What’s Wrong With Dragon Age 2

With this week’s announcement of the Dragon Age II: Legacy DLC, it’s time to take a look back at what went wrong with this highly anticipated, yet deeply disappointing game. Before launch, it was presumed to be one of the blockbuster titles of 2011, yet it was hit by fan outrage and tepid reviews.

I’m a fan of the first Dragon Age gameand I started playing Dragon Age 2 the day it came out, but lost interest after a few hours, only to slowly putter my way through the first half of it over the last four months. I’m a huge Bioware fan, and normally I play each of their games obsessively when they come out, following up on every side quest, and running through the games multiple times with different character classes and alignment choices. Yet this one has failed to hold my attention. The reason so far is that, by eighteen hours into the game, I had yet to see any sort of epic quest, or a villain who embodied a great peril that threatens the world. My character had just been running errands in order to survive and earn money. This is what Role-Playing Gamers call “Grinding”. It’s a bad thing, yet it’s the central storyline for the first eighteen or so hours of Dragon Age 2.

During that time, the main plot is that my character has the chance to buy her way into a business venture that will get her more money in return for the investment. The first Dragon Age was about saving the world from an army of evil darkspawn. This game is about fiscal responsibility and recognizing a sound investment opportunity.

Eventually, I had reached a point where my character had the fifty gold coins needed to invest in the profitable Dwarven expedition to the Deep Roads. I decided to follow up on all the secondary storylines before going on the expedition, and most of these sidequests were the typical “Go to X, kill everyone, return to me” sort of material. Soon, the only remaining quest was The Exiled Prince, a quest that came with the “Signature Edition” of the game, meaning that I paid an extra twenty bucks for this and some other goodies. This quest turned out o be a couple of conversations followed by three short fights that took about fifteen minutes to play through. I do suspect that I’ll be seeing this Prince again later in the game, but it was quite anti-climactic to avenge his parents murder with just a couple of quick skirmishes.

At that point, all that remained for me was to plunge into the Deep Road expedition which finally brought the game to an interesting story point. I won’t spoil what happens for those who are still set on playing this game, but it certainly wasn’t worth twenty hours of grinding to achieve it.

After spending more time in Dragon Age 2 than most games have to offer in their entirety, it feels like the actual plot developments could have been condensed into just a few hours of gameplay. The sidequests involving my companions were usually entertaining, but those were just sidequests, not elements of the Main Plot and grand adventure I was supposed to be having. Aside from the mysteries of the Deep Roads, the only other interesting plotline has been the development of the Qunaari, which by the midpoint of the game, I have just begun to explore.

While I suspect that I’ve finally reached the better parts of the story, Dragon Age 2 still has it’s work cut out before I can declare that the second half of the game was worth the effort. Other problems include character interactions, balancing issues and DLC. All of which I’ll explore in upcoming articles.

About charlesbattersby

Playwright/ Video Game Journalist/ Theatre Critic/ Actor New York City · charlesbattersby.com
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