Dragon Age 2 review
The characters themselves – from the elf who sounds like an enchanted escapee from Gavin And Stacey to Anders, a mage possessed by a demon – are brilliantly written, and all your actions, even small talk, affect your relationships with them. A dialogue wheel handily points out the mood of your comments, so there’s no chance of starting a fight with someone when you were only trying to be flirty.
Oh yeah, the flirting. Wooing a partner, even for one night, took a fair amount of groundwork in the original; now it’s been simplified to the point that I sort of slept with Anders by accident. (One minute I’m buttering him up in case it doesn’t work out with angry elf Fenris, next thing you know he’s leaving his socks in my mansion.) Come on Bioware, at least make me work for it.
Another minor moan is that there’s no hub (as provided by your camp in the first game, or your spaceship in Mass Effect 2) so you have to visit team members at their individual homes, which can make you feel like a Jehovah’s Witness delivering the good news. (That good news usually being that you’re totally up for a quick roll in the deathroots.)
So the nookie isn’t as good any more, but the combat has improved. Attacking is more immediate, with the previous lag gone, and enemies exploding in torrents of red jam and broken limbs. As you level up, assigning XP points and growing skill trees (look, I warned you it was beardy), you unlock new attacks, keeping the action varied.
You need to do the same for your allies, who you can control by hitting R1 – although you’re better off going into the tactics menu where you can set massively detailed rules about when they should use different attacks or potions. It’s enough to put off all but the most hardened goblinophile, but stick with it and you’re rewarded with a reliable AI posse. This is essential in act two and beyond, where you start to face larger enemies.
While environments still aren’t up to ME2 standards (although this is a fantasy world – maybe cardboard trees are a thing?) the characters all look pretty brilliant, even when they’re spattered in horlock juice.
There are some decisions that are tough to reconcile: getting to know your team has been simplified, but levelling up your team lacks that all important auto assign button, and items aren’t always clearly labelled, which turns even picking an outfit into a daunting quest. Basically, Bioware has streamlined the fantasy experience, but hasn’t got the balance quite right – losing the sense of discovery but leaving in dense stuff like encumbrance systems.
Still, it’s unquestionably an improvement on the original, and despite occasional glitches and even (whisper it) a crash, this is just a dragon’s wing tip from a 9/10. It’s hard work being the champion, but is it worth it? Do dwarves have hairy chests?