Looking back at Dragon Age 2: Was it really that bad?

4 mins read

We’ll start seeing more information about Dragon Age III shortly, no doubt. Bioware’s fantasy RPG series has sold well in the past, and the original was a massive critical success to boot. Dragon Age II was brutalised, however, which might taint people’s expectations for the sequel.

So in anticipation of E3 and all the Dragon Age III news that we can probably expect, let’s have a look back at Dragon Age II. Specifically, was it really that bad? I don’t think so. While it was very different to Dragon Age: Origins, and clearly made quickly, it in itself was not a bad little RPG.

The thing that a lot of people seemed to find so disappointing in Dragon Age II was how limited the setting was. By focusing almost the entire game on the city of Kirkwall the game did indeed lack the epic scope of Dragon Age: Origins, but was this a bad thing? I’d argue not. The city-based RPG is a staple of the pen-and-paper RPG world of Dungeons & Dragons, but is rarely attempted in the realm of videogames. When it’s at its best, the city-based RPG provides an intricate world of political intrigue to work through, where facing off armies is replaced by working your way through social circles and unravelling labyrinthine plots.

It’s harder to do in videogames when there isn’t a moderator (Dungeon Master) controlling the enemies and able to react to the strange decisions players are wont to make. And I’m not saying that Dragon Age II nailed it, but it did do a reasonable job. Kirkwall is an interesting city, and it does offer plenty of to do. There are lots of people to help and villains to defeat, and the underworld does a good job of acting like the world’s dungeons.

It helps that the characters are an interesting bunch, as they were in the last game, but this is even more critical for a city-based RPG plot, so it’s even more noticeable here. The banter between the different personalities as you explore the city helps give Dragon Age II a personality, and by the end of the game I did care a great deal for my little party of heroes.

The combat was as good here as it was in the previous game too. More action-focused, yes, but streamlined in the right way to allow people who don’t want to think too much on the lower difficulty levels to feel powerful, while giving the more strategic fans something to dig their teeth into. The skill trees were all fairly useful, and finding the optimum mix of character classes was a strategic challenge.

My only real objection to the game is the equipment menu, which is a touch too streamlined. Aside from the central hero, Hawke, the companions largely dress themselves, and this was a mistake, as the loot side of the game was a lesser experience for it.

The only other thing Dragon Age II was really guilty of was being not as mind blowing as the original game. The shift in focus to a single city was a nice experiment for the series, and although I do hope Dragon Age III returns to the epic plotline, I don’t think the experience in Kirkwall is anywhere near as disappointing as the game’s reputation suggests.

What do you think? Were you disappointed with Dragon Age II, and if so why? Or, did you enjoy the game? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • Good morning.  I concur with this – but then, I actually enjoyed DA II myself.  I will agree with your caveats about the menu and the storyline and will add one more as it felt like it was not as expansive.  That goes hand-in-hand with the far less 'epic' storyline, but also resulted in a lot of the visual assets and areas getting used and reused over and over again.  Not a deal killer for me personally – I still enjoyed the game and plan to give it another play somewhat soon, but even upon release I gave it a better score on my blog than most sites did. 

  •  Great way to elaborate with details….

    I enjoyed DA2 as much as any other generic game of recent years.  The story was ok, the combat was fun and satisfying, and the characters were varied and dynamic.  I was a little disappointed in some of the plot ideas but enjoyed it overall.  I will mention the game breaking glitch I experienced.  Before your first interaction with the character Isabela, there are some skeletons to kill.  If you kill them all and loot before the cut scene is triggered, it breaks your ability to speak to her to activate that story arc.  This ruins the game as it makes the conflict with the Qunari impossible to pass.  You can talk talk your way out of it without the relic or Isabela and you cannot talk your way into dueling the Arishok alone with out at least Isabela.  There may be  a way to defeat all of the Qunari at that point if you are powerful enough, but I doubt it.

  • "You can talk talk your way out of it without the relic or Isabela and
    you cannot talk your way into dueling the Arishok alone with out at
    least Isabela.  There may be  a way to defeat all of the Qunari at that
    point if you are powerful enough, but I doubt it."

    Meant to say "cannot talk your way out if it without the relic or Isabela…"


  • There is a good
    reason why DA:O won the RPG of the year award and DA:2 did not. Personally DA:2
    was a huge disappointment for me. The whole game lacks of coherence the story
    and the characters are forgettable and in the end you know nothing more that at
    the beginning. The over the top abilities and all the Hack&Slash elements
    combined with oversized weapons are only the top of the iceberg.

  • Hi Vingasar, thanks for the input!

    I was lucky enough not to run into that bug in my playthroughs, but thanks for the warning for future reference.

    I did encounter a very similar bug with one of the DLC quests (the one where you win the castle at the end) for the original Dragon Age, though. Thought I was playing a Bethesda game for a moment. 😉

  • It's funny though – people are willing to play a FPSer on the same handful of maps over and over again, but repetition in a RPG is a bad thing.

    Not that I'm saying they're the same thing, but RPGs do have this expectation that, right or wrong, they're very varied experiences. As long as what you're doing in those environments is varied, I'm happy. And to me Dragon Age II was a small-scale, but varied enough experience.

    I shall have to go back and read your review again!

  •  Story was ok? It was linear as hell and it was also story of city full of maniac. First, we didn't really need Hawke there. DA3 will be based of the fact Anders, NOT Hawke blew up the Chantry and started a real war between Mages and Templars. Two, Anders was a loonie and Hawke knew it and still Bioware gave no choice to players to kill/stop Anders until it already happened. Some of knew what Anders was making is a bomb before the whole stupid event in Chap3 began. Three, Meredith is also a loonie. Must kill mages, they are all blood mages, I must…. till what end? To end she went nuts. Real great character, real great story. Four, Qunari are also loonies. They wait out for, what, almost 10 years before they decided to wipe out city clean??? If they really thought the whole city of Kirkwall is now worthy if not converted, they should have done it a bit earlier… loonies.. Five, Isabella is a moron. She waited as long as Quanri to ask Hawke to find a damned relic when Qunari finally go nuts??

    Awesome story 🙂

  • I wasn't disappointed. But if I did nitpick the one city unopenness of the game bugged me and the non ability to customize my party was a letdown. But I did enjoy the game and am hopeful some of DA:O is brought back for DA3

  • DAO was meant to be a successor of BG series. It wasn't perfect but it get back the real time combat with pause in isometric view – some ppl miss it! Instead of improving idiotic questbags (was it a problem to make sidequests a complex sidestories?), combat system.. they made DA2 :). Reused locations wasn't problem for me.. the problem was AWESOME combat, lack of interesting sidequests (only companion-quest) which were replaced by finding an item and then finding an owner… wow.. what an evolution. Lack of party members customization was mentioned. Maybe DA2 wasnt bad game – but was very big disappointment for me.

  • DA2 was definitely not a bad game however it was not DAO2. It was not "our" story but "Hawke"s story. This was the thing that disappointed me the most. I was expecting something similar to the DAO (and of course BG) yet what I had found was a "Mass Effect like" fantasy world.

    And then came the Witcher 2, and showed us that you can still make good old RPGs 🙂 

  • It wasn't a bad game, but it was limited. Going to the same locations over and over got boring, if it wasn't for the interesting characters I would probably have quit. The worst offenders were the generic caves and such, it was the same layout over and over with the odd branch impassable time after time, 
    but even when you could enter part of a cave they still showed up on the map,  why was every cave in the area based on the same design, that is very lazy of the designers, and is just one of many areas where the game felt rushed…  Finding an item and then returning it over and over was also lacking as a quest design…

    Having your entire family murdered kind of sucked to…

    So yeah while I did vaguely enjoy the game, I can't see myself every playing it again.

    Best part of the game? Eve Myles of Torchwood fame, I absolutely loved her voicing of Merril and she was my choice to romance! 😀

  • Totally agree, story was consistent game progression fluid. I like it a lot. Yes it has flaws but in my opinion minor ones. 

  • This game was bad.: By the time I finished the game I was still wondering when the plot would begin. I was baffled when I realized.. That is all there is to it. I would rather play "Barbies mansion" than this, at least it sounds like it would have more of a plot to it. The characters were generic and soo stereotypical it hurt to watch and it didn't feel real in any way. Poor, poor excuse for a game. And that they slapped DA on the title just makes it so much worse.

  • Misha, I agree with you that the game was disappointing! I wanted a direct sequel to DAO and instead we got was was essentially an expansion pack, but to me disappointing is not the same as "bad."

    There was nothing broken about the game, and in fact I'd suggest that people who hadn't played Baldur's Gate or Dragon Age Origins would probably have quite enjoyed it. 

    I would be very interested to hear from someone who did play DA2 first. Know anyone? 🙂

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