Game Reivew: Dragon Age 2

Dragon Age 2

Dragon Age II is the second game in BioWare’s Dragon Age series of role-playing video games and was released on March 8, 2011 in North America and March 11, 2011 in Europe. Unlike its predecessor, Dragon Age: Origins, the main character’s race, family and background cannot be changed; however, the character’s appearance, gender, class and first name are all fully customizable. Hawke, the main character, is a Lothering refugee who rises to power and becomes the Champion of the Free Marches. Dragon Age II is set in the same world as Dragon Age: Origins, but takes place in the Free Marches.  It was announced for Playstation 3, PC and Xbox 360.

Overall Grade:  5/10

  • Visual 4/10
  • Sound 8/10
  • Gameplay 5/10
  • Mechanics 8/10
  • Fun 5/10
  • Replay 0/10

Visual 4/10

It is really difficult to say how to judge the visual impact of the game at this stage.  Do I compare it to other games out there?  Or, do I compare it to itself, i.e. Dragon Age: Origins. I settled on a happy medium and decided both scales should be used.  Compared to itself, there is nothing new, so it receives a 5/10 but, compared to games out there, it receives a 10/10.  They are using the same exact engine as Dragon Age: Origins, so there was no visual change to the game.  However, the extensive use of alleged cardboard cut outs to describe cut scenes and splash screens drops it down 3 notches.  The game engine itself is pretty stunning.  I get they did not want to pay for animating more cut scenes but then you suffer the consequences of people like me not liking it.

A very big criticism is that the same 3 maps were used over and over and over.  If you go into a “cave” they load up the cave map.  If you go into a “building” they load up the building map.  If you go into the “wilderness” they load up the wilderness map.  I swear.  It is 1980 all over again, only this time it’s 2011 and it’s the Dragon Age engine.

Sound 8/10

The Venerable Flemeth Returns

The same exact music was used in this game as the first.  The same sound was used in this game.  At $50 bucks a pop, customers want new stuff.  There was some additional music used.  It was modern world music.  I don’t mean good modern world music, as is used in Grammy award winning Civilization V, this was bad, piss poor, modern world music.  If nothing else, stick with your classical French Horn dominated music and we’ll call it a day.

The sound effects were the same, good.  Unlike some new games out there *cough*RIFT*cough* that used the worst possible sound effect for drawing a damn sword out of a scabbard for a walking sound [ honestly I have no clue what sound they were trying to make in that game ] Dragon Age 2 and probably Bioware in general, does sound effects right.  It’s a sad commentary when you have to applaud a game for actually using footsteps in sand to represent *gasp* footsteps in sand.  It’s just that there are so many bad games out there like *cough*RIFT*cough* that have no clue what they’re doing, so when something correct comes along you have to acknowledge it.

Gameplay 5/10

As mentioned in general description, you play a prechosen hero throughout the game.  This is actually classic Bioware.  Nearly 90% of their titles center around you playing a preselected hero, that stuff just happens to.  It’s not a bad concept when done right, however when it is the sequel to a game that gave you an overabundance of selection, story and looks, it is a total slap in the face that you’re paying for it.  You cannot even choose a different race.  You only select how your particular human looks.

As to the story.  What story?  There is no story.  The cutscenes keep calling you a hero.  I kept saying a “hero” of what?  Rat killing?

Another classic bioware feature was added / kept and that is party reaction to your decisions.  Only this time, it doesn’t quite matter which way they go with their opinion of you.  They get bonuses regardless of how they feel about you.  It’s not a love hate relationship, it’s a rival / friend relationship.  I know this complex human concept is foreign to most stupid Americans, but that’s actually how relationships are, you are either supportive of your friends, or you are in competition with your rivals.  The opposite of love is not hate, the opposite is indiference.  So someone that hates someone is their rival, not their non-friend.  It is only when backed up against a wall, do you kill your rival.  Otherwise you compete with your rival until they defeat themselves through their own actions.  It’s a sort of ying yang outlook on things, but it’s how humans ACTUALLY act, regardless of the idiotic passifistic hatred spewed by Christianity. *cough*crusades*cough* *cough*antisemetism*cough*

Through 80% of the game you’re walking around a city.  But wait, there’s more.  That city is divided into day and night versions of the same … CITY.  Oh my stars!  This pratically ruins the game for me.  I mean, I like the intrigue of a city, but the entire idea of being an adventurer is … going on adventures?  Sally’s basement, however quaint, is not an adventure.  Call me crazy.

Mechanics 8/10

Generic Hero to the Rescue

The pause system of real time fighting is still in effect during combat.  Otherwise, everything is exactly as it was in Dragon Age: Origins.  I onced watched a rather failure of a guy play Origins.  He never paused combat and tried to go from person to person to perform his idea of flawless combat.  He did not understand why he died so often.  Yes it’s real time, and if you want a flawless combat scene, fraps it, and then review it in fraps.  Otherwise the rest of us with brains will pause in between casts in combat, and issue whatever orders we want to issue.

Walking, running, talking, object interaction are all the same as Dragon Age: Origins.  No mechanics have changed at all from the original.  None except, ………. LOADING SCREENS.  I found the Dragon Age:Origins loading screens to be game breaking.  If I have to reboot my entire system every 30 minutes to get a game to play, then I give up.  There is no way in hell I would ever play that.  After patch after patch Bioware refused to admit it was something in the game.  And, even with patch after patch it was never adequatly fixed.  However, where Origins loading screens were horrible, Dragon Age 2 loading screens are a dream.  Everything loads up super fast and you’re off to the races.  That being said, nearly every 2 inches there’s a loading screen.

One addition was that mages, for the most part, now use their staves as magical weapons and melee weapons.  This is a slight departure from the original, because in the original mages cast way more spells qua spells.  Imagine my surprise when in the first cut scene my weakling mages bursts out ice shards spewing out of his staff like a mad banshee, killing everything in 3 hits.  If this is your cup of tea, then you’ve got it made.  It’s more of 3rd person shooter style, but if that’s your bag, have fun.  For those of us who actually have our brains ATTACHED to our spinal columns, this is the worst.

Fun 5/10

This is a mixed bag indeed.  Is the game fun compared to other games?  Is the game fun versus sitting at home alone?  Sure it will pass the time, but if you want something funner, how about replaying the original.  Which leads us to the last point.

Replay 0/10

Why a whopping zero for replay?  Because, if you didn’t catch the story the first time, then you just weren’t awake.  If you replay, then you will choose the same human, in the same family, doing the same exact things.  There is no replay.  Thanks for your $50 though.

Conclusion

If game developers want to have continued customers buying their products, they cannot continue to just put out junk to make a fast buck.  I’m sure everyone will disagree and side with the developer and say, making the fast buck pays for the epic games.  Well the sales of Dragon Age: Origins should have been able to fund yet another Dragon Age: Origins.  I mean, isn’t that the point of a wildly successful game?  Keep striking the iron while its hot.  You don’t turn around and piss on the people that bought your game for $120, including all addons.

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Activision to Pull Their Titles from PS3

Kotick Threatens

Bobby Kotick and a partner bought the once-struggling Activision for $440,000 in 1991, at a time when it was losing $30 million on $10 million in revenues. Now the world’s biggest independent computer games company, it has a market value of $16 billion (£10 billion) and operating profits of $179 million in the first quarter on sales of $981 million.

Activision overtook Electronic Arts last July when it was in effect taken over by Vivendi of France in a deal where Vivendi injected World of Warcraft into the company for a 56 per cent stake.

In an interview with the London Times, Activision / Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has some strong advice for Sony and threatened to pull its support for the console. “I’m getting concerned about Sony; the PlayStation 3 is losing a bit of momentum and they don’t make it easy for me to support the platform. It’s expensive to develop for the console, and the Wii and the Xbox are just selling better. Games generate a better return on invested capital on the Xbox than on the PlayStation,” he says. “They have to cut the price, because if they don’t, the attach rates (the number of games each console owner buys) are likely to slow,” Kotick said. “If we are being realistic, we might have to stop supporting Sony.” As for the timing on that, he adds: “When we look at 2010 and 2011, we might want to consider if we support the console–and the PSP (portable) too.”

For its part, Sony, which is mired in third place behind Nintendo and Microsoft in the next-gen game-console wars, keeps saying it won’t be pressured into trimming the price of the PS3.

Sony Dismisses Activision

Sony Corp. CEO Sir Howard Stringer responded directly–and dismissively–to Kotick’s comments. “He likes to make a lot of noise,” the Welsh-born executive told Reuters at a tech conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, which Kotick is also attending. “He’s putting pressure on me, and I’m putting pressure on him. That’s the nature of business. … [But] I lose money on every PlayStation I make–how’s that for logic?”

Speaking of the PS3, Sony Computer Entertainment America CEO Jack Tretton deflected questions that a widely rumored reduction in the console’s cost could come as early as next month. “We feel that we’re sacrificing the short term to pay dividends in the long term,” he told Silicon Valley magazine Fast Company. “People are having short-term thinking–the platform is not even three years old…. It costs a lot to invest in rolling out new technology, and if the consumer walks away before the life cycle is over–you can talk about the install base of hardware, but how many of those machines are still active, how many people are still playing them?”

“In 2008, we had a 38 percent increase in sales and we hit our 10-million-units-worldwide goal for PS3 sales,” he explained. “We had $6.4 billion in revenue in US alone on the PlayStation brand, and a 116 percent increase in software sales. At the worst possible time, if you’re hitting numbers and delivering success… my hope is that as our production efficiencies improve and more great games come to market, the horizon has got to be better for 2009 and 2010.”

Bioware Wants Attention

Now, Bioware co-founder Greg Zeschuk, has talked about the statement war, “I don’t think it’s really fair to poke fun at Sony,” Zeschuk says. “Certainly the Wii’s been a massive success and Sony’s probably not going as fast as they thought it would be but I think that they’re starting to make the right moves and the software’s coming along. I think it’s silly to be saying you’re not going to support Sony. The brand itself is still huge and there are millions of users out there.” Keep in mind bioware scared Sony witless when they threatened to not bring their title Mass Effect to the PS3. Also bioware is not in the number #1 spot for 3rd party developers as the giant Activision is.

My Take on the Situation

First of all Activision is right. Sony has priced probably 50% of the gaming market right out. The Nintendo Wii can be found for $126. The XBOX 360 can be found for $183. There is no way that at a price point of $400.00 can a PS3 even compete. For all those nay sayers, saying Activision is goofy or some other stupidity, follow the money.

Secondly developing for the platform is expensive. Again, follow the money, if the platform is far more expensive to develop for and it’s in 3rd place behind two consoles that are A) selling more and B) cheaper to develop for… It’s a no brainer.

Lastly the “too big to fail”, doesn’t apply in real business, unlike banks. People are saying that Activision would be giving up a huge platform if they didn’t support PS3 any longer. “More bang for your buck”! Ever heard of that? If they drop PS3 and target exclusively XBOX and Wii, and they get a much higher return for every development dollar? Who cares how large PS3 is, they are going to go where the money is.

I think Sony introd the market at a whopping $799.99 price point simply because their name is Playstation and they thought people would buy it regardless of the price. It is ridiculous. You could buy a car for that much, and get yourself a job delivering pizza. And, it would make you money, unlike the PS3.

I vote Activision follow through with the threat. Who’s to stop them? For all this sabre rattling, no one is taking them seriously.

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