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Written by Starfox   
Sunday, 24 April 2011 02:28
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Dragon Age 2: Rise To Power
Don't shoot the story...
Don't talk to me unless I want t
Don't hurt me... much
I'm Hi-Tech
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Dragon Age 2: Rise To Power


I'm Hi-Tech


Technically, Dragon Age 2 applies a scheme that to some is utterly curious. In the facts, the game only support DirectX 9 and DirectX 11 but allow playing with DirectX 10 cards (as DX10 commands can be sent via DX11). That is not going without some effects depending on what OS version and card you possess. So here's the deal:


For Windows XP/Vista and 7:

DirectX 9 (Windows XP/Vista/7) plus any supported card = play with low or medium quality settings


For Windows Vista and 7:

DirectX 11 plus supported DX10 card = play up to high quality settings

DirectX 11 plus DX11 card = play up to very high quality (max) settings


So if you still run XP you'll be limited to low or medium quality, no matter the card you have as XP is DX9 only. If you have Vista or Seven and a DX10 graphic card you'll be able to play with up to high quality settings, very high quality settings being only achieved with Vista/Seven AND a DX11 card (AMD/ATI HD5xxx or HD6xxx series and Nvidia 4xx and 5xx series).


Additionally Bioware released on the same day as the game a HD texture pack (that curiously wasn't included on the game DVD and must be downloaded separately even if you bought the retail version of the game). Officially though, this texture pack is only working if you run the game in DX11 with a DX11 card. Too bad because without this textures pack, vanilla textures looks like crap, especially when playing in high quality mode.


But running the game in DX11 with very high quality settings engaged is not necessarily worth it anyway. The only real big change between high and very high setting being the use of DX11 tessellation capability (DX11 creates polygons from textures, instead of just having “flat” textures). But that has a cost. On current middle range hardware such as the Radeon HD6850 card, your framerate is cut in half, the visual gain not really compensating the framerate loss. If your computer is powerful enough, the game is still playable but may become sluggish in some areas.


Dragon Age 2: Rise To Power


So what do you make of that Sherlock?


It's not that Dragon Age 2 is a very bad game. Would it have been developed by a newcomer on the video gaming scene I would have qualified it of “promising albeit quickly wrapped with significant room for improvement”. But this is Bioware we're talking about. They are not newcomers, they are some of the best in the industry when it comes to RPG and Dragon Age 2 just does not meet the bare minimal expectations I have when I put a Bioware product in my drive. I was replaying Mass Effect (the first one) the other day and it is just so much better when it comes to characterization and storyline handling. Mass Effect 2 was even better in these areas.


But after having replayed (yeah I am that masochist) the game a couple more times I decided to go and play the Arrival DLC for Mass Effect 2, and I realized something amazing: Dragon Age 2 storyline barely accomplishes anything more than the story-bridging Arrival; it's just an over-sized story bridge between the Dragon Age: Origin universe and the probable Dragon Age 3. It sets most of the stuff that will play a role in Dragon Age 3 but does not let the player be really involved in it -- indeed some of your DA2 companions have more impact on the storyline than your own character (despite his big -- and over-hyped as far as I'm concerned -- "Champion" title). Whereas Arrival lasts about 1 hour and a half however, Dragon Age 2 roughly average 38 hours. 38 hours for a story-bridge; was it really worth a game? Why not a book instead?


Finally it's this feeling to just get a fourth of a real Bioware game that is probably the most disconcerting , especially for a story that is supposed to last about 10 years. Dragon Age: Origin lasts just one year and the possible combinations were endless when compared to DA2.


With Dragon Age 2, Bioware just offers us some kind of hack and slash sub-product that they shouldn't be proud of. It's obvious they tried to build a more enjoyable and accessible gameplay but doing so it's like if they dropped the ball on the aspects that always make their games successful to me. And that is seriously worrying. Those of you who read our reviews of other Bioware products on the Foxhole know how much we generally appreciate Bioware games and for what reasons we do. It makes the very average note of Dragon Age 2 even more painful. So let's make that a warning... Wrong move Bioware. Just let it be the only one you make.



Review summary 5.0/10
Pros Cons
The narration of the story by Varric is a nice trick
A more enjoyable combat system
It could be much worse... I guess
General storyline inconsistancies that may be aggravated if you import a savegame where you made choices that are contrary to Bioware "canon"
Bad companionship handling that may make players emotionally detached from the NPCs they should care about
Lack of participation of the main character in any big decision making of the player a spectator to the big events more than anything else
The persona concept denies all kind of flexibility to the player regarding how a specific situation could be handled.


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