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  1. #1
    Lesser Hivemind Node Drinking with Skeletons's Avatar
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    Dragon Age II Reaction

    I picked up Dragon Age II late on Friday and put a significant chunk of time into it. I just started the second section of the game (I guess there's going to be a focus on the Qunari?) and I've been enjoying myself immensely. What's bugging me is that the entire reason I put off buying the game for so long is that the fan reaction--people who enjoyed or even loved Origins and Awakening--made it sound incredibly disappointing.

    It's one of those cases where I recognize virtually all of the criticisms: combat is too easy, waves of enemies are stupid, the visual quality is noticeably worse (though the art style is better), the lack of companion inventory is disappointing, the repeated environments are tedious, and I'd go so far as to say the new layout of the skill system is confusing (not helped by the fact that no single character, including Hawke, follows a single, unified skill system).

    But what couldn't come across in the reviews is that I'd enjoy the companions so much. These people actually seem like friends, so even the boring ones (Aveline!) are likable. The passage of time allows their relationships to take on new depth (Varric's quiet dedication to keeping Anders and Merrill safe is touching) and the performances are all great.

    I also didn't realize that having a voiced player character would actually be a point in the game's favor! I don't know about the female version, but male Hawke is a loveable smart-ass. He's got far more personality than just about any other RPG protagonist I've ever played, and the game is frankly much better for it.

    I'm not saying that other people are wrong, mind you. The game could break my heart before the end, and a lot of this is subjective. It's just a shame that all of the criticism--while consistent and accurate--failed to make it seem possible that the game had strengths that I would value over its (many, noticeable) weaknesses. I'm kind of ashamed that I didn't buy it earlier and show the game some support. I do think they probably should not have marketed it as a direct sequel (just as New Vegas wasn't Fallout 4). I'm now retroactively saddened by the cancellation of the expansion. I hope that they won't sweep everything they did here aside as a failure, because, if nothing else, I want to see more characters as well-written as the ones in DA2.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drinking with Skeletons View Post
    I also didn't realize that having a voiced player character would actually be a point in the game's favor! I don't know about the female version, but male Hawke is a loveable smart-ass. He's got far more personality than just about any other RPG protagonist I've ever played, and the game is frankly much better for it.
    You are supposed to be your character's personality in an RPG. I don't see how this could possibly be in the game's favour.

  3. #3
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Althea's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drinking with Skeletons View Post
    so even the boring ones (Aveline!)
    Out.

    Get out. There cannot possibly be anything boring about a redheaded female warrior in proper armour.


  4. #4
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus The JG Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drinking with Skeletons View Post
    and I'd go so far as to say the new layout of the skill system is confusing (not helped by the fact that no single character, including Hawke, follows a single, unified skill system).
    I actually really liked the skill system. That each character had their own skills but maintained all the tropes meant that yes, you had more moves to learn, but they were specific to that person rather than "Person A will now be taking the role of Rogue."

    But what couldn't come across in the reviews is that I'd enjoy the companions so much. These people actually seem like friends, so even the boring ones (Aveline!) are likable. The passage of time allows their relationships to take on new depth (Varric's quiet dedication to keeping Anders and Merrill safe is touching) and the performances are all great. // I also didn't realize that having a voiced player character would actually be a point in the game's favor!
    Quote Originally Posted by Althea View Post
    Out.
    Get out. There cannot possibly be anything boring about a redheaded female warrior in proper armour.
    I'm with Althea, Aveline was one of my favourite characters in the game. I actually found Fenris to be boring as hell and never used him unless I had to. That being said, I found most of the characters really enjoyable, hell even the plot I found pretty cool. The first act dragged, but the second one was excellent and builds to such a fantastic finale. Combined with the under-current that builds to the final act...I know a lot of people didn't like it, but I thought it was pretty cool. I'll defend DA2 that much.

    Also, a cool thing was that the more you used a certain interaction, for example sarcasm, the more sarcastic options you'd have in the future and the less of others you'd have, so you could really hone in the personality you wanted your person to have. I loved that, as morally positive but characteristically snarky was very fun to play.

    DA2 played pretty poorly, but it had some good stuff in. Play like DA:O with the character and plot developments made in 2 and 3 could be an exquisite game.
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  5. #5
    Lesser Hivemind Node Bhazor's Avatar
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    You're praising the plot of DA2? Wow. I guess someone had to do it.

  6. #6
    Lesser Hivemind Node westyfield's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Althea View Post
    Out.

    Get out. There cannot possibly be anything boring about a redheaded female warrior in proper armour.
    Spoken like someone who hasn't played Dragon Age 2.

    Edit: huh, if we're doing favourite characters then I might as well say mine. I liked Varric, Bethany and Isabela. I thought the family aspect between Hawke and Bethany worked well, and I enjoyed Varric and Isabela's constant sarcasm/banter.
    Last edited by westyfield; 01-04-2012 at 11:45 PM.

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    Yeah. After Dragon Age 1 was pretty decent and had a lot of promise for the IP, Dragon Age 2 just kind of did absolutely nothing and was tedious.

    The characters are never weak of course, because those games are practically just virtual dating sims at the best of times. Sometimes bland, but it's not nearly as bad as your dialogue as Hawke (ask the shapeshifting dragon that just saved you for a sandwich! Makes sense if you're insane) or some of the general story direction. The first game you wander around a bit as that particular person so you get a feel for them, more or less. In Dragon Age 2, things have already happened, and when a sibling dies, it's not tragic because you haven't even met them. I think the opening also underdoes the tone of desperation when you just win every battle anyways.

    Got a lot of hate for that game, but moreover because I played through all of it, hoping at some point it'd become good or fun, because I am a complete idiot. Also because I thought the first one was really good, though the spell system could've used some polishing.

  8. #8
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus SirKicksalot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bhazor View Post
    You're praising the plot of DA2? Wow. I guess someone had to do it.
    It was a fun story. Hawke's progression from an adventurer to a minor political figure was well done. Interacting and observing the various factions, especially the Qunari, made the world feel more real than the entire exposition dump of DAO.

    But the best thing about it was how not everything revolved around Hawke. DA2 has a cast of real people who don't react only to the player's triggers. Bad shit happens out of nowhere and often has no satisfying closure. I understand why people hate this but I found it very refreshing.
    I liked the idol's subtle influence on the story too. It was kinda freaky.

    Since we're talking characters, my favourite was Bethany. I always wanted a sister lol. She died at the end of Act 1. Broke my heart. Aveline was boring but had a hilarious quest line in the second part of the game and I enjoyed making fun of her.

    Also this was the first RPG where I played a rogue, I usually hide behind a sword and shield. Props to Bioware for making this class fun.

    Quote Originally Posted by Phantoon View Post
    it's not nearly as bad as your dialogue as Hawke (ask the shapeshifting dragon that just saved you for a sandwich! Makes sense if you're insane)
    Bah, it doesn't have to make sense. DA2 is second only to Alpha Protocol in the Playing A Snarky Dick genre. IIRC Flemeth actually enjoys this attitude in both games anyway.
    Last edited by SirKicksalot; 01-04-2012 at 11:59 PM.

  9. #9
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    The party members are all good, apart from Anders is a bit too different and also frustrating. I don't know about Fenris because I managed not to recruit him (there was only one sidequest in the whole game I didn't do, and it happened to randomly be a recruitment quest).

    Hawke is a bit of a dick, though, especially if you make the mistake of picking too many "charming" options. It's quite annoying to play an RPG where you want to punch yourself in the face.
    Irrelevant on further examination of the rest of the thread.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by SirKicksalot View Post
    Also this was the first RPG where I played a rogue, I usually hide behind a sword and shield. Props to Bioware for making this class fun.
    I was all on board for you just thinking it was better than it was for whatever reason, but you're clearly just messing with us and I am not responding to this philistine drivel anymore.

    Good day.

  11. #11
    Lesser Hivemind Node Drinking with Skeletons's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wizardry View Post
    You are supposed to be your character's personality in an RPG. I don't see how this could possibly be in the game's favour.
    Well...I'm not saying it's for everyone. I agree with you, but he's just surprisingly well-written and I found myself really enjoying him in spite of the fact that he breaks a cardinal rule for good RPGs. The funny thing is, by consistently selecting the "smart-ass" dialogue options, I had a Hawke who acts more like I actually do than any of the blank-slate protagonists I've had in the past.

    You raise a good point, though. DA2 is filled to the brim with design choices that either run contrary to how an RPG should work (like no two characters sharing the same selection of skills, despite there being only three classes, or not being able to adjust armor for party members, or etc.). I've been won over by the game because (so far) the writing is executed so well that I forgive it for its many mechanical sins. I wouldn't recommend it as a great RPG--and I simply cannot defend it as such--but as a lightweight game that's engaging enough to give me something to do while I enjoy a great cast of characters, I've been extremely pleased.

    @Althea:

    Like I said, I like her. She works best as a straight-woman for the more colorful cast members, but you have to admit that of all the party members available she's by far the least interesting. And by "interesting" I don't mean "likable" or "relatable" or "pleasant." Isabella is more interesting, but that's because she seems to be an alcoholic swashbuckler swimming with venereal disease (or she's going to Anders' clinic to get frequent abortions, which, to be fair, is certainly edgier).

    @The JG Man:

    I like Fenris! I'm actually trying to pursue a romance with him, which is challenging because his views on mages are rather, uh, hardline, which clashes with my view on the matter, and he frankly doesn't have many opportunities to flirt. Anders, on the other hand, is apparently extremely desperate, as a single flirtation with him has him promising to flood the streets in blood to protect me.

    @Bhazor:

    Oh, the plot has plenty of time to fall apart and piss me off. I don't mind the aimlessness at all, but that's just me; I recognize it, but it's compensated for by strong characterization. Good characters will always trump a weak plot for me.

  12. #12
    Lesser Hivemind Node Bhazor's Avatar
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    @ Sirkicksalot

    No, stuff happening out of nowhere is just bad writing. The city not changing in 15 years (down to the exact same people standing in the exact same spot) is just plain lazy. Rail roading the plot regardless of your choices is just insulting. They missed an opportunity to make a focused "small but deep" setting focused on a single city and just turned it into a three act story about saving the world except that story doesn't actually start until the third act.

    No being a rogue is almost always more interesting than playing a warrior but playing a rouge in DA2 was crap but overpowered. Crap because respawning enemies, enemies appearing out of dead ends and the average mob being 15 guys means theres no point sneaking. Over powered because their feats do mass stunlocks, or let you back stab characters from the front. The rogue was much better in DA:O and just because you haven't played rogue before doesn't mean this was a good example of it. Generally, the combat was a mess of aoe spam attacks.
    Last edited by Bhazor; 02-04-2012 at 12:15 AM.

  13. #13
    Lesser Hivemind Node Drinking with Skeletons's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bhazor View Post
    @ Sirkicksalot

    No, stuff happening out of nowhere is just bad writing. The city not changing in 15 years (down to the exact same people standing in the exact same spot) is just plain lazy. Rail roading the plot regardless of your choices is just insulting. They missed an opportunity to make a focused "small but deep" setting focused on a single city and just turned it into a three act story about saving the world except that story doesn't actually start until the third act.
    I can't make up my mind about the "lazy" argument. The map rehashing is awful, but the sheer amount of writing--including tons of moments where you can give conversations over to party members for wildly divergent outcomes--is at odds with that. I'd love to know how much freedom this team was given to make the game to their satisfaction (specifically in terms of time), because there's too much effort put into some areas for me to feel it's fair to write off the whole thing as "lazy."

  14. #14
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus SirKicksalot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bhazor View Post
    @ Sirkicksalot

    No, stuff happening out of nowhere is just bad writing.
    I don't understand why events that you have no control of are a bad thing. Shit happens... Too many games stick to narrative conventions or telegraph plot points hours in advance. It was refreshing to play a big RPG where I wasn't the center of the world. I mean, even in The Witcher you end up saving the world and factions and important characters ask for your permission to do pretty much everything.

    As for my rogue (with daggers) preference in this game, it's especially because it's the fastest and most mobile class in an already very fast and responsive game.

    Edit: At one point you suddenly fight the same boss for the second time (not sure if in another location) and Hawke is like "didn't I defeat this thing already?!" Someone at Bioware was aware they're fucking up...
    Last edited by SirKicksalot; 02-04-2012 at 12:30 AM.

  15. #15
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Malawi Frontier Guard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drinking with Skeletons View Post
    I like Fenris! I'm actually trying to pursue a romance with him, which is challenging because his views on mages are rather, uh, hardline, which clashes with my view on the matter, and he frankly doesn't have many opportunities to flirt. Anders, on the other hand, is apparently extremely desperate, as a single flirtation with him has him promising to flood the streets in blood to protect me.
    I want to have this paragraph stand separately and hear what you have to say about it after you finished the game.

  16. #16
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Kadayi's Avatar
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    @Drinking with Skeletons

    It's late, but in short glad you've discovered the delights of DAII. Certainly it suffers from some flaws, however I think far too many people made mountains out of molehills over lots of things and unfortunately a lot of people got swept up in the BioWare 'hate' to the extent that a lot of people who otherwise would likely have enjoyed it gave it a pass. Without getting too spoilerly I will say there's a moment of daftness towards the end that's never sat right with me (I'll let you figure out which part I mean), but in the interim enjoy the game (I thought the characters were great as well). Personally looking forward to when DAIII is offically announced.
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  17. #17
    Lesser Hivemind Node Bhazor's Avatar
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    Fun characters are the only thing Bioware does well anymore. Gameplay? Nope. Depth in terms of philosophy or commentary? Nope. Quest design? Hell no. Non linear narratives? Vaguely. . Characters with depth beyond "lol banter" and "fuck me now with your pants on" romance? Very rarely. Annoyingly DA:O did manage some depth with party members, with Morrigan being one of their most characters they've ever made, so relying so much on banter and smart asses felt like a real step back.

    @ Sirkicksalot
    Theres a difference between a "larger picture" narrative (like Witcher 1) and one where characters just appear out of nowhere to kill you. Or when major characters outright ignore the fact you spent the whole game defending them so that Bioware didn't have to design two different boss fights.

    The combat in DA2 is terrible. Horribly unbalanced to the point the designers were forced to spam enemies just to give some semblance of a challenge. The fact that a class moves faster than the others does not make it a good class. Seriously, play rogue in a decent RPG and see just how rubbish the DA2 version is.

    Quote Originally Posted by Drinking with Skeletons View Post
    [T]here's too much effort put into some areas for me to feel it's fair to write off the whole thing as "lazy."
    Wait for the final third.
    Last edited by Bhazor; 02-04-2012 at 01:18 AM.

  18. #18
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Althea View Post
    Out.

    Get out. There cannot possibly be anything boring about a redheaded female warrior in proper armour.
    I liked her. Manjaw and all.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bhazor View Post
    Fun characters are the only thing Bioware does well anymore. Gameplay? Nope. Depth in terms of philosophy or commentary? Nope. Quest design? Hell no. Non linear narratives? Vaguely. . Characters with depth beyond "lol banter" and "fuck me now with your pants on" romance? Very rarely. Annoyingly DA:O did manage some depth with party members, with Morrigan being one of their most characters they've ever made, so relying so much on banter and smart asses felt like a real step back.
    What game's come out recently with all that? Shit, Bioware gets closer than most.
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  19. #19
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus The JG Man's Avatar
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    DA2 had a surprisingly short development time. I think that's the pointer of where things went wrong. The fact that they cancelled an expansion pack so that they could better address issues for the inevitable DA3 is a good sign and whilst there were some narrative flaws in DA2 and Mass Effect 3, I'm confident that DA3 could be excellent. Considering the set-up at the end too, I'm excited.

    As for the ending of DA2 itself, I thought it was alright. I didn't think it was amazing, but I was happy to go along with it.
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  20. #20
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus SirKicksalot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bhazor View Post
    Or when major characters outright ignore the fact you spent the whole game defending them so that Bioware didn't have to design two different boss fights.

    The combat in DA2 is terrible. Horribly unbalanced to the point the designers were forced to spam enemies just to give some semblance of a challenge. The fact that a class moves faster than the others does not make it a good class. Seriously, play rogue in a decent RPG and see just how rubbish the DA2 version is.
    I interpreted that fight as an act of desperation. The dude just snapped. As for my thoughts on combat, feel free to quote me from this older thread. I like arguing about stuff like this.

    Quote Originally Posted by The JG Man View Post
    DA2 had a surprisingly short development time. I think that's the pointer of where things went wrong. The fact that they cancelled an expansion pack so that they could better address issues for the inevitable DA3 is a good sign and whilst there were some narrative flaws in DA2 and Mass Effect 3, I'm confident that DA3 could be excellent. Considering the set-up at the end too, I'm excited.
    DA2 had the development time of Baldur's Gate 2, or of the average Bioware RPG really. I think the expansion was cancelled because DA2's sales cratered after the first weeks. Initially it sold better than DAO but it dropped like a rock. Bioware mentioned there's no retailer interest for an Ultimate edition... That's pretty bad.

    If I remember correctly, the first potential DA3 art we saw is of Cassandra... Bioware redecorated their office last year and one of the "setpieces" was a Cassandra painting on an elevator door.

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