Dragon Age 2 (Oh, now I get it)

Earlier this year I got Dragon Age: Origins in from Gamefly on my 360. I played it for about three hours, and then sent it back. It wasn’t bad, but it was easy to tell that something wasn’t right. It just felt like a PC game. So I resolved to hold off on playing it until I could upgrade my PC. A few months later, my PC was ready to go, and I played Dragon Age: Origins the way it was meant to be played. It was a much better experience on the PC. I didn’t have that weird almost spiritual connection some PC gamers had with it (on the scale of Bioware RPGs I’ve played it’s at the bottom—Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect, Jade Empire, KOTOR, Dragon Age: Origins), but I still had a good time with it.

This weekend the divisive sequel, Dragon Age 2, was going for a song on EA’s Origin service. Less than 10 bucks! I scooped it up and took it for a test drive Friday night. I played an hour or so of it, but it didn’t take long to realize something wasn’t right. It felt like a console game. Now I understand what so many die hard PC gamers were angry about. This game feels like it was designed for a controller, not a keyboard and mouse. Luckily, I have Pinnacle.

Pinnacle Game Profiler is the most intuitive and powerful key mapping software I’ve ever used, and I’ve used a lot of them. It’s packed with awesome features, while still being dead simple to use. It took some tweaking, but I eventually got a great profile set up for Dragon Age 2. I can do everything I need to do and more. Pinnacle has a shift feature that lets you map a crazy number of commands to a single controller. All my abilities and spells, plus a good number of hot keys are all triggered with quick button presses. I started playing as a mage, and targeting some spells with the right stick took some getting used to, but then I switched to a warrior (I played DA:O as a mage anyway), and I’m having more fun. I just tap the face buttons to use abilities, just like the console version, only I have more slots thanks to the shift feature.

As for the game itself, I really like it. Other than the obvious mishandling of the controls, I feel like Dragon Age 2 is better in every way. It looks better both technically and stylistically than its bland predecessor, the combat is faster and more satisfying, and the menus are better designed and more intuitive. I also love that I don’t have to spend hours outfitting all my companions. I know that’s a huge point of contention for many PC gamers, but I always felt like it was a colossal waste of time in the first game. If I only have an hour to play (and now, with a newborn, it’s often less), I don’t want to spend 45 minutes of that hour looking at armor stats in a menu.

I’m only a couple hours in, so I don’t know how the story flows, but I’m optimistic. I like the idea of the story being about a family and not so much about saving the world. Also, having a fully voiced main character is great. I know some reviewers and gamers were disappointed with the story, but so far I’ve ended up liking all the changes that most PC gamers hated.

I feel like I got a great deal on Dragon Age 2, thanks to Pinnacle and Origin. I get the controls and lean-back playability of a console game, with the better graphics and mods of a PC game (I currently have a few cosmetic mods installed). The internet is filled with nerd rage for Bioware, but for the most part, I feel like they make games perfect for me. Deep enough to have a decent learning curve, but still accessible for short play sessions. It’s going to take me quite some time to move through this one—especially with Uncharted 3 scheduled to arrive in my mailbox next week—but I’m glad I got it. Having a capable gaming PC is a great way to stock up on super affordable rainy day games.