It seems I am unable to review Dragon Age games without making comparisons to Mass Effect, so I might as well just roll with it. However, where I felt Dragon Age: Origins was better in some ways than Mass Effect, Dragon Age 2 is far, far worse than its Mass Effect equivalent. I had complained, after playing ME2, that the game felt very short; it felt like a filler meant to buy time until they figured out what came next. Still, ME2 featured a strong enough story on its own and some memorable, well-developed supporting characters. Not to mention the continued development of Shepard. While I was angry that the DLC for the game should have been part of it and not extra, these too added to an overall, well written story.
Dragon Age 2? I’m late to the party, so everyone else has already reported on the lolplot, game mechanics and zone reskins that confirm that this game was rushed. This game definitely feels like filler, but it is filled with, well, crap that makes it obvious that its real purpose is to cash in on the popularity of its predecessor by setting it in the same world and making vague connections to DAO. I direct a large part of my hatred to Act I, which involves hours of questing so that Hawke can earn money. Certainly, all games having a questing element that is usually carefully disguised to extend game play, build character reputation and make money. DA2 creatively disguised this process as “Do lots of quests to build your reputation and make money for 2 years.” The story ... well... far into Act II, I still have no idea what Hawke’s purpose is nor what the major conflict is to be.
No, that’s not true, I gathered that the mages versus the templars is to be a thing, but my brain is still trying to comprehend where the darkspawn have gone. You see, my DAO epilogue specifically said that, while the archdemon had been defeated, the darkspawn are still vast in number and continued to spread into the other realms. And then there’s that pesky Architect with his new breed of thinking, feeling darkspawn. So when DA2 starts with Hawke running from darkspawn and later meeting Grey Wardens heading off on a super secret mission, I kind of assume that darkspawn are still an issue.
Evidently, Bioware does not like to continue storylines involving the word “dark,” but at least the mysterious dark energy from ME was not a prominent enough plot point for it to be greatly missed when Bioware decided not to continue with Drew Karpshyn’s original story concepts. But Bioware has since confirmed that DA3 will have nothing to do with the Grey Warden character from DAO. There will be a new protagonist for us to play with.
Well, I suppose we have the Hero of Ferelden and the Champion of Kirkwall. It only makes sense to return to the thesaurus to give us the Conqueror of Orlais. I’m not happy about not being able to continue my hero or champion, save through DLC, but that’s my problem because Shepard has spoiled me. There’s really nothing wrong with Hawke and this new protagonist’s stories taking place in the same realm as the Grey Warden from DAO. But Bioware, don’t tell me that my decisions with these other characters matter if that simply means throwing in a vague reference here or placing a familiar character there. I’m not going to speculate on DA3 save to say that I am holding on to a tiny thread of hope that Bioware and EA now have an idea of what “artistic integrity” actually means and will give us a DA3 that I will want to spend my money on. At the moment, I’m glad my husband found DA2 in a clearance bin.
Truth is, I am about midway through Act II of DA2, writing this review. I have no clue where the game is going. I would like to hope that I will be pleasantly surprised when I finally get to Act III (which shouldn’t take long, according to my friend. See? Act I really was just about stretching out game play).
So why am I still playing? Indoctrination, perhaps. Possibly because, for the first time, I have delved into the magical world of PC game mods and am having a fun time making my characters look the way I want them to. Partially because I’m curious. I’ve come this far, why wouldn’t I finish? And because I haven’t slept with Anders and Fenris yet. I’m a sucker for Bioware’s companion characters and supporting cast. Not just for the sexy time value, but because they are usually very intriguing and unique and are what truly make these games for me. At least Bioware manages to get that part right every time.
Well. Except for Diana Allers.