Home > Previews > Dragon Age II Demo Impressions

Dragon Age II Demo Impressions

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

By Tom Dann

Dragon Age: Origins was a great game. The epic RPG had a few problems, without a doubt: the combat wasn’t very visceral compared to more action-oriented games, the dialogue mechanics were dated, the graphics weren’t great (they were downright horrible on consoles), and there were just a few too many high fantasy clichés. The inevitable Dragon Age II looks set to try and rectify each of those problems, and the new demo has given us a promising insight into what we can expect.

Your first input in the game is a combat tutorial. The combat isn’t particularly different from before: you right click an enemy to engage, and your character will repeat his or her basic attack unless you use special moves. What is different is how the combat feels. For the lack of a better word, it feels more visceral. The camera sits a little lower and closer to keep you in the action. The camera shakes with feedback. It’s an altogether more intense experience, though that comes at the expense of control: you’re no longer able to fully zoom out to survey the situation. Further, the increased speed of the combat takes some getting used to, meaning you’ll be doing a lot of mis-clicking. To compensate for this the pause function is incredibly useful here. Unfortunately, though, this has the effect of undermining the more intense combat, resulting in a rather disjointed experience.

The dialogue, however, is now a much more fluid mechanic. In Dragon Age: Origins, you chose a dialogue response from a preset list. In Dragon Age II, you select the essence of your response from a wheel (very much the same as in Mass Effect). Your character now also talks, which gives them far more personality than before. Disgruntled RPG veterans have complained that this new system is somehow inferior to the old system, but a) it’s not and b) it’s far more immersive.

Not only does the dialogue now flow better, but the characters participating in the conversation look far better than they did last time around. Facial animations are more lifelike and textures are vibrant. In fact, everything from the environments to the enemies are significantly improved. The biggest issue with Dragon Age: Origins was the textures, and it looks as though BioWare have seriously taken this into account, with more detailed and colourful faces, clothes and backgrounds. The enemies have also had a visual upgrade: Hurlocks no longer look like mutated Orcs, but horribly disfigured humans. The Trolls you encounter have also been moderately redesigned, and are now significantly less purple, which somehow makes them far more intimidating.

From barely an hour of gameplay, it’s obvious BioWare have made improvements in all the right areas. The new story structure is interesting, the visuals are significantly improved (if possibly a little too shiny), and the combat is more intense. As long as the entire story stands up to Dragon Age: Origins, and the Champion’s emo fringe doesn’t prove too distracting (that’ll be customisable in the full game), Dragon Age II will rub shoulders with the very best fantasy RPGs.

As for fantasy clichés, though, every female characters’ bust is enormous and very much on show. I guess some traditions refuse to die.

Dragon Age II will hit stores on March 11th.

Copyright Tom Dann 2011

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Categories: Previews
  1. grrfilter
    February 25, 2011 at 7:20 am

    LOL, less purple trolls! 😀
    yup, I like that the darkspawn look more human-like. more like the sentient darkspawn in Awakening

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