An action-packed RPG return to the dragon’s den
Dragon Age: Origins came out just over a year ago, its bold intention to set up a brand new fantasy role-playing game (RPG) franchise while simultaneously harking back to the traditions of pen-and-paper RPGs such as Dungeons and Dragons.
Dragon Age II doesn't exactly rewrite the book but it represents a clear attempt on the behalf of the developer, Bioware, to broaden the series' appeal by making a more accessible, action-oriented sequel.
Events take place sometime after the first installment. You play an entirely new character, Hawke, a refugee trying to make his way in the big city of Kirkwall. The story itself is interesting in that it is told after the fact by an untrustworthy narrator, Hawke's roguish ally, Varric, who relates the entire tale under interrogation. You will also find that the story is prone to leaping several years ahead at certain points.
Depending on your point of view, the game's mechanics are either streamlined or dumbed-down compared with the first game. We will go with the former: we were impressed by how combat can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. You can play through a lot of the game hacking and slashing as if you are in an action game. But it's also possible to get quite strategic, assigning particular tactics to your team members and pausing mid-fight to give commands.
The main trouble was that this single-player-only adventure quickly became repetitive. It has an open world but it's mostly limited to a single city and its outlying regions. On top of that, many maps and locations are recycled, so environments get stale quickly. It doesn't help that there is a lot of dialogue to wade through and, barring a couple of quirky party members, the game's characters are all a bit on the bland side.
Dragon Age II is a long game, easily lasting upwards of 40 hours should you wish to complete the side quests in addition to the main campaign. Presentation values are high and a lot of thought has gone into its construction. On balance it's mostly an improvement on its slightly hardcore predecessor but it's still a flawed experience.
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Mostly an improvement on its predecessor but it's still a flawed experience
Lengthy, absorbing narrative; flexible combat system; good graphics and sound
Characters can be a little bland; the locations are very restricted and repetitive
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