by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Character development (cntd)
On one hand, I welcome this further enhancement of the character development in Dragon Age II, as it certainly forces you to consider the long-term effects of all your decisions and your attitude in general. On the other hand, I feel that it should be possible for the player to change their direction in the character development as the story progresses; a gruff and unkind character could be shaped into someone more sociable, given the right circumstances. It remains to be seen, if such shifts in the character’s personality will be allowed.
Combat and levelling
Even though I cannot think of anything having been especially wrong with the combat system of Dragon Age: Origins, the developers are aiming to make it more fluid, wishing to give the player a bit better sense of how long each action will take and thus make the tactical planning of a fight easier. This translates into a more top-down view of the battle area (though not as top-down as classic CRPGs) which provides you with a wider view of the environs, as well as quicker actions of all combatants; your companions will leap straight into battle instead of shuffling forward and getting into position. One hopes, however, that this doesn’t take the system too far towards action titles.
As far as levelling goes, there will be some changes there as well. Instead of the clearly separate skills trees of the original, there is a more branching system that should allow for better customisation in the character development. Again, I hope that the end result will be a more balanced development than we saw in Dragon Age: Origins – or, rather, in Awakenings where you simply had much too many talents to choose from in each battle for each character.
As most veterans of Dragon Age: Origins agree, the look of the game was rather old-fashioned, as if the graphics had been pulled from 2005. In Dragon Age II the look seems to be updated a little bit and the developers have made an effort to renew the look of the Darkspawn – to make them stand out from amongst the other “monsters” of every other RPG out there. They also state that they have concentrated more on the look of the characters and their ability to express their emotions, which sounds like an improvement to what we saw in Dragon Age: Origins. However, the “world” seems to be – at least at the moment – pretty much as plainly drawn as it was in the original.
Whereas Dragon Age: Origins seemed like a mixing pot of fantasy stereotypes, Dragon Age II seems to be heading strongly into a direction where this series will have a personality of its own. The unique storytelling mechanism that allows us to take looks at important events during the life of the protagonist, the lack of a “great evil” or a “world to save” will undoubtedly result in something ground-breaking, or at least memorable.