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Dragon Age 2 Demo Preview

Feature; Mar. 4, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Edward Kaczynski
Subtypes: Preview
Bioware Strikes Gold

The Dragon Age 2 demo is very impressive, but that isn’t really a surprise. 

Bioware, in recent years, has really managed to step it up. The storytelling has always been superb, but the game design usually managed to wobble on that razor thin line between good and merely acceptable.

This, of course, doesn’t apply to all Bioware's titles. The Baldur’s Gate series was impeccable in every respect, andKnights of the Old Republic was the only Star Wars game to not suck since Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight. 

Dragon Age: Origins did not fall into this category. 

The world of Thedas was Bioware’s self-admitted attempt to create a Tolkien-inspired “dark heroic fantasy” with mature themes. That’s all well and good, but with the exception of adding elves, dwarves, orcs and goblins (and yes, in Dragon Age: Origins, darkspawn are orcs and goblins, despite Bioware’s half-assed attempt to convince us otherwise), there’s very little that actually resembles Tolkien’s setting, character set up, writing style, or plot development. 

That’s not, by any means, a bad thing, but it feels as though the development team misunderstood the direction it was being asked to go, and by the time someone took hold of the reigns, they were plummeting off a cliff. 

Despite the rocky journey it took to get there, Dragon Age: Origins was released to rave reviews. And really, when you break it down, it’s hard not to see why. Sure, the graphics were a little dated, but that’s not usually a deal-breaker for your average gamer. Yes, the story was a bit weak and the setting a bit contrived, but when you’re attempting to channel Tolkien, the comparisons will always be made, and you’ll always walk away a loser in that fight. The inventory system (much like Mass Effect 1) was poor, flimsy and infuriating, and the morality system didn’t really sway one way or the other. Combat was rich and varied enough that it made up for these faults. 

All and all, it was a game that got a lot right and a few things wrong. It was a solid B+. Above average, but not quite excellent. Mostly, people wound up comparing it to Bioware’s previous release – Mass Effect ­– and nitpicking specific design decisions. “Why didn’t you do this or that?” became a hallmark phrase (especially in the arena of voice acting – most everybody who got used to hearing Commander Shepard talk was hoping for the same in DA). 

That said, the quibbles over the faults of Dragon Age were few and far between. Bioware, however, took the criticism seriously and has attempted to correct the drawbacks that were pushing the series out of the A grade-range for Dragon Age 2.

The demo doesn’t give you a whole lot to play with, in terms of game mechanics – it pits you in the role of The Champion, who looks suspiciously like a relative of Morrigan (especially the female choice) and throws you into the middle of the Dragon Age: Origins plotline – the siege of Lothering. You can attack, use powers, make conversation choices and level up. That’s about it. 

You can’t really play with the character creation screen, and you can’t really play with the inventory screen – that stuff is locked out of the demo. But as far as game play is concerned, Bioware took a running leap at improving a system that didn’t really need it and hit a home run. Combat feels exciting again, and even the auto-attack got a needed facelift. Graphically, the game is leaps and bounds above the original DA, and the redesign of familiar characters and enemies was a welcome treat. 

It started with Mass Effect 2, and Dragon Age 2 appears to confirm it – Bioware has its stride down. Be warned: You may need to call out of work on March 8 because if the demo is a fair indication of what we can expect with Dragon Age 2, the game is going to rock out loud.




JCXanirus - Mar. 5, 2011 at 10:50:31pm

Jeez, is a save import really worth this game? Around level 12ish here, and constantly reaching game-enders with ludicrious 12+mob ambushes, and I'm tired of using the same combination of party members that always seem to win, (mages with cone fire spells) I try to use them all like I did with the Mass Effect series.


themightkai - Mar. 5, 2011 at 10:05:32am

Iplayed through the demo as well! its pretty good and a great step up from DA:O! Hack and slash fun RPG who won't love it?

It will be seriously exciting to play it! (got it pre-ordered for the 11th :) )

Nadorade - Mar. 5, 2011 at 8:40:25am

Really, REALLY excited about this!


JCXanirus - Mar. 4, 2011 at 10:08:16pm

Oh crap, it's out that soon? I REALLY better get crackin on the last game!

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