Dragon Age II
provokes conflicting emotions. On the one hand, BioWare’s flare for writing culminates in intriguing moral dilemmas and complex character relationships. On the other hand, flawed battle structures, rehashed dungeons and flat out bad design decisions put a gamer’s loyalty to the test.
I love that Dragon Age has always been about a customized storyline experience. What I most love, however, is that with all the options and possible storyline deviations, I’ll be sitting down with gamer friends to discuss every one of our respective decisions for comparison. However, there are a great many flaws in Dragon Age II. Probably the most irksome of these how disjointed the main story arc is from the rest of your experiences. While the content for an interesting, cohesive storyline is there, you’ll have to dig through the threads to string them together. The first half of the game feels like a slow build up to what gamers will have been expecting: becoming the Champion of Kirkwall. This has always been spouted as the setting for DAII, and the initial quests all feel like fillers before you can finally reach this point.
Fortunately, the storyline touches on a conflict I always hoped would be more prominent in the first title: that of the Templars’ questionable forms of protection of the Circle of Mages. In Dragon Age I, we saw hints of a discomfort and possible rebellion due to the mistreatment of mages. The Circle was seen to be a prison that would easily force Tranquility upon mages deemed dangerous. Both sides of the dilemma have supporters, as well as valid arguments to offer. The complexity of the issue, and of the decisions at hand, make that story arc one of the more intriguing ones.
I often found myself staring at a dialogue tree attempting to determine what response would elicit the most accurate result I wanted. Characters’ reactions to your decision-making don’t always go as planned, but you quickly learn the lesson that you cannot always appease everyone. This connected with reality in that we are all subjected to the task of making decisions on a daily basis, and although we (hopefully) all strive to make that decision to the best of our abilities, the outcome won’t always be the positive result we strove for. The same can be said of decision-making in Dragon Age II.
Unfortunately, there was still a lot of depth to the storyline that was left fairly undiscovered. There were so many story arcs I wanted to learn more about. Namely, Flemeth was a prominent figure in Dragon Age: Origins who made a brief return in the sequel. She’s powerful, clearly wise beyond any one's comprehension, and very mysterious. She caught my attention from the instant she engaged me in clever banter. However, Flemeth remains the elusive witch in DAII. I have a thousand questions about Flemeth, and a storyline centered on the exploration of that could even have sufficed. The tale of civil strife and calamity has been so rehashed in both this franchise and others that it has left a stale taste by now. I wanted something fairly new to explore.
Unfortunately, those aspects of the storyline were not the only things rehashed in BioWare’s action-RPG. You’ll find yourself navigating the same maps and dungeons tirelessly. It gets to the point where you can predict where spiders will “unexpectedly” crawl down on top of you, making the dungeon raids more laborious than exploratory.
What’s worse is the limitation of the world in DAII itself. You consistently run back and forth between areas just to hand in quests and pick up equally trite ones. There is no fluidity between your quests. I began to get flashbacks to my time with World of Warcraft
when I’d depend on QuestHelper to lead me blindly from quest to quest based solely on ease of location. Rather than be motivated to explore the next series in a quest line, I wanted to complete quests in the most efficient manner possible, and I therefore would select the areas that would allow me to complete the most quests at a time.
The entire Dragon Age II map is open to your exploration. Imagine instead if the storyline guided you through the areas in a predetermined way, while still of course allowing you to revisit previously discovered areas as you please. The entire storyline would have felt more cohesive with quests that follow a particular suit rather than a random amalgamation. As it stands, I felt like I was consuming unrelated, bite-sized stories in a random order. Quests became more of a laundry list of tasks rather than part of an enthralling storyline. To add insult to injury, the maps were never that intriguing themselves, either. Much of the outside of Kirkwall consists solely of a maze of trails with not much else besides a dungeon or two to explore. That meant that being sent to the outskirts for other quests felt like a chore. Many areas felt like pathways rather than locations you could explore.
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