NOT What I Expected
Under normal circumstances, I’d be writing a review article with a regular setup. As this one is about a demo, not a full game, I’m going to just give you the short and skinny of what is probably the best demo I’ve ever touched. When BioWare announced that a Dragon Age 2 (DA2) demo would be released in late February, I expected a poor graphics, concept-art styled, unpolished piece of garbage. Could I have been any more freakin’ wrong? Quite simply, no.
I think the first thing that I should do here is warn you that the game is COMPLETELY different in terms of animation style and there have been “upgrades” to the looks of your enemies, as well as the graphic detail that has gone into the game. In Dragon Age: Origins (DA: O), the graphics were actually pretty sweet for an RPG of its length. In this demo, the graphics were flat-out amazing! All I can say is that DA: O just lost its lunch money in the graphics department to DA2. I was very impressed that a demo was allowed to have that much graphic detail put into it, and that BioWare is giving away so much information.
One of the big selling points for this game is to “Think like a general, fight like a Spartan,” as you must play the game much more tactically than you did DA: O. One of the methods they employ to accomplish is the removal of the one-button push that had your character auto-attack based on your input. What they will put in its place is a multi-button push system that turns the game into a semi-hack-and-slash while in combat. Personally, (and this sentiment was echoed by my wife who is also an avid DA fan), this made the combat considerably faster, made it easier to spend combat time more tactically, and a lot better overall. It also allows for you to combine tricks to your advantage and makes it feel more like a natural part of combat. What makes it even more interesting is that your enemies also seem to have figured out how to fight like a well-trained army and can use the same tactical techniques you can.
There is also a different method for handling your talent trees in this game. To be honest, this is the one thing I DO NOT like about the new setup. Part of that may be the limited playing time of the demo. I think when I’ve had more time, I will adjust to it, but I do feel that it is considerably more confusing and definitely the one thing they didn’t streamline in this game. It’s hard to describe how this system works, but it becomes somewhat reminiscent of the FFX sphere system.
This is one of the more minor things… but FINALLY, the characters swear as people do in the real world! In DA: O, despite the sex and violence, they seldom cursed. It’s nice to see the true adult nature of the game fully come out.
My final point about the demo is that it answered some of the burning questions as far as the main character’s appearance and alteration options thereof. Yes, Hawke’s voice is CONFIRMED to be set as well as the fact that Hawke is going to be human. But, the player still has the main options of choosing the class (Warrior, Rogue, or Mage) and gender of the character, which will allow you to retain the comfort level you had in DA: O. You will also be able to change facial features and other aspects of Hawke’s representation like you did in the first game. In short, you only lose two options, and I found that it was ok not having them and that the voice acting for the character was done well.
If I had to give this demo a review score, I’d easily give it a 9.5 out of 10. For being a demo, it was perfect in every regard as a preview of what you would be getting when you opened that box and popped it into your gaming system. If you haven’t already checked it out, do so. And remember that BioWare gives you an extra item in your DA 2 stash when you start the game for having played the demo.