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‘Dragon Age’ is back and even more awesome

By in Culture

ASHLEIGH MATTERN
Editor-in-Chief

The second installment of Bioware’s Dragon Age series is even better than the first.

The pace is faster, the style is slicker and everything about the game play has been honed and upgraded.

The game starts with a tough-looking human roughly interrogating a charismatic dwarf about the Champion — you. The next few scenes teach players the basics of the game, using Bioware’s pre-made Champion as the main character. It isn’t until the first few scenes are completed and the dwarf, Varric, promises to tell the truth that you get to create your character.

There’s no need to play Dragon Age: Origins to understand the storyline and world in Dragon Age 2.  This story happens at the same time and shortly after the events of the first game but on another continent with a whole new cast of characters.

Fans of the last game will recognize the references made, but players new to the game certainly won’t be lost. In classic Dragon Age style, there are endless amounts of short articles on just about anything in the game, which players can choose to read.

As with the first game, one of the best aspects of Dragon Age is the story. There are clearly solid writers behind the scenes at Bioware. Characters are fleshed out, conversations are engaging and the game feels a lot like a book you just can’t put down.

One of the best parts of Bioware games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect is the “choose your own adventure” style. Dragon Age: Origins has about 10 different endings depending on decisions you make throughout the game (including the race you choose at the beginning), and every conversation can take multiple routes depending on your responses, chosen from a given list.

The conversations are as compelling as ever, but now Bioware has gone the route of Mass Effect and offers summaries with symbols representing the type of attitude the response will have (for example, a leaf for being nice, a fist for being mean, a gavel for being judicial, among many other symbols). I like this new system — compared to the old one that has your character saying out loud the exact text you chose only a moment before — but once in awhile the response isn’t quite what you were expecting.

Everything in the game feels like an improvement from Origins. The battles are faster and more visually interesting with rogues and warriors doing multiple different flourishes with every swing and strike, and more impressive light shows for mages’ spells.

As for the PC version, the leveling system, menus and heads-up display have all been re-vamped and look slick, clean and modern. There even seem to be fewer bugs.

I’ve only played about 15 hours so far, and as much as I love this game, I do have a few complaints. As with Dragon Age: Origins, there’s a sense of being trapped in the prescribed maps the game offers. In a time of completely open games like World of Warcraft, this system feels a little outdated.

Another issue I have with the maps is that, for some reason, the Bioware team recycles the same map for different places. At least twice that I can remember, I’ve entered a different cave in a different area, but the map has been the same. It completely takes me out of the illusion of the Dragon Age world.

Dragon Age 2 also only offers human characters to play, unlike Dragon Age: Origins where you could choose to be human, dwarf or elf. Although, I haven’t thought of this much since I started playing. The game is great no matter which race you play.

It’s not a perfect game. As I play, I’m sure I will have more to complain about, but if the rest of the game is as compelling as the first 15 hours, the complaints will pale in comparison to the bigger success that the Dragon Age franchise is becoming.

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