Video Game Reviews: Dragon Age II, Torchlight
9.2 out of 10
Imagine Mass Effect in the middle ages. Now add dwarves, dragons, elves, magic and some really nasty creatures called Darkspawn. And where the first game was more of a fan service for gamers who really, really, really liked fantasy novels (the history and lore you could read in the first game is a novel in and of itself), the sequel is something more of a fan service to those who played through the first one and now want to see how the game's creators fixed the little problems.
For instance: in the first game, the main character didn't talk. That's fixed, and so now your main character is not quite so aloof. He/she has a voice and feels like an actual character, and it's amazing how nice such a little thing can be in a long game with a lot of decision making.
Also: the action is much more well-paced. The combat is only slightly tweaked, which is a good thing because the combat in the first game was hardly a problem. But there are a few things that have been fixed, and the fighting feels a lot smoother this time around, making combat even more fun than it was in the first game.
The amazing graphics are still here. The great voice acting and sounds are still here, too. The story feels improved: you play "The Champion," and the story unfolds through the telling of one of your companions and while it's not clear why your character is "The Champion," it certainly has something to do with his/her ability to kick some butt. The story plays out in such a way that it almost sucks you in. Everything takes place during and after the first game, and the demonic creatures called the Darkspawn are still around. Most of the main action takes place inside a former slaving city, but players are free to transport themselves elsewhere during different times of day to complete as many quests as they'd like. Depending on the quest, you might find yourself operating mostly at night or mostly during the day, which breaks up the monotony of the city-based missions.
In addition, the text-only lore continues to grow. You'll find stuff to read—plenty of it, and it's all short enough and paced well enough that you won't feel like skipping too much of it.
So choose your class, choose your skills, and jump right in. This game is fantastic.
The Ranger: My fave. I picked a mage in the first game and didn't like him.
Pixelated sex: Seems to be back. I really wasn't interested in putting the moves on anyone in the party, but if that's your cup of tea, then have at it.
Side Quests: They vary in terms of difficulty and enjoyment, but the whole of the game seems longer and more focused than the first. Maybe that's what made the game feel so addictive. That, and the people in your party are actually enjoyable. I didn't like many of the characters in the first game.
Minor Gripes: It'll vary depending on how much you like sword-and-magic fantasy stories, really. But the gameplay is solid throughout and most of the quests are fun.
What's this? A downloadable game that isn't a complete piece of crap? Yes, it's true, and while I haven't been able to finish it yet (Dragon Age II is just too fun!), it's worth mentioning because it definitely is an entertaining game. It reminded me a great deal of World of Warcraft in the way it's presented, mixed in with a little old-school Legend of Zelda to boot.
Most of the game takes place inside a single town, and once you accept a quest you can go off into a randomly generated dungeon to complete that quest and gain your fame and fortune. You get to level up your character however you'd like, and you get to choose your skills and abilities, too. Really easy to get into, really fun to explore, and all of the quests have a good deal of back-story to make the world feel complete.
In other words: this is a well put-together game, and it should be for the price (around $15). But it's clear the people who developed it were interested in putting out something they could be proud of, and it shows the moment you take control of your character and begin exploring the town of Torchlight.