[Dragon Age 2] Initial Impressions

da2_act2 Hawke and companions in Act 2 – other companies please note how armour on women can look cool without showing lots of thigh.

I am a big fan of Bioware games, I loved Dragon Age Origins despite its faults, and I’m enjoying the heck out of Dragon Age 2.

Things I love about DA2:

  • I enjoy that it’s all set in the same city and that you WILL get to see how people, NPCs, and factions change and interact over time. Some of that will be connected to things you have done, and some won’t. We very rarely get this type of setup in games, it’s the holy grail of phasing in games like WoW, but single player games can do it better.
  • (Downside: It’s all set in the same city and surrounding areas. Areas do get reused. The city itself doesn’t really change all that much through the years, not as much as most real cities probably would.)
  • I like that in Act 1 I was an unknown noob in the city whereas by Act 2 I have an actual mansion in Hightown and some finery to wear (admittedly the finery looks like a school uniform but it’s not armour!) I’ve no idea what Act 3 may hold in store. It feels as though there is a simulationist element (e.g. you could imagine a game where you have to build up your resources in addition to doing the quests) even though there really isn’t.
  • I also enjoy seeing how actions I took in Act 1 are affecting people in Act 2. Some of this I think is fairly subtle but focussing in on one city does allow this type of storytelling.
  • I’m enjoying the writing, and in particular the companions are great. I don’t LIKE them all, but I enjoy them all as characters. Aveline is a particular winner and a character type we don’t see all that often – she’s a straight edge city guard who tries to do the right thing but isn’t very good at out of the box thinking. The scene where you try to help her chat up a fellow guardsman is painfully hilarious. Her banter with Isabela is also awesome. Varric is also possibly the best written dwarf ever.
  • (Downside: I’m not sure how great a character Hawke really is. Certainly she has a talent for kicking arse and taking names, especially on casual difficulty levels. I am having fun with her, but I keep feeling that the NPCs just seem like better characters.)
  • I also ended up with Anders (pictured on the left) as my love interest, despite the fact he’s quite possibly totally hatstand. Still, at least Hawke got to find out whether a wizard’s staff has a knob on the end :P I find that Bioware take their love interests terribly seriously in this game, it’s all twoo lurve and moving in together after knowing each other for a few years, and not so much a quick shag and then off for breakfast (I guess you’d probably have to play The Witcher for more of the latter.)
  • I enjoy the faster pace of the fighting and I have no issues about turning the difficulty down if a fight is hard. I like having the options and 2H warrior Hawke is rather awesome at mowing down mooks. (A handy talent since mooks seem to teleport into fights in constant waves.)
  • Does DA2 feel rushed? I’m not sure. Certainly there is a lot of resuse of areas, dungeons et al. However, it is supposed to all be set in the same city. I’d say possibly rushed but at the same time, what they were trying to do does work.
  • Giving the character a family to use as plot points does work. There is a whiff of the ‘dependent NPC’ to it all, ie. getting extra character points for having dependent NPCs whose sole purpose is to get into trouble and need rescuing or provide fodder for NPC enemies, but I feel that giving a PC more background in terms of friends, family, and other history does provide for some good story hooks.

One thing I’m not so sure about is what replayability willl be like. I feel as though I have been doing all of the available sidequests and I’m not sure how different it would really be on a second playthrough, even though playing as a mage might be quite interesting.

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18 thoughts on “[Dragon Age 2] Initial Impressions

  1. There seems to be a fair bit of replayability in choosing different dialogue stances – Hawke’s conversation style and even ambient lines have changed quite a bit in my second playthrough. Plus there seems to be more viable combat builds, so you should be able to approach fights quite differently.

  2. skipping past the things I agree on, and straight to Hawke as a character (since that is where I disagree). You say he/she is a boring character compared to the others… Well, yea, Hawke is boring, if you play Hawke boringly. What I mean is, that if you only take the middleground, you’ll get a wishy-washy character.
    in my opinion, Hawke is, what he/she is supposed to be: A blank slate, you put your persona into him. Or the persona you chose to play.
    In my first playthrough (im at the verge of act 3 I think) im playing him as a straight guy who is trying to do his best and protect his family above everything else, next time I’ll play her as a rogue who is in it for the money.

    …Can’t wait.

    My one grief with the game (that just might turn into it’s strenght) is that the story takes forever to develop. I don’t mind playing as a cog in the machine of some greater story, but when you get 12 hours into a game, and your only overall goal is still “get some coin, and go to deep roads”, you get a little bored. Granted once act two starts, things get going, but up until then, it seems a little without a point.

    • I’m not sure about Hawke, I felt my warden in DAO had more personality really (she was quite like Varric in some ways, a wise cracking casteless dwarf with dubious moral compass). This time, Hawke just feels a bit charmless sometimes – I try to use the sarky/ wisecracking options and she just isn’t funny. It seems to work a bit better if you go straight down the line nice or forceful.

      I also think that the plot starts slowly deliberately to let you get a feel for the city.

  3. I completed this as a Warrior (male) just yesterday evening. I then started playing a Mage, intending to go more for the hard-ass dialog choices. So far not a lot of differences, though there are subtle ones.

    As a Warrior you stand up for Bethany against Aveline’s Templar husband (right in the beginning). As a Mage you sort of face off with him, but don’t come to blows. Your ‘aggressive’ dialog option switches from reminding him that he has to go through you to get at Bethany to suggesting Aveline keep him under control.

    Bethany dies to the Ogre instead of Carver – I think that was obvious and a way for Bioware to give you a more balanced group.

    The main question that raises is what happens after the Deep Road expedition?

    I haven’t gotten much farther than picking which group I’ll ally with to get into Kirkwall.

    RE: love interests: Being a typical male, I went with the easy girl as my love interest – Isabella. The ‘love’ scene was definitely better in the fact that it wasn’t tasteless (Isabella pounces on your and you stagger back onto your bed, flash forward to Isabella buckling her belt or something) and didn’t seem as tentative or dramatic as in DA:O (again, sort of like ME:2).

    It seems they made Anders and, possibly, Fenris options for male characters if you’re so inclined.

  4. Quite interesting that my Hawke is looking exactly like yours (the only difference is the bright red hair and rogue class), has the same companions and is in love with Anders.
    Anders was absolutely lovely since Awakening, it was a shame that Warden-Commander was not allowed relationships. You simply must hear Anders’ conversations with Fenris the mage-hater (put Fenris in place of Aveline in some missions) and Merrill the blood mage (switch out Varric for this).

  5. it feels to much like a consolegame. dont get me wrong… i like consolegames… but there are games that do it better than this one. not talking about the story… just the feel of the game.

  6. Anders weirdly went from a character I liked quite a lot in Awakening to someone I would happily punch in the throat in DA2.

    On the other hand, I would cheerfully play a game where they swapped out Hawke for Varric as the main character.

  7. in terms of romantic options, every romancable character goes for everyone regardless of the gender, although IMO the only character t fits like a glove to – is Isabella.

    I’m with Simon Jones in my view of Anders – he’s not even Anders anymore, just someone who looks like him..sorta. retcons ftw?

  8. I’m about 7 hours in, playing nice and slow on easy mode – I’m an MMO player not a hardcore console gamer but I’m loving sitting on the couch and having an adventure! My Hawke is a bit of a wisecracking mage but she’s got a soft side that may come back to haunt her – and she’s got steel when I need her to. She’s not involved with anyone (yet?) and I have the same issue I did in the first Dragon Age where I can’t quite separate myself from my character enough to let her get involved. Every time I had my Warden say something flirty to Alistair I felt guilty for not saying real flirty things to my husband! Which is probably why my Warden never went past the “Alistair has a big puppy crush on you” stage.

    Varric is all kinds of awesome and I am having serious affection for Aveline. I keep trying to make choices that will make her more my friend but I guess wrong half the time :(

    I didn’t really like Anders in Awakening so no real comment about him here except he seems kind of… stereotypical.

  9. Beat it with my Male Warrior Hawke(my main whom i have a lot of save games with to go back and tinker with) and I think he’s got decent personality. Ended up with Fenris romanced, of course, who is probably my favorite elf in a fantasy game, ever; with Varric as my favorite dwarf in a fantasy game, ever. I loved how they made the Dwarf SO different than the typical fantasy dwarf that we know; and they turned the elf dude into the brutally strong neck snapping murder machine(with possibly one of the best VAs in the game, if not the best, though Varric’s is fantastic.) My Hawke tank/Fenris/Varric/Bethany then Anders party just rocked.

    All the characters are good though(though Anders….) with cool personalities. Aveline and Izzy have hilarious banter, though Fenris and Varric also have great banter. Playing again with a female mage Hawke and mages are MAD fun. You can build for AoE, some ST, Control, Healy, Shieldy Healy, and all kinds of stuff. Knowing how much you like the support mage archetype(gleaned from many of your blogs) I think you’ll fall in love with it due to it having the most options in the game.

    I think I liked this more than DA: O all told; I know I like the cast and how they synergize more, and the overall gameplay as well.

    • I am quite tempted to try a mage :) I haven’t been playing much with Fenris since my Hawke is also a 2H warrior and … he seems a bit boring to talk to *hide* so maybe that’s also something I could do next time around.

      I’m going to disagree on Anders, I think he’s quite an interesting chap. He does have empathy, and a lot of internal conflict but I forgive him a lot because he was so damn nice after my in game mum died, exactly the sort of emotional support you might want from a real love interest. He even sat there and took it when I was saying that mages were just too dangerous, and pointed out that the killer did it because he was nuts, not because he was a mage.

      Sadly there wasn’t a dialogue option where you got to cry on his shoulder, but I kind of felt that it would have fitted and that’s — for me — a really interesting emotional response for me to have to an NPC.

  10. Yeah, I thought the same about Anders for awhile…;)(Not that I don’t think he’s interesting-he’s very interesting-but without spoiling stuff I wanted to tear my hair out.)

    Fenris, see, throws people off. There’s a few types of characters out there; okay, more than a few. But you have a guy like Varric; he’s interesting without even having to chat him up too much. Then you have the opposite; they’re dull as dishwater no matter what you do. Then there’s guys like Fenris; characters who don’t SEEM that deep, but the more you use them and talk them up/hear them talk, you get to know a LOT more about them. I think because he’s that ‘brutal murdertrain’ archetype he gets lumped in with the ‘dull’ but it’s far from the truth I think.

    In other words, some characters have more Tamagotchi in them than others. You need to put into them before they give back. :D (My mage game has a Carver/Fenris/Varric. Problem is-I love Fenris and Varric so much I can’t bear to leave them out. I just know I’ll never get an elf and dwarf like this again in a fantasy game so I want to take advantage.)

  11. Pingback: Dragon Age II Travelogue: Skipping ahead | Ex Post Ninja

  12. Personally I think the payoff for taking the gruffer conversation options is really during Aveline’s courting mission.

    My favorite companion is Merril, even wound up convincing her to move in with me the second time around.
    “You rather remind me of Paival Heien, Varric.” “Do I?” “Well, a bit shorter, and more chest hair, but you tell stories, and he tells stories. Although, most of his don’t start out, ‘No shit, so there I was…’.” “Really. Well I’ll have to give him pointers some time.”

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