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Dragon Age II – The Tale of a Champion

It’s time for another review, this time of Dragon Age II, having completed the game recently, I have to say I was met with a mixture of satisfaction, but also confusion.

This game is a little different from the other two based on how the story is. It remains with the same RPG style as its predecessor only this time you are playing as a set character. As always, this review will be based on my first playthrough and I will have to split everything based on the three acts on the game, so shall we begin?

In this game, we are playing as Hawke, who can be either male or female and a class of our choice. I had not tried the rogue class yet, so I decided to make my female Hawke a rogue archer. The story is told by Varric as he is interrogated by Cassandra who is searching for the Champion of Kirkwall and their involvement in the mage-templar war. He tells it based on the choices we make in this game. When I found out this was going to be about that war, I was happy that the pieces were coming together as I started in this franchise where that war had already started.

In Act I, the Fifth Blight has terrorized the Hawke family’s home in Lothering and they are forced to flee to Kirkwall. After one year living as a refugee and my choice to have her join the mercenaries, we are offered to join Varric and his brother Bartrand in a Deep Roads expedition in hopes of gaining riches to reclaim the family home.

Act II is where things get more diplomatic. Tensions are rising between the Qunari presence in the city, and the Viscount. The Qunari refuse to leave until they obtain a relic that is rightfully theirs, until the Arishok’s impatience causes him to declare war and it either ends with him leaving peacefully or being killed.

Act III, this time the tension is between the mages and the templars. I knew most of this was already starting due to chatter among both sides in previous acts, but never saw the leaders until near the end of the previous act. There is a lot to it, but simplifying it for myself: First Enchanter Orsino wants mages to have more freedom rather than be confined to the Circle all their lives. I’ve done some research on the Circle and that place is like a prison! Mages cannot be in contact with family, no relationships, and cannot leave without being tracked down by templars! But, Knight-Commander Meredith believes that all mages are dangerous and tries to keep order by applying more restrictions to them. Eventually, it all comes down to choosing who to support when Meredith has been driven mad and the war begins.

Not much has changed in terms of gameplay, but there are a few things I’d like to note, including a few flaws I found with this game:

  • Instead of approval, companions can either become your friend or rival depending on the choices you make, and sometimes that can impact whether they stay or not. 
  • I found that a lot of maps were reused in this game; evidence of rushed production. This was especially noticeable in caves and underground passages.
  • Combat still requires the tactical approach, but I hated it when I would defeat the enemies in the area and then a bigger wave came long every single time.
  • Everything takes place in Kirkwall: day and night. There’s only one particular area nearby that you go to outside of the city. 
So, the signs of rushed production are clearly visible. Had the game not have been rushed, there would have been more time to add more maps and locations. There were also a few notable things in the story that were unusual that is also evidence of rushed production but I’ll cover that under moments per act. Now, onto the characters.

There were a lot of references to the previous game and Varric is seen not just as the storyteller, but a companion as well where I got to learn more about him. We also meet Aveline, a warrior who fled the Blight with her late husband and eventually became Captain of the Guard in Kirkwall. There’s Fenris, who I’ve noticed in communities, he gets a lot of love. I almost decided to pursue a romance with him, but changed my mind because there was something about his attitude that I didn’t like. Either way, he’s still an interesting tragic character that I may romance next time.

We also have Merrill, a Dalish elf and mage. Apparently there is more to her if I played the origin story of a Dalish but so far I know she became a blood mage and her clan doesn’t trust her for that. She seems like a good-natured person, but all I got from her was mainly rivalry points even though my Hawke had compassionate nature.

I did not realize that Isabela was seen previously seen in Origins, but she is rather interesting and liked a lot by many of you. However, to me, although I liked her personality, she required frequent babysitting on the battlefield.

Hawke also has siblings: Carver and Bethany, but I lost them both sadly. I should have not taken Bethany with me into the Deep Roads after losing Carver at the beginning. Sebastian from the DLC Exiled Prince isn’t much and apparently there’s someone named Tallis too but I never met her for some reason.

Finally, there’s Anders who returns from Awakening, who fled the Grey Wardens mainly due to them taking away his kitty Ser-Pounce-A-Lot. I chose to romance him for this particular playthrough. He kept pushing me away out of fear of hurting me but I persisted, even if he was partly possessed by the spirit Justice. Even when he destroyed the Chantry, I still let him live and he and my Hawke are basically fugitives: lovers on the run, how romantic. There isn’t anything in particular that stands out in his romance that I liked, but it was still good given how it ends in forbidden love for me at least.

Alright, so moments are going to be divided up per act here. Honestly, in this game, I just went with the flow and didn’t care so much about what anyone thought about the choices I made. That resulted in some of my companions dying or leaving and not just the two siblings.

Act I

The first act felt like it dragged on forever. I had literally exhausted every single side and companion quest before I could finally go to the Deep Roads, and it felt like it took me a helluva long time to obtain 50 sovereigns for Bartrand to fund the expedition. So yeah, this was when I recruited everyone, and I was very diplomatic when helping others to get the money. I tried to avoid killing too many people if the option was present. I’m a total Paragon, but seriously, I would like to experiment in the future! I knew I couldn’t trust Bartrand when I first laid eyes on him, but I can’t say there were too many highlights in this act other than that. However, I started to see foreshadowing of the tensions between mages and templars, like the time those mages were hiding in the Wounded Coast and I convinced the templars to leave. There were mentions of Meredith’s actions that made me look forward to meeting her to see what a bitch she sounded like from others.

Act II

Big-ass picture for the sexy Arishok 😍

The second act is where things got challenging for me; the time I knew it was time to get better weapons and armor. I didn’t get the signature Champion armor until the end of this act, but here is where I decided to take risks even if it meant losing people. The Qunari are so fierce, in fact I wish they looked like this in Inquisition, except for the Iron Bull, he’s fine the way he is! Anyway, when I first saw the Arishok I was instantly crushing on him. He had everything I wanted in a Qunari: long hair, big horns, big muscles, and a badass voice. I had already made up my mind that I did not want to kill him. In fact, I saw memes and stories from other fans that fighting him was very difficult, especially if you chose the duel option.

But yeah, the combat got frustrating during the last wave of Qunari inside the Keep before reaching the Arishok. It was the Saarabas that I hated the most in every fight. I love the Qunari but I hate fighting them! I had put together my plan to spare the Arishok and unexpectedly gained his respect along the way, and then I did it. Isabela returned with the tome and I made the final call by handing her over to the Qunari to prevent further bloodshed. What? I don’t want to kill a character that I have a crush on! I know a lot of fans like Isabela, and to clarify, I don’t hate her, I like her personality, but to me at that time she wasn’t very useful on the battlefield. Therefore, I was willing to surrender her to do what I wanted, but sadly, I learned that she escapes not long after and the Arishok dies either way upon returning to Par Vollen. Maybe killing him would have been more merciful, but I never got to fully learn why Isabela kept stealing that tome.

Act III

Alright, this act is where I felt all the pieces I was missing from the time I played Inquisition were filling it in. First Enchanter Orsino and Knight-Commander Meredith in the previous act, and it seems that they will never get along. I saw the flaws both of them had: Meredith and her templars were increasing control over the city eventually putting a tighter restraint on mages that didn’t want to live in the Circle. From one standpoint, if they use blood magic and it starts to affect the citizens, that’s one thing, but if it’s just an ordinary mage who wants to follow their own path, let them be. When she asked me to find three mages, I killed the two blood ones, but one of them wasn’t a blood mage who just wanted a better life so I let him go, lying to Meredith about his fate.

The problem with Orsino was he didn’t appear to be doing anything about the blood mage situation, he just continued to argue that not all mages are like that and is tired the lack of freedom. When I decided to spare Anders and have him continue to come along for redemption, I thought that this was where Aveline was going to leave, but surprisingly she stayed and Sebastian left instead! No problem, I never really liked him.

Before I talk about the antagonist, I chose to side with the mages once I realized Meredith had gone mad and basically wanted to kill every mage regardless. But, what I didn’t understand is why Orsino decided to turn to blood magic and turned into a Harvester I had to fight. I mean, I sided with him! I guess EA wanted another boss fight.

Using the same image because I’m lazy

So, Meredith, I would say she fits as the main villain. Bartrand and the Arishok come quite close, but Meredith is still a win for me. What can I say? Her voice sounded exactly as I predicted it when she appeared for the first time. I think she is clearly stubborn given the frontal assault she wanted to lead against the Qunari when Orsino wanted to go for something a little less violent.

It is clear that Meredith has a strong sense of honour, but one that gets too carried away as the story progresses, she gets increasingly aggressive in dealing with the mages who flee the Circle. Not just by killing or capturing them, but pushing for even tighter restraints on them so they have even less freedom than they already do. Eventually, it reaches a bias point where she just hates all mages; blood magic or no blood magic and orders the Right of Annulment to restore order to Kirkwall. By now I thought that she was insane and a mean bitch not worthy of my support. Then, come the final battle and she decides to kill me and draws her red-lyrium infused sword. Not only was she driven mad, but she was also corrupted with the mineral after taking the idol from Bartrand. It seems it affected her worse than him! She wasn’t so tough to beat but that final scream at the end that led to her being petrified, was satisfying as hell. Even Cullen stood up to her at the end and even if you do support the templars, she still turns on you. Nevertheless, she was a good villain to me.

I normally don’t support shipping in fandoms because most of it I find either illogical or I prefer my OC with one of the characters part of it, but just this once I will ship Meredith and Orsino because I surprisingly can see them together if they weren’t constantly clawing at each other’s throats!

So, yeah, that’s Dragon Age II. I don’t understand why this game gets hated, it’s a decent game and has some enjoyable parts if you learn to look past the flaws. However, those flaws that are clearly visible could have been easily fixed. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a bad game, but there is such thing as having a bad/picky attitude over any game. At the end of the day, why hate? It’s a video game and that’s all it’ll ever be!

For my final grade, let me just break it down: The story was decent but didn’t absorb me in until the start of the second act, most of the characters I thought were great, but then there’s some laziness in map usage so not much creativity in it. Therefore, I’m giving this one a B, still worthy of replay in my books.

Up next, the two DLC’s Mark of the Assassin and Legacy stand by….

👽Emily

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