Dragon Age 2: many dead things

I finished Dragon Age 2 about an hour ago.  (Took a sick day today; feeling gross.)  Took about 33 hours, and that’s with me finishing every quest that was made available to me; my warrior, Hermano Hawke*, ended up at level 23.  (Here’s a link to my Achievements.)

I must admit that my initial enthusiasm for the game has been tempered somewhat by some pretty serious flaws in the game’s construction.  The game world feels incredibly small, but that would be OK if the world was at least richly detailed and varied. The biggest problem with the game is that the designers are constantly recycling the same environments, which only make an already small world feel smaller.  And considering how many times I traipsed back and forth over the same ground, it’s remarkable how many wrong turns I ended up making – the city of Kirkwall, where you spend at least 80% of your adventure, is surprisingly devoid of character or personality.  Each area of the city has its own look – you wouldn’t get Hightown confused with Lowtown – but all the architecture of each area feels interchangeable, so it can feel like you’re in a house of mirrors.  There are only 2 or 3 “dungeons” – depending on the mission you’re on, certain areas of the dungeon might be walled off, but they still appear on the map, and it gets awfully confusing.

The dialogue and character development are still top notch, and among the best work Bioware has put out; and yet the story got somewhat muddled towards the end, and I didn’t really care about the conclusion as much as I’d hoped.  And there are some serious issues with red herrings, which I suspect may end up being addressed with DLC, but still – what the hell?  You meet a mythical dragon/woman in the first 20 minutes of the game, and then you never see her again (except for one brief, somewhat inexplicable cameo, which isn’t part of a mandatory quest).  That’s not a spoiler – the dragon/woman was in the demo.

And I guess another thing that kinda got to me is that there’s not a tremendous amount of variety in your activities.  You talk to people, you kill creatures, you walk from place to place.  That’s it.  It is a tremendous credit to Bioware that I played this game for 33 hours and didn’t really get bored with either of those 3 things, but I certainly wouldn’t have minded a bit more… anything, really.

So I’m going to back off of my initial hyperbole; DA2 is certainly very good, but not truly great.  It’s a huge improvement over the 360 version of DA:O, but you know what?  At this pont, I kinda wish they’d remake DA:O with DA2’s combat and controls.

*A nod to Arrested Development, of course.  All my male game characters are called Hermano, except for the sports games who feature Jervo McNervo, #27.  All my pets are named Lolily.  I don’t necessarily have any set go-to names when I play as females; I don’t really play females that often, although it should be noted that my Shepard in Mass Effect is female.

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