I installed off a shop bought CD, decided I did not need the 8GB worth of high res textures you can download off the net. At first the game crashed very 30 seconds, but updating the drivers for my graphics card dealt with that. I also chose not to buy any of the additional content (I didn’t do that with the first DA game either). In play, the game would sometimes freeze for 5-10 seconds, but actual crashes were uncommon (certainly not more common than Fallout 3 New Vegas).
I have heard some people complaining about the game being dumbed down. On the whole, I really enjoyed the streamling of the system. It was much easier to use the action bar in play, because the characters had less abilities, but the abilities packed considerably more punch. I liked the fact that I did not have to worry so much about gear, there was usually one solid upgrade for each slot in each of the three Acts. It was also much more fun to play a melee class, with a more dynamic movement that felt more like a console game than a traditional desktop RPG
I played through on normal difficulty. If I got frustrated on a boss, I just went easy mode for a while. I don’t like mico-managing potions and NPC positioning, or having to rewrite the default AI priority list mid-fight. That said, for normal encounters your NPC side-kicks were good – none of the issues I had in DA:origins were my archers constantly charged into melee and my mages exploded themselves. The boss monsters were interesting, but I think I’d rather have had smaller health pools and more boss monsters, the fights really dragged in places. Fights with trash packs also got a little too predictable on normal difficulty – they nearly always came in two waves, with the second wave rapelling into the fight like ninja. Ninja dwarves, ninja mages, ninja spiders, ninja slavers …. everyone went to ninja school it seems.
I liked the artwork and feel, especially the armour … the fantasy spikes were minimal except on some ACT III armour and this matters to a re-enactment snob.
Voice acting was nice. Makes me hopeful it will work well in the Star Wars MMO. Having labels on the dialogue options that indicated the type of response (direct, tactful, charming, flirting, etc) also helped me make decisions. Still hard to anticipate the consequences of those decisions though.
The game starts with an introductory demonstration that quickly weaves you into the story, then resets for a real go. A major part of the game design is that the bulk of the game takes place in three Acts, each spread about three years apart. So over a decade you go from penniless refugee to established noble in society. As with DA: Origins its not not to collect a travelling ensemble of companions, and one of the amusing decisions you make is which pair of snarky companions to bring along for their respective diatribes.
No spoilers here as to the final outcome. I will say that mages are slefish, whiney, and ungrateful and I really don’t know why I bothered helping them in the first place. Still, the end was nice and I will look forward to the sequel.
Is there replay value … I don’t know. After finishing it I went back and levelled a mage to level 7, so I could see what the specialisation mastery trees looked like. I found, however, that I was largely making the same decisions, and there was almost no branching content, so with one playthrough you probably saw 80+% of the game content. If you can go back through and make different decisions then, yes a second playthrough is probably worthwhile.
Takeway stuff useful elsewhere: the mastery trees were very well done and a considerable improvement on the bloated talents of DA: origins. Most trees had seven major talents, each with 1-2 upgrades that made the talent more powerful, rather than just giving you an extra situational ability to use – that in DA:Origins you never used because you were out of stamina by the time you worked through your optimal damage talents. The stamina/mana reserve system was also more intuitive to understand I think.
Summing up: I got two weeks solid entertainment for $99, with some minor future replay value, and some useful ideas for my tabletop game. I give it a 4 out of 5.