Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dragon Age 2 Impressions

 I finished Dragon Age 2 and let's just say I am feeling conflicted. I absolutely loved Origins and Awakening. The story was well thought out and throw in the factor of every choice you made had a consequence of being good, evil, or in a gray area, it really made you pay attention and think about what you wanted to do throughout the story line. There was also more to explore on the map, and there was some depth to the design, such as the forests of Ferelden, the Dalish elves camp, and Orzammar.
 I was extremely excited about Dragon Age 2 and even got the signature edition. You get a lot of great items and cool downloadable content like The Black Emporium shop and The Exiled Prince quest. However, playing Dragon Age 2 I couldn't help but notice a lot of glaring flaws throughout it with the battle system and with some of the map designs. There are also for me, some issues with parts of the story and this does include some of Hawke's story.
 First, let me start with why I had a problem with Hawke's story. There are parts of it that seem rather pointless, as if Hawke is going through the motions and not really driven the way the hero was in Origins and Awakening. There's a lack of intensity.  There is also a glaring lack of tough choices. I love a great story and with Origins and Awakening, there were choices that could be made that would affect the story, take it down a different path, and everything you decided had consequences. With Dragon Age 2, it seems the story was only written one way and no matter what the player does or decides, they become the Champion the same way and go through the same events. It falls flat when you think about the intricacies and plot twists of the previous two games.
 I did like the interactions with the members of your party and there were even characters I genuinely liked. I found that my top three were Varric, Fenris, and Isabela. Hawke has a voice, so some of these interactions had a little more emotion to them, but frankly it seemed like the companions were far more interesting and witty. Even their quests and stories were more interesting to me. There was one part of Hawke's story that really had me going and to the person who wrote that, I say great job. As for the rest, it just felt dull. Sure, the ending has a fantastic pivotal point to the story line, but it felt like a chore to get to it at certain points in the game.
 Overall, I had no problem with the battle system. It was much easier to navigate, the action is fast and fluid, and the AI is pretty spot on when it comes to the other party members, making for a pretty exciting furious battle. Yet, there was a problem. Let me be clear with all my friends who told me I could change the difficulty setting to casual if a battle was too hard, I DID. I then tried various tactics and party set ups and got annihilated eight times or more. I'll give everyone a moment to let that sink in. Now, maybe it's a crazy concept, but the casual setting on a video game means you don't have lots of dead party members and game over screens. Yes, it's still a battle, but not quite so difficult. When a battle is hard on the EASY setting, that's a huge problem for me. Factor in the 30 second cool down timer for healing potions, and healing spells, it borders on ridiculous.
 While I understand that the gist of this idea was it makes you plan out and think carefully about strategies for quests, boss battles, and random fights a 30 second heal timer does not work. I could understand having a timer, but 30 seconds can make or break a quest or story oriented battle in Dragon Age 2. I played as a rogue for the first play through, and I found myself kiting things a hell of a lot waiting for the timer to be up and hoping I wouldn't die before I could heal. Needless to say, it got incredibly frustrating quite a few times!
 Finally, we have the sheer laziness of the map and dungeon designs. It was as if there was just one prototype for everything when it came to the buildings in Kirkwall. The "poor house" design, and the "rich mansion" design came across as bland and was a telling sign of how rushed this game was. There's also one map for the sewers, the Deep Roads, one mine, one mountain, and one cave. You basically go back and forth with five different locations on the world map.  Compared to the other maps in the Dragon Age games, this is shameful. The map is ridiculously tiny, but it's as if they were lazy and couldn't be bothered with making the locations stand out and be unique from each other.
 I liked Dragon Age 2, but I didn't love it the way I did Origins and Awakening. I can honestly say, it's a good game, but not a great one. There's too many predictable points in some of the story telling and it's quite obvious to see where certain things were rushed especially with certain cut scenes where the characters were blinking in and out of frame. I can not in good conscience give Dragon Age 2 a stellar review as an amazing game, because it isn't. Believe me, that kills me because I absolutely love the Dragon Age series, but with that many flaws, it's not worth full price.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Little Big Planet 2 Bigger, Better, More Fun

 I love Little Big Planet, so of course I was extremely excited about Little Big Planet 2. It definitely delivered on its promise of being bigger, better, and more fun than the first. You can add your first save data to the sequel, so you have all your previous costumes and stickers. There's even more costumes to find in the sequel that are cute and fun. One of my favorites was the disco costume that changed colors as your sack person moved.
 The game play is great, and the controls are definitely easy to handle. There are even new inventions to use like the Robobun, a giant rabbit you can ride that can do an attack called Slam Attack that will smash your enemies to bits. This is especially fun in a stage called Full Metal Rabbit, (Yes I laughed when I saw that title) where you wreak havoc on the baddies with Robobun.
 The creativity of the various stages in story mode is amazing. I was delighted to see an homage to old school video games in one, then pleasantly surprised to see a tribute to old school pin ball machine games in another. The story is simple like the first, but it's fun and it had the added appeal of having an entire Sackbot army (my love of robots continues!) at my beck and call. There are some stages towards the end that are a tad tricky and I admit, I did become a little frustrated at how often my little Sack Person met a nasty demise. The worst ones seemed to be the deaths by fire or bombing. However, I did get the hang of it and managed to finish the stage and finish story mode with my Sack Person relatively undamaged.
  There's even more to do, after story mode. There are various versus levels with games like Space Pool, Races, and puzzle games  that you can play with others online or you can play your own. You can also explore the different stages that other players have created, try them out, review them, and rate them. There was one that I really liked that was an animal safari, and another that I loved that was a water park theme. My favorite was the Tron themed one with light cycles that you could race. It was a great stage to play and I was impressed that someone created that. There's so much to explore there, you will never run out of things to do on Little Big Planet 2.
 If you're feeling creative, you can even make your own stages to share with others. There's lots to choose from, and you can decide the difficulty level of your creations, and name your planet. You can offer up prizes for people who try out your stages like stickers or costumes. The possibilities are endless and more importantly, FUN.
 This game has all the bells and whistles, and I'm having such a great time playing it. Give it a try if you haven't already. It's definitely a game that should be in any game lover's collection.