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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Game Review: Champions Online – Another City of Heroes?

Champions Online Game Review

If you missed it, this past weekend there was an open beta for the soon to be released game Champions Online. Yes, if you recognize the name it is based off of the old table top, pen and paper game of the same name. Cryptic Studios bought the licensing rights and made an MMO [massive multi-player online] out of it. So at its core is it a super-heor online game.

I got a chance to take a peak at it and played it for the entire weekend. I first didn’t remember the game, but seeing a couple of videos about it, I do recall it at E3. Low and behold it was the same game. I recall at E3 I wasn’t that impressed by it, but it was still developing at that stage.

On to the review. Since this is my first review on my blog, unlike my YouTube reviews at Shakaama Live, I’ll make this as factual as possible and list the criteria for the review.

Graphics
– Overall style (4 out of 10): The overall style of the look of the game is very unpolished. In city of heroes, your heroes were very larger than life and you really got the sense that you were playing a super-hero. Although the graphics were in fact realistic and the cityscape was modern, it just did not give you a sense of anything unique and exciting. It was not impressive

– landscape (3 out of 10): The environment was well executed, but everything was just so tiny and the levels were so compact that you never got the sense you were in an actual city, an actual forest, an actual tundra. The zones made it clear that you were playing a game with snow, dirt, trees and not that you were in some actual area.

– character (4 out of 10): The graphics of the NPC’s and the PC’s were not impressive at all. Again they were not polished. The animation of the characters were all stiff as well. There was no sense of fluid real life motions, nor super-hero life motions as well.

– hardware capability (6 out of 10): This category is for if the game really tests your hardware. As you can see by the previous graphics categories, it isn’t a graphically impressive game. As such, I found no problem installing it and getting it to play smoothly. So for smoothness of playability graphic wise it gets a complete pass, but the lack of challenging hardware with impressive graphics it fails.

Gameplay
– chargen (2 our of 10): Character generation was a sticking point in City of Heroes. They constantly redeveloped the chargen. Champions Online completely just copied them. Chargen involves nothing more than making the rudimentary powers of your hero and overabundance of looks for your character. I say overabundance, because unless you are playing zoomed all the way into your character you will never see all the minor things you or anyone else did to their character. In the end chargen boils down to basic heights, colors and costuming. The hundreds of facial expressions you can put on your character or whether he has a cleft chin is unnecessary. Chargen therefore was not innovative at all. I’ve yet to see a super-hero chargen where you can plan out or plot out the path of powers he’s to go on or even remove the powers altogether and do an actual back story in game of developing the powers. Both City of Heroes and Champions missed the point of this. They both just lazily put a text editor on your character and let you write some mumbo jumbo about the origins of the hero. The fact that Champions chargen is exactly the same as City of Heroes smacks of plagiarism.

– controls (2 out of 10): the controls were clunky as hell. I heard that you could attach an xbox controller to your computer and have massive fun, unfortunately I don’t have one and didn’t think about it. I suffered through, what has to be the worst physics known to man. It’s as if my hero was 4 tons and didn’t have control of his own muscles. While the developer at E3 called the gameplay heroic, it is anything but. The worst thing were the travel powers. I tested them all. unless you chose superspeed and flight, you had zero precision of how your character moved. None of this stop on a dime. I also was disappointed with the flying disks that they put in: ice, electric etc… those travel powers used a disk, and when you stopped moving you floated to the ground. I just don’t get the point of that. Do you lose control of your disk in relation to gravity? I’m sure it’s to prevent some exploit, but for game play it sucks. Speaking of ice, I thought it was going to be like iceman. You know he cools the air under his feet and creates a path of ice. No, it’s a floating icy disk. How lazy are you that you can’t program an icy path that fades in 2 seconds behind him after 10 yards. Yet in the videos and the splash screens he has an icy path. Mind you it wasn’t even my power of choice, but I found it disappointing.

– ui (0 out of 10): User Interface! What can I say about their user interface. Oh one word comes to mind: HORRIBLE!!!! This was a pain in the butt. Man it was god awful. I just cannot say enough about it. There were these … and then these … also these… ugggg it was ridonkulous. Who thought it up? And, lastly, it wasn’t even something new, it was just a bad copy of other UI’s. uggggg!!

Story
– rpg ( 3 out of 10): Is there a story you can follow? Yes, and they do convey it. Yes you get a feel for what is going on in the game and it’s not just something boring. Ok, for there being a story Champions gets a pass. As for the actual merits of the story? Fail. They had the most unimaginative staff come up with the worst scenarios possible. I’ve seen more imagination in table top games from complete social rejects, than what i saw in this game. The story for a super hero… yes a SUPER HERO, should be epic. Literally the challenges in this game, a swat team could handle and be home by dinner. It was just so bleh.

– lore (6 out of 10): Was there background to the story and the world and the game? Yes, they have cut scenes and npcs that talked to you. The voice acting was well executed and gave you a sense of the character speaking. Not bad build up to it.

Advancement
– rpg (1 out of 10): Does your advancement in the game have a story like quality to it? No.

– hack n slash (1 out of 10): Is the game advanced by hack n slash? Yes

Overall
– Immersion: Did you feel immersed in this online game. No

– Must have: Is this a must have game for video game nerds. No. This is not going to be a classic and a “if you’re a nerd you must have this in your library”. This doesn’t advance any game style. In fact it doesn’t even advance the Champions franchise. I’m sorry to say that. I played champions only once, hell i spent a month making the character. This game is not impressive in the least bit.

I predict a lackluster launch and a lackluster following. This game just does not capture the imagination.

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