Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dragon Age 2: Mark of the Assassin. First impressions

Oh, dear. This was a very mixed experienced for me, for so many reasons.

And I do have to admit that the majority of my issues stem from Miss Day herself. I have infinite love and respect for Bioware, but I can't come to any conclusion other than the cynical one regarding why on earth they chose to take her LARPing character and centre a whole expansion around it.

More after the cut:

Firstly - Tallis isn't a particularly impressively designed character, especially if you're trying to integrate her alongside the other Companions. She's got none of the uniqueness of Isabela, though they've tried to give her a similar amount of sass. She doesn't have the armor or style of Sebastian, another expansion Companion, and unlike Merrill or Fenris, the other Companion elves, she makes a pretty damn weird looking elf.

There's something of the Charlie Sheen happening here.

The character is designed and created by Felicia, and ultimately proves is that the storywriters behind Dragon Age 2 were really, really bloody good at what they were doing. Tallis, by comparison, stands out as being very weak. Her dialogue is grating, her modus operandi pretty translucent and the whole impression I get is of watching a very bad TV show pilot centred around one irritating character and wondering who that person slept with to get that kind of opportunity.

Sigh. Moving on. So what else didn't I like?

Firstly there's some wiggy difficulty level stuff happening here. I started this expansion on a Normal difficulty level, and ended up having to go back and fetch a Casual difficulty level character just to plough forward. It's a helluva lot more difficult than Legacy, the last DLC. Don't go in there without LOTS of potions and as a personal recommendation - take Anders. You will need a healer. As you get a little further in the level of excruciating difficulty lessens a little, but it seems like a really odd choice to start it so maddeningly difficult and then ease off. Shouldn't it be working UP to that level of difficulty? Hmm.

In Legacy they had handy little stations where you could stash gear and go back to Kirkwall if you needed to - that didn't happen here. Once you're in, you're in, and there's no way out. Sucks if you're marginally unprepared. Which I was. I certainly wasn't prepared for how often I'd die/need potions. 

There's a large chunk of this expansion devoted to a.) losing your other dudes and being purely with Tallis b.) losing your sweet gear and weapons and pouncing around in a silk jacket and c.) creeping around in the shadows with two abilities - hit someone, or throw a rock to distract them. Um. You can tell how thrilled I am about any of these things. I play a big boofy warrior dude for a reason, so I can just bash things and move on.  This sequence was annoying through it's complete disregard of what you were doing beforehand. If you're playing a rogue, then great, that'd be perfect. But perhaps three options for tackling things based on whether your a warrior, mage or rogue? Would have made sense. 

But once your past that stage things start being a touch more logical. You fight things. You get loot. You encounter some sweet character models, which segues nicely into what I liked about DA2: Mark of the Assassin.

Environments - there's no rehashing. You're in a mountainous, foresty hunting ground, a palatial courtyard, a chain of caves, and even though there were (for example) caves in the original game, they've been redesigned so they look nothing alike. Wise move, guys. 
And the character models! Orlesian nobles who (thank god) don't just wear default nobleman gear, tweaks to the already awesome Qunari models, and some completely new creatures to fight! They didn't even give us new creatures from Dragon Age: Origins to Dragon Age 2, so this is a big deal! 

Also there's some great gear to be gotten, some extensive new dialogue pieces from your Companions (and this is a big factor for me - I adore my Companions) and whilst I found it irritating because I suck at it, it is good that they've chosen to add some more involved puzzle elements into it. There's problem solving, and I found myself in the alarming situation of not being able to get on the internet for help. Eek! 

Also: Conquistadors riding Wyverns. I've already said too much.

In conclusion? Overall, it's good. They've listened carefully to criticism and fixed the stuff that people got snarky about with DA2 - namely the lack of new character models and lack of environments. I think I'll enjoy it more the next time I go through - I was always SO close to deaths door that I didn't get very brave or do much extra exploring, which I will next time. But seriously - Felicia Day screws this one for me. Horrible character writer, bad actress, lacklustre design. Maybe if they base a Companion around Doug Jones or something we can talk. 

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