Thursday, March 3, 2011

Demo Reviews: Dragon Age II

After an extra week of waiting I finally got to dig into this demo on Tuesday. Since then, I have played it twice and the Cynic has played it once. Now that it's had time to sink in, let's have a look. As usual, spoilers ahead.
Dragon Age II takes place during and after the events of the first game. You play as Hawke, either male or female, on your quest to become the Champion of Kirkwall, and whatever that entails. As with the first game, you have a slew of companions, some of them romance options, that accompany you on your travels. The difference here is that one of these companions, depending on your class, will be a sibling. You will either have a Carver, a warrior, or Bethany, a mage.


You are introduced to three other possible companions at this time. First you will meet Varric, a dwarf who also serves as the narrator. He's a rogue that carries a crossbow.

And chesthair.

Next is Aveline, a sword-and-shield tank warrior, who already has a reserve spot in my party, especially after the demo.
Lady Tank FTW!

And finally, some of you might remember Isabela from the first game. Yes, the one with whom you can have a three-or-foursome with that will teach you the Duelist spec. Well, she's back with a spankin' new revamped look for Dragon Age II.
Holy massive boobage, Batman!

I won't get into too many spoilers here, but there are two other returning characters that I'm really excited about. The first is Flemeth, once again magnificently voiced by Kate Mulgrew. She also has a vastly new look from the eccentric old-Wilds woman bit she pulled on our Wardens.
New Flemeth look, but still the same awesome character.

The other is everyone's favorite mage from Awakening (and I'm certainly not talking about Velanna): Anders! I won't get spoilery, but suffice to say, Anders has changed. And I'm so psyched for his story.
Oh, and ladies, this time he's romancable!

Anyways, onto the game itself. I played through twice, as a warrior and a mage (both female). The Cynic played through as a male rogue.

Although why you would when default Lady Hawke is this pretty is beyond me.

The rogue class doesn't really appeal to me, but the Cynic was having fun with it. It's a very acrobatic class, but at least on the demo, the DPS is quite low overall. This is for a very low-level dual wield build, however, and later talents may boost that. My first choice was warrior class, as that is my preference. It's about the same as Origins, only minus the dual-wield talent. The faster and more reactive combat definitely gives this class more flair, and I had a lot of fun with it. Mage is very fun. The same talents are available, now divided into talent trees, but the mage seems more melee now than before. You can actually hit enemies with your staff when they get too close. It's nice to actually have that recourse. The casting of the regular staff bolts is much faster as well, as is casting and cool-down times of other spells. The mage is definitely formidable, and I can't wait to see some of the high-level talents like Blizzard and Chain Lightning out to try. I did get a chance to use Crushing Prison during the demo, and it was gleeful.

As everyone knows, the graphics have been updated for this installment as well. Personally, I like the look. It still looks like Dragon Age, but nicer, if not... pointier. Things are spikier, especially armor. Although some familiar things will be there, although updated; such as the Templar Armor, which seems a little more toned-down this time around. The regular mage robes look nicer, and default Hawke (who you can see in the top pic) is actually wearing mage armor. How is that not exciting? The demo ran smoothly for us, both cinematics and in-game without a problem, and the facial renders during conversations looked very nice.

Onto the gameplay. A lot of things were locked in the demo, like the inventory, the character creator, and such, but it was nice to see that those things were still there. The radial menu was more or less the same, but the map has been separated from the rest of the menu. Not a huge deal, but something to be aware of. The dialogue wheel, which I was against at first after having some surprising responses in Mass Effect, is very well executed. The icons that accompany the responses make things much easier (although it seems to follow the Mass Effect pattern of: Top answer-nice/Paragon, center-sarcastic/ME-neutral, bottom-dickbag/Renegade). But there were no other options such as flirt, so we will have to see when all of that is available as well.

The combat. This was a big thing, the change to the combat. And you know what? I like it. No more shuffling around enemies and allies to get to your target. No more waiting for the character to get in position to use a talent. It's faster, it's fluid, it feels better. You can still play tactics and give orders if you want, or you can hack-n-slash. You can also still switch between party members the same way. There will also be the option for auto-attack in the full game, for anyone who wants it. I greatly enjoyed it, and I'm happy that this was implemented.

The voice acting. Now, this is BioWare, so of course it's going to be good. Your character is now voiced, and I like both the male and female Hawke voices. However, if you wanted a Commander Shepard-type voice for your Lady Hawke, I'm afraid you might be disappointed. Lady Hawke's voice is much more feminine, and it's a nice change, as you wouldn't want your characters to sound too similar to one another (despite the fact I adore FemShep's voice <3). From what I can see, you shouldn't be disappointed by the voice acting.

Did I have any complaints. Maybe just one. The text. I know that console games (yessir, I'm one of those evil, mouth-breathing cretins known as a console player lol) are taking into account the widescreen and high-definition and all that stuff that comes with today's TVs. It just sucks that it results in text been very small on my giant, old tube TV (how archaic!). Although it's not too bad for the most part, and not as bad as Two Worlds II, where part of my screen was actually cut off (thankfully it could be adjusted) because of the aspect ratio setting.

Final thoughts? Well, I only have to make it to next Tuesday before I get my grubby little meathooks on the full game. Until then, PLAY THIS DEMO. I definitely recommend it, and not just because I'm a fangirl. It really is a lot of fun. The world created in these games is an amazing one, and you would not do wrong to give it a try. I give it 4 1/2 hurlocks out of 5.

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