Dragon Age II Demo Review: First Impressions

Bioware have released the Dragon Age II demo to show you a small glimpse of what the eagerly awaited sequel to  ‘Dragon Age: Origins’ has to offer. It’s available to download for the PC, xBox 360 and PS3.
The imaginatively titled Dragon Age II is set after the events in Dragon Age: Origins and Awakening and follows the exploits of a young adventurer called Hawke from refugee to champion. Saving the world, destroying the bad nastys and getting the girl (or boy).

What can you do?

In the demo you have access to a part of the opening story and a later unconnected part of the story which sees you helping a piratesque lady called Isabela. You can create any of the gender and class combinations available in the full game; male and female (which is pretty obvious, really) and the Mage, Rogue or Warrior classes. Although the character creation does not allow you to change the look of your character, they’re obviously saving that baby for the final release.

Other parts of the game are also locked out, such as the inventory screen . Although, I’ve never yet based a game on it’s inventory management system so it’s not really a clincher for me.

Generally though, the game feels very similar in style to the original Dragon Age game, you can pause and allocate commands during combat, control any character and set their spells, talents etc.

What’s Changed then?
Graphically everything seems to have had a wash and brush up; everything looks a lot crisper and neater. Even the blood spatter which appears on your characters after combat, has been improved to not only include spatter but also blood smears and drops too.

The conversation system has had an overhaul. Your main character is fully scripted; every conversation you have during the game is voiced. I suspect this is why Bethesda chose to limit the race your character could be to human so that they wouldn’t have to fully script 8 different race/gender combinations.

Dragon Age Origins conversation
Original / Dragon Age: Origins/Awakening Conversations
dragon age ii demo
New Dragon Age II (Purty ain’t it?)












Also when in a conversation, rather than selecting from a variety of conversation options written in full the system has followed the Mass Effect approach. Short concise conversation options are shown which give the feel of what your character will say and how they will say it, but not the exact words. For example clicking ‘Let’s get out of here’ could make your character say ‘I think it’s in our best interest to go’ or ‘I don’t know about you, but I think we should move’ etc.) This helps the conversations to flow more thoroughly.

This game spans over ten years and not the two-year span of the first game. In the demo it shows that the main storyline is progressed by way of a conversation between a companion of yours and from her appearance an official from the Chantry. At this stage why your companion is being asked questions is unclear.

Another nice touch which unfortunately can’t be experienced in the demo, which was utilised excellently in the Mass Effect series, is the actions of previous games having consequences in the later games. So even though there is a new all-star cast of characters in Dragon Age II, the actions of your DA:O characters continue to affect the world. Saying that, Flemeth, the Witch of the Wilds does make an appearance sporting a much more interesting hair-do and voiced once again by Kate Mulgrew (Captain Jayneway  – Star Trek Voyager)

There aren’t many games these days which I can keep playing over and over. Dragon Age: Origins was one of them and from the looks of the demo; Dragon Age II is set to be even better. Plus with the actions of previous games carried over into this game I can see myself reaching for Origins even more. The graphics are better, the conversation system has been improved and now fully voiced and there’s a whole new place to explore.

My one concern is that there does still need to be a darn good storyline behind all this graphical wizardry and posh voice acting for the game to sit as well with me as Origins. Of course my only experience is with the demo which is a very difficult gauge of story due to it’s short length.

Bioware are ranked very highly as far as I am concerned and the game’s they’ve released in the past; Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2; Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Dragon Age: Origins, Warhammer Online have all been more than worth it. Plus the endless stream of downloadable content (some free and some not so) keeps the games fresh and very playable.

So, roll on March 11th.

If you want to read the review for the full Dragon Age II game, please click here… Or better still if you want to try the demo for yourself, you can reach it from here

Jim Franklin

Jim Franklin

Jim Franklin is a freelance writer, living in Derby UK with his wife and his player 3. When time allows he likes nothing more than losing himself in a multi-hour gaming session. He likes most games and will play anything but prefers MMO's, and sandbox RPG's.

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