by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
The struggles of Hawke (cntd)
Either way you choose, the combat will still play out more fluidly than it did in the original. This means that the companions and Hawke will actively attack the enemy, instead of spending time hesitating in the outskirts of the field of battle, and their movements and attacks will be more natural. Basically, they will no longer be waiting for their “attack turn” as obviously as they did in Dragon Age: Origins.
The mages will have fewer spells (which is a relief), but they will be upgradable, which reminds me of the few but upgradable talents in Mass Effect. They will also get their share of the “cool moments” that were the sole property of the fighter classes in the original. By this I naturally refer to the finishing moves in combat.
The art of Hawke
Dragon Age: Origins was clearly behind the times insofar as the graphics design was concerned. All signs seem to indicate that this is one of the main areas of development in the sequel: the characters and locations look more modern in their design, although they still don’t attempt to approach any sense of realism. You will still get those ridiculous 10 pound swords and armour that would need at least 5 men to lift it up (too many game designers still think that “cool” equals “exaggerated”).
It is indeed welcome news that the shape of female bodies will now be distinguishable from that of male bodies. Also, mages will be less muscular than swordsmen, as a rule, which sounds like a logical idea. The characters will also have separate animations this time around, so you will not see the same mannerisms repeated all around The Free Marches. The elves, dwarves and Qunari have been updated as far as their looks are concerned. Also the hair and armour may actually flow in certain circumstances, but not all throughout the game. However, with all these updates, we will still not get any horses in the Dragon Age universe, and people still avoid cloaks and bowyers have not yet learned about the usefulness of bowstrings (i.e. they are not visible).
One of the most welcome tweaks is the work the artists and designers have done with the skin colours. The darker complexions will look better this time around and – more to the point – you can no longer design a dark-skinned child for fair-skinned parents. Instead, the family’s skin colours will be automatically matched with the skin colour that you choose for your protagonist. Of course, this also removes one possible roleplaying option from the game: in the original I had some fun imagining how my Orientally-featured, dark-haired noble beauty (lady) became the (obviously) adopted daughter of fair-skinned and decidedly western parents...
Enter the Age of Dragons
Dragon Age II will be the first Bioware game released in 2011 and there will be plenty of time to enjoy it before Mass Effect 3 comes along. Whether it manages to entertain us for that almost half a year remains to be seen, but all the good signs are there. The “Great Scare” of Dragon Age II being targeted to console action gamers is hopefully now behind us and we can resume our earlier enthusiasm about this upcoming cRPG treat, although we can still worry about the shallower dialogue experience offered by the Mass Effect type dialogue wheel. If your trust is strong enough, you can still pick up the special pre-order edition for the next couple of days or so and get some extra loot with the game when it is published.