Dragon Age II is an action-role playing game. You play as your own customized character named Hawke who moves his or her way up in the corrupt society of Kirkwall after fleeing their wartorn homeland.
Pro Well-implemented action combat with some elements of strategy
The combat gameplay is great, featuring a few different classes and a key way for you to control the flow of battle. The different battle classes -- warrior, mage, and rogue -- all play differently, though they each offer a similar fast-paced type of action combat in real-time. You can also pause the game to bring up a radial menu to pick which abilities to use and specific enemies to target, meaning you can take your time in battle and not get overwhelmed by everything. Getting used to the speedy combat and using the radial menu to your advantage gives the combat a lot of strategic depth.
Pro Lots of interesting characters and lore
The characters in Dragon Age II are great, with intriguing backstories that delve into the game's lore. Your party members and other NPCs are all written quite well. There are the fan-favorites like the sassy pirate named Isabela who never minces words and is always up for a good time, and the honorable Temple Knight named Cullen who helps fight against the corruption in the city of Kirkwall where you reside. These characters are also tied to the Dragon Age history in various ways, such as having even a minor presence in the previous game, Dragon Age: Origins, and influencing the events of the story. All of the characters have layered personalities that fit with the lore surrounding them.
Pro Building relationships with companions is enjoyable
You can build relationships with your party members to get to know them better and to romance them. Improving your approval rating with characters comes down to picking certain dialog options, either to flirt with them or agree with their worldview. After building up enough approval, you get a special scene with your romance option or friend, and afterward you can return whenever you want to spend more time with them. It's a really good system that lets you feel like the characters are your actual comrades, helping you grow more attached to them throughout the game's long story.
Pro You can customize your protagonist Hawke
There are lots of ways to make Hawke feel like your own character. The character creator at the start of a new game lets you change all sorts of options, from your hair, to your skin color, the shape of your nose, mouth, and ears, and so much more. Or, if you prefer, you can simply stick with the default male or female Hawke. You also get to pick which class you want to be for combat, and throughout the game, the dialog options you pick determines if your Hawke is sarcastic, compassionate, or has more of a mean streak overall. You can role-play as Hawke however you want, with plenty of options to customize your looks and your combat specialties for whichever role suits you the most.
Pro Tons of content
There's lots of content in Dragon Age II to keep you playing for a long time. The game offers a very long main story, with even more side quests and hidden areas that can take many hours to complete. The main story has plenty of branching decisions that affect how your playthrough turns out, encouraging you to play the game twice or more to see the different outcomes. For those looking for a game to sink 60+ hours into, this is a good choice.
Con Most of your narrative choices from Dragon Age: Origins don't matter
If you played the first Dragon Age, all of those decisions you made get watered down here. You only see the effects of some smaller things, such as who ends up on a certain throne by the end, or how you chose to defeat the final boss. Your decisions get commemorated in some ways, but it's not all that obvious or overt. Since Dragon Age II takes place with a whole new character and setting, you previous narrative decisions don't get a lot of attention. It's unfortunate in that it doesn't give the sense that your actions have an impact across the franchise.
Con Stiff and repetitive character animations during cutscenes
Character animations are incredibly stiff in ways that look robotic. During cutscenes, you'll see the same types of movements over and over, like a character shifting their waist back and bobbing their head to seem important or defiant, or moving their head down with their words to make a point. If there were more variation with the animations instead, then the stiff delivery might not be all that bad.
Con Too many reused environment assets
Dragon Age II was a rushed job. In the beginning, you'll take note of the dungeons you explore and the way they look. A couple of hours later, you may notice that even though you're in a different dungeon, that the walls look strangely similar to earlier locations. This ends up happening again and again, with environments copy-pasted all over the place. Considering the game was developed in such a short time, this would have been okay if it only happened in a few places here and there. It's sadly way too common.
Con Rushed story
The story in Dragon Age II lacks the high stakes and epic fantasy elements from its predecessor, Dragon Age: Origins. It focuses more on you as the protagonist Hawke, who is more of an everyday person that gets swept up in the conflict of the mages versus the templars in the city of Kirkwall.
The narrower scope would have worked just fine if there had been more depth to the story, instead of relying on the shallow and predictable premise of the mages rising up against the templars. There are some redeeming parts, like the corruption within the templar ranks, but this only gives the player a tropey resolution toward the end. The story overall lacks nuance and depth, ending up as a big disappointment, especially if you're a fan of the first game.
Con The whole game is unpolished
Dragon Age II as a whole lacks quality. The visuals are muddled and janky, even for a game from the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 era. Even though the combat itself is fun and engaging in the way it plays, it doesn't feel fluid, and it can get repetitive, like when bandits rush at you at every turn whenever you wander Kirkwall at night. The bigger issues of the rushed story and reused assets also speak to how messy the game is. These issues could have been avoided with some extra development time to polish things up.