Given that my First Impressions really was more along the lines of my Immediate Impressions, and I’ve been playing Dragon Age 2 (DA2) long enough for this to probably be my Second Impressions, but haven’t written my proper First Impressions, then I’ve given up and am just designating this my Nth Impressions.
Still with me? You poor thing.
Honestly, after the wonderful response by BioWare about relationships in DA2, I feel somewhat bad that this entry isn’t going to be totally positive.
I want to duck back to the very start of the game; in fact the point before the game begins. I was disappointed to find that you can’t play a Dwarf again in this game. In fact Human is your only choice. Instead of choosing a race, you choose a class from amongst what seems to be a standard now: Warrior, Rogue or Mage. I’ve no idea why they made such a change, unless it was to restrict the number of branches the story could take. I do miss my Dwarf.
While on the subject of different races, Elves and Dwarves do appear in the game, and you can have certain people from those races as party members. There are also many other races, but I’ve yet to find any that can be a proper part of your party (rather than joining just for an escort mission). One thing I have to nitpick is the Elves’ ears. For some reason, while the faces of almost every character are acceptable (and I do love how they’ve done the eyes), the ears on the Elves look like bad Spock make-up. I have no idea why, but every time they appear on screen it’s jarring.
Now, back to where I vaguely left off last time. Once you get past the ‘prologue’ DA2 has a story in there. It doesn’t give it all out at once, and instead dribbles out hints as to your character’s role in the future. There’s certainly enough of a hook in there to make it interesting. In the mean time, there are many sub-stories to work through, some of which affect your character, or their party members personally; some of which are simply a means to an end.
Of course, part of storytelling is the interaction between characters. The characters within your party are deep enough to be involving, and they ‘spar’ amongst each other as you wander around. Sometimes it’s fun just to listen to that. When interacting with other characters (either those in your party or otherwise), the dialogue trees take an interesting turn that I’m sure was in Mass Effect. Instead of stating exactly what you want to say, you often just give the ‘mood’ of the response you want to make, and your character goes with that. Unlike Mass Effect, I’ve rarely found that there’s a choice or nuance missing. They’re definitely getting better at this.
Perhaps part of my problem with the Dragon Age games is the fragmented nature of the world, which seems much more obvious in DA2. You don’t get a ‘sandbox’ world to walk around in, instead you have icons on a map that lead you to segments of city, or terrain that you can explore. Even the segments you can explore are rather ’empty’, in that they’re not much beyond scenery. Certainly there are other people around, but that doesn’t really make it feel real.
One interesting mechanic, at least in the city of Kirkwall, is that you can switch the city between day and night as you wish. Some quests can only be completed during the right period of day. It’s an interesting mechanic, but to me, it makes you feel even more disconnected, and the world more fragmented.
Another issue that is dragging me away from the world is the amount of “cut and paste” evident. Some of the interiors are the same, with a few doors locked shut that were open, and perhaps with a different spawn point. Surely we’ve gone beyond this point by now?
It’s also a little (a lot!) annoying to not be able to return to places you’ve been before if they’re simply part of a mission. Often I’ve come across chests I can’t open (due to lack of lock-picking skill), and figured I’d come back later. Except I can’t. The scenery for the entrances still exist, but now they’re simply scenery. I don’t think I played DA:O long enough to have this issue – or it didn’t exist. I’m not sure which.
Really, I’m hoping once I begin the next stage of the main plot, that the world will open up beyond the one city (or rather bits of one city) and a few bits of nearby scenery. It’s not a bad way to start a game with only a few locations, but I’m expecting more once the game really gets into gear.