With Battleheart out the door and having great success, I've been decompressing and playing some games lately.
Despite EA/Bioware's best efforts to enrage me, I recently played and enjoyed Dragon Age 2, and highly recommend it if you're an RPG fan. I'll start by talking about some of the things I think they did a great job with before getting to the enraging bit...
Compared to the first game, DA2 is a simplified, streamlined take on the genre. Depending on who you ask, it might be "dumbed down", but I think they did a pretty solid job of refining what was there, ramping up the action, and only cutting or simplifying the tedious or less interesting parts. From the story to the class mechanics, everything has a sharper focus. In particular, the three player classes are much better balanced and provide a lot of valid and interesting options for character builds. Compared to the first game, in which a good 80% of the abilities you had access to were either lackluster or just plain worthless, this is a massive improvement. Some players may bemoan the fact that it now feels more like Mass Effect than Baldur's Gate, and that's a fairly accurate assessment. Specific dialog options are now replaced with the "dialog wheel" from ME, and the feel of combat is much more action-y and less tactical. On it's default difficulty, you don't really need to wrangle your party very much, and can take a rambo-like approach to most encounters, only employing strategy and micro-management on the most difficult fights. Personally, I'm more interested in experiencing the story and building my character into a powerhouse, so "normal" was plenty fun for me. If you want something more brutal, the hard and nightmare difficulties are up to the challenge, and should satisfy even the most masochistic players who want to pause combat every half second to issue orders.
I've got a few quibbles about the gameplay here and there, but overall it's a fun experience. The only thing that really annoyed me was (yet again) the shitstorm of DLC and promotional gimmicks EA and Bioware have chosen to employ in the hopes of further monetizing their product. I pre-ordered the game through Steam, and found that I had 3 separate codes to enter on their website before I could have access to all of the content I'd paid for. First, I unlocked some in-game content by registering my game. Then I had some code I'd recieved for pre-ordering, which unlocked some items or a location or something. There was a third "entitlement" code which unlocked something else and was consumed in the process. Apparently if I had pre-ordered several months in advance, I would have also gotten access to a special character, but since I didn't, he (and his associated quests) would cost me $7 on top of the $60 I'd already paid to unlock it. They also had some extra garbage you could get if you pre-ordered from a specific retailer, or if you "liked" the game on Facebook. No, I'm not kidding. At this point even a complete fool can clearly see the carrot, the string, the stick, and the slimy executive holding it. In the end, all of these things aren't even valuable, they're just little bonus items that are pretty good equipment for the first couple hours of the game. But the goal is clear - to make the customer feel like they're missing out on something, that you only ever own 98% of the game unless you do this or that.
Why is all of this flailing about necessary? Is it really so hard to turn a profit on a multi-million dollar production like this, that you have to go to these lengths? If so, then maybe their business model is simply unsustainable. I know I'm not the only one who finds it obnoxious that I can't just buy the game and know I have the whole package - these gimmicks do little more than generate a nagging sense that I'm constantly missing out on some deal, or being suckered, neither of which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy about my purchase. The fact is, the game is pretty darn good and can stand on its own merits, there's no need for all of this rubbish. It may be paying off in cash at the moment, but it's already had (and will continue to have) an intangible price in their reputation and fan base down the road.