Saturday, October 29, 2011

 Dragon Age: Origins vs. Dragon Age 2

Before you jump to conclusions let me explain.

 While the sequel is flawed, I still thought it to be a very enjoyable experience. Though I agree with the majority of gamers who thought that the first one was the superior game, I stilll thought that the sequel did some things better than its predecessor. With people already talking about the third entry in the series (despite the fact that it hasn't even been announced yet), I decided to compile a list of categories of gaming elements that fit into both games. In the list I describe which game handled that element the best.

Category 1: The Story

In almost every review for DA II, the reviewers state that there is little drive to the main plot, and they're right. Though the plot does pick up during the 2nd and 3rd acts, the game tends to put more focus on interactions between party members and side quests. Not that this is a bad thing, since DA II's story is meant to be a character-driven plot. However, when things that are meant to be sub-plots over-step the main plot, we've got a problem.

DA:O had a story that was very typical  of a fantasy game and it followed the traditional Bioware story formula. The story revolved around saving the world from an evil, demonic force, and you do this by traveling to various locations in order to perform some task that gears you up for the big climax. Is this a bad thing? Not at all! The story is very well written and emotionaly engaging. Though you spend most of your time gathering allies and helping them with their problems, the game constantly reminds you as to why you are doing this, which is to build an army to combat the darkspawn. Also, while Bioware's typical plot formula has gotten a little tedious, it is still enjoyable, and as the old saying goes: "If it ain't broken, don't fix it."

DA:O: 1    DA II: 0

Category 2: The Setting

While Kirkwall is an interesting city, I still wonder to myself....WHAT THE HELL WAS BIOWARE THINKING?!

Placing a Dragon Age game in a single city was a terrible idea. You feel restrained from exploring the rest of the country that the game takes place in. Plus the Free Marches sounds like an interesting place. Why restrict us to such a small portion of it? And don't get me startet on the recycled maps.

DA:O, on the other hand, takes place in a vast country racked by a Blight and civil war. The country of Ferelden offers a number of unique locations that you can't wait to explore. You get to know the country's cultures and wish to help the country with its problems. Lets hope that the next DA game takes place in a setting that doesn't involve us going to the same places over and over again.

DA:O: 2  DA II: 0

Category 3: The Protagonist

As much as I enjoyed picking my character's origin, I cannot help but feel that my warden is an emotionless avatar. When I play a game I want to control a character, not an avatar based off of my personality. When playing as Hawke and getting to develop his/her personality through dialogue, I felt like I was controling the actions of a true dynamic character who I felt connected with. I found more entertainment in controlling the fully-voiced, personality developing, origin and race restricted Hawke than I did the silent Warden who displays little to no personality.

DA:O: 2   DA II:1

Category 4: Characters

I know you're going to hate me for this but.....

DA II's characters weren't just part of the storyline, they WERE the storyline. During Hawke's time in Kirkwall, he/she becomes involved in the lives of several unique characters who's backstories are as interesting as their personalities. I felt truly connected with the party members of DA II as I helped them get away from their dark pasts. Also the increased party banter allows the party members to develop relationships with each other. For example: Isabella acts like a big sister for Merril while deliberatly playing the slut to annoy Aveline. Fenris shares a friendly rivalry with Varric and a light flirtation with Isabella while being a complete asshole to Merril and Anders due to his prejudice against mages.

Don't get me wrong, DA:O has a wonderful cast of unique characters to interact with. Unfortunatly their backstories don't reach the same level  of depth as DA II's characters do.

DA:O: 2    DA II: 2

Category 5: The Antagonist

DA:O has two major antagonists. The first being the Archdemon leading the darkspawn horde. The second one is Teyrn Loghain, a former war hero who's paranoia of Orlias (a country that once ruled Ferelden with an iron fist) and contempt towards the Grey Wardens (the organization of which your character belongs to) drive him to madness. While the archdemon doesn't do much aside from breathe fire and look like a bad-ass dragon, Loghain is a different story. Loghain is not only a formidable foe to be reckoned with, he is an interesting character who's fall from grace can't help but make the player sympathize with him as well as hate him. Loghain is the kind of villian we want to see in every RPG. My only problem with him is that we rarely get to see him as he spends most of the time opposing the player from the backround rather than being in your face all the time.

DA II also had some interesting antagonists. However they usually don't oppose the player until the end of each act. Antagonists like the Arishok and Knight-Commander Meredith would have been awsome if they set themselves up as the player's main foes earlier in the game.

DA:O: 3    DA II: 2

Category 6: Combat

DA:O's combat system revolved more around strategy and traditional RPG tactics. While DA II's combat system was more fast-paced and responsive. Personally I like both combat systems  and hope that, for DA III, Bioware creates a combat system that combines the two. However this is supposed to be a list of which game triumphs over the other so I am forced to make a choice. As much as I liked the faster, more responsive combat of DA II, I have to admit that it gets boring mashing the attack button again and again. Also the numerous waves of eneimies as well as the exploding corpses are a bad touch.

DA:O: 4    DA II: 2

Category 7: Atmosphere

The atmosphere of DA:O is one that could be found in most RPGs. A sense that your doom could around at any moment while a few jokes come around to brighten the mood a little. A sense that your enemies have all the advantages and you'll have to put a lot of effort into defeating them. Basically it was a typical good vs. evil atmosphere.

DA II's atmosphere was much more morally ambiguous . Both sides in the two major conflicts (those conflicts being the Qunari vs. Kirkwall and the Mages vs. Templars) had their ups and downs. I was constantly asking myself things such as: Are the Qunari a savage race who will massacre people because they don't share their beliefs, or are they a solitary race being constantly provoked by Chantry fanatics and racists. Are the mages being unjustly oppressed by the templars, or are they truly so dangerous that the only option is to lock them up in the Circle. An atmosphere that has you asking such questions and giving you tough choices to make is always a plus in my book.

DA:O: 4   DA II: 3

Category 8: Leveling-up system
The leveling-up system virtually works the same for both games. While DA II added a new artistic respresentation of the system, it also unnecessarily dumbed down a lot of its components. DA:O had a lot more things that you could upgrade and enhance.

DA:O:5  DA II: 3

Category 9: Graphics

This one was a no-brainer.

DA:O was awsome, but it had rather dated graphics, especially on the consoles. DA II introduced a new art style that really looks good and is a vast imrpovement of its predecesor.

DA:O: 5  DA II: 4

Category 10: Inventory Management

DA:O's inventory allows players to customize their character and party members in a variety of ways, and it was easy to mange all of the weaponsm armor, and other things that you pick up.

DA II's inventory system was outright confusing. While you were allowed to customize Hawke, there was little you could do to customize you companions. Personally I didn't mind this, I never really cared about customization. However other people take customization very seriously and DA II denies them this.

DA:O: 6    DA II: 4

Category 11: Romance

Both games provide a god set of interesting romance options for the player. However I felt that DA:O put more effort and diversity into its romance sub-plots. In DA II you can romance any of the party members with little restriction. In DA:O the player has to really has to relate to his/her romance option, or "options" if your the philandering type :). You have to get to know the character you are romancing and earn their aprroval through actions and conversations. Unlike DA II, it's not easy to bed just anyone, well except for Morrigan.

DA:O: 7   DA II: 4

Well that's all she wrote.

DA II was good, but it was trumped by its predecessor. However it still did make a few improvements. When Bioware makes its next Dragon Age game, I personally hope that it has more in common with the original game. However, from what I've heard, Bioware intends to mesh "the best of both games" into DA III. If they do a good job at this, they should be able to produce a top quality rpg that all of its fans can enjoy.

No comments: