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Preview – Dragon Age II | Level Up News

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Preview – Dragon Age II

 

Gather close so you might learn of the Curse of Video Game Sequels.

The origin of this curse is unknown, but has plagued many series. Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2 was persecuted for not being Solid Snake. Legend of Zelda: Link’s Adventure turned the top-down series into a side-scroller. And the sheer horrors of Final Fantasy X-2 are too numerous to count. There seem to be no franchises immune to the curse, for it can and will strike when least expected. And when the good games are hit, they fall hard.

In 2003, from the northern regions of a land called Canada, a video game known as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was produced by BioWare. And it was good. The story and gameplay won over Star Wars fans and gamers alike, and went on to become one of the best-selling Xbox titles of all time.

BioWare did not retain the rights for the sequel. And once Obsidian Entertainment released Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, the darkness came. Sure, there was the glimmer of hope in the upgraded combat system that made the game more fluid and fun to play. But the improved gameplay came at the heavy cost of plot. Beloved characters from the original were casually discarded, plot points were ignored, and more questions were raised than answered.

Soon to sojourn into the land of sequels is BioWare’s fantasy epic Dragon Age. And, unfortunately, the recently-released demo has some eerily similar hallmarks of the same failures that were in KOTOR 2.

Dragon Age II is not a continuation of the tale of the Grey Wardens—the first game’s central protagonists—but is rather a parallel story from the same timeline. A new character, Hawke, of ambiguous origins/character class/gender, is revered as the Champion of Kirkwall—a title that is not yet explained.

Hawke’s story begins with an escape from Lothering with family, battling darkspawn along the way. It is here that we learn Hawke knows how to handle weapons—whether they sword, dagger, or magic staff. The improved battle mechanics of Dragon Age II are an impressive sight to behold, such as Bethany and Hawke being fully aware that a magic staff can double as a melee weapon—something that escapes the mages from Dragon Age: Origins. Leveling is also improved, resembling a cleaner, simpler, don’t-need-a-strategy-guide-to-understand version of the d20 Modern template the game is designed after. And above all else, the font is clear and easy to read!

But the story revealed in the demo is not compelling. It begins with a dwarf retelling a tale of the Champion of Kirkwall, and being accused of making the story up. The demo’s timeline jumps back and forth between the Dragon Age: Origins timeline and whatever the present time is. Back and forth the story goes, the first cut-scene showing Hawke and one sibling fighting a horde of darkspawn while a dragon looks on. Then later, the dwarf’s story catches up to that same scene… except there are more people in Hawke’s party… and Hawke is wearing different clothes… and the dragon isn’t a spectator but a battle participant, establishing the dwarf isn’t exactly a trustworthy narrator.

After Lothering, the game jumps forward to Kirkwall, displaying a montage of cut scenes and suddenly Hawke is a level seven character. (Did… did something horrible happen between Lothering and Kirkwall so treacherous that the demo didn’t think anyone needed to know?)

With so much emphasis clearly being placed on re-doing the combat and mechanics, crafting an enveloping story may have been lost. Choices do play a roll, much like in BioWare’s other franchise Mass Effect, with the newly-improved dialogue wheel stolen right from the space opera RPG. Gone are the days of having fifteen sentences to choose from to tell Alistair exactly how you felt, replaced instead by a small Wheel of Morality for Hawke to choose between Angelic, Comedic, or Dickish responses. While this change allows Hawke to be a fully voiced character rather than just a pretty face, there is nothing to suggest that any of the choices made have any impact on the game itself. Though as the demo is only a slight preview of the game, things may change later down the line.

KOTOR 2 split KOTOR fans down the middle, forever leaving them arguing over which game was better, endlessly debating where Revan went, and quarrelling whether to acknowledge the game’s existence in one’s own fandom. There were even those individuals who willing chose Atton Rand over Carth Onasi—a crime so horrid we shall never speak of it again! Let us pray that Dragon Age II will not be added to the list of games that have suffered the Curse of Video Game Sequels, that fans will not be torn which game to like, argue what happened to the Grey Wardens, and indefinitely debate whether Isabella is more promiscuous than Zevran.

Preview - Dragon Age II, 5.0 out of 5 based on 4 ratings
 

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About the author

Ever since her father introduced her to arcades at age four, Jennifer has been a gamer. Known around the office as the walking Star Wars encyclopedia, her favorite games include Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, Metal Gear Solid, and Mass Effect. Follow her on Twitter! @jennifervolpe

 
 

Comments

  1. OnyxPrimal says:

    KOTOR II was buggy, sure, but the game and its characters are fine. I’m sorry so many people ran into to so many bugs, but that dosen’t mean it has no merit. Obsidian was rushed to make a Christmas deadline by Lucasarts. If you look around you can see what they had planned and honestly it’s shame time won out over quality. There are addons for the PC (fan created) that can restore some of the lost content. Also Zelda II IS a good game. If the title had come out without the Zelda name on it people would still be talking about it as a classic today. Besides, who can fault Nintendo for trying something new back then? It’s easy to look back now and say it was a misstep, but at the time there were not a handful of other overhead Zelda titles to compare it to. The demo was great. It took a game I wasn’t sure about and made me excited about it. In fact I’m about to go play DA1 again with all content. Good day to you.

    VA:F [1.9.8_1114]
    Rating: -1 (from 1 vote)
  2. Kooper says:

    OnyxPrimal: First off, I can’t argue about Zelda II, I did enjoy it, but quite honestly I’d prefer any of the more traditional styles over Zelda II. As far as KotOR II, in defense the actual core gameplay was solid and was well thought out, but they never spent any time with the story or debugging. That’s the way in *all* Obsidian titles. I made the mistake of actually playing that awful Alpha Protocol. Not only was that buggy, but it also fragged my entire hard drive after crashing for the fifth time and the second CD. Obsidian just does not spend the time to debug their games. And no amount of fan created content can fix that. And as far as DA2 is concerned, I like how graphically they did enhance the game, but what happened to the combat? I like DA:O because it was more of a tactics type game. DA2 is more a hack-and-slash, and those type of games are boring. They should have just stuck to what made DA:O great and not mess it up.

    VA:F [1.9.8_1114]
    Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
  3. RevanFTW says:

    OnyxPrimal: If you need fan-made mods to restore cut-out content and make the game good, then that doesn’t say much about the original game. After the awesomeness that was KOTOR, fans got a turd for a sequel. Like the point you make with Zelda II, if KOTOR 2 was simply “Star Wars: The Sith Lords” it would have been a good game. But by making it a sequel that had nothing to do with the original game, it turns it into a disappointing second game. The rushed deadline doesn’t factor into that at all. Even with the restored content (which, yes, I’ve downloaded and played) the game is still bad.

    Only good thing about KOTOR 2 was HK-47s pacifist program. And even that was short lived.

    VA:F [1.9.8_1114]
    Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
 
 

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