DA2: Post 02

It’s been a little while since I updated y’all on my DA2 playthrough, so here are some more thoughts…

Is this a good time to talk?

Way back when, in Baldur’s Gate II, I was fighting a dragon. The dragon breathed fire on my party and everyone was looking brutalized. Suddenly, the game froze and the camera shifted. I panicked a little. What is going on?! Turns out, my companion Aerie wanted to tell my other companion, Jaheira, that she really liked her hair (I guess she approved of the fiery/ashen look). I laughed at the time, but I see that moments like this continue to exist. In DA2, Bethany and Aveline decided to have a conversation about having kids — while we were fighting some spiders.

The more the merrier

I didn’t like my group so much when it was just me, Bethany, and Aveline. But now I’ve got a real party happening, and I dig it. Added to the group are: Anders, Fenris, Isabella, Merrill, and Varric. I quite like the variety and the constant debate over the best set-up to complement my hero. Usually, I’m bringing along Bethany for the healing/fire damage, Fenris and/or Aveline for the warrior might, and/or Isabella/Varric for some bonus damage.

Most of my group seems less interested in chatting, but I have had a few food conversations with Merrill, Varric, and Anders.

Slicing and Dicing

Combat certainly isn’t strategic. In fact, it’s quite easy (on normal). That said, I enjoy it. I like sneaking my rogue past the front-line ranks and then chopping them up from behind. I find that when my effort to slip through are blocked, I’m hitting for 8-12 damage at a time and feeling pretty inept. But once I launch a backstab, body parts are flying everywhere and numbers like 250 are rolling up.

I’m tempted to up the difficulty to create more of a challenge, I’ve really only had to re-load a very small handful of times, but I usually resist. I’d prefer to enjoy the story and quests first, get a sense of the overall game progression and master its systems, then, on a second play, I can fiddle with higher difficulty.

Are four stars better than three?

I have heard rumblings that people don’t like the new star-rating system for equipment. They say it’s dumbed down and treats people as stupid. I disagree. If you didn’t have to think about it at all, and your character auto-equipped better gear, maybe that would take it too far. But right now I have 5-star equipment going unused while relying on 3-star and 4-star equipment. It really depends on the side abilities of the equipment and your own preferences.

And on a related note, do I hate that I can’t give my companions new armor to wear — like everyone else? No. I tend to ignore outfitting my companions in BioWare games as it is. I feel like I’ve been let off the leash here. Thank you!

That said, a lot of my companions are wearing 0-star or 1-star armor. I can see how this frustrates people, especially if there is plenty of better armor available. BioWare should have either implemented an auto-upgrade for companion gear — or allowed companions to auto-equip better gear. Or something to that effect.

Last note on this point, I do like the plentiful gear. In DA:O, I complained that I would find something good and be stuck with it for most of the game. Here, I seem to be rotating through equipment much more rapidly. I prefer this.

In and Out

I’m finding that most of the quests feel like they’re wrapped up in about 10-30 minutes. I hit a dungeon and prepare for a long slog, and just as I’m getting warmed up I’m done. Is short bad? No, not necessarily. There are a lot of quests available so instead of taking a lot of time on one long quest, I can jump through a bunch. I’m also liking that I feel less put off to play if time is short. That is, if I have an hour to play — I don’t mind hopping into DA2. I feel like I can still accomplish something.

Other random thoughts

I liked the concept of staying in one location immediately. I didn’t know if it would work, but I did like the concept. So far, I’m liking how it plays out. Traipsing about the world is fun in other games, but delving into the current location here has been just as enjoyable. I look forward to seeing if/how things change when I start jumping forward in time.

Along that same line of thinking, I’m finding that the game establishes a pretty straight-forward pattern. You scan the day-time map, scan the night-time map, and then scan the local-region map. You find the quests. You run through them. You activate new quests along the way. You talk to your companions. You repeat the process. Repetitive? Technically, yes, but I enjoy the pattern. It sets goals, establishes expectations, and creates a sense of reward.

Does this change how I view the motivation? No. I still feel “unmotivated”. I’m caught up in all the little quests now, certainly, but I feel no overall drive pushing me forward through the story. And, at this point, I have no idea what my ultimate motivation is. I understand I will learn this as I play. I hear the last 5-10 hours really tie everything together. But at this point it feels like: make money, invest money to join caravan, make more money… retire? I know there’s more than that, but that’s how I feel now. And, as someone who doesn’t care much about money, in real life or in games, I’m a little wanting for something more meaningful.

Last comment, in DA:O I primarily used one character. When I got to the late stages and had to play with a group that didn’t feature my hero, I struggled. I had played a mage all game long, and this group had only warriors and rogues. I didn’t know how to use them effectively. I’m finding that happening here as well. When Hawke happens to die (rarely — maybe twice so far), and I get jumped over to a warrior or mage — I have this desire to set the controller down and watch. Unfortunately, the AI says to me, “Oh! Let me disable myself so you can play this new character” — leaving me to fend for myself. Sure, I could play around with the others and figure it out, but I am not interested nor encouraged. For people like me, I think the solution is to have a mini-tutorial early on where you play all three character types and can get used to them. This won’t be an issue when I re-play the game, but for those of us on our first playthrough, or those of us who only intend to play once, it’s a problem.

Anyway, I’m at level 9 and 12 hours in. My companions are occasionally spouting off one-liners to let me know that I should hit the Deep Road expedition. Soon! I still have bunches of quests to wrap up. 🙂

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