Written by Brock Poulsen & Craig Will Saturday, 26 February 2011 11:10
Two dudes' opinions on the Dragon Age 2 Demo in one convenient package!
The Newcomer's Perspective - Brock Poulsen
Having never played the first Dragon Age, I wasn't really sure what to expect going into the sequel's demo. I have some familiarity with the Dragon Age lore, but I don't know any of the story from the first game, its characters, or any gameplay elements. I was pleasantly surprised on all fronts with the demo for Dragon Age II.
The story (at least what the demo reveals) deals with a man telling a story about the vaguely named "Champion." I appreciate how BioWare makes efforts (here, and notably elsewhere with Knights of the Old Republic) to tell a story that is easily adaptable to whatever decisions you make with your character; be they male or female, good or evil. Your character is this fabled Champion, and the first section of the demo gives the player a taste of the enormous power to be had for high-level characters. Once this section is completed, reality sets in and the player starts back at level 1.
The characters you come across vary widely; that is to say, the men vary from gruff warriors to stoic knights or barrel-shaped, shifty-eyed archers. The woman mostly come in the "outrageously busty" variety, regardless of weapon proficiency (even your hero's gray-haired mother is a virtual Aphrodite). This is likely because almost any female character can be a love interest for your hero, and apparently Champions have a strict and harsh "no uggos" policy.
Gameplay is really where Dragon Age shines. Again, I can't speak for the first game, but I am loving the KOTOR-meets-hack-and-slash controls in the demo. The ability to pause the action, instruct a couple of my party members to rain down some death or heal themselves, and then immediately get back to combat is extremely satisfying. Playing as a mage, while in some games can feel detached from the action and altogether pretty weak, still felt very visceral, with firing the basic spell attack taking on a building combo structure.
Character customization and the inventory system are disabled in the demo, so I can't speak for those portions of the game, but the taste of action that I got is action-packed fun. This is a quality demo that will give you enough feel for the game to make you itching for March 8th.
The "Experienced" Player - Craig Will
While I never beat the original Dragon Age I did spend nearly 100 hours with it (what, I really liked was making new characters) and have been looking forward to the sequel since it was announced. So naturally I snapped up the demo as soon as I could and one playthrough later I can tell you: it did not disappoint.
Anybody that played the first Dragon Age will immediately notice the graphical overhaul. DA on the consoles was an ugly mess, reminiscent of high end PC game engines of the late 90s and early 2000s. But no longer! Dragon Age II is one of the best looking console games to date. Especially the blood. And there is a lot of it.
The opening controllable sequence of the demo (and probably the full game) is a glorified combat tutorial - and it will be necessary for those of you expecting the plodding tactical pace of the first games combat system - pitting you as an overpowered destruction machine. Taking a page out of the other recent BioWare sequel, Dragon Age II steps up the action to a more fast paced hack 'n' slash feel, yet manages to keep it strategic. Now actions happen as you press the corresponding button, no more opening the radial menu, aiming at the target, selecting ability/spell/action, closing radial menu, watching as your character runs over to target, and then finally the chosen ability resolves. Now with the simple (repeated) press of a button you will launch a flurry of melee attacks, similar to any hack 'n' slash. If you were a fan of the slower methodical pacing of the original combat system there is a compromise: in the options set the radial menu to stay open with a pull of the trigger and you can still select a target and ability to use as well as switch characters and lay out their actions.
And what would a BioWare game be without fancy branching dialogue paths? Not a BioWare game...? Anyway, dialogue wheels are back, this time with a little bit of twist. Each option is presented with a sentence giving the feel of the response but also accompanied by a symbol denoting the attitude of the reply. Every response for the female rogue character I made was denoted by the Comedy Mask and appropriately enough each retort was on the humorous side. Other easily describable symbols included a Gavel (Justice/Avenge response?) and Wings and a Halo (Compassionate?).
The demo skips around a bit but the story is intriguing to say the least. Picking up at the ransacking of Lothering, we join the "champion" as their family barely escapes the city with their lives. Similar to the cult classic movie "The Princess Bride," Dragon Age 2 frames the narrative of the story. In other words, it's a story within a story. Hopefully this technique will pay off both in crafting a very compelling story and keeping the plot moving along at a more decent speed than the first game.
Like I said, I've been excited for this game since it was announced, though (very) slight flaws kept me from getting to the endgame of the first Dragon Age and had pushed the sequel down on my list, this demo has moved it back up to the top. In fact this is looking like a day one purchase for me. I haven't made a day one purchase since Batman Arkham Asylum, so that's saying something.
There is still time to pre-order Dragon Age 2 and get some cool extras.