1. This thread may contain spoilers for Dragon Age: Origins and its expansion pack, The Awakening. It definitely contains spoilers for the Dragon Age II demo.
2. These are only my thoughts on what BioWare has made available in the demo. The full game is clearly going to offer more options.
3. I LOVE Dragon Age: Origins. It's one of my favorite RPGs in years, with only Fallout 3 tying for first place. I should also note that I played the PC version, which had more of a Baldur's Gate-like interface/tactical perspective.
For those that want to give the demo a try and can run the PC version, you can check it out here:
http://dragonage.bioware.com/da2/demo/ (2 GB)
Ok, now onto my initial thoughts on this. So far, my reaction is mixed. There's a lot to love about what BioWare has done to move the series forward. And several things that I really dislike. The good outweighs the bad, however. That's the good news. The bad news is that this game really doesn't feel much like Dragon Age to me. For one thing, it's suffering from a very serious case of console-itis. And there are way too many things that are ripped right out of the Mass Effect series. I like both series but one of the great things about Dragon Age: Origins was that it wasn't Mass Effect. And Mass Effect isn't Dragon Age. But Dragon Age II merges the two games. For now, I'm just going to list my current pros and cons. I reserve the right to change my mind about these at any point.
Fast paced combat: Combat in DA2 has been drastically sped up. It's so fast that if it wasn't for the role-playing options, this would be a pure action game (hmm, sounds like Mass Effect 2). Thankfully, you can still take control of all of your party members and you can pause the action to issue orders. Combat looks and plays beautifully. It's very responsive, smoothly animated, and very intense.
Intense and gory: The first game had its fair share of blood and gore but DA2 takes it a step further. Since you're more up close to the action, you get a more close-up view of the exploding enemies, the blood splatters, etc. This really makes the game feel far more intense than the first game.
Graphical overhaul: This game looks pretty nice if you enable DirectX 11 visuals. Objects are more rounded and not nearly as blocky, the shadows are better and don't slow the game down. Throwing fireballs around has never looked better. The game isn't on par with some of the games currently coming out but it's a step up from the original. That said, the color scheme is very...brown.
Complexity: Despite overhauling the combat system, it doesn't appear as if BioWare has sacrificed any of the complexity of the first game. At least when it comes to combat. The demo mostly just shows off combat (so far). So I can't really comment on the inventory system, crafting, etc. Unlike Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age II still has an inventory system and the skill system seems to offer a lot of depth. Changing your weapons and armor will likely have an impact on things as well.
Limited customization: When starting the game, you can choose your gender and your class: mage, warrior, or rogue. Depending on what you choose, your character will start with an appropriate weapon set and fighting style. Unfortunately, the demo forces you to look a certain way. And the game also forces you to be human and gives you a pre-determined origin story that appears to be the same regardless of the class you choose. Although your class choices do seem to impact your family and how you interact with NPCs.
The user interface:
I can't stress how much I dislike the interface. It's a MAJOR step back over the Dragon Age: Origins interface. The PC version of the interface merges the DA:O interface with the Mass Effect 2 interface, and with mixed results. On one hand, it lets you deal with the faster paced action a bit easier. Skills, mana potions, health potions, and character selection icons are all relatively close together. So you can quickly click on them without needing to pause.
However, at the same time, the dialog boxes that popped up over everything in the first game have been replaced with the full screen Mass Effect 2-style character management interface. That is, you can't easily switch between your character record, inventory, etc. with the click of a button. You have to close whatever screen you currently have open and then click another button. This wouldn't be an issue if they gave you access to all of these buttons on each character management screen or if the hotkeys for those buttons worked from there. But they don't. This might work ok on a console, but on the PC version it's really irritating.
Bland color palette: This is one incredibly dreary looking game. At least so far, the game is loaded with lots of shades of brown. Dark brown, light brown, reddish brown, gray brown -- you name it. If it's a shade of brown, it's probably in the game somewhere.
Very linear: The demo is incredibly linear. You fight a short battle, which is followed up by a short cutscene, followed by a little bit of running, another cutscene, a battle, etc. It isn't exactly the most exciting introduction to the Dragon Age universe. Hopefully the demo opens up a little bit before I finish it. If not, I don't expect it to get too much more exciting.
Locked interface: Many interface options are completely locked in the demo. You can pick up items from fallen enemies but you can't access your inventory to equip them. Many of the class specializations and skills are locked as well.
No more tactical camera: Yup, the Baldur's Gate style tactical camera is gone in Dragon Age II. I'm rather disappointed with this since that's the way I played almost all of the original game. The camera can be tilted to sort of emulate that perspective, but it doesn't give you a tactical advantage. Quite the opposite in fact.
I already pre-ordered the game on Steam about a week after it was made available. Therefore, I'm kind of stuck with it and will definitely be playing it, regardless of my current thoughts on the demo. Right now it looks like it's going to be a fun game. But I'm not entirely sure if it should really be called a sequel to Dragon Age: Origins. Much of what I loved about the first game has been stripped away and replaced with Mass Effect 2 and console equivalents. This is a double-edged sword. I loved the faster paced combat in Mass Effect 2 but I really didn't like the user interface in that.
The tactical combat of Origins seems to be intact despite the faster pace too. But it's very clear that the PC version is a console port, whereas Dragon Age: Origins was clearly a PC game that was ported to consoles. This may seem trivial to those that played the console version, but it's a pretty big deal when playing it on PC. The PC version of Origins had a very distinct feel to it. It really felt like the spiritual successor to the Baldur's Gate series. That's completely gone in DA2. Now it feels like yet another action RPG console port but set in the Dragon Age universe. That's really disappointing to me.
Basically, Dragon Age II is looking like what you'd get if Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age: Origins had a baby. It takes traits from both parents, with certain traits becoming the dominate traits. The result is interesting and it's definitely entertaining. But the jury is still out on whether this is a step in the right direction for the series.
Edited by NeuralClone, 24 February 2011 - 03:43 AM.
It helps to complete sentences!