DEMO IMPRESSIONS – Dragon Age II

Sigh. More like Dragon Age II jumps the ogre-shark. Where do I begin?

The demo opens up with a typical RPG choice: who do you want to play as? Dragon Age: Origins offered a solid selection of races (human, dwarf, elf) and classes (warrior, rogue, mage) to pick from. Here, you can either be a male or female warrior/rogue/mage. No more pointy ears or ale-stained beards for you. This is one of the sacrifices BioWare made to streamline the sequel and focus on a tighter narrative.

Anyways, after selecting a female mage, the demo moves into cinematic territory. Varric, a dwarf, is being heatedly questioned by a templar. This woman is trying to hunt down Hawke, the legendary hero of Kirkwall, “the Champion” as she puts it.

Varric is an unreliable narrator, and his retelling of Hawke’s rise to fame is full of embellishing. According to him, Hawke’s story begins with her family fleeing from Lothering, making for Kirkwall. Alas, they are quickly surrounded by Darkspawn, and it’s here that the demo teaches you the basics of combat. The “A” button serves as your primary attack, with the rest of the face buttons designated for assigned abilities, just like in Dragon Age: Origins. Holding the left-trigger brings up a radial menu for more options. However, the most dramatic change has to be combat speed; it’s fast, and when I say fast, I mean Devil May Cry 3 fast. No joke, at one point I thought Hawke was going to knock a Darkspawn into the sky and finish it off with an air combo. So yeah, you fight a couple waves of Darkspawn and feel like you’re playing an entirely different RPG series.

After Hawke rips an ogre apart with her bare hands, Varric is called out for embellishing the story too much. The demo then jumps ahead to a later portion to allow the player to experience combat at a higher level. Here we fight some more Darkspawn and gain new companions. Dialogue is handled via a chat wheel akin to what’s found in the Mass Effect series, and I think it’s a step down. Now it clearly shows when you are being evil or good or sarcastic instead of letting you figure it out for yourself. Let go of my hand, BioWare devs! LET GO!

The demo is more of the same thing over and over again. Fight some Darkspawn, fight some more, talk, fight a boss. The boss ogre at the end killed all my companions fast, and then Hawke fell shortly after. I didn’t bother trying again. In fact, I went and deleted the demo off my Xbox 360, content in knowing that I had seen enough. The changes are too dramatic, and from what I’ve read, party companions are no longer as customizable in terms of armor and weapons. Only Hawke. This is not good. This is basically Dragon Effect II for pigeonholding purposes, and I’m not slamming Mass Effect II here as I know many love it and accept its streamlining as a good thing, but why couldn’t BioWare have the best of both worlds? Y’know, one streamlined sci-fi RPG and one deep, engrossing fantasy RPG for D&D fanatics.

Curse the Maker.

I guess, ultimately, if I want more of what I like about this text-heavy RPG series I’ll have to pick up Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening.

3 responses to “DEMO IMPRESSIONS – Dragon Age II

  1. You’re just right dude. The first think I thought of during my first combat with Hawke rouge was that he should have been named Hawke Do’Urden… True, you can still pause the came and set up the tactics but, who will do that? Combat is so damn fast that you don’t even have time to control the other members of your group!!
    And what should I tell about dialogues? It seems to me that it has been over-simplified, and I am also missing that feeling of trying to interpret the available answers…
    I don’t know I might give it a try because I like the setting of DA, but I truly think that changes have been too drastic. DAO was not Baldur’s Gate, of course, but it was a damn good RPG, and very near to it.

    • Aw, man! Your comment totally makes me want to go back and read some of those Drizzt books. I’ve probably outgrown them, but they were a lot of fun still.

  2. Pingback: There’s chaos to create in Just Cause 2 | Grinding Down

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