back to article Dragon Age II

Dragon Age 2, sequel to 2009’s Dragon Age: Origins, plunges us once more into the realm of swords and sorcery – even adapting its history based on your Origins' saved game (if you have one). However, in terms of style and gameplay, there is perhaps more here that fans of Mass Effect will find familiar than series veterans. …


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  1. David Lucke

    Interesting comparison choice here

    Would have prefered more, or indeed any, comparison to the previous title, to be honest. That's certainly what I'll be comparing it to.

  2. Vometia

    Nice game, shame about the EULA

    Although I've been looking forward to this game for months (and have therefore rather skimmed this review for fear of spoilers!) it does seem to have been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding EA's "account bans" (see links below). I guess those of us who wish to be able to play without interruption should be careful what sort of opinions are expressed on their forums... So much of EA's bold claims that its days of restrictive DRM are behind them. :(

    RockPaperShotgun article:

    Relevant Bioware thread:


  3. Clive Galway

    Been playing since Tues and this game is FAIL

    BTW for future reference, a free demo of FlyVPN gave me a US IP and allowed me to unlock my copy on the 8th.

    You really should have compared it against DA:O, because that is where it falls short. If there had been no DA:O, then yes this game may be worth 80%, but IMHO compared to DA:O a score of ~40% (Which is what the user rating is on metacritic at the moment) is probably more accurate.


    - The whole thing is pretty much set in Kirkwall, a city that feels like a quake level. It feels a lot less open than DA:O. At no point do you ever set foot in a city or town other than kirkwall, you just port instantly to the other locations in the game.

    - Character customization is very limited. No longer can you use multiple weapons for each companion, they are limited only to the weapon type they started with (One handed or two handed). You cannot even equip a one handed sword and shield to a companion that started off with a two hander. Forget about bows, there is only one companion who can use them (Sebastian), or you if you choose that route. The PC is the only character who can use multiple types of weapon.

    - WAY too many items are for Hawke (The PC) only. Including the Blood Dragon armour DLC. If you are not a warrior, the BD armour DLC is utterly useless. Also, many items for sale in the shops are equipable by Hawke only. WTF??

    - Companions get no specializations, whereas Hawke gets two (Lvl 7 and 14). A major step down from DA:O

    - Combat is WAY too easy, even on hard. You must use Nightmare level to get anything approaching a challenge. Even then, I have not spent any level up points for the last 5 levels and I am still hosing everything with ease.

    - The graphics suck on the PC platform. Very low poly.

    - JRPG style weapons which look ridiculous.

    - OTT animations with mages shooting fireballs through their legs. Just plain silly.

    - No overhead view, so targetting AoE spells is a real ballache at times.

    - Map re-use: Many maps (eg caves etc) are re-used over and over, but sometimes they don't use the whole map so they just place unopenable doors to block off certain bits. The whole map still shows up on your minimap tho, so it just confuses you.

    - The storage chest is inside a house that removes all companions from the party when you enter it, so it is impossible to gear your party from the storage chest, you have to dump everything on Hawke, leave the house and form the party, equip them, go back into the house and dump the surplus gear back in the chest. What a pain!

    So overall a major step down from DA:O. Lots of stuff that we loved has been ripped out, leaving a lowest common denominator bullshit game.

    1. Maxson

      You misunderstand what a review should be...

      A review shouldn't be a comparison to anything, the game should be rated as it's own product unless it is an addon to another product. Comparing it to dragon age origins should not lower it's score. The score is given for the product, not for the product in relation. Think how you'd feel about it if DA:O Never existed.

      The game is good, I'd rate it late 70s early 80s if I must give it a number. I admit to being a bit disappointed with some of it's oversimplifications, but I'm also very pleased with the fact combat now doesn't feel as though it lumbers along, and the fact the game looks considerably better than it's prequel, especially when it comes to facial textures and animations.

      As for your points:

      -I found nightmare harder than DA:O on it's hardest difficulty, and I've completed DA:O with 0 main character deaths on it's highest difficulty playing a gimped rogue.

      -I am a little disappointed that Fenris looks like he's from Final Fantasy

      -OTT animations? they've removed a lot of the ridiculous finishing moves, though seriously, you're essentially complaining about "OTT" because of what? Who said the game needs to look none OTT? They're shooting fireballs from their hands.

      -Agreed on overhead view, this is frustrating =/

      -Agreed on map reuse, I really don't like this, it feels very lazy, but even ignoring that, the game has more to do than most recent games.

      -Agreed on the storage chest....what were they thinking?

      1. Parkaboy

        You haven't got a clue matey Jim

        Really because most reviews aren't reviews they are overviews. If you don't compare games of the same type then how do you know the difference between something you liked or disliked.

        The game it's self was a total let down as it could have been so much better if they hadn't dumbed it down.

  4. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Woo Hoo!

    I always liked the romance options on the first game, you had Alistair and the elf, whatever the sex of your character, which made for some steamy fireside entertainment.

    I found myself loading my game a few times to watch again =]

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Whats DA:O ?

    Is it something you get cream for after a visit to the Doctor?

  6. Clive Galway

    @Whats DA:O ?

    Dragon Age: Origins - the first game.

  7. Stumpy

    Thanks but...

    Think I'll be giving this one a miss. Played the demo and frankly haven't played such a mindless, dumbed down piece of crap console port for a very long while....

    Bioware seem to have gone to the dogs lately... Wonder if it's anything to do with taking the devils coin (the EA buyout that is)

    1. kororas


      Thats exactly the type of comment that got the guy mentioned in one of the comments above, suspended from bioware forums. Mention that at your peril ( in the bioware forums).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I agree on this

      I sort of enjoyed DA:O, but only really for the story. Which I will concede I enjoyed very much and thought was, with the exception of a few obvious "twists", very immersing. I really thought the combat side of DA:O sucked. Maybe it is just me, but I found I could only get mages to stay alive regardless of how I tried to slice it.

      Anyway - enough of that, suffice it to say I was looking for a lot more from DA:2, and the demo actually gave me less - the conversation wheel is awful, the options looked like they had been written by a 10 year old with no friends and the combat was even worse than DA:O.

      Why can't we have Skyrim now? NOW damnit!

  8. Bill Cumming

    *note* Don't buy the boxed version...

    ... Going against a ruling by a US Judge, EA must label clearly if the game uses "SecureROM" DRM on the packaging and in the specs. (Google "EA Spore + Secure ROM")

    But reports (a couple currently) that the Boxed retail version installs SecureROM without the users knowledge.

    Could this come under the "Computer Misuse ACT" in the UK?

  9. Nya

    Nope, sadly a major fail of a game :(

    Sadly the download version also came with bloody SecureROM. D2D was offering it cheaper and available for download the night before download away and install. And up it pops, bloody evil sodding annoying POS feckware SecureROM! *mutters*.

    Anyhow as for the game. It has bug ridden quests (couple you can't even do as the triggers to start them just don't work), like the rescue the noble on the mountain side. Off you go, find clearing with NPC bandit leader and nothing. Never triggers. Or quests getting out of sync, you go see Merrell and she rattles on about the death of her people and you sit there wondering what the heck she's on about...then go do the quest where you end up killing them all. Messy!

    And the DLC is utter tripe. Ok I got it free with the download version, but sheesh the "Black Emporium" is effectively you paying real cash to buy a few items for use in game and the ability to change your characters facial looks while in game. I'm sorry, but that is not DLC. Where's the quest arc off them?!

    My biggest annoyance was the cookie cutter quests. Wow, it's that same warehouse/cave/mansion/sewer again I've only had to do the previous 30 quests in *yawn*. It drove me up the wall the lack of variety. Even the loot boxes were in the same locations! Pathetic.

    PC graphics are meh also. Even with the optional download higher res texture pack, it doesn't really help. I most action you end up getting lower frame rates for no real change in graphics quality over the first game. And that's just disappointing. Ok, slower is fine if it's prettier, but when it's not...FAIL!

    Ok, I liked the story, and the characters were fun. But the questing, bugs, and utterly overdone simplification for consoles is just bad. I doubt it'll be possible to play through the game like the first one a few times as the quests just grind away at your soul. Personally though, think 80% being a bit high for it Reg. Maybe for the PS3 version you reviewed, but the PC version it's more a 65% if you were expecting a follow up to DA:O.

  10. h4rm0ny

    Does what you expect?

    The last paragraph of the review is the most significant. The issue is that DA2 *doesn't* do what you expect. I don't know about console, but for PC, it's a serious let down. And the primary reason for that is because rather than comparing this game to Mass Effect 2 which the review does repeatedly, everyone else is comparing it to Dragon Age: Origins. And it is heavily dumbed down from there.

    For instance, in DA:O, you could pan out to a top-down isometric viewpoint. That gave you a strong tactical feel. In DA2, you are locked to viewing from each of your characters. A very minor nice effect of that is that you can no longer see around corners, but in all other ways it is severely to the detriment of tactical gameplay.

    The second way in which tactical gameplay is curtailed is by the sheer speed of actions in DA2. In DA:O you had a realistic feel with people running up to enemies (or they to you) and making attacks you could follow. That meant providing instructions to your party was an exercise in tactics. In DA2, cooldowns are but a momentary inconvenience (except for health potions) and sword strikes are a blistering cycle of moves. The consequence is that if you want to control your characters, then instead of DA:O's steady watching of a battle and directing your team to appropriate targets, activating special abilities when desired, occasional pausing when necessary, with DA2 it's a constant cycle of rapid pausing, adjusting, unpausing to watch another explosion of strikes, special abilities and teleporting around the battlefield (positioning is almost irrelevant in DA2), before you pause again and set up more tactics. Very soon, you give up trying to manage how the party behaves because whilst the pace in DA:O allowed "course corrections", in DA2, you've barely set them to a new task (kill this enemy, use this ability) before they've done it and have done three more things you didn't tell them / want them to do. And giving up is not a problem because your party (including the main character) can pretty much manage themselves.

    Difficulty has been scaled back considerably. BW have stated that the original game was too hard for people (really? I completed the whole thing on Nightmare incl. the Golems of Angmarak DLC and that last one was *hard*). So Normal is equivalent to Easy in DA:O whilst in theory Hard in DA2 is equivalent to DA:O's normal. But that's not even true because you really need only the barest minimum of tactics for DA2's hard - it's more an exercise in pointing and clicking. This is particularly exasperated by the turning off of Friendly Fire. Your mage can launch Fireballs with impunity, the rest of the party are unaffected. At a stroke, that makes careful tactics almost irrelevant. Friendly Fire suddenly comes back on Nightmare mode, however, and it comes back with a vengeance for two reasons. The first is that the lack of a top-down camera makes positioning area effects very difficult. Even when you're not concerned about hitting your comrades and just want to target some darkspawn far away, actually working out when to hit them can be infuriating. The second thing is that whilst friendly fire in DA:O depended on the type of attack (i.e. fireballs did it, but a rogue's whirlwind attack only targetted enemies), in DA2, anything with an area seems to do Friendly Fire on Nightmare. So each time your warrior does some wide-ranging sweep (which due to the super-fast cooldowns, he'll be doing a lot), he'll knock dead any friends standing next to him. And you can't even rely on careful positioning because your party members zip around the battlefield like Spiderman on crack. You might think your warrior is over on the other side of the hall battling some thugs there, but the next thing you know, he activates his super-zippy-charge-power and is next to your mage again (shortly followed by his doing some super-sweep which knocks her dead). Basically, the difficulty levels for this game seem to go: watching a movie, watching a movie, mild tactics and button mashing, exercise in pausing the game every second to try and guide the endless whirlstorm of action into some sort of semblence of what you want to happen. I haven't really played around with the tactics options in great depth, so it might be possible to mitigate this somewhat, but it's not going to change the fundamental problem that tactical play is no longer necessary and barely possible.

    There are so many other areas in which the game is dumbed down, I couldn't list them all. Traps and poison making - gone. No longer, when faced with a battle you know will be hard, can your rogue sneak in and place some handy traps for the enemies before you start the battle. Inventory options for your party are severely curtailed. You can still kit out Hawke how you would like, but if you find a Platemail of +10 Wazoo and Hawke is a mage, you can no longer give it to Carver (a warrior).

    Dialogue is frustrating. The addition of an icon to indicate the tone of what you're going to say is good (as very occasionally you mistake that just from pure text), but it's immediately undone by not actually knowing what you're going to say. Often, you select something and are quite surprised by what Hawke actually says. I suppose this is a consequence of having the main character fully voiced now. If you actually saw the dialogue you were choosing, then it might feel a bit namby to then have to listen to someone read it out again afterwards. But the consequence is less control (and thus less identification) with your character.

    Finally, realism is thrown in a pit and pissed on. There is such a thing as "realistic fantasy" and Origins was it. Combat happened at believable speeds for the most part, as did movement. Enemies could be sneaked up on, etcetera. Now rogues teleport around a battlefield, warriors put on sprints of Super Speed (I'm not kidding, the animations actually add a blur-line effect as they run), mages do cheerleader style baton twirls with their staffs each time they attack. I can actually forgive the last one - my disappointment with this game hasn't blinded me to the things in it that look cool. But when you see darkspawn popping into existence in mid-air because it's time for a new wave of enemies in the encounter you've triggered, the computer gameness of the whole affair is thrust into your face once too often. And let's not even get started on the Isabella who seems to battle evil dressed in a nightie. So much in DA2 seems dumbed down and tailored for the lowest common denominator.

    I haven't touched on things like how the exact same dungeon is re-used for different locations, etcetera, as others will cover these sorts of things. Basically, if you want an action game, pick something that will actually require some skill. If you want a tactical game, pick something where tactics are actually needed, rather than something to play around with if you're bored. And if you liked Dragon Age: Origins, run like Hell. On it's own, DA2 is a passable. but nothing special time-filler with some nice story elements. As a sequel to DA:O, the come down is just too disappointing to let you enjoy what good remains.

    All imho, anyway. I wish those that do enjoy it fun of it, but don't buy this just because you liked Dragon Age: Origins, is my advice. I haven't played DA:O on consoles, the differences might be less telling there. This is all based on PC play.

  11. Danny 5
    Black Helicopters

    i like Action RPG's

    but haven't played either DA games. seen them in the store, read reviews, checked them online, but neither really grabbed my attention. at the moment i'm playing Star Ocean TLH, which is a decent action RPG (voice acting is horrible and pacing isn't great either, but it's a good game in all).

    don't think i'll try these anytime soon, i have the "tales of......" series to complete first.

  12. Andy Farley

    Combat is only part of the issue.

    The main thing about DA:O was that I felt my decisions really mattered. When the village was being attacked because the noble woman’s son was being possessed, I had to decide whether to leave for the night and get help or allow her to die. I allowed her to die, thinking if I was gone, how many more people would die that night? Although I'm not far into it that kind of ethical weight seems to be missing.

    The main reason for that is, I think, that in the first one you had the overwhelming pressure of having to save the land from the blight. Given that, you made compromises and cut corners because otherwise everyone was going to die. I've not really got that any more. I know the land was saved, I saved it. I don’t know what effect Hawk needs to have on history yet.

    It does feel like it’s been “consolized” and a lot of the subtly removed. I’m playing Hawk as a mage and where in DA:O I'd be really conscious of not getting within melee range, here I'm charging in as if I'm a warrior. The sad part is, I think I'm the type of person BW aimed this at – I'm not an elite played like h4rm0ny above, I actually played DA:O on “easy”, yet I'm finding this *too* easy.

    All that said, I'm enjoying it – it just hasn’t hit the heights of DA:O.

    Looks nice though.

  13. TakeTheSkyRoad

    Try again ?

    Serious question here....

    Is there a chance of having a new review comparing this to the first game and other comparable RPG's ? Say Oblivion/Skyrim.... essentially a fantasy RPG rather than a sci-fi RPG.

    If not then fine but I'd suggest to the reviewer if they are aware that a comparision choice is "unusual" then it would be nice to open with some justification/reason. All we really got was this "However, in terms of style and gameplay, there is perhaps more here that fans of Mass Effect will find familiar than series veterans.".... left me thinking "wtf, but why ??"


  14. Terje

    So much worse!

    In my not so humble opinion this incarnation of the Dragon age series seems to me to be worse in almost every way to it's predecessor, which is not something that bodes well for those of us that actualy want a good next incarnation of the game.

    While DA:O in my opinion was not quite as good as some others thought it was a very good first effort for a new world and gamesystem, what DA2 fails to do is build upon what was good in origins and fix the shortcommings.

    I will give you a number of my pros and cons bellow.


    The game is not finnished, there are qute a few bug issues that should never have made it past testing to a release version.

    Shipping highres texture as a download? ok for a digital download version I can understand that, to cut down sice for those not interested in it, but with install media, think again!

    The inane reuse of dungeons. Apparently there are some very strict laws inplace detailing the layout of mines and sewers since they all looks just the same, after running through the n:th identical looking dungeon you start wondering just how much preassure EA put on Bioware to release the game fast!

    The story feels rather disjointed and for a very long time i keep wondering when the main plot is going to take off, for your interest it never does...

    Mostly everyone seems to agree what the problem is and it being mostly one single person, simply removing that person using the time honored methods of poison or a dagger in the back never seems to occur to anyone...

    In my opinion most of the companions are rather lackluster compared to Origins + expansions. The only two memorable character is the lovable but rather dimwitted Merrill, and the well rather amusing Varric, to me the rest is easily forgetable, give me miniature giant space hamsters any day!

    Combat is mostly uncontrolable. while in Origins you could actualy control the way a fight went, and who was getting hit by what in DA2 that is almost impossible.

    Related to the above is the problem with what you see is never what you get, 99% of all fights in this game spawn in additional waves of enemies, nomatter how carefully you clean out a dungeon there are allways a horde of enemies still hiding behind you waiting to run into your mages.

    Assuming the qunari you fight are standard military issue, and that the hordes of locals apparently hellbent on your death / purse / trinket, chose whatever is appropriate in chapter three are standard issue thugs any future qunari invasion is going to be a very short and blody affair. While oposition ofcourse has to be harder when you get better there surely must be better ways then having your average goons level at about the same pace you do!

    DA:O made it self out to be the spiritual successor to baldurs gate a tsk that it in my opinion fell way short of, DA2 seems to be aiming at more of a Diablo style gameplay it don't do very well at that either.

    The new and worse runesystem is to me very lackluster.

    The rest of the "crafting" system is just as bad, just buy it from your personal potion shop...

    The protagonist gets half a share in a mine, while said mine does have problems any profit it does manage to make is obviously swallowed up by the protagonists estate since none of it finds it's way in as any form of spending money. Supposedly decently well off i find myself rather poor!

    The lack of armor options / customizability for your companions, why can't I give my companion tank that armor of ridiculous invulnerability that I can't wear myself?

    While in origins you travelled around to different locations now the number of locations you visit are laughably small

    Feeling rather negative so far lets skip the rest of the issues and go to some


    The voice acting is decent.

    While not filling your urge for a real rpg, it does give you a fix of monsterbashing action.

    Not having a save the world from the big monster story is rather refreshing.

    Automatic healing between fights is good since the game is combat intensive.

    The mana/stamina seems a bit more well ballanced this time around


    While somewhat amusing and not that bad way to kill a couple of hours, I would recomend you to dig out your old copy of Baldurs gate 2 + throne of amn instead or even better if you aren't in a mode for a save the world story, dig out that box with Planescape torment. Both of those games are old, but are still eminently playable and from gameplay and story infinitely better.

  15. Yag

    I somehow liked the first one...

    despite the railroading plot - as this plot was quite good.

    I could not even finish the demo for DA:2 due to its incredible MMORPG-like dumbness.

    Now, where did I put my Morrowind's CDs?

  16. Maxson

    Comparison != review

    Why is everyone rating this game in comparison to Dragon Age: Origins? The title should stand on it's own, not how good it is - in your mind - when compared to it's prequel

    1. Terje


      Here I believe you make a fundamental error.This title is part of a series, and must therefore relate to it's predecessors in some way. Assume you are reviewing Starwars episode V but it was Life of Brian, Life of Brian is (in my opinion) a great film, but it has nothing to do in a Starwars context, would you then review it as a great starwars movie?

      The natural context to put a followup game in is the original, in this case Origins. How else would you be able to judge the game, compare it to the nes version of super mario? great graphics but the jump action lacks control?

    2. h4rm0ny

      Re: Comparison != Review

      There is something to be said for taking a game on its own merits, that's true. But this is Dragon Age 2. Comparisons to the previous game are pretty much inevitable. And legitimate too - people buy a sequel with expectations based on the game(s) before it. If this game makes sales off the back of DA:O (and it will), then it's not inappropriate for a review to inform people how it is different.

      And there's also simply the concern that something really good is being lost. People speak out when they feel that way. So long as the reasons are explained why people say X is good or bad, then a reader can make a decision as to whether those things apply to herself as well.

      1. Maxson

        I'd agree with you there....

        ...If not for the massive differences all round in the game, some of them good, some of them bad. Sequels are frequently massively different. For instance Star wars I through III were utter bollocks. I'd never review something as a great Star Wars movie, I would review it as a great MOVIE, even as a continuation of a series, a product should be judged and reviewed on it's own. There's nothing wrong with comparisons, I agree, the first game was better in comparison, but the game should not be reviewed in comparison.

        I blame a numerical rating system for this as it forces people to assume that a title rated 8/10 is identically as good to another 8/10. A good example of this is that on Metacritic, the user rating for Halo 2 on PC is 5.2/10 Dragon age 2 is scored 4.1/10 purely because some people are rating it 0/10 Can you honestly tell me that a weak Xbox sequel ported to PC 3 years too late is better than this game?

        The fact is, people have rated this game based on the amount they liked the first game, which many hardcore RPG players I know called "baby's first RPG" Origins wasn't some mystical godlike game it was just a very good game that was kind of dumb. I'm smart enough to not think I'm above playing games which are kinda dumb.

        Additionally, and finally:

        While you say it's a continuation of a series, again, I'd point out that that's not really a fair comparison, it's not "the continuing adventures of", it may as well not be a sequel to Dragon Age: Origins, it features very few of the same characters, it's almost entirely set elsewhere. Maybe it'd be better to think of it as a spinoff?

        Good game, sadly flawed. Sequel to a great game, Sadly flawed.

        1. Nya

          Yet it lives off the shirt tails of Origins.

          The big issue is they did actually link the two quiet closely with characters. Flemeth made a big reappearance. Leliana is in game also. Same with Alistair and Zevran. Shale gets a mention by the barman in the Hanged Man. And your own character get's mentioned no end from the first game.

          While the start is played out concurrently with Origins, the game isn't a seperate title. It's just another chapter in the series which is telling the story of the world it is set. And that's why everyones comparing it to Origins. It needs to fix the problems of Origins and move the game forward as it's sequel. It didn't, it was a different and overly simplified game living off Origins!

          Death of the series? I hope not, as I do like the world in which it is set. I hope in a few years for the next installment they learned the lesson of this mess and give us progression, not necessarily of the Hero of Ferelden, but the world as a whole.

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