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#1
With Dragon Age: Inquisition ('DA3') renewing interest in the series, I'm posting this mini-guide for those considering playing or replaying DA2. I enjoyed and hope you will, too.

Despite its name, DA2 is more of a parallel story than a continuation of DA:O. It has its flaws, including major
plot turns beyond your control, and a story that is less compelling than its predecessor.  Some players may disagree about those shortcomings, of course, but they're likely the same people who prefer The Little Mermaid 2, The Matrix Reloaded, and the second Darrin.

That said, DA2 immerses you in Thedas with all the signature pieces of Bioware: clever dialog, amusing companions, moral quandries. And with a few careful choices, you can make the game closer to your preferred tone. See Happy Endings, below.


WHAT TO KNOW WHEN STARTING

The latest PC patch is 1.04. If playing the Exiled Prince DLC (which I don't recommend), you may consider Patch 1.03, available at FilePlanet.

The Black Emporium DLC
adds a useful store, with the terrific addition of the Maker's Sigh, a respec potion. The DLC also gives you a mabari, a non-controllable sidekick who makes a decent off-tank.
Respecs aren't crucial, but if  you want one, be aware there is no DA2 Save Game editor of the same ease
of use and power as Gibbed's DA:O editor. The closest are Mephales' DA2 Editor and RX_Sean's instructions on a GFF Editor.

Both the Legacy DLC and the Mark of the Assassin DLC add good content to the game. Both may be played at any time or skipped if you want a shorter game. Legacy is a serious mission, with more background on your sibling if you take him or her, while MotA is light-hearted, in the vein of Leliana's Song for DA:O or ME2's Kasumi DLC.

The item packs aren't useless, but there's no Blowmymind weapon in DA2 anyway, so no need to buy stuff with real cash. See Gear, below.

I recommend skipping the Exiled Prince DLC. Whatever your feeling about DLC's, surely the worst trend in them is to strip content from the original game only to charge more for it later, as happened here. The DLC gives you access to Sebastian, a fine companion with nothing interesting to say and a charming accent with which to say it. Make no mistake: this DLC pales in comparison to the Stone Prisoner for DA:O.
It's cheap, and you are better than that.
If you must include it, be aware that many players find the game freezes in a cutscene of the Faith quest under Patch 1.04. Either download 1.03 (1.04 has just minor upgrades), or use this brute workaround to complete the quest.

Finally, when starting a game, I strongly suggest using Gibbed's DAO to DA2 Creator.
I can't recommend this enough. DA2 has numerous bugs importing saved files from DA:O, and I originally envisioned placing links for fixing them. There are user mods for fixing romance settings, for fixing plot flags from Awakening, and for fixing party approval, but all are addressed in the Gibbed creator.
If you played DA:O to get the perfect settings for you, just use Gibbed's Creator to match them. Your game will then play smoothly.

Be aware that when you start the game, you play a brief scene as Default Hawke before getting to Import/Create your superior Custom Hawke!


LOW SPOILER STORY GUIDE
If you've never had the pleasure of playing without a Walkthrough Guide, you can do so with DA2. It's one of the things I like best about the game.

Unlike many other games, there are no essential choices that you might miss, no disappearing vendors, no Blowmymind weapons that you must get before exiting the cave. Play freely, if you wish.

That said, there are a few key principles to keep in mind:
  • Companions will be most loyal to you at the end if you have them at 100% Friendship or 100% Rivalry.
Either will do, but there is no bonus for 'nearly there.' Once they reach 100%, they are 'locked,' and you may act against their wishes without incurring a drop in Friendship/Rivalry.

Here's a key point to avoid an early bug:
  • Save right before talking with Merrill during Welcome Home in Act 1, then watch to confirm receipt of approval points.
A bug there can prevent gaining them then and therafter, for the rest of the game. The Wiki says it results from choosing "Did you really?" after the initial diplomatic option, but I found it regardless of the opening choice, and reloaded for the "You're welcome" dialogue to fix it.
  • Bring Fenris with you when you go outside the Kirkwall in Act 2, to trigger his personal quest. Easy to miss.
and finally
  • Pick a personality.
Hawke gains minor additional dialog options based on your previous responses.
It's not a huge deal, but at the start of each chapter, Hawke accumulates points as Diplomatic, Humorous, or Aggressive. If you favor one over the others, you'll end up with additional options now and then.


Happy Ending Spoilers
Bad things happen in DA2, no matter what. But if you want the 'best' fates for your companions, keep these in mind (highlight to read):
[color=rgb(50, 50, 50]
  • When you go into the Deep Roads, leave your sibling or bring your sibling and Anders.
  • Have Isabela's Friendship or Rivalry nearly maxed by the end of Act 2.
  • Be clear in your support for the Templars or for the Mages. Don't waffle.
[/color]
If you have questions about a specific step, the Wiki gives a good quest-by-quest walkthrough.


BUILDS

DA2 has inspired fewer build guides than DA:O (and mods, of which none are essential) so you may want to adjust the builds below for your particular playstyle. The key things to know are
  • aggro control matters in DA2. It's very helpful to have a tank.
  • rogues aren't strictly necessary in your party
  • don't worry! You can make nearly any build work, and with the Black Emporium DLC, you can always respec
Two of the best build guides are Suicidalbaby's BloodMage (and more) Compendium and AreleX's Elemental Mage Guide.

Near the end of the first post of the former, you'll find links to general builds and companion builds, further down the thread. In the latter,  you'll find descriptions of many spells, along with evaluations of companions and suggestions for Tactics.

They're both well done, but they can be overwhelming when first starting. Here's a simplified introduction.

For mages, all the trees are decent. Take your pick, with one exception: you don't need the Spirit Healing tree. If you love healing, go ahead, but otherwise, you'll get all the healing you need from Heal/ Greater Heal in the Creation tree.

For Warriors, go either shield or two-handed, get Taunt for a tank, and consider Rally in the Battlemaster line. See AreleX's Berserker Vanguard guide and Sabresandiego's Vanguard guide.

For Rogues, Archery is a fine option, as is Dual Weapon, which pairs well with Subterfuge and Scoundrel. Be wary of Specialist, which requires sinking points into some modes you may not use. See AreleX's Dual Wield Assassin guide.

For Companions, their unique skill trees are all good.
If you find Isabella more fragile than the other companions, consider the  Isabela tactics advice in this thread. Some of it applies to Fenris early on, too. As AreleX points out, ranged companions generally outshine melee ones, though Aveline's additional protection makes her heartier.

Note that the above Guides aren't the only way to go, even for your particular class and specialty. Your playstyle may differ, and there's a big difference between difficulty settings. I like Walking Bomb quite a bit, for instance, on Normal and Hard. But on Nightmare, which includes damage from friendly fire, it's a loose cannon.


Stats
For any character, raise your main trait to about 40 (Str for Warriors, Magic for Mages, Dex for Rogues), and Stamina/Mana and Con in the 20s to 30s. Specialty builds can alter this, but that's a good rough guide.

How much Cunning does a Rogue need? Though Cunning has some combat value, it's less useful than in DA:O. It's main purpose is for opening chests. The vast majority can be opened with 30 Cunning, leaving only a handful of non-essential Master Chests out of reach. For Chapter 1, 20 Cunning is sufficient to open nearly everything.

There is one side quest in Act 3, Lost Swords, requiring an item from a Master Chest. You may skip it, or get 40 Cunning, or use boosting items. Thrice-Bound, a 2g dagger sold in Lowtown, and several armor items for a rogue Hawke increase the effect of your Cunning by 50% ( not by 1 level (+10 Cunning) as often claimed). They don't stack. Varric can't use any of them, but he can use he Band of Stolen Shadows, from the Fan Reward Pack (downloadable from a link on the Wiki). Regardless, to open a Master Chest, you need one +Lockpicking item, with 27 Cunning.


Finally, plan to make use of
CROSS CLASS COMBOS
They offer an extra damage bonus when a character follows a certain kind of attack by a teammate of a different class.

Warriors can Stagger with these abilities:
Shield Bash with Pummel, or Sunder, Cleave/Claymore, Pommel Blow, Aftershock, Voracious
and then a Mage follows it with
Hemmorage, Maker's Hammer, Paralzying Prison, or Chain Reaction
or a Rogue follows it with
Lacerate/Main, Explosive Strike, Blood Feud, or Kickback/Backlash (Varric),

Mages can make an enemy Brittle with
Winter's Blast - Deep Freeze - Dessicate
and Warriors then exploit with
Shattering Blow - Reaper - Claymore
or Rogues with
Bursting Arrow - Archer's Lance - Annihilate

Rogues may Disorient with
Disorienting Shot - Overpowering Fog - Chaos
which Warriors exploit with
Disperse - Battery - Insatiable
or Mages with
Golem's Fist - Spirit Strike - Walking Bomb

Here's a good chart of the above.

It's easier than it looks. The abilities to trigger and exploit them are limited, and an easy way to make use of Cross-Class Combos is with...


TACTICS

Tactical choices in combat are usually simple: clear minions, watch your mana/stamina (DA2 loves to drop waves of enemies), and manage aggro.

Default Tactics are different. They're automatic scripts for Hawke and companions, telling them to use
abilities under certain conditions. One way to make Cross-Class Combos (CCCs) simple is to add a Tactic to any character when he or she gains an ability to exploit them.

For instance, if you give Anders the ability Chain Reaction, you could then add the Tactic 'Enemy->State->Staggered/  Use Ability -> Chain Reaction' to trigger it automatically. It's a simple, pain-free way to manage CCCs.

The build links above each give suggested Tactics for companions, and they're good. But they're also complex if you're first starting, and they can't be set up until you gain multiple abilities.

I recommend not worrying about default Tactics until you've gained  several levels. Until then, you'll lack many abilities to complete CCCs, and by then, you'll know if you want Isabla to Evade when surrounded or Aveline to draw aggro off Merrill. Then start modifying Tactics, leaving a few blanks between them to add abilities later.

Three quick notes on the mechanics of Tactics. First, you'll see AreleX and Suicidalbaby both finish their Tactics with Enemies Alive -> At Least One Alive -> Skip Tactics, then a couple more lines. What they're doing is putting in instructions for the end of the battle, to turn off certain activated abilities, for instance, but the instructions apply only when no enemies are left. It  doesn't always work - Tactics are buggy (and my mage Hawke always left on Blood Magic, for instance, despite Tactics to the contrary) - but it often helps.

Second, the instruction of Current Condition -> Skip to Next Tactic is a way of combining two conditions. Here's a
sample of mine for Varric. See Tactics 4&5 together.

3 Enemy: Brittle > Bursting Arrow
4 Enemy: Elite or Higher > Use Condition for Next Tactic
5 Enemy: Brittle > Archer's Lance (combined with #4, this means use Lance on a Brittle, Elite enemy)
7 Enemy: Staggered > Kick
9  Self: Attacked by Melee > Pinning Shot
10 Enemy: Clustered 3 > Confusion
11 Target: Normal or higher > Triplet
14 Self: Any > Bianca’s Song

Tactics 3 and 7 tell Varric to complete a CCC. Tactic 5 does so, too, but combined with 4, only when an enemy is Elite or higher. Tactic 9 helps him back away from melee trouble. Tactic 14 makes sure Bianca's Song is always on.

Finally, if you use the Jump To Tactic command (I don't use it much, unlike Suicidalbaby and AreleX, who set up subroutines of multiple steps for certain conditions), note that the actual line jumped to is one less than the target (so tell it to jump to line 11 if you want it to go to line 10). This was supposed to be fixed in a patch, but I'm not sure that it ever was.

Advanced Tactic info from Suicidalbaby here.


GEAR

There is no Blowmymind weapon. Or helm. Or belt or ring or boots or gloves.

In fact, there are no boots or helms or gloves at all for your companions, which I find refreshing. That means if you find one of those that isn't for your Hawke - say, a pair of rogue gloves while you have a mage Hawke - just sell it. No need to keep it around. This greatly simplifies gear management.

Similarly, there's no need to keep bows your Hawke won't use. You might consider them for Sebastian, but his starting bow is fine. Really, if you find something better while you have him, replace it, but there's no need to  stockpile them.

When I say there is no Blowmymind weapon, I mean, 'Don't Worry.' You won't find that you can't finish Chapter 3 without the Rocket Launcher hidden in the cave back in Chapter 1.  When you find a good upgrade, get it (if it's affordable), otherwise, Don't Worry.


But don't I need the Staff of Instant Win?

Staves are a good example of why you don't need to worry about gaining specific gear. The readily available Staff of Parlathan lasts for a long while. Is it outdone by the Staff of the Primal Order or the Magister's Scythe?
Maybe marginally, depending on the enemy, but then so are those, depending on the enemy, by the free staves Stone's Breath and Valdasine. Valdasine lasts so long, you can keep it until it is bested by random staves at Lowtown's Trinket Emporium after you reach level 9ish. Voracity is another free winner, then the Torch of Falon'Din.  You have plenty of affordable options. Don't worry!

The list of gear you don't want to miss is very short. And here it is.
  • Backpacks (Hightown in each Act. Lowtown Act 1, Gallows Act 2)
  • Enchanted Silverite Chain Belt (5g, Bonny Lem, Act1, +1 attributes)
  • Thrice-Bound (3g, Lowtown Weaponsmithy, Act 1, for  +Lockpicking for Isabella or rogue Hawke)
  • Tome of Technique (21g, Hubert's, Act 1)
  • Stalker's Boar Hides (free, from quest Miracle Makers, crit damage armor)
  • Tome of Technique (21g, Ilen's, Act 2)
  • Robes of the Notorious Pirate (free, Act 2. Looks great, has the Drop More Coin property)
  • Puzzle Ring of the Black Fox? (88g, Bonny Lem, Act 2. Hugely expensive, Worth it only for a crit build?)
Everything else either gets surpassed later in the game or remains available in Act 3. In Act 3, here are a few items of note:
  • Final Thought & Robes of Unblemished Cleanliness (150g - optional - and 140g, Black Emporium, Act 3)
  • Ring of No Wishes? (26g, Black Emporium, Act 3. Expensive, but worth considering)
  • Awakened's Might? (6g, Lirene's, Act 3. Ring: +30 attack/ +4% fire/ Blood Magic)
  • Rhinestone-Studded Symbol of Andraste, (7g, Hubert's, Act 3 +healing amulet)
There's more you may want, of course. Blood mages (Merrill, possibly Hawke) may like Blood Magic items (but
not the Ring of Transitional Power, which is bugged; the common Ring of Minor Cantrips is fine), and certain builds of Warriors and Rogues may want Elemental Gear. But what I'm emphasizing here is that you can play without worry. Upgrade when you want, and don't worry when you don't.


But which staff is best? C'mon, really?

By 'best' I assume you mean
a) does the most damage
and
B) gives you the most street cred in Kirkwall. Looking good is no small matter.

For a), the answer is 'one to which your enemy has a low resistance.' This chart of enemy resistances helps. More detail in Suicidalbaby's astounding detailed Bestiary.

Really, don't worry. Carry two different staves, and if an enemy shows as immune (with a floating blue shield icon), switch. For powergaming, carry one of each type.

Base damage is computed from your Magic stat plus the base damage of the staff. These matter far more than the +x% elemental damage attribute of some staves, because the base damage is multiplied for spell damage, while the +x% elemental adds as a flat rate. Players love Final Thought because the base damage is so high.

B) is a matter of personal taste. But compare, say, Allure's Crook with Valdasine. Just sayin'.


Companion gear is even easier:

Companion Armor Upgrades
The Rough Guide version:
In Act 1, you can find one for your sibling during the quest Birthright.
You can buy one for Varric and one for Aveline.

By the end of Act 2, all companions can have 3 upgrades. Check before you finish the chapter. Each gets 1 more in Act 3.


Runes
You could switch Runes for specific quests or for specialized elementalist builds, but if you want the Rough Guide version, here it is:
  • Runes of Fortune for chest or shield though Act 2.
  • Runes of Protection for all armor otherwise.
  • Runes of Impact for all weapons otherwise.
  • In Act 3, you'll be able to add one Rune of Devastation to each weapon and one Rune of Valiance for each character. Do so.


GOLD

You'll have enough. Don't worry!

If you want to maximize your gold, you may increase drops from all enemies by equipping companion armor (and Aveline's shield) with Runes of  Fortune in Act 1. To do so, you need the recipe from the Black Emporium
and two sources of Lyrium and Silverite.

You can find all the steps in the stickied Money Guide, but if that's overwhelming for a new player, don't worry. Just buy the one Rune of Fortune available at the Black Emporium and put it in the armor of whichever companion you like best. Hold onto it if that armor doesn't have a slot yet.

If, like me, you use potions rarely, sell them often, since they replenish in inverse relationship to how many you carry. If you carry only 3 or 4, they'll drop more often than if you carry 20.

There's an exploit for getting more money and experience from the A Friend  questline, but I don't recommend it. That's not because I have anything against exploits - whatever makes the game more fun for you in a single
player game is yours to choose - but because the money and experience in the game are well balanced. If you use the exploit over and over, you'll have more money, but ironically, it will no longer help you as you'll outlevel everthing you can buy. Even Final Thought will be outclassed by random drops at high levels.

If you play with relaxed money management, somewhere between a miser and a spendthrift, you'll have enough to buy all the Tomes available plus one big item in Act 2 - say, the Cold -Blooded staff (113g) or Puzzle Ring of the Black Fox (88g). Personally, I skip both and buy Robes of Unblemished Cleanliness right at the start of Act 3, but choose what suits you best. By the middle of Act 3, or sooner if you've completed the Legacy and MotA DLC's, you'll be able to afford two more big purchases, and that's plenty. Don't worry!

There's no need to get worked up over items with the 'Enemies Drop Better Equipment' trait. Vendors pay little for gear anyway - most of your gold will come from drops - and the marginal increase in gear value amounts to a tiny amount of extra cash. The quality is worthwhile if you plan to use dropped gear, which may become attractive at higher levels, but it's not a huge issue. This trait, unlike Runes of Fortune and Enemies Drop More Coin, appears not to stack, so wear a single item with the trait the first time you enter a map during each chapter (that's when items in chests are calculated). Your Better Equipment gear will then work its magic of slightly increasing the average level of new items.

Or don't bother. You'll be fine. Above all, don't worry!



BUG SOLVING

DA2 is riddled with bugs. Tons of them. Shameful, really, but what are you going to do, play Everquest? These steps below will help.

Save a lot. If you are the kind of gamer who rotates through three saves, I strongly encourage you to expand your horizons for this game. Multiple saves are hugely helpful.

Post at EA's Answers HQ, since the DA2 Technical Self-Help Forums are now closed. The community there isn't as helpful as this one, but it's better than nothing, so try your luck.

Check the appropriate quest page at the Wiki. At the bottom of each page, bugs are often reported and solved.

Make sure you have at least Patch 1.02, which solved significant problems, and preferrably 1.03 or 1.04. If you aren't playing the Exiled Prince, and you really don't need to, you may as well have Patch 1.04.

If you have DLC trouble, check the DLC confirmations page.

If you're getting a decent framerate, but bad stuttering, try this:
Find DragonAge.ini in 'My Documents/BioWare/Dragon Age 2/Settings.' Make a backup. Open the file. Change these lines:
UseTrilinearFiltering=0
UseTripleBuffering=0
To this:
UseTrilinearFiltering=1
UseTripleBuffering=1

As a nod to iMac users with BootCamp, like me, note that you use a 'mobile' version of AMD's graphics card, not the expected 'desktop' one, and that you can't find the right driver through AMD's website. Nor through a simple Google search. As of Spring 2013, the latest mobility driver I've tried is AMD Catalyst 12.10 mobility 64-bit.
There is also a Catalyst 13.4, and 13.5 Beta, as of May 2013.

For all players, do consider Gibbed's DA2 Save Creator, above, when you start your game. It prevents a host of flag problems - inaccurated elements from imported saves - that can spare you cumbersome workarounds later on.

Relax. Few bugs are fatal. See the Merrill bug under What to Know When Starting to avoid a lock on approval points, save often, and above all, don't worry!

Edited by CBGB, 11 July 2013 - 07:22 PM.

#2
This is an amazing guide.I wish it Was here back when I played DA2.i might just pop it in.
#3

Potato man wrote...
This is an amazing guide.I wish it Was here back when I played DA2.i might just pop it in.


Thanks - I hope it's helpful for anyone considering giving it (another) go.

One of the things I enjoyed most in DA2 is how much room it gives players to run in whatever way they like best - whatever builds, whatever companions, whatever side quests. There's no Supersecretwin weapon to get in a hidden cave that you must have to finish chapter 3.
#4

I, too, prefer the first Darrin :)


#5

...In keyboard "R" is your (second) best friend - in LOS (Line-Of-Sight)) ...you auto-attack nearest enemy or loot nearest pile/chest.
   (You STILL need [Tab] !!! ...ie to find those stuff that needs [CLOSE] klik...)

...You can travel loooong ways just using suitable right-mouse-button-kliks...
   (ie. from top of sundermount in to the flemeth 'meeting' point. Just chk when mouse pointer is "gold" (not grey))

Wanna nice screenshots? "V" hides 'hud' (=View extra stuff in screen)

 + use H to Hold all / scroll mouse to zoom / Home/End to up/down (those are default keyboard commands)

  (sometimes you can have better screenshot from your hero when you choose another character & get nice view)

PS: IMHO this "Rought Guide" should be sticky! This stuff IS timeless!

PS2: ...Tribute's...

DAO -

DA2 -

either arn't mine but...respect to those who made 'em


#6

Just started playing through again and this is a nice quick guide.

Though do you really not need more than 40 points in your main stat? 


#7

Heck of a post! Thanks for taking the time to write this up. I haven't played DA2 in years and I was actually looking for something like this.


Mike3207

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#8
Just a quick bump of this thread to try and get the mentioned links brought over to the forum, especially for me the Money Guide. All links seem to still be with the read-only Bioware forum.
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#9
It`s the first time I am playing DA2 with Win10, and I tested if Exiled Prince`s Act 2 quest can be finished. I installed patch 1.03 and only the mods Valuable Junk 2.0 and Wow of Pride. Worked without problem (the cutscene with the desire demon). Then installed patch 1.04 and reloaded before the cutscene. DA2 went into the loading routine, Esc worked as before.
I have played several times before with Win7 and Patch 1.04, and using Esc always worked. It`s working also with Win10.