So in my Dragon Age review I began by asking "Can Bioware do no wrong?" Apparently the answer is "Yes."
I had originally mocked Bioware in my first review for taking 4 years to produce the first game.. Now suddenly that didn't seem like such a bad idea, as Dragon Age II (DA2) the supposed successor, was rushed out the door in just over 8 months and it shows. DA2 just doesn't compare to Dragon Age - Origins (DA:O).
Now I realize that I'm giving the impression that I didn't think DA2 was a good game, that's not the case.. I think it was a good game by itself, but it just didn't meet up with the expectations nor match the precedent that was set with DA:O.
So, I want to say that Yes, DA2 is a good game on its own merits. But if you go in expecting DA:O version two, you're going to be disappointed.
The thing I liked about DA:O was that it was an epic game, and epic in it's story telling. They did an excellent job in making the player feel like he was a part of a bigger world. The game itself was fricken huge, with a lot of unique areas and places to go, things to see.. monsters to kill.. And there wasn't a lot of repeating of those areas.
One of the biggest issues with DA2 is they constantly reused the same dungeon, cave, map over and over just blocking off areas to keep you from going there this time.. This gets old fast and the 10th time I went into a random cave only to be on the same map I have done previously, I got kinda fed up. This was a really cheap way to reuse content and the game suffered a lot for it. Take a couple extra months and give us more areas so we aren't constantly walking in our own footsteps..
I did very much like how they told the story through the dwarf character, I thought that was quite clever indeed.. But it never "drew me in". I don't really know why but I never really felt like I was part of the story, just an outside observer of it..
Plus they completely removed the customizability of the previous game with regards to gear and equipping your secondary characters, or even for your main character to have a secondary slot of weapons.. These things were staples of the first game, gone in the second. Why?
Stability wise I think they missed the mark too as the game crashes on me quite a lot. Of my friends though, apparently I am the only person that this happens to so I'm willing to accept that it's me or my hardware.
Graphics and engine wise the game is as good as the first one, with the only notable difference is how you interact with your characters. You can interact with your character more like a MMO than like the first game and that's a good thing, though it may be playing a big role in how different the game feels.
Things that are better than the first game;
The Tactic System -- The tactic system got better, thank you very much Bioware. Huge points from me there. However you still don't have a "reset" tactic that can be used to turn stuff off when combat ends. Still its better than the first game for sure and your characters seem to be smarter about following them. I pretty much automated my characters completely and only played my main toon which was the whole point. Every once in a while I had to actually pause the game and redirect, but for the most part that wasn't necessary. In the first game I pretty much paused every other second to redirect someone.
The Difficulty -- The game is actually fricken hard, when you play it on hard. The first game I played on hard the first time through and impossible on the second time through without too much trouble. This game, even hard is too dang hard. That's a good thing! Hard should be hard.
Ranged Rogues -- Ranged rogues don't suck! YAY! Bows in the old game and ranged attacks in general were completely worthless.. The new game, not so much.. in fact not at all! Thank you for this.
Magic -- Magic in general seems much more impressive. It not only does more damage but it does it with style.
etc.. Lots of little things that they did do better.. It's just the feeling of the game is less epic.. Less grand.. Comparing it to another favorite franchise; Mass Effect 2 was a far better game than Mass Effect. Dragon Age 2 wasn't far better than Dragon Age - Origins. It was just different...
I feel like if you loved Origins, you'll hate DA2 or not really identify with it as much. Where as if you really didn't get into Origins, you'll love DA2.
So it may be unfair to say that Bioware did wrong with DA2. I just was expecting something different than I got.. I haven't quite finished the game yet, I'll knock it out and get back to you.