Dragon Age 2 is a Better Game than Dragon Age: Origins

After playing Dragon Age: Inquisition, I had the urge to replay through the Dragon Age series. I started with Dragon Age: Origins and I have to admit, it was a little rough going. I think part of the problem was my choice of class. 2H warrior combat consists of pressing an ability button about 3x per minute, it’s really dull. Then I started Dragon Age 2 and I have to say, it’s a much better game.

Oddly, many people don’t agree with this. From a critical perspective (at least a metacritic perspective), DA:O has an average review score that’s a bit higher (8-9% depending on platform) than DA2. As far as user reviews go though, DA2 received a deluge of really bad review scores and has an average score of 44% compared to DA:O’s 86%. Because gamers are spiteful creatures, a little like Hurlocks.

That’s not to say DA:O is bad. It’s a good game and I like it but DA2 does almost everything better. Like…

Dialogue is better

  • Going back to DAO’s voiceless protagonist is very strange. The Warden doesn’t feel like an actual character, she’s an empty vessel. This is a huge downside to DAO.
  • The dialogue wheel is much more interesting and effective than static response options.
  • In DAO the mean/negative/renegade? conversation options just make your character sound like an asshole, while in DA2 the conversation options are more snarky or direct. Playing through the Dwarf Noble origin story, most of the “bad” dialogue options basically amounted to “Get away from me you lowly peasant.”
  • In DAO, despite women being present in all the major battles, and in positions of power and leadership throughout Thedas, female Wardens are still subjected to “What? You’re a woman? How shocking!” reactions all the time.

Relationships with your party members are better

  • No trading random gifts for sex or acceptance.
  • Each of your party members has their own life, it’s not 100% about the player character. You can visit them in their homes, they can visit you at yours. They can have relationships with other party members or NPCs which can grow over time.
  • Other characters can disagree with you, but still stick around.
  • In DAO it’s really easy to miss or even kill possible party members. If you didn’t know Zevran was supposed to be a party member, all you need to do is make one choice and you kill him and miss a lot. Likewise with Wynne – agree with Cullen in the Tower? She attacks you, you kill her, no healer for you this playthrough.

Combat is 700x better (I did the math)

  • From an animation standpoint, everything is faster and slicker.
  • You can move around the battlefield much quicker, rather than feeling like you’re wading through quicksand.
  • Talent trees are bigger, more interesting, and allow you to customize your character much more.
  • By the end of DAO you pretty much have every talent you can use so your choices meant very little.
  • Your companions get enough tactic slots for all of their abilities.
  • You can take your dog into fights with you without having them take a spot in your party.
  • When you tell a character to take a potion, they take the damn potion.

Story is better

  • I enjoyed the story from DAO, especially the first time around, but it’s a fairly generic fantasy.
  • DA2 has a lot more depth. There are more politics, there’s more nuance. Elements from other parts of Thedas get incorporated into quests or character back-stories rather than just referred to in one of the 7 billion codex entries.
  • Since the story takes place over a number of years, you can see how Hawke is making a difference in Kirkwall and in the lives of its people. The scope of the location is small, but the scope of the story and timeline is much bigger.

UI, inventory and controls are better

  • Having your party members have a single set of armor that can be upgraded, makes inventory management much less tedious. You can still customize their weapons and accessories but don’t need to worry about armor, boots, helms, and gloves. It’s also easier to tell when something is an upgrade.
  • Besides gear, there’s less junk to manage. At once point in DAO I had 20 gift items taking up space in my inventory, there’s none of that anymore. Also, quest items you pick up can’t be accidentally junked or sold.
  • Runes are much simpler to manage. Their effectiveness depends on the level of gear you’re adding them to so you don’t have to worry about different rune levels like journeyman, master, etc.
  • It’s much easier to tell your other party members to stay put, or move as a group. They get in your way a lot less often.
  • There’s more useful stuff to find, like items that start side-quests, recipes, or armor upgrades. This makes looting everything much more useful – you have a chance to pick up something other than yet another damn Darkspawn Dagger.

So that’s that. I know the big complaint is that DA2 recycled dungeon areas which, I’ll admit, isn’t good but in the grand scheme of things is rather minor.

13 responses to “Dragon Age 2 is a Better Game than Dragon Age: Origins

  1. I’m unfairly disagreeing with you on nostalgia only – and I am also NOT going back to replay to verify! *grin*

    What I recall was DA:O was ambitious to be unique, which caused issues with the voice acting (too many options). AFter ME came out, DA fans wished it was more like that, and hence DA:2 with the sole protagonist. Then DA:I comes out that isn’t tied to either of them through the main character (but through the world).

    SO I also loved ME but wished the DA series followed one hero through three stories. Since DA:O was the awesome stepping stone to do that, that is why a lot of us love the first. It was ambitious and amazing. The newer titles are “tighter” for sure, but tight doesn’t always tell the best stories =)
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  2. Since I’m several years late to the party, I’ve only just finished DA:O (2,5 playthroughs now though, since I couldn’t stop wanting to try the different story options), and am currently playing DA2.

    I agree that some things, the fighting especially, is a lot better in DA2. And the option to put junk in a separate section in your inventory is awesome. (Something that I’m told existed in DA:O, but definitely not in my version.)

    I do miss the many more options in chatting to your companions though. The side stories with my companions is one of the things I enjoy most with the DA games. I miss being able to chat them up in the party camp. That said, them having their own homes is pretty neat too. I just wish I could chat with them a bit more 😉

    Gameplay wise, it probably plays better though. I can’t argue there.

    I’m disappointed about Anders though! He was so funny in Awakening, and in DA2 he’s not nearly as funny. He’s not boring, just not nearly as funny. Maybe it changes as the game goes on. (Also disappointed that they changed his voice actor! But I guess Greg Ellis couldn’t really do two characters in the same game that interact with each other…)

    Now I need to get back to my DA2 playthrough. Got me some characters to romance 😉

    • I just played Awakening this month, and I was also disappointed with how Anders changed from that to DA2. I was also disappointed that a fairly critical story element (Justice and Anders) was covered in dlc rather than the main game. Also apparently the DAI villain is introduced in DA2 dlc. Annoying.

      I do like the camp for having all party members in one place. Not just for conversations, but also for being able to equip everyone at once.

      One thing I forgot to list was that I found conversations among party members (a highlight in the games) were too easy to miss in Origins. I felt like as soon as my party members started talking to each other I had to stop and wait for them to finish if I didn’t want to miss it because everything (combat, going through a door, talking to an npc) would interrupt it and it wouldn’t resume.

      • I am having the exact same problem in DA2 though (with conversations). I always seem to hit a transition to another area or something just as they’re starting to talk.

        And I don’t know if it’s because my game may not be patched, but I noticed that some of the voiced comments fail to play right after a conversation-wheel with someone else. As in, a companion commenting something that I just talked to an NPC/quest giver about. I turned on subtitles because I had a lot of background noise at one point, and it’s when I realised it – since the subtitles would still show!

        Oh, and I just initiated a romance with Anders. What the hell is up with the weird panting noises during the first kiss???!! And love scene with clothes on… tsk tsk 😉

        Am enjoying the game though. The boyfriend has promised me Inquisition when I finish it, so better hurry up 😀

  3. I tend to be of the opinion that I hated 60% of DA:O. Then DA:2 came along and fixed 50% of that 60% but then added another 20% of problems. So overall hated 60% of DA:O and 30% of DA2.

    One funny thing about this review is that a fair chunk of your “positives” are exactly the things people hated about DA2. Now *I* agree with you, but that’s still kind of amusing.

    Overall I played DA:O once and had no desire to ever play it again. On the flip side, I played DA2…and immediately played through it again…and immediately started a third game that I got distracted away from halfway through. Wouldn’t mind going back and finishing it, though.
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    • People seem to have really strong feelings about a perceived dumbing down of games. Whereas some people see less inventory to worry about as removing player choice (this complaint was also widespread with ME2), I see it as streamlining. Having 100 different gun drops to choose from isn’t an interesting choice for me, it’s just time consuming.

      • If the 100 different guns were actually significantly different it would be interesting…but at the same time I don’t see how you could possibly make 100 guns significantly different. People like the illusion of lots of choice at times rather than actual choice.

        And we all know you were simply trying to avoid fanboi arguments by not stating ME2 is the best of the series on your top 10 list. I understand.
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  4. Story is better

    One word: Zombie-Mom (ok, and a hyphen)

  5. I absolutely agree with your points. I’ve just replayed DA:O for the third time and, frankly, was more annoyed by its mechanics than entertained. DA2 has long been seen as the black sheep of the DA family but doesn’t deserve its reputation. I think people were expecting another DA:O with the sequel, but we got a slicker, more enjoyable and – if you look at it critically – a more “console-ised” or “dumbed down” RPG. But in this case, as with Mass Effect 1 to 2, that’s not a bad thing. It allows Bioware to focus on its strengths (storytelling, dialogue, character interaction) and drop the tedium of inventory management, dull travel between areas and RPG tropes. The combat is far improved from the sluggishness of DA:O.

    Admittedly, DA2 is not perfect. I had some graphical glitches with the game until I went from DirectX 11 to 9, but on the whole it’s a much more enjoyable experience. IMO, DA:O tried to be the new Baldur’s Gate and whilst it worked to an extent, particularly in developing a new world and lore, it fell short with some frustrating mechanics and a brutal level of difficulty (however DA:O Awakenings I thought was greatly improved from the original campaign).

    Nice write-up!

    • Thanks! It still surprises me how poorly received DA2 was by some people.

      I like the term console-ized. Much more than dumbed down. I don’t feel that simplifying some mechanics is dumbing it down (though it’s probably just semantics), especially if they result in huge improvements in how the game plays and flows.

  6. Škorpijon Luna

    Ah, it feels so good to see someone else saying it! I had so much more fun playing DA2, especially in combat, where my team’s synergy and the effects of the attacks were easier to see and therefore more enjoyable. I feel like I crafted more of the story myself in DAO, but that ending in DA2, as it all came together and we raced through town, my team a well oiled killing machine by then, it had so much energy and I was never THAT thrilled during DAO.

    • Combat in DAO seemed fine to me the first time I played it, but after DA2 came out and I could compare them, DAO felt so slow and boring.