Review By: Siou Choy
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Let’s start this one off by getting straight to the point, shall we? Dragon Age II, comparatively speaking, is a rather sorry follow up to 2009’s superlative Dragon Age: Origins and its subsequent expansion pack Dragon Age: Awakenings. There you go, it’s been said. Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
This time around you play as “the Champion of Kirkwall.” Exactly why you’re considered a hero or champion is never adequately explained, nor is it in any way borne out in the story that follows. Yes, it’s yet another case of the word “hero” being bandied about at random and without justification…something we’ve been hearing far too often post 9-11. Are you in law enforcement or the military? If so, did you get up and go to work today? Why, under the new semantics, then congratulations, you’re a hero! Reality check: you did your job, a career you chose and for which you’re being paid…same as everyone else in the world. I’ll make an exception for firemen, who do a dangerous job that actually helps people. Otherwise? “Hero” my @$$. And that’s the level we’re operating on here, in Dragon Age II. So you’re an amoral, unimportant sellsword who more or less does nothing to benefit anyone beyond yourself, whose actions have no real impact on the world around you, on any given scale. But dammit, somehow you’re a “hero” and “champion of Kirkwall”. Yeah, right.
While you still get a choice of which class you belong to (mage, warrior or rogue), you can no longer choose race (i.e. dwarves and elves are out). You’re stuck playing as human, which not only carries an undertone of symbolic racism to it, but significantly limits the likelihood of repeat playthroughs. In Dragon Age: Origins you had six openings to play, but here the openings for all three classes are pretty much identical, and having played as both rogue and mage, gameplay appears to follow suit. More annoying is how Bioware disallowed customization of preset male and female character designs. While I did like what they offered in a lot of respects, I naturally wanted to customize to personal taste – but the game pulls a fascist on us and says it’s all or nothing, schweinhund. You can customize from other ready made characters, but none look as nice as the default used in the first few minutes of the game, even post customization. They don’t even offer you the same hairstyle!
One nice improvement is how this time around your character gets an actual voice. When you chose an option from the dialogue wheel, you actually get to hear your character speak. Additionally, voice acting seems to be well done for the most part, despite being locked into that bizarre new trend of all sword & sorcery having to be delivered in piss-poor approximations of Australian or British accents – sorry, but I just don’t get it. As in Dragon Age: Origins you can choose from several lines of dialogue to direct the conversation, ostensibly running the gamut from conciliatory to sarcastic and finally to aggressive. The reality of the situation is that the dialogue as spoken doesn’t quite follow along the lines written. On numerous occasions, despite choosing a snarky reply, I was much chagrined to hear my character deliver a rather safe and conciliatory soliloquy…not exactly what I was shooting for there, buddy. OK, I’m going to put this idiot in his place…oh, wait, it sounds like I’m kissing his @$$...ARRRGGGHHH! Frigging Bioware!
Dragon Age: Origins was sword & sorcery, D&D style action adventure on a grand scale. Your character literally changed the world, bringing a long lost alliance between nations and races back into fruition. Talk about impact! They write legends about people like that…by contrast, Dragon Age II revolves around some minor lowlife sellsword, muddling his or her way around a few dumpy towns, accomplishing and impacting pretty much nothing in the grand scheme of things. Talk about diminished expectations and grading on a curve…this is the No Child Left Behind take on Dragon Age.
Posted: 2012-01-15 13:29:42 PST