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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Video Games

Bioware: Job well done in latest Dragon Age installment

After pulling over a hundred hours in Dragon Age: Origins, I was more than excited for another addition to the Bioware series. This time around it centers on Hawke, the Champion of Kirkwall, his/her companions and the struggles they all face in the Free Marches city.

The story progresses in the narrative style reminiscent to that of the film “The Princess Bride.”

One of Hawke’s former companions, the dwarven rogue Varric, is forced to tell the story of the Champion of Kirkwall to the Seeker of the Chantry, Cassandra. The story and gameplay will occasionally be interrupted by the Seeker when Varric’s tale becomes a little too fantastical for her liking and the scene changes.

How the story progresses depends on the decisions made by the player.

The gameplay is similar to most RPGs as players take on quests and run a number of errands. The quests are varied and enjoyable. The game is put into three different acts that are spread out through several years, with the main plot staying hidden until the last act.

It can be a little disheartening to realize that the majority of the quests that Hawke and his/her companions are completing are only side quests, but that feeling is easily overshadowed by how fun most of the quests actually are. There is a short quest back into the Fade, as well as a battle with a High Dragon that brings the player back to fighting Flemeth from Origins.

The companion quests are especially fun. One particular standout from the game is when Hawke has to help Aveline, the captain of the guard, to overcome her anxiety and a bad date in order to win the heart of her fellow guardsman.

Gamers who completed Origins and its expansion, Awakening, will be pleased to know that their save can be imported. There are a few character cameos and NPCs that will make reference to the Hero of Ferelden and its monarch.

The battle system favors an action based style with fast paced, real-time fighting and less emphasis on the tactical decisions.

Origins had a bit of wait time for spells and the combat system gave players the feeling that the damage was put to chance with dice rolls. But with Dragon Age 2, Hawke can become a powerful mage, rogue or warrior that fights with immediacy.

Combat begins slowly with only a few spells or abilities, which leaves the player hitting the attack button repeatedly until their abilities and talents recharge. But after leveling a bit, Hawke can decimate the battlefield with his/her powers.

However, when the difficulty is cranked up to Nightmare, there is still plenty of room for a tactical experience. The player will have to customize Hawke’s and his/her companion’s abilities, talents and item usage to ensure survival.

The areas in the game are gorgeously rendered, but are limited in number — they tally into a little over 10.

The mountains of Sundermount are beautiful, with images that are reminiscent of the forests of Ferelden from Origins. The more dreary places of Kirkwall, such as the impoverished Darktown, can be tolerated, thanks to the interesting quests and character interactions.

On a side note, I found myself navigating using the mini-map in the corner of the screen rather than watching my character traverse the actual city streets of Kirkwall.

The character models are more polished and look even better than they did in Origins. The voice acting is top notch and the soundtrack is both stirring and epic. The companions are just as compelling if not more so than the companions from Origins, and character development throughout the plot is deeper in this sequel than in the previous game.

As mentioned before, the actual main plot seems to take a backseat until the last act. In fact, without giving away any spoilers, it can be said that there are two plots being told in the game.

There are several moments in the game that foreshadow something even more sinister than the forces fought in climatic ending of Varric’s story. Hopefully, these hints will be the focus of another game in the future.

All in all, Dragon Age 2 is a great Bioware game and one that any RPG fans should add to their collection.

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