Aftershock: Why Dragon Age 2 is a Bad JRPG

“Aftershock” is a recurring feature column on Game Front. We take games we’ve already reviewed, and give them a sober second look once the post-launch dust has settled.

I had a serious feeling of de ja vous while playing Dragon Age II. It felt like I had played this game before, and recently, too. Something about fighting endlessly repetitive battles while crawling through the same dungeons over and over again seemed familiar for some reason.

Oh, right, it’s just like every cheap JRPG ever made.

As part of My Year of JRPGs, I’ve mostly been playing the cheapies — this isn’t surprising as the majority of JRPGs need to be profitable with a small number of units sold, and so most of them are pretty cheap. And what I’ve found time and time again is that battles are mindless and very much not dynamic, and they’ll send you time and time again through a handful of dungeons, both in main story missions and side missions.

For a lot of these games, side missions would be indistinguishable from main story missions if the menus didn’t state which is which. With everything, these games are hella long, lasting as long as 100 hours, and rarely will you be able to finish one in under 50; this despite not one of these games having nearly enough real content to support that length.

The last two paragraphs describe Dragon Age II perfectly, although that isn’t all DA2 is. It’s also got that whole talking thing, which serves as the only part of the game that might be considered appealing. Might be.

I’m making this silly yet intensely appropriate comparison for two reasons: It was really weird to play this game during my brief break from JRPGs; and to highlight all the ways in which Dragon Age II is a horrible game.

I tried to like Dragon Age II. Hell, I expected to like it, seeing as I haven’t disliked any BioWare games yet, and so I had no reason to doubt the validity of Ross’ high grade or believe the internet haters. But it turned out that the haters were hating because it deserved the hate.

What, a game where there are only about 10 different areas to visit, and you’ll visit each place like eight dozen times? OK… But, then it feels like there are even fewer areas when you discover that this one cave is actually several different caves, and that every mansion in Kirkwall has the same layout. What’s this quest? Oh, go to this one place and fight some dudes, and then the quest will be done? Haven’t I done that quest 132 times already? Oh, those were all different quests. How many more of these are there? 500???

That’s Dragon Age II in a nutshell, but even that isn’t the worst thing about it. The worst thing about it is how it emulates cheap JRPGs in a way I haven’t discussed yet: bad writing. The game has no single story arc, it has the worst major character death scene you could imagine BioWare would write, and all the small-ish stories that make up the game are boring as s–t and full of whiny expository dialogue. Everybody complains about everything, even when they’re explaining a bunch of nonsense I don’t care about.

It’s one thing to be bad. It’s another thing to be bad-JRPG bad. And it’s a third thing to be BioWare, the best authors of RPG video games, and deliver a game that is bad-JRPG bad. And yet, somehow, that’s where we’re at right now. This really happened. Sigh.

Join the Conversation   

* required field

By submitting a comment here you grant GameFront a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate or irrelevant comments will be removed at an admin's discretion.

8 Comments on Aftershock: Why Dragon Age 2 is a Bad JRPG

Luther

On May 25, 2011 at 2:11 am

Yes, finally someone on this website agrees with actual gamers that think this game is a load of crap from bioware, who ever the project leader was for this game needs to be fired if he’s not already and half the team that worked on it.

I finally got my hands on a friends copy and its turning out more so like the people that commented on the game, unlike the reviews the gaming industry decided to throw at us on game launch, tell me how does a game with so much crap in it manage to steal higher review marks then witcher 2 on some sites?

I’m not finished with the game yet myself I have invested about 20 hours already and I see myself giving this game a 4 out of 10.

Witcher 2 which I did do two full play threw’s would be ranked around an 8.

NontendOFied

On May 25, 2011 at 3:33 am

well i can agree this is not the best rpg game but also not the worst i dont like it but its still a great game to explore with great cuseens but i do agree with you this game could have been a lot better….

VodkaChill

On May 25, 2011 at 7:32 am

I only played the Demo and it was poor environment, lazy fights and crazy fighting animation even for spell casters… Combos… really?

I heard good and bad about the game, but the poor environment keeps emerging as the first thing the game is going badly.

I enjoyed the first one a lot; but I haven’t player Mass Effect before that time.

Did I miss something or it’s supposed to be “déjà vu”?

Aids

On May 27, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Dragon Age 2 isn’t a JRPG. It’s a western game. That would make it a plain old RPG, albeit a repetitive one.

max

On May 28, 2011 at 5:32 pm

WTF is a JRPG ??? its called RPG moron

Maxisanidiot

On May 29, 2011 at 6:52 pm

JRPG=Japanese RPG…sorry for the incovieneance

sweet

On June 2, 2011 at 11:39 am

probably the best bioware game ever made epic story epic ameplay epic enviroment what more can you ask for it is much much much better than tghe first one

Witiko

On July 8, 2011 at 4:25 pm

“much much much better than the first one”
Well, that’s because the first game was quite controversial as well. The game was supposed to be a love letter to Bladur’s Gate players and in the end we received a game with MMORPG-ish looks and mechanics despite being a singleplayer game, Tolkien rip-off story and some outdated gaming mechanics (which is SO not what Baldur’s Gate was about, thanks for nothing, devs). But at least there was some effort put into it, which I respect.
The second volume, though, is just a letdown essentially for the reasons introduced by the author of the review. With that said – I enjoyed the new combat system, but the content recycling (worse than the Nintendo DS Summon Night 3) was a deal-breaker. The story… wait, there was some?
You might want to do yourself a favour and give the old Baldur’s Gate series a go if you haven’t already. It’s the best of Bioware, so to say, equalled by none of the following Bioware games. As some fan said: “Baldur’s Gate is a 3D game set in the era of 2D games. Dragon Age is a 2D shallow and bland game which attempts to pull you in via gimmicky graphicks.” – I sort of agree, but I wouldn’t call DA graphics gimmicky – I liked the Baldur’s Gate graphics better.