I didn’t get to pick my last name (Cousland), was given a family that died within a few minutes (some dads or moms, maybe a brother? did I even have a sibling?). I can’t honestly see much difference between the two starts. Except, I know all of my family members names in DA:II, and have gotten to know them far better than any of the family members I ever had in DA:O. It seems that, more than anything, you were able to relate more to your origin, because you were able to pick the origin to start. I think I’m one of the exceptions to that rule, because I felt like it was, more than anything, an illusion of choice that had very little bearing on the long term. Granted, I’m still of the opinion that it’s unfair to knock a game for not having something it never claimed to have in the first place.

    I can accept that people are not going to like this game, I’m not trying to say people are idiots and are unfairly hating. Honestly, Bioware has made some really curious design decisions. The randomly spawning waves start out as tedious and can become wildly infuriating. I’ve never rage quit a single player game until DA:2, precisely because of that bizarre mechanic. However, most of the fights are reasonable, and there are very few times that it becomes ridiculous. I’ve only just hit my first bonkers fight, and I’m around 25 hours into the game. I’ve gotten adjusted to my new characters at a very rapid clip, and I was almost up to my full team within the first couple of hours, so maybe that aspect is just a difference in how we play.

    One thing that is unique, which wasn’t touched on, or I somehow missed it, is that Hawke begins to take on the character of your dialogue choices. If you’re quick to pick stern dialogue choices, then you take on a stern nature in cut scenes, if you choose sarcastic options, then you become sarcastic in those scenes. I’m interested to try another play through with a more focused approach to see how the cut scenes change. I will say this though, I think the “Good, flippant, or evil” options in conversation isn’t a very accurate representation of how it goes down. The lower option generally varies between “stern, strong or decisive” options, rather than “evil”. Whereas the top options are generally “peaceable, friendly, accommodating”. I think you’re assigning it a morality that isn’t there.

  27. Betamax says:

    I’m not sure I should finish reading seeing as you just compared the Human Noble Origin (where you are dumped into the life of a young Ferelden with a sibling whose family is killed in the opening moments and you are forced to depart on a life changing quest) with the opening of DA2 (where you are dumped into the life of a young Ferelden with a sibling (two in this case! Variety is the spice of life) who has a member of their family killed in the opening moments and you are forced to depart on a life changing quest). They both have surnames, they both have loosely defined histories backing them up, hell they are both partly nobility. I really can’t get my head around people who feel forced into another characters shoes, but were fine with Origins. It’s the same thing! With a voice!

    With all that said I actually do agree that the opening to DA2 doesn’t do the rest of the game justice, although I suspect it grabbed me a lot quicker than it grabbed you. I loved Act 1 anyway, making a name for myself in a city? Works for GTA.

    But yeah, I should really read the rest of your article before commenting, ’tis rude otherwise. Sadly I have a game to play right now that I’m having a blast with. Will check back later for a Wot I think.

  28. Someblokius says:

    Playing through DA2 my biggest irritations were the irritatingly contrived MMO/JRPG style bossfights (which I can maybe understand as a reasonable design choice that just doesn’t happen to be my cup of tea,) and the lack of a conversation log, which is just bonkers. I mean, even World of Warcraft has one. In a supposedly dialogue and story driven RPG not being able to scroll back and read what the conversation you just skipped on the way to your sixteenth* attempt at the silly boss fight is damned annoying. For old fashioned, 80s style at heart, text based me at least.
    If there is one and I’ve missed it, please do tell. The in-game tutorials are indeed stuff all use.
    *Yes, I admit to being naff at this kind of combat, or having missed something fundemental. Maybe it’s the character builds – in the days when everything was DnD I at least knew what to aim for. I got enough out to try a second game with more optimised characters though. Goodness knows what it gets like above ‘n00b’ difficulty level.

    • Dominic White says:

      I loves me a good boss battle. Unfortunately for me, Bioware haven’t ever designed one. Very few western studios have – it seems to be an almost universal blind-spot of most studios outside of Japan.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Bioware’s older bosses used to be a variable farce of “protip: shoot it till it dies”.. basically unload every bit of ammo in your backpack, spell-list, etc until it dropped. The problem was a mix of not knowing what character you’d chosen to make (i.e. the bosses shouldn’t be immune to certain attacks if it’d make them impossible to kill) and the large array of choice (i.e. every option had to be viable because there were so many you could have not chosen).

      The “pattern” style bosses gets round the issue of accommodating everything, by letting everything “work” but ensuring the player has to adapt to the boss’ “mode”. It changes the boss from a bigger monster to exchange blows with, into an environmental effect/puzzle scenario.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Hoaxfish: Right. Turning a boss into a puzzle for the player to solve. A console boss. For the player to solve. Does that sound to you like a really good RPG boss fight? The point is that the player’s characters should be able to defeat the boss. The player should merely have to use his/her characters in the correct way with far less margin for error than in other encounters in a game. That’s what should make boss fights harder. You may be able to scrape through a bunch of easier encounters using suboptimal tactics, not using your characters to the best of their abilities, but you’ll surely get stuck on the boss. In fact, the Baldur’s Gate games had incredibly good encounter designs. I would argue that the encounter designs were the best parts of the entire series.

      Action adventure bosses and even JRPG bosses have no real place in CRPGs I feel.

    • Unrein says:

      Actually, there are a couple of boss fights in DA2 of the “pattern” type. One of them was rather fun, the other an expletive-inducing endurance-whittle-away-millions-of-HP -battle.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Honestly, I rather enjoy pattern bosses (unless it’s a bullet-hell game with sweeping waves of bullets) compared to “keep hitting them!” bosses.

      A well made pattern boss usually falls quickly if you know what the idea is (i.e. the billion HP monsters should not fit this category). It’s also nice if not “matching” the pattern only makes it harder, rather than impossible (i.e. they take less damage, but it’s still some damage, rather than immunity)

      because RPGs can vary in design, “stats”, etc, I don’t really think there is one “type” of boss that RPGs should feature. Planescape/Fallout had boss types you could talk your way past after all.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Hoaxfish: Oh, I hate huge HP bosses more. I agree with you. That’s because I like a purity to my rule set. If a boss has 100x more HP than my strongest fighter, they obviously don’t follow the same game rules as I have to. That’s why I like D&D CRPGs. Enemies have levels, memorised spells, spell slots, statistics, THAC0, armor class and an inventory, just like my characters have. Doesn’t the final boss of Baldur’s Gate 2 have around 200 HP or something? That’s about the same as one of my fighters. And I had a party of 6!

      Difficulty should come from elsewhere. Not just by bumping up HP and damage to insane levels.

    • Archonsod says:

      And Baldur’s Gate had bosses who would happily sit and watch you prepare a room of traps and delayed blast fireballs before talking to them and turning them hostile. I still remember the Shadow Dragon in SoA which said it’s final words to me. Literally, since as soon as the conversation ended it died thanks to the liberal covering of spike traps me and Yoshimo had decorated it’s room with before talking to it.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Archonsod: Excellent. You’ve pointed out a well known flaw. Firstly, most players avoided cheese tactics like that. Secondly, these problems can be easily fixed without switching to massive HP bosses or action adventure bosses. Thirdly, there are mods to fix it and massively improve the AI. In fact, that third point demonstrates that it’s perfectly possible to have good encounters.

    • Archonsod says:

      If I have to mod the game for it to work as intended then it’s failed somewhere in design or implementation.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Archonsod: A silly comment ignoring the point completely. If it’s possible that modders, with a few AI tweaks, made the Baldur’s Gate II encounters even better, then it’s well within BioWare’s capabilities (I hope) to implement something similar without having stupid puzzle bosses or silly hit point beasts.

      But going by your short comment, because that’s all you’ve given me to go on, it seems you share the BioWare mentality of “if it’s broken, remove it.”

    • JFS says:

      That applies to pretty much each and every game that has ever been made, doesn’t it? I don’t remember a game without patches.

    • Archonsod says:

      Patches aren’t mods, though they would be a pretty obvious indicator of a failure in implementation.

      As for bosses, I’m not contesting that it’s possible to make better boss encounters. I don’t however see why puzzle bosses or simple high HP bosses are intrinsically bad. I’d much prefer variety across a range of boss encounters than having the same basic principal in each one, which is something even BG understood – ToB in particular gave you a puzzle boss, a HP boss and the ultimate boss was a mix of pattern/HP. Much more fun than if every boss encounter was identical, no?

  29. DaFishes says:

    I think you’re being a bit harsh too. I haven’t found the quest backstories hard to follow at all. The difference between your experience and mine is so wide that it makes me wonder if you’re experiencing a bug!

    That said, I desperately miss my Warden, I hate the new camera angling–turning a corner takes like five clicks, and I hate, hate, hate that we get penalized with inexplicable rivalry/friendship shifts, and for missing content by accident by having it be unavailable in the next act.

    Didn’t find that chest in that tiny room that takes five clicks to get into? You’re screwed! Your companion’s outfit will now never be complete.

    Didn’t predict that destroying an evil book would miss sweet Merrill off? You’re screwed! Now when you give her a gift, it ups her rivalry score!

    Never found a companion’s gift? Screwed! Now you can’t complete the romance.

    Didn’t see any quest marker on the map when a companion wanted you to come to their house? Screwed! Shoulda hit J for Journal, because that’s where you can find those.

    Maybe other people fap to this angst, but I just bought the Prima guide and started over so that I don’t get punished so much. I’m now metagaming to have fun. THAT’S what bothers me about DA2.

    • silver1881 says:

      Agreed re: relationship meters. I’m having the hardest time figuring them out. My guesses for gaining/losing points are always wrong, so I keep making people angry by accident. It’s just like real life!

    • Unrein says:

      Oh Maker. The contrivance of these easter egg type items that are critical to gameplay or story advancement are such a fucking stupid idea, but Bioware seems to really like it. In ME2 it was thankfully restricted to upgrades, but in DA2 it’s mandatory for friend/rival story progression. Fun!

    • Archonsod says:

      Armour still upgrades by level (all the findable upgrades add are rune slots and abilities).

      Gifts aren’t mandatory. There’s only one gift that has any pure storyline effect (the rest are equipment related) and you don’t need that if you can get the relationship up without it (you just miss a cutscene, though in order to progress a romance you have to have relationship at a given level by a particular point in that companion’s storyline, which might be difficult without the gift). The main issue people seem to be having with relationships is that if you want to complete the storyline you can only flirt with one character. Start flirting with another and it seems to screw it up.

      You do get a pop up for a new quest whenever one appears, so if a character wants to talk to you you’ll see the new quest pop up (and for the most part they get the quest marker on the map).

      As for the friend/rival system, once you’ve gotten them to one extreme it’s locked and there’s no further effect. So if you get Fenris to Friend you can loudly proclaim mages should have their freedom as much as you want, his status will not decrease.

  30. groghog says:

    I’ve had a really mixed response to the companions. Some feel really disconnected, while others really hit the spot. I jumped for joy when Anders’ name was mentioned, but when I finally met him I couldn’t believe how dull he’d become, it felt like such a betrayal. Isabella was just annoying and frequently left me in the lurch.
    On the other hand, I really enjoyed Varric and Merrill. While Varric didn’t progress much as a character he really set a great tone, but it was Merrill that wins the prize. Great writing and a compelling character. (Although as some have mentioned her quest’s conclusion was a bit of a let down. Worst of all, she didn’t even mention having to kill her whole clan after the event…)

    • Archonsod says:

      That’s a bug. The cutscene you should see when finishing her quest is played before you start it (the one that starts with her crying by the mirror).

    • silver1881 says:

      Absolutely! I was so happy when I found out we were getting Anders back, only to discover that the person who’d cracked me up all through Awakening had been replaced by an angst-bot. Thank goodness for Varric, my personal favorite (followed closely by Merrill, who is completely adorable).

    • malkav11 says:

      Not only did he get all angsty, but they divested him of Ser Pounce-a-lot offscreen. That made me very sad. Especially since you can still have a mabari hound for a pet (I think it’s technically part of the Black Emporium pseudo-DLC, but that came with the game for me).

    • Premium User Badge

      Crimsoneer says:

      Merrill is so obviously bugged and rushed to death, which is a pathetic shame…I found her character and quest so much more fascinating then all the others, and then it just STOPPED.

    • Archonsod says:

      I think the DLC just adds the summon Mabari ability, he’s still at your home without it (and like Origins, if you talk to it a few times you get some companion – Dog scenes).

      WRT Merrill I think it’s just the cutscene that’s bugged. Certainly it’s possible to complete her romance storyline. I’m not sure if there’s actually any more progression in her story after that point beyond that which advances with the main plot. Wouldn’t say it was particularly bugged, it just looks like the quest completes as soon as you’re given it which triggers the completion scene before you actually get the quest scene (though because it does that it defaults to a particular set of choices for that quest, so there may be a couple of different scenes you can’t see).

    • katinkabot says:

      True dat. All of the male companions that you can romance(except Sebastian) are angry and annoying. The romance scenes between Anders are hilarious. I was actually screaming ‘BOO’ at my computer when he would talk – “We could die tomorrow. I will come to you!” NO! What happened to you, Anders!? I wanted to tell him to get the hell out of my house and never come back. It gives me little comfort to know that my hero of Fereldan is somewhere in her palace laughing at Alistair’s snarky comments about…everything. Also, I miss Shale.

      God this game is depressing and, John, it doesn’t get much better. There are some great sidequests later on, but they don’t make up for the disappointment that is the whole. Bioware had the beginnings of, what I thought, was something great with DA: O. Maybe next time they’ll take a page out of Valve’s book and actually have a real development cycle instead of slapping something together for a quick buck.

  31. Valvarexart says:

    I really do prefer a mute protagonist. Or the ability to see exactly what he/she is going to say, like in The Witcher.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I finally got used to it, but for most of Act 1, I had a hard time relating to the Shakespearean actor’s accent of my male Hawke. It seemed too polished, from my American perspective… didn’t quite fir the way I thought of the character. Maybe the male Shepard voice grated on British players in a similar way? I don’t know. This will always be a risk with full voice acting; that the player might not be able to fully immerse in their main character, if the accent doesn’t seem quite right.

  32. ezekiel2517 says:

    Has anyone been able to defeat 1 vs 1 the boss at the end of Act 2 ? My warrior didn’t even come close. I could also swear that he was weaker if you fight him as a party (See Loghain in Origins, fight him solo he is weaker, as a party he’s stronger to make up for it.)

    • DaFishes says:

      Yep, I beat the Act 2 end boss 1 on 1 with my warrior. It was absolutely tedious–it involved a lot of health potions and a lot of running around so that my skill timers would reset.

    • Derk_Henderson says:

      Yeah, you basically need to hit him hard, run away, repeat. I did it with a rogue, so I would mark of death, assassinate, twin fang, run awaaaaaaaaaay, stamina potion, repeat. Health potion if he accidentally caught me.

    • Archonsod says:

      It’s the same as the Ogres. Wait for them to charge and then whack them. If you can lure them into charging into a wall or one of the pillars they’ll actually be stunned for a minute or so afterwards (which if you’re a rogue makes for an incredibly short combat).

    • kyrieee says:

      Sounds fun

      not

      I detest hit-once-then-run boss fights

    • ezekiel2517 says:

      Fortunately, you can refuse his honorable challenge and proceed to dishonorably mob him. That was much easier. He was also the only boss that requires such tactics.

    • Premium User Badge

      Snidesworth says:

      I went for 1 vs 1 with my warrior. I simply couldn’t do enough damage to him. Then he drank health potions. I liked the idea of having to avoid his worse attacks rather than just stand still and take them, but it was a tedious and, in my case, impossible fight.

      So I reloaded and mobbed him. Much more fun a fight.

  33. kibayasu says:

    Playing on Hard, the waves of enemies have killed me numerous times especially in corridors that inexplicably spawn them behind my mages or archers. The apparent lack of healing spells is also confusing. Maybe I’m missing something painfully obvious but I only see one (upgradeable) healing spell and no resurrection spells? While this does make some fights nail-bitingly tense as I want for my health spell to recharge or my health potions to do the same, it feels very artificial. Maybe I just don’t have the party member that can use them yet?

    And I’ll agree that Merrill is mind-meltingly adorable at this point in the game. I don’t think I’ve smiled so much in a half-mocking, half-“awww” way at a single character in recent memory.

    • Archonsod says:

      IIRC Anders is the only one with access to resurrection spells, but you can find the recipe for Mythal’s Favour grenades which do the same thing.
      Healing wise there is the one spell or the potions. Rogues can get fell poison which transfers damage to hitpoints for a short time, and there’s a plethora of equipment which increase health regeneration rates.

    • Jeremy says:

      There’s also a potion you can use that will revive you if you die.. kind of a fail safe. You do wake up with injuries though, so get some elfroot pots to heal health and injuries.

  34. JimK. says:

    I actually like DA2 more than Origins (personal taste don’t hate me for it) .

    What i like most about this game is the story. In DA: O you were the all too repetitive knight in shining armor who saves the world with his might sword (or staff if you wish) by defeating an infinite army of orcs who, for no apparant reason, wish to destroy all mankind.

    But then there is DA2 where you’re just a normal guy who wishes to make a name for himself and earn some coin along the way. I will not spoil anything but yes you do ofcourse get involved in a bigger plot at the end of the game and you do not get that fancy champion title for siitting on your arse all day. But the story off DA2 seems to revolve more around the world of Thedas and the society within it than origins did. Hawke will also have to make some interesting moral decisions with no clear good/evil choice which therefore are very relatable to the world we live in.

    I must admit it’s not the greatest story in history. However is really does make you feel part of Thedas, something I didn’t experience in DA: O

    • MiniTrue says:

      Sounds like you would enjoy Planescape: Torment (sorry if you’ve already played it!)

    • Premium User Badge

      daphne says:

      I agree with this line of reasoning, although I haven’t played DA2 yet. DA:O was an excellent game, but the game in general took itself too seriously. No amount of anectodal rebuttals from Alistair-Morrigan dialogues, funny Codex entries, or the presence of Shale etc. seems enough for me to see beyond the humorless “you have the save the world!” at the center of it all. It would be nice of developers to create an epic story that doesn’t have its epicness externally imposed.

      Torment, as MiniTrue mentions, was flawless in doing this. It was also what KOTOR2 intended, but ended up falling slightly short (but did enough, IMO, to make it superior to the first game). The Fallout series, perhaps excluding 3 but including (happily) the latest iteration, also manages this.

  35. silver1881 says:

    I’m reaching the end now, and it improves hugely as far as plot and epicness. While I’m really enjoying it and will definitely play it a few more times, you are absolutely right about the dialogue. I can see where they were trying to go with it, but they seem to have appropriated the Mass Effect wheel without quite understanding how to use it. The nice thing about ME is that no matter what you choose on the wheel, you know that Shepard is going to say something interesting and possibly unexpected, but everything Hawke had to say was incredibly bland and/or unrelated to what was happening.
    The dialogue in DA:O was so in-depth, and I really missed that. There was so much of it that you could spend hours talking to your teammates. The wheel seems to have brought ME-style brevity with it, which is a total shame. If nothing else, it makes many of the characters seem one-dimensional. When you only get a few short talks with them over the course of the game, it feels like the writers needed to shoehorn their signature issues (slavery! blood magic! mages!) into every conversation, so that was all you got from them. In DA:O, that was there and their personal issues came up often, but it was diluted by all the other stuff – stories, jokes, or just sitting around chatting about nothing like real people would do.
    In addition, I would have appreciated a love interest that wasn’t full of angst. All I require from my fictional boyfriends is sweet talk and wisecracks. But YMMV, of course.
    I did appreciate the Mass Effecting (or rather, Mass Effect 2-ing) of the inventory system. I loved the ME2 upgrade system, which allowed me to have the best equipment without spending ages sorting through stuff or experiencing all these huge events while dressed in a clown suit. I didn’t miss inventory management one bit.
    All that said, I did love this game. Just not as much as the first one. Flaws aside, I was totally invested in the story and it was emotionally engaging. At least in that department Bioware always delivers.

  36. Premium User Badge

    Phinor says:

    I completely agree with everything said on the post. I have a hard time even launching the game at this point because I have very little interest left in the game after around 5 hours. The combat might be enjoyable if they changed two things: remove those damn waves and add a -75% speed modifier to everything and anything movement related. It’s ridiculously fast right now. But even fixing those wouldn’t help the fact that I just have zero interest in getting back into the game. It’s an RPG where you can’t really talk, where you don’t really seem to have any choices and with stripped inventory on top of everything. You run between the same few areas during the day and night and it’s all just very shallow. First miss for Bioware in years. I fear for Mass Effect 3 if EA has their hands on that too.

    edit: That being said, I will obviously finish this game and maybe it gets better. Maybe the sidequests become more than clearing a warehouse. I don’t know yet.

  37. 8-bit says:

    So, The Witcher 2, looking good. :)

    Joking aside I still cant understand why this game has been so clearly influenced by mass effect 2 when DA:O was proudly announced as being the most successful game bioware have ever made. If any game is going to influence another it should be the other way around shouldn’t it?

    • Archonsod says:

      Stealing a dialogue wheel =/= huge influence. The only other thing it seems to have borrowed from ME2 is certain things relating to companions, other than that though it’s DA:O it’s took it’s lead from. Oh, it’s been streamlined somewhat, but I think Bioware first started doing that back in the NWN days.

    • 8-bit says:

      well I was thinking more along the lines of the ‘less is more’ philosophy they seemed to use going from me1 -me2 rather than taking any individual bits from the game. but I guess you are right they have been doing this for years, I don’t even know why I am surprised by it anymore.

  38. Easydog says:

    This review tactic pleases me.

    I felt it was one of the worst openings I’ve had in a game, but it does get better. Or at least it did for me. I’m about 20 hours in and starting to love DA again, but the mediocre game I got with the first 5 or 6 hours was appalling. It was the writing I think, specifically the abruptness of the opening and it’s assumptions. I didn’t care a fig for the death of Wesley or Carver and everyone in the game seemed to expect me to care. No, just no. They’d done and said nothing, in a context I was too unaware of, to make me care. It was definately this that soured me on it at first.

    But as I said, I’m starting to love it now. I’m very pleased that my main character can be an effective, satisfying, archer and the character interaction is starting to amuse (Anders is less fun than in awakening though, damn you Justice for making him a sourpuss). Plus the rampant homosexuality (all the romantic interests are bi, I think) amuses me. And the fact that decisions made three in-game years ago are starting to have unforseen consequences…

    I even found a challenging foe in the Rock Wraith.

    However I think it is a cardinal sin of the game to be so poorly designed for the opening. No game should be justified with “It gets good later on”. I’m glad I persisted but if any other game did this I would have abandoned it long ago, and quite rightly. Only because I enoy most Bioware games did I persist. For a lot of people it seems that the dissapointing first few hours has coloured their entire experience

    • Archonsod says:

      It doesn’t expect you to care. You can in fact take the piss out of Carver and Wesley’s death for the rest of the game. Just don’t expect Aveline or your mother to be too happy with that.

    • Easydog says:

      Maybe so. I don’t think I was clear about what I disliked in the writing. It was clearly trying to get the player thrust into the action straight away and it assumed that the player would have an investment of some kind in what was going on. I wasn’t invested at all, just interested in finding out what happened in Thedas after DA1, but not really caring if my ‘family’ made it out alive. The super hero bit at the beginning was just shit, the game improved greatly after that to the point where it became mediocre. The opening seemed so perfunctory and dull and I wasn’t compelled to find out what would happen to anyone. I didn’t particularly want to spend time with any of the characters, until I met Merril, and largely I had issues with one or two of the things John mentioned. I nearly gave up, but at some point I started caring. Which was as pleasing as it was unexpected at that point.

    • Unrein says:

      It’s rather funny to me people seem to be liking the game more when they progress, when the exact opposite has happened to me. I dread the thought of another fight, more waves and then some more before I can advance the story. And the story keeps getting more contrived, trying so very hard to make you feel something and more often than not either falling flat or making me laugh when I shouldn’t. Frankenstein mommy, anyone?

    • Easydog says:

      To each their own eh? I’m glad for me that I got the experience this way round. Still, it’d be better for everyone if some quality control was exercised over every part of the game.

    • TCM says:

      I submit the opening would be much better if we spent an hour or two running around Lothering pre-blight, perhaps even crossing paths with a member of the Warden’s party. But the narrative style Bioware chose doesn’t suit that, sadly.

      And THAT is my major complaint with the game.

    • Easydog says:

      Seconded.

    • Archonsod says:

      “It was clearly trying to get the player thrust into the action straight away and it assumed that the player would have an investment of some kind in what was going on. I wasn’t invested at all, just interested in finding out what happened in Thedas after DA1, but not really caring if my ‘family’ made it out alive.”

      It does rely on the whole “this is your sibling” approach. I think it’s more a gameplay versus story thing though, that whole introductory sequence is really little more than an extended tutorial, and they always tend to make the writing suffer due to the need to teach the player how to play (quite why they abandoned the separate, optional tutorial I don’t know). Really, I don’t think the game starts off until after your first year in Kirkwall.
      I found the characters to be quite good apart from that. They do tend to develop more as you get to know them, and I thought some of the cutscenes when you go to talk to them and another companion is already there was a nice touch, it made it feel more like you were a group of friends rather than a bunch of people who now and again go out and travel together (something the original could’ve done with really, it always seemed strange that the only party member in the camp to interact with anyone outside of the Warden was Dog).

    • Jeremy says:

      TCM,

      I fully agree, there is such rich potential for an opening that ties you to some of the events in DA:O, or at least some of the characters. Run ins with Leiliana in the Chantry and Sten before and maybe even during the murders and imprisonment? Then you hear of Darkspawn, head to Ostagar and do some things there. There is just a ton of potential here, and though I am really enjoying this game, I feel like even a little bit of connection to what we invested 60 – 120 hours of our time into, would have bumped everyone’s spirits and ultimately made everyone feel a lot better about some of the other changes in the game.

    • silver1881 says:

      TCM:
      I’m 90% sure that the codex says that you and Carver were at Ostagar. That would’ve been perfect for the opening – introducing your character and tying it in with the events of the first game, without taking up too much game time. Ah, what might have been.

      EDIT: Oops. Didn’t realize that about MageHawke, but now that I think about it it makes sense. Still, though, they could have come up with something – I think if there was something tying Hawke to the events of the first game, even a little bit, people would be happier. I got so excited whenever I ran into someone from DA:O, even if it was just for a minute. Still loved this game, but some connection would be nice.

    • TCM says:

      The problem there is that Mage!Hawke wasn’t at Ostagar, as specifically mentioned at the start of the game and in the codex. Only Rogue and Warrior!Hawkes were.

  39. tyrspawn says:

    There hasn’t been a decent RPG since Bioware went Hollywood. I can honestly say I haven’t played a good RPG since KOTOR, and before that, Baldur’s Gate 2 comes to mind. Dragon Age was an over-rated piece of shit and it sounds like DA 2 is even worse.

    • BloatedGuppy says:

      I like your glasses. Especially that rose color.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Innit weird that KoTOR is the end of the line du jour for Bioware’s creativity and hardcore RPG ‘spect?

      Game was acceptable to fair (4/10) but the combat system was utter ballbag. It was significantly more action-rpg than DA2, for a start. You control 3 CHARACTERS ONLY from a BEHIND THE SHOULDER PERSPECTIVE. There was NO TACTICAL VIEW OR ISOMETRIC PERSPECTIVE. There was NO FRIENDLY FIRE. Character creation consisted entirely of choosing from A SELECTION OF THREE CLASSES. There was NO AREA CONTROL.

      I get the feeling KoTOR might be particularly dear to many because it was their first RPG. This is the only explanation I can think of.

    • tyrspawn says:

      I’m not saying KOTOR is one of the greatest RPGs of all time, only that it was the last good mainstream RPG made. Before that Baldur’s Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal. I can’t think of any RPG worth playing since KOTOR.

    • Archonsod says:

      Was Vampire : Bloodlines pre or post KOTOR? Divinity II is pretty good too, Risen, Fallout New Vegas is probably one of the better games of the last year or so, Mass Effect, Alpha Protocol.

      In fact, there’s an awful lot of good RPG’s been released since KoToR. Many of which I’d consider superior to KoToR. Although admittedly, since I’m not a big Star Wars fan I didn’t consider KoToR to be particularly good, simply your average D&D game with sci-fi drag. Forgettable.

      Mind you, I’d also struggle to decide between Arcanum and BG II.

    • malkav11 says:

      KOTOR never pretended to have really deep, tactical combat. It was a lightsabery hack-n-slash and that’s just fine with me. The single worst thing about DA2’s combat is simply that it comes in the sequel to a game that had really good combat that could easily have been continued or even built on instead of dismantled. There’re a few niggling design issues with DA2’s combat as its own thing, but it’s primarily disappointing in comparison.

    • TCM says:

      Please go back and play DAO’s combat, then immediately go to DA2’s.

      Every time I see somebody complain that the combat is “dismantled”, “completely different”, or anything like that, I wonder how long it’s been since they actually played DAO.

    • Wizardry says:

      Yeah, I didn’t like Knights of the Old Republic either. There have been a few good CRPGs since then, though. However, Alpha Protocol and Mass Effect aren’t two of them.

      In fact, how many good non-action CRPGs have there been since? Hmm. Help?

      Dragon Age: Origins had a really poor combat system. There were no interesting weapon types such as polearms and flails. The calculations for armour penetration were broken. I’m not sure if any patches fixed the bow and dagger damage/to hit calculations. Weapon speed, apparently, was in the game but strangely obscured from the player. In fact, the game basically boiled down to active abilities. It was MMO like in that respect. The trick to Dragon Age: Origins combat was to knock down, stun or generally incapacitate as many of the enemies as possible, while pummelling down the hardest hitting monsters first. It was very simple. Add in “aggro” management and constant healing and you have a single player 4 man World of Warcraft instance.

    • malkav11 says:

      A month or so. At least, since I played Awakening. And Awakening is definitely not DA combat at its best, since you have easy access to stupidly overpowered abilities (that I still loved). DA2 is -less- in clearly visible ways. Less enemy variety, more but less challenging enemies, stupid instaspawning waves, fewer and weaker skills, less crowd control, less healing, less health, less ability to customize your party members. And that’s without even getting into things like friendly fire and the camera, which are more a matter of taste really. I don’t actually like friendly fire very much as a gameplay mechanic but I am hard pressed to deny that it complicates things.

    • RCGT says:

      What’s that you say? A Bioware game with a dullard of a male character, moral polarity, poor combat mechanics, and a myriad of unlikable characters? Yeah, not getting this one.

      Seriously, how/why do they keep doing this? Apart from the Mass Effect series (which suffers from some of the same problems itself), Bioware is really not doing it for me lately.

  40. corver says:

    Was no one else severely irritated by the battle cries, taunts and constant whining of party members about their lack of stamina during combat? I found those voice clips to be repetitive and annoying, and they often seemed completely disconnected from the actual pace of the battle. Avelline’s, especially.

  41. xaphoo says:

    Both Dragon Age 2 and Civ V are perhaps part of a disastrous trend in game design, which confuses “streamlined simplicity” for a poverty of imagination and patience. It’s obvious that in the wider world, we live in an age of diminished expectations. But to make these diminished expecations marketable, the corporate world has to call it “minimalism” or “just the essentials”. The many options and branching quality of Civ IV doesn’t fit in in this era of austerity and slimming-down. We can also point to the iPhone and iPad, which do less than they could but look nicer than they should. I don’t think this has to do so much with things being “consolified”, though it certainly seems like that from the vantage point of PC land; instead I think it’s a bigger trend in marketing and corporate culture as a whole. A society with a surplus of graphic designers and a deficit of time and money.
    Gaming is a magical medium because it is one of the only places where genuine maximalism, maximum permutation of logic and choices, is permissible and valid and accepted by the community (for recent examples, look towards DF, Eve, Super Meat Boy, even Minecraft). This is why I think the streamlining trend which is sweeping our culture, which only permits maximalism if it’s in a minimalist framework, can only hurt games, because they restrict its imagination and give us less. In gaming, simplicity is poverty.

    • Archonsod says:

      Hell no. Half of the stuff they got rid of, inventory tetris for example, should have been binned in the nineties. The purpose of a game is to be fun, if an element is not contributing to that fun it has no business being in the game.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Inventory tetris was never a logical abstraction (it was form over function). A simpler thing would’ve been “weight” and “volume” as 2 numeric stats, rather than weight and shape+orientation.

    • Archonsod says:

      Neither is a good thing. The entire point of a PC is to do maths, if you’re asking the user to do it you’ve went wrong somewhere :P

      Limited inventories were used* solely to stop the PC nicking everything that wasn’t nailed down. You don’t need some kind of abstract system to stop that, you can achieve exactly the same thing by simply having a maximum number of items that can be carried. It still forces the player to make decisions over what to keep or take, but without becoming a minigame in itself (and therefore detracting from the main game).

      * in your average RPG. Obviously there are some settings and games where limiting what the player can carry is a part of the main game (Stalker for example) and in such cases an abstract system is worthwhile. But they tend to be games where items are more than just a template item + 1.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Hoaxfish: Yep. That’ll work just fine. However, that was never the point in having a grid (as opposed to a list) in the first place. All the CRPGs from the beginning of time right up until the late 80s had list inventories that were a pain to use because of the need to scroll to find what you want. Grids became popular because of humans’ ability to to recognise spacial patterns and the like. Putting all my scrolls to the bottom left of my inventory and all my swords to the top right of my inventory means that I know straight away where everything is. Grids didn’t fall out of favour because developers recognised lists were better. Grids fell out of favour because of console controllers. It’s most noticeable in Knights of the Old Republic in comparison to Neverwinter Nights and Baldur’s Gate. Also, Oblivion in comparison to Morrowind. Grids seemed to be scrapped right at the point of the console switch over.

      However, inventory tetris applies to Diablo, for example, because for some stupid reason Blizzard decided to make items all different shapes and sizes. A grid works just fine if all items are 1 block big, the grid is absolutely massive, and you are limited by weight and/or volume as indicated numerically in the corner of the screen somewhere. In fact, that’d be ideal. The grid should merely be used to locate and place items in an orderly fashion to make it easier for you to find them. It should not exist as a mini-game where you wrestle with the interface to fit all your precious loot in.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      The one problem with grids, even with universal 1*1 size, is stacking. 99 “potions” occupying the same space as 1 set of armour, with 100 potions becoming a stack of 99 + a stack of 1.

      Of course, you can make nothing stack…which becomes almost as bad as long scrolling, or you can make everything stack (assuming all items are identical, which is unlikely).

      If you really wanna go a bit “weird”, you couldn’t go wrong with looking at the respective Windows/Linux/Mac OS file browsers. There you have a mix of stats (file size, image previews) as well as a pretty customisable form of view (list, thumbnails, drag&drop, folders, sorting, etc)

      One idea might be to re-examine why you have an inventory in the 1st place, but that’s probably a discussion for another time.

      If scrolling problems produced grid-inventories, then I think increased screen-size/resolution might be a good reason why lists can make a come-back. Console navigation might be an advantage too, but I certainly don’t think it is a “bad thing”.

    • malkav11 says:

      Why are we bitching about inventory tetris in a discussion of a franchise that has never had any such thing?

  42. New Player says:

    What I noticed is that whenever there is criticism of a Bioware game, the fans go like “yeah, that’s currently a pretty popular opinion”. Rarely is there any argument to go with it. I haven’t played the game, but the demo and the predecessor and read or seen much about it (so get a pretty good idea overall), and the beginning in the demo is just incredibly unremarkable. There is nothing to argue against that circumstance, since it consists of almost nothing. (Or incidents which appear as nothing.)
    But I agree with the article, Merrill seems to be a nice character, much in contrast to most Bioware characters which I usually can’t give a damn about.

  43. Nameless1 says:

    This article is probably the only useful professional review out there, but the hope to find an interesting plot or an improvement in the next hours is totally utterly WRONG.
    Go on and finish it, you will see. If this is a reliable site, I’m expecting an article on how the only reason to release this game was the intention to make quick cash with a shamefully poor product exploiting the name af the serie.
    Bioware won’t see a cent from me ever again, that’s for sure.

  44. Gunstar Zero says:

    DAO had so much more detail, thought and effort to it – DA2, whilst still an enjoyable game just feels lazy and average.

    I think bioware listen to their customers too much. Seems with an iteration of a game / series it gets crapper by virtue of a whining vocal busybodies who know nothing about game design. You let all these people design your games by commitee and you end up with lowest common denominator averageness.

    I’d take DAO with it’s niggles over DA2 with it’s ‘polish’ any day.

    oh and the area repetition is just bloody criminal.

    I’m still playing the game and enjoying it, it’s just feels weak by comparison.

    • Premium User Badge

      Snidesworth says:

      They definitely need to stop listening to their fans as much as they are now. Hell, I’m enjoying DA2 a fair deal but some of the comments their core fans have come out with are incredible. They’ve made many good games and established a loyal customer base who have, or at least the most vocal component have, become a pack of mindless sycophants. What’s worse is that Bioware seems to be taking their unthinking praise as objective truth and ignoring some very real concerns that many people have with the game. I don’t think anyone can reasonably argue that not being able to zoom the camera out to a tactical view is a good thing.

  45. Unaco says:

    ” It’s about time there was a decent Welsh character in a game!”

    I’ve seen a couple maps of Ferelden, and haven’t seen Wales on them anywhere.

    One of my recent gaming gem moments was playing the start of “Divinity II The Dragon Knight Saga”… First proper village I arrived at, I was pleasantly surprised to find that, although the high and noble Knights and the like spoke in the plain, regal English you would expect, everyone else in the village (barmen and wenches, town guard, the farmer’s wives) all spoke in regional English and Welsh accents, was even a scouser in there.

  46. Megadyptes says:

    “Gigglesquee”

  47. Tom Camfield says:

    More of this please Mr Walker, I like it, good work.

  48. Sarkhan Lol says:

    No, no, no, see, Dragon Age 2 is actually a really good game, but since we’re playing it through the representation of an “unreliable narrator”, it only APPEARS to be half-baked and forgettable until the twist right at the very end where it is revealed that, actually, the REAL game was great, and we’d been lied to the whole time we were playing. That’s clever. Really very clever.

  49. CrazyBaldhead says:

    The Welsh to the rescue again.

  50. Enzo says:

    I just finished this game yesterday. DA2 is the first cRPG in many years (or maybe ever?) that doesn’t have a main quest. At all. THERE IS NO MAIN QUEST. Only sidequests. It’s almost like this game is made out of many dlc.

    You can even exchange Act 2 for Act 3 and no one would notice.

    Whole game is basically an origin story for Hawke, and the true main quest will begin in Dragon Age 3.