The original Dragon Age was a mixed bag, featuring repetitive combat and a conversation system that feels more dated than Betty White. As good as Bioware is at developing games they also have a tendency to strip most of the RPG elements out of their sequels. So when Bioware came out and said they wanted to make the sequel to Dragon Age more accessible and stripped down I was a bit disappointed to say the least.
Thankfully Bioware and EA decided to release a demo on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. The demo starts off in the character selection screen. The player can choose from 3 different classes, a warrior, mage, and rouge. Unfortunately, you can’t choose a race, however you can still choose between male and female. After a short cutscene that essentially describes the basic plot, you’re forced into action. Before I begin discussing the combat, I just want to ask, “What ever happened to starting off on rats?’ Sure, it could induce players in a coma of boredom; however it also functions as a simple way of getting the player familiar with the controls.
Instead Bioware decided to surround the player with tons of Darkspawn and an ogre. It doesn’t help that you barely have any time to read the controls before your swarmed. This isn’t any trouble for a console or PC player familiar with the controls; though someone who is new to the genre may feel completely alienated. Sure, you could just call the player stupid, but it simply feels counter-intuitive since Bioware was intent on capturing a more casual crowd.
Combat is incredibly simple. The X (PS3) or A (Xbox 360) button serves as the basic attack, while the other face buttons function as maps for special attacks or abilities. The abilities, spells, and skills do a good job of making your character feel like a badass, however the basic attack only features one animation, and I have no doubt that will get old really quick. Other thing I want to highlight is the fact that there are really not any executions like there was in Origins. Instead when you execute a skill the Darkspawn, or enemy explodes into a pool of blood. I’m more of a fan of the traditional context sensitive executions that Dragon Age: Origins has.
Other than that the inventory system is locked as well as the character creation. Players will be able to level up a few times, however most of the good skills are locked for obvious reasons. There is a ton of conversation wheels throughout the demo, however Bioware’s conversation wheel is beginning to look dated, especially with the impending release of L.A Noire, which crushes it visually.
Look for our full written review as Dragon Age 2 inches closer to release. Dragon Age 2 is set to release on March 8th, 2011.