Dragon Age II is great (plus PC failure)

I got Dragon Age II on release day and it is great. It isn’t quite as compelling as the original, which I simply couldn’t stop playing, but it is still very fun.

DA II is clearly much more aimed at console users than PC users, so the top-down view is gone – instead, the camera is closer to a 3rd person perspective. In addition, inventory management and skills are way dumbed down. This is a shame for those of us that love digging into RPGs, but probably makes it more accessible to casual gamers, which is likely where the money is.

The graphics look quite good on my 2560×1440 monitor driven by a GTX280 graphics card. The bummer is that the automatic configuration decided I could use 4x antialiasing, which made the game stutter quite a bit. I turned AA off and the game runs quite well. The game looks better than DA:O, but there are still a few issues. As usual, the face textures look great, as we’ve seen in Mass Effect II, but the clothing and some other textures were apparently done in crayon and look pretty lousy. There is a high-resolution texture pack linked in this forum post, but I didn’t install it yet for the reasons I discuss below.

Loading new areas is slow in DA II, but perhaps a bit better than in DA:O (and remember the horrible memory leak in DA:O that made loads really slow after a while). The fighting is a little faster and more action-oriented, again dumbing it down a bit and making it less strategic, but shinier and perhaps more fun. The spells and effects look better and most spells are quicker to cast than before.

The game has different paths to choose in both conversations and actions, all of which affect how much people like you and may change future game events. So far, I’ve been playing a goody-goody mage and choosing all the nice answers. I may play again sometime as a rogue and choose the smart-ass answers. I don’t really like playing evil characters, so I probably won’t bother with that.

Overall, DA II is great fun so far and seems stable enough that I’d recommend people with even a passing interest in RPGs should try it!

I’ve been having very strange PC troubles lately that seem to be hardware related, particularly my graphics card, but it is unclear exactly what is happening. It seems that right upon login, my screen either goes black or fills with a color or pattern and the system stops responding. I think it is as Windows Aero is starting. It happens on my normal account and a virgin account I have for troubleshooting. The crazy thing is that powering off and back on sometimes fixes it. I’ve updated drivers and everything else, to no avail. It is getting worse, however, sometimes taking 5 or more power cycles to get working. And once it is working, it stays working until the next power-down (not reboot – that’s okay).

So to solve this puzzling problem, I’ve ordered parts to make a nice Sandy Bridge i7 system with a GTX570, so it should be a significant upgrade in both CPU and GPU performance. Then I will install the hi-res texture pack for Dragon Age II.

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