Geek Gifts 2011: Dragon Age II

Dragon Age II, with all of the possibilities for different outcomes based on the choices you make, definitely offers a lot of gameplay for your money.

Somehow or another, I missed the first game in the Dragon Age series, so my perspective is strictly based on Dragon Age II gameplay, not a comparative analysis between the two. Having said that, I do plan to pick up a used copy of Dragon Age: Origins in the near future, just to see if it adds to the overall experience. That's a good sign, folks, because if I thought Dragon Age II sucked, I wouldn't bother with its predecessor. For hardcore fans, be sure to check out the web series Dragon Age: Redemption.

Dragon Age II was developed by BioWare and published by EA. It was released for the major gaming suspects - Xbox 360, PS3, Microsoft Windows, and Mac OS X - in March of 2011. Not surprisingly, due to all of the killing and blood splatter, this single-player role-playing game was given a Mature rating.

The storyline follows a character named Hawke, and a lot of the things that happen over the course of a decade are the result of choices that you make. In fact, the choices begin almost immediately, when you decide whether to play Hawke as a male or female warrior, rogue, or mage - and this determines the fighting capabilities (and other options, such as romance opportunities) that you'll be able to build on as the story progresses. As a result, this game could potentially be played several times, start to finish, with a very different gaming experience.


What I like

  • Storyline: What's not to like about a mythical world full of dragons, magic, romance, and war? The decade that you follow Hawke is full of quests, challenges, death (not only of the enemy), and strengthening character abilities. However, I do wish that I would have read some of the online forums before I selected ability upgrades. Apparently, some of them are more effective against powerful enemies.
  • Choices: I love choices, and with the variety of options available for Dragon Age II, it definitely deserves two snaps and a twist. Sure, there were times when I second-guessed decisions I made - even in the very beginning when I chose to be a female warrior. Later, a secondary character that I really liked died. Would she have died if I selected a different character to join that battle? The game also provides three different choices for most responses: reasonable, humorous, and forceful. As a woman - one who doesn't like conflict - I chose the reasonable reply the majority of the time, but I'm left wondering if that didn't effect the outcome of several situations as well. Hmph.
  • Weapons and abilities: Even though you're primarily following the story of Hawke, you're able to play (or fight) as several different characters. This allows you to experience and upgrade the abilities of warriors, rogues, and mages. In fact, when you're in the heat of battle, the key to surviving is often by cycling through the various characters in your group, keeping them regenerated on health, using the most effective weapons, potions, and poisons (depending on the type of enemy), and positioning them on the battlefields where they can inflict the most harm and sustain the least amount of damage.

What I don't like

Overall, I really like Dragon Age II, so I don't have several list bullets here. There really is only one beef that I have with this game. I consider myself a pretty good gamer, but I had an incredibly hard time getting through some of the battles on Casual mode, which is (ahem) the easiest setting. Adding insult to injury, the game "suggests" that you change the difficulty setting if you're having a hard time! I quickly found myself online, searching for walkthroughs and battle tactics. There were several times when I just turned the game off, because I was tired of repeatedly dying. In fact, I never did finish the game. That satisfaction was not worth losing my sanity in the process.

Geek bottom line

Dragon Age II, with all of the possibilities for different outcomes based on the choices you make, definitely offers a lot of gameplay for your money. Other reviews have stated that it isn't as good as Dragon Age: Origins, but since I didn't have a frame of reference, I certainly wasn't disappointed. If you like mythical worlds and battles, I highly recommend that you add this game to your gaming library.

Geek Gift Score (out of 5)

  • Fun factor: ****
  • Geek factor: ***
  • Value: *****
  • Overall: ****

For more reviews of tech gadgets, gizmos, games, and books, download the PDF of TechRepublic's Geek Gift Guide 2011.