Dragon Age: Origins is one of our favorite RPGs of the generation. Although it had a few problems, it was classic BioWare fare: deep, satisfying, and challenging. Now, one might argue that because this premier role-playing developer opted to include a more action-oriented mechanic in Dragon Age II , they “sold out” by catering to the masses. The hardcore purist will initially dislike this, “press X and immediately attack” action-based style, and probably assume we’ve lost some of that immense depth and robustness. I admit this is what I first thought when I heard the details. But after playing the excellent demo, one thing becomes abundantly clear- while Dragon Age II is indeed faster paced, more streamlined and, in some sense, more accessible, this is still every ounce an RPG. And by the way, when’s the last time you played a demo that took a solid hour to complete?
At the start, you will choose one of three classes: Warrior, Rogue, or Mage. Once again, the role-playing aficionado within me saw this and went, “oh no…” But although there are only three classes, there’s a huge amount of character advancement and customization beneath the surface; for further proof, check out the full list of talents, skills and spells . The demo won’t let you alter your character’s appearance (but you can see the grayed-out options) and you can’t change your equipment. But you can see how looting corpses is the same as ever and as soon as you jump into the stats and abilities for each character – which can be upgraded and learned in this play sample – you’ll realize BioWare sacrificed nothing. We also get a glimpse of a huge city and some nicely detailed enemies and environments. Yes, you’re looking at a definite graphical upgrade.
Technically, it’s just that much better, although the transitions between gameplay and cut-scene were always on the brink of freezing, and the game even had to pause to load during one of those cut-scenes. I’m hoping this is unique to the demo, though. As I mentioned before, the gameplay will be familiar to Origins fans, with that action-oriented exception of instant attack I mentioned earlier. Your spells and skills still need recovery time, you have your radial menu that lets you pause combat, you can switch between your party members with R1 and L1, the R2 button lets you choose from an additional set of equipped abilities, and survival is once again paramount. We also have the return of Tactics; this is where you issue commands for ally AI and as the fans will tell you, it’s crucial. So combine all this together, and you’ve got a hardcore RPG that simply moves faster and looks better. As a Mage, I really liked the fact that I could pause combat to aim a spell or choose an ally to help.
See, if you can’t pause and take an overview of the battle and have full control over your party members, I don’t consider it much of an RPG. But Dragon Age II really seems to have it all. This demo also gives you a peek at what should be a fantastic storyline, and it’ll be interesting to see how the plot progresses. Oh, and I guess I’ll mention that a certain lady character in the second part of the demo will drop some sexual innuendo…even if you chose to be a female heroine. And maybe it’s just me, but it seems the bust sizes have increased drastically since Origins . Or maybe it’s just the characters I saw… But anyway, this demo convinced me that DAII is a sequel I desperately need, and the final product should solidify BioWare as the best RPG developer of the generation. Sorry, Square-Enix, but it’s true.