The influence and demands of console gaming weigh heavily on Dragon Age II. For PC gamers this is not a good thing. I feel like the word “streamlining” must have appeared in every design memo. You can almost hear BioWare thinking, “These kids today, they can’t be bothered to move their rogue behind a target in order to properly execute a backstab. Let’s do all that for them!”
Part of me gets it. Positioning party members can be a little fussy, so why not just cut that stuff out in order to get right down to the combat?
Like Origins, Dragon Age II is a 50-plus-hour epic with a deep, complex combat system and a well-defined supporting cast. But it also wears its mythology proudly, confident in its goal of charting the rise of a complete and utter badass: you.
The first time you control Hawke—the hero—is in an opening flashback to your family’s escape from the Darkspawn attack on Lothering, which occurred in the first game. Dragon Age: Origins’ free battlefield camera is now gone, but at least the mouse-wheel scroll still grants the zoom you need to see the full field. Pausing, issuing a set of orders, then sitting back and watching the chaos unfold remains a joy that never gets old.
There are some immutable laws of the natural world. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Anything that can go wrong, will, and at the worst possible time. And finally, any tech discussion involving Gordon and Nathan will inevitably turn into a debate about Star Wars. Andy and Alan join Gordon and Nathan in Episode 169 of the No BS, Some Star Wars Podcast to discuss a new Gigabyte X58 board, AMD's dual-GPU Radeon HD 6990 "Antilles," and (perhaps inevitably) Wedge Antilles' raison d'etre as a starfighter pilot. Also, Western Digital buys Hitachi GST, the future of storage, and incredible feedback from Alan's stupid Mac microphone. With a bonus appearance by former boot and Maximum PC editor and current Maximum Tech editor Mike Brown!
Do you have a tech question? A comment? A tale of technological triumph? Just need to get something off your chest? A secret to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our 24-hour No BS Podcast hotline at 877.404.1337 x1337--operators are not standing by.
The series that's ended relationships and turned more than a few people to lives of solitary, scruffy bearded hermitude is making a somewhat unexpected leap to Facebook, of all places. Granted, it's not Dragon Age 2 in its entirety, but Dragon Age Legends, as it's known, is riding to battle a month before Dragon Age 2, and it'll let you see some brand new sights in advance of the game's release.
On top of that, playing the game will score you all manner of glittering prizes for use in Dragon Age 2. And, on top of that – standing on its shoulders to form some kind of unweildy videogame Voltron – you can play the game with friends, although BioWare hasn't specified exactly how it'll work just yet.
There's just one slight problem: it's sort of completely hideous. But then, so was flash game Dragon Age Journeys, and that actually turned out really well. Plus, in a gaming landscape dominated by farming sims, a decent fantasy RPG stands to seriously spice things up a bit. And yes, if you approached us two years ago and told us we'd be saying that, we probably would have laughed in your face. Then we would've launched into a tirade about how Duke Nukem Forever will never, ever come out, and you would've just shaken your head, hopped into your time machine, and gone to kill Hitler liked you'd originally planned.
We absolutely loved Dragon Age: Origins. And for that exact reason, we're standing a good few feet away from Dragon Age 2 and gently prodding it with our trepidation stick. See, on one hand, it could turn out to be a prettier, more streamlined take on Origins' sublime balance of strategic depth and chatty role-playing. On the other hand, however, BioWare seems bound and determined to shepherd it down the same path as Mass Effect 2 – which was a fantastic game, yeah, but not exactly the peanut butter to Dragon Age's chocolate.
Fortunately, BioWare's streamlining effort – despite an earlier report – won't snip the edges off the features us PC gamers hold near and dear: namely, an isometric, mouse-friendly camera and mod support.
"I can confirm that we will not be doing a tactical view on consoles, though we are looking into some expanded party control that I think will make console players quite happy," Dragon Age 2 lead designer Mike Laidlaw said. "On the PC, however, we are still working with the camera to keep the key elements of the tactical experience there."
"While we likely won't pull as far up as we did in DA:O, I have always felt that the key to tactical play was actually freeing your camera from the character you're controlling to issue precise orders, which is what we're tuning now. So, this means you can still maneuver the camera around the battlefield and issue orders from a remote location, just as you could in Origins."
So Laidlaw laid our fears to rest there, but mod support, as it turns out, is a bit of a stickier subject. Apparently, this stems from the fact that the creation tools for DA2 are more or less identical to the ones from Origins, so a new release won't be necessary.
"While we won't be releasing a toolset update in tandem with Dragon Age 2, we ARE investigating what it would take to update the community toolset to match ours, along with providing DA2 content in the future," Laidlaw explained.
Bottom line: once again, PC gamers win because we're smarter and more mature. Now let's go stick our tongues out at console gamers, make fart noises, and tell rude jokes about their mothers.
Hey, rest of the videogame industry, you might as well pack it in -- or at least stop making passes at the fantasy genre buffet and loading your plates up with clichés. Why? Because Dragon Age is officially a franchise now, and unless BioWare suffers a huge sophomore slump, your efforts are going to look silly by comparison. So, what’s on the table for Dragon Age 2? Well, here’s what we know so far:
First up, BioWare’s ready to unfurl one of its trademark 60-hour yarns, but this time, the role-playing powerhouse is breaking free from its usual mold. Dragon Age 2 tells the decade-spanning story of Hawke, “a penniless refugee who rises to power to become the single most important character in the world of Dragon Age.” Obviously, rags-to-riches has been done before, but we’re more interested in what BioWare’s going to do with a game world that’s actually affected by the passage of time.
On top of that, Dragon Age’s roughest edge, its graphical style – which was actually so rough that its nearest living genetic relative is a piece of sandpaper – is getting a complete overhaul. Or at least, that’s what we’re expecting from BioWare’s proclamation of a “new visual style.” Combat, meanwhile, is seemingly taking a turn for the visceral, with “dynamic new combat mechanics that put you right in the heart of battle.”
For now, we’re gonna have to take BioWare’s Executive VP of Press Release Writing’s word for it, but with a big blowout scheduled for next month’s Gamescom gaming convention, we won’t have to wait too long to judge for ourselves.
The game’s slated for a March 2011 release date. Odds are, after we’re done playing it, we’ll be able to identify with Hawke quite well, seeing as – if it’s anything like Origins -- we’ll probably lose our jobs, friends, and social lives to it and become penniless. That “most important character in the world” bit, though? Not so much.