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Dragon Age 2 – Full Written Review

Dragon Age 2 – Full Written Review

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Dragon Age 2 was not at all what I expected. Of course, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I knew the game wasn’t a true sequel to Dragon Age: Origins, and I vaguely knew it was going to be about the same time frame, but other than that, I went into the game with little knowledge, but high expectations of a good story. For the most part, Bioware has once again crafted a great game with compelling characters and a decent storyline. You play as Hawke, a refugee from Lothering who makes their way to Kirkwall, where you will eventually become The Champion. You can play as either a male or female, with the basic Mage/Warrior/Rogue classes. For this review I played through as a female warrior, and am currently on my second play-through as a female rogue. As with most of my reviews, I break it down to the Good, The Average, The Bad, and the Romance. This review is for the Xbox 360 version, and I will keep it as spoiler-free as possible, although expect some minor ones.



The Good: Some of the best parts of Dragon Age 2 are the characters and their interactions. Once again, Bioware has done a great job of creating characters that you not only care about, but are more than one dimensional. Some of the background dialogue was hilarious, and there were times when I stopped moving just to hear them finish out a conversation. The writing was so good I found myself bringing different characters to different missions just to hear the banter between them. Each character has a unique personality, and learning how to interact with them to get their friendship or rivalry up was a challenge. The rivalry/friendship aspect was also fascinating. Making someone a rival wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as competition is good. Someone with 100% rivalry unlocked different skills and still made them loyal to you, though in a different way.

The graphics and the voice acting were also excellent. Without giving away any spoilers, some of the characters from Dragon Age: Origins return at different times, depending on if you imported a save from Dragon Age: Origins or went with a set background of your choice. The graphics and visual style were given an overhaul, for the better. The art direction was excellent, and some of the areas were gorgeous. Your main character has a voice this time around, and the dialogue tree is styled similar to the Mass Effect games. Icons show you how your response is going to sound. You can tailor your responses to 3 overarching types: the helpful, peaceful personality, the smartass who jokes around, and the hardass who is slightly arrogant. The more you use a certain personality type, the more your character begins to spout lines in cut scenes that match how you have been playing. So if you have been playing as the joker, during a random cut scene your character automatically jokes around. This system makes you feel invested in your character as a whole, and makes you feel like you created someone that is true to you and your style.



The Average: The combat system has been changed since the original story. I have heard mixed reviews of it, but overall I enjoyed the combat system. For those players who enjoy a true RPG experience where you micromanage every movement of your party, you will be disappointed. It’s still possible, but takes a lot of work. I was happy to set up some tactics for my party members (for some reason none of them had any healing tactics set automatically- and it took me forever to figure out why they all kept dying,) and then letting them go about their business. The combat was much smoother- you press a button and your character just flies into action. At the beginning, there is a little of button mashing and hitting the “A” button, but after you level up a few times, you can map your talents to different buttons. I found myself increasingly using different tactics for different bad guys, and the button mapping helped.

The inventory system has also been streamlined. The good part about that is all the junk you pick up is literally put in a slot called “trash can.” There is no secret trick- if an item you pick up shows up in this part of your inventory, you can safely sell it. The not great part of the inventory system is that most items don’t have a name anymore. For example, all rings are just called “ring” and have a different number of stars next to it. The higher the stars, the better the ring is. Once again, for someone who loves a pure RPG, this will not be a welcome change. For the casual player though, this is a welcome relief.

I personally loved the story, but I know there are many people who weren’t as fond of it. And since this review isn’t just all about me, I will look at the different aspects. The story is a break from Dragon Age: Origins. There is no real “ending goal” that you know of at the beginning. The story is told in a framing narrative, with one of your companions, Varric, telling the story of The Champion of Kirkwall (you) to a Chantry Seeker named Cassandra and the fight between the Templars and the Mages. You know something big happens, but not exactly what that thing is. It is truly a story of your life over 10 years. The story is broken up into a prologue and three acts, with a few main quests in each act, but a ton of side and companion quests too. People have lamented that there are too many side quests, but side quests do play an important role. They shape how people in the city look upon you, and slowly you begin to take a side:- Templar or Mage. I found this storyline to be fascinating, and watching someone you helped (or didn’t help) show up 3 or 4 years later could either be an awesome thing, or bite you in the ass. That mage you helped in act 1? They could come back as a blood mage in act 3 and try to kill you. Your decisions have consequences, and all the choices are morally grey – very few are black and white.



The Bad: The only really bad element to me was the lack of dungeon/mansion maps. They reused the same 5 or 6 maps for every dungeon or mansion you went into. This got to be boring and repetitive over time. Would it have killed them to create a few more different maps?

The Romance: Bioware really outdid themselves with the romance options this time around. There are four romance options, two men and two women, and they are all able to be romanced by either a male or a female protagonist. Well played, Bioware. It’s so rare to see bisexuality in a video game, that this pretty much blew me away. The two male romance options are Anders and Fenris, and the female options are Merrill and Isabella. In my first playthrough I thought for sure I was going for the rogue sea captain Isabella…. and then Merrill opened her mouth. Merrill is played by Torchwood actress Eve Myles, and I had no clue she was doing a voice in the game. In about two hot seconds I had changed my mind and went after Merrill. It takes awhile to be able to romance anyone (think in terms of years) but it was worth it. I did have a good laugh that you can ask her to move in with you the day after you sleep with her. I had about a thousand lesbian U-Haul jokes running through my head, but I’ll refrain from putting them in this review. Merrill was pretty easy to romance, and in my current game I am going after Isabella, and it is much trickier to win her heart.

If you have bought the DLC The Exiled Prince, you have the option of a fifth romance with Sebastian. Only women can romance him, and from what I hear it’s a very chaste romance with no option of “closing the deal.” Not really my thing, but some people might enjoy going for that.
I enjoyed that the romance wasn’t just a one-time thing. If you visit your home at night, your love interest might be there and start up a unique conversation. If you bring them along on a quest, there might be some hilarious dialogue between them and the other companions about your relationship. During one quest a NPC (non playable character) was flirting with me and Merrill got jealous. Her comments made me laugh out loud. In general, the romance aspect was well written, well acted, and well thought out.

Overall, I thought the game was fun, the storyline compelling, and the ending made me scream “there better be a third game!” They ended the story on a cliffhanger that will make me storm the Bioware offices if they don’t make another game to answer the burning questions they left the players with. The gameplay was decent, the graphics excellent, and the chances of you playing this game multiple times to see different scenarios is quite high. As a lesbian gamer, the romances were just the icing on the cake, albeit a very tasty rainbow-uhaul-gay cake. I would recommend picking up this game, but be prepared to have 50+ hours of your life sucked away…. in a good way.

Review by: Dany, aka Xan

“Dragon Age II” gets the L Word group scene rating. That is to say some of the greatest parts of The L Word were always when the gang got together, the banter, the adventure, the friendship and loves. “Dragon Age II is brilliant fun and will keep you busy for many many hours.

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23 Responses to “Dragon Age 2 – Full Written Review”

  1. Shan says:

    Great review Xan.
    So glad you included who the lesbian romantic interests are in the game, I did wonder.

    Thank you BioWare
    Sure I know they’ll probably never see this thank you, but it’s there for prosperity.

  2. Merf says:

    Good reveiew, better then alot of he reveiws i have read. I did even know there was a site like this! Very awesome! Will bookmark it. ( :

  3. Xan says:

    @Shan Thanks! I now have all my friends messaging me on xbox to help them with the walkthrough of romancing the characters. I feel like the Video Game Matchmaker.

  4. skeezy says:

    Thought I reconized some repeat dungeons and things! Just added in a few doors or rocks, but defnitiely the same. This begs the question why? Seriously Bioware are without a doubt my favorite dev. Partly down to the same sex romance options, partly down to the attention to detail, this seemed a bit sloppy. Still hasn’t stopped me playing for 18 hours and counting heh

  5. Julie says:

    Nice review Xan. I’ve played a bit of the game. I like the sidequests. It’s great for a gamer who doesn’t have much time to actually game. I can pick a sidequest and usually finish it in less than a hour, some are even shorter. I chose to play as a Rogue for my first play through. I’m not sure which to choose next. Normally I never play a Mage as I like going up close, but I have taken over control of Merrill a few times and it’s kind of fun unleashing spells on large groups.

    I haven’t started on the romance options yet, but it’s nice to have 2 choices to pick between. I have Merrill and just only recently got Isabella. I’m guessing I’ll play twice and try each of them.

    The battle system’s a mixed bag for me, sometimes I like it’s simplicity and other times it’s frustrating trying to get the others characters to do what I really want them to do. I hate the management system for all the items that I pick up, the items are usually junk which I don’t want. I want nice items. :)

    Graphics and voice acting are definitely great. I love listening to the lovely accents the characters have and you’re right, they do all seem to have unique personalities. Even the NPC’s often have differing ones.

  6. Maggie says:

    Like Merf, I had no prior knowledge of this site’s existence until I googled “Dragon Age 2 lesbian love interest”. Awesome.

    Also, great review! Very comprehensive. I’m so stoked to play this…COME IN THE MAIL FASTER, DAMN YOU.

  7. Revolos55 says:

    All hail Xan, Lesbian Gamer Romance Guru ;)

  8. Bonnie says:

    Oooh Xan, awesome review. I had never heard of this game but two things make me want to check it out: Eve Myles and the possibility of playing as a lady romancing a lady. :D I haven’t really bought any new games for the PC lately, as I’ve been playing Wii games more and more, but may have to get this one.

    I will definitely let you know if and when I get my hands on this game (and Eve Myles)… :)

  9. lippylez says:

    Xan,

    Sweet review! As you’ve played the game through maybe you can help me.

    How do I romance Merril? I keep trying to talk to her in her house and all she says is something like “oh gee willikers why is my house always a mess when people come over, it’s clean sometimes honest.”

    I think you are meant to talk to her one on one, but I’ve even tried choosing just her in the party selection and then going to her house and get the same thing. How the f*ck do you get to talk to JUST her to try and woo her a bit?

    Help!

  10. Xanadugrrl says:

    @lippylez are you on Xbox live? Message me on my gamertag XanDany and I can walk you through it- It’s a little complicated, and takes a long time to do.

    @Merf- Thanks! I am glad you enjoyed it!

    @Skeezy- I have also been playing *mumbles* hours… so no fear!

    @Julie- I really think the battle system is a personal preference. I have heard from many people they either really like it or hate it.

    @Maggie- be prepared to have many hours of your life sucked away.

    @Rev- I know you are just jealous, my friend. :)

    @Bonnie- you will probably need to upgrade your computer with decent graphics/sound cards- but it is well worth it.

  11. Jax says:

    One of my guy friends has a tendency to play as chicks and it wasn’t until he mentioned romancing Merrill that I realized we could romance her. I also went into the game sure I’d just romance Isabela who I do like but Merrill. jfkdfkfdfd She is adorable on ten different levels. Hell I even kinda wanted to romance Fenris because I have the urge to give him a hug. Maybe if I replay it a third time. :P

    A lot of people complained about Bioware allowing everyone to be bisexual but I love ‘em for it. :D

  12. faith in buffy says:

    Before I got this game I was worried that I might not like the companions as much as I did in Origins. But DA2 has some really great characters, Merril being . Not long before I got DA2 I was thinking about the complete lack of Welsh characters in video games and then Merril comes along.

  13. writer-jm says:

    OMG! I had the same reaction to Merrill! Even though I didn’t know the actress, I was like: “Hey, she’s as cute as Tali!” (but with an actual romance chance) I managed to hold off mental U-haul jokes because I immediately paused the game and messaged my friend to demand she buy the game ASAP!

  14. Lexi says:

    Great review, I accidentally romanced Merrill after sleeping with Isabela (which leads to a glitch in Varric’s telling of the epilogue).

    As to the maps, it’s a two part problem. One, they wanted it to be completely voiced, and that takes space and secondly, it’s the multiplatform development that’s hamstringing developers. When you’re limited to 8GB (the 360), you have to cut corners or you have to start adding more and more discs. People don’t want 4, 5, or even 6 discs just to play a game that PS3 gamers have on one.

  15. W says:

    Good review, and I’m happy to see another person who enjoyed the game. (and one whose review will be seen and read by more than just one angry forum)

    You touched on everything pretty well here, so I don’t have much more to add. I will say that not installing Sebastian in my first play-through increased the later replay value of the game.

    (Also, if you get the “black emporium” material, the Mirror of Transformation becomes a wonderful RP tool, as you can change your character’s hair and such as the years go by)

  16. Hyphen says:

    I’m so glad I read this review. After reading some of the arguments on the Bioware forums I assumed you had to be playing a bloke to have the gay romance option. Ta for the tip!

    I’m playing the first game now and loving it. I wasn’t going to buy the second (not a fan of button-mashers), but as I’ve wished that every CRPG I’ve played had these options I’ll give 2 a go.

  17. Apollonia says:

    I had some romantic options with Eveline, too. But was at this time already in a “relationship” with Isabella.

  18. Justice is Cheap says:

    Hey, just started playing DA:2 and you are so right about it sucking away hours of your life. I “finished” DA:O (couldn’t complete the big battle ’cause of a bug) and went out and got this. I am so impressed with the graphics in DA:2 and that Hawke talks (and we get to see her face more often, unlike DA:O).

    @Apollonia- AFAIKT, you can “romance” Aveline but nothing comes of it. Just friendship, no u-haul.

    @Xan- Any tips for other PS3 games (I know you’re Xbox’in it) that have female bi characters or is DA alone in its field?

  19. Xan says:

    Wow, thanks for all the feedback- you guys are awesome!

    @Justice is Cheap- I have to admit, I am more of a xbox gamer, and I did a little research, but I didn’t find many for the PS3 games. I may be wrong, but I think you can romance female characters in Fallout: New Vegas as a female.

    @Apollonia- You can flirt with Avaline, but you can’t romance her. That’s too bad, I enjoyed talking with her a lot.

    @W- Sebastian was an interesting character- I actually did not use him very much- and his “holier then thou” attitude really got on my nerves, so I tended to leave him alone. I only play his side quests for one reason… the reappearance of a Dragon Age: Origin character.

    @Hyphen I avoid the Bioware forums like the PLAGUE.

    @Lexi- I actually slept with Isabela and then romanced Merrill ON PURPOSE. I am a terrible, terrible person for it.

    @Writer-Jm I am still cracking U-Haul jokes with Merril. It was hilarious.

    @faith_n_Buffy the characters are some of the best parts… except for Sebastian.. i’m still not a fan.

    @Jax the replay value to romance most of the characters is very high. I sense my summer is going to be given to the Dragon Age Gods.

  20. W says:

    @Xan; Sebastian is an interesting character, I like the fact that he stands out as his own amidst the others, but – yeah – only one of my characters (out of 4) has actually got along with him so far.

  21. Karmen says:

    Xan – during what quest or side quest does Merrill make the jealous remark to a NPC? I’ve romanced her and I love her lines.

  22. Wolfcat says:

    So glad that someone gave this game a great review. It really inspired me in a lot of ways and gave me hope for video games out there to be more accepting of same sex couple options.
    And yes, I did the same thing. I had planned to go after Isabela and then Merrill showed up and I couldn’t ignore how adorable she was!

  23. spotticus says:

    Just bought this yesterday. Can’t wait to start playing, but alas, I am in the midst of another replay of DA: Origins, so it might be a little while to get to DA2. Thanks for the heads up on the romance options. Nice review Xan!

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