It is difficult to top greatness, and for us greatness was exactly what Dragon Age: Origins brought to the table. So when Dragon Age II was announced, we were very excited to get more of what Origins had to offer. The alarm bells should have gone off when the game was revealed so soon. Dragon Age II is our biggest letdown of the year, not because it was a bad game, but because it lost a lot of the spark that was present in the original. The game felt like it was rushed to market despite many of the interesting ideas it attempted to implement.
The most notable problem present in Dragon Age II is the heavy reuse of assets. Players are forced to visit a handful of different locations such as caves, mansions, or warehouses, but the exact same layout is used over and over. Every area looks the same, and that combined with rarely being able to venture outside of the city of Kirkwall makes for quite a dull experience. The world simply feels flat, and despite the fact that the game takes place over the span of ten years, nothing seems to change.
It's a real shame because BioWare crafted some fantastic companion characters; there was just nothing to do in the game to make it worth caring about them or the setting, and most of the NPC dialogue was as dull and templated as the environments. The streamlining of combat was praised by some of us and hated by others, but the end result was a game that lacked the depth of content the original offered. A rushed release is where our signs point, so hopefully if we get Dragon Age III, the developers will get more time to let it bake before releasing it.
A couple other noteworthy disappointments this year were White Knight Chronicles II and Dead Island. While White Knight II was supposed to improve the combat from the original, it didn't go quite far enough to make a big difference. Added to that was the fact that it tossed in some nonsensical time travel components, all of which further compounded the issue. Despite Dead Island's impressive multiplayer, the game's open world exploration, weapon system, and combat left a lot to be desired. We would love to see a more polished sequel, though.
by Michael Cunningham