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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published By: Electronic Arts
Developed By: BioWare
Genre: Action RPG
Players: 1
Rated: M for Mature (Blood and Gore, Language, Sexual Content, Violence)
Release Date: March 8, 2011
Screenshots: Link
Amazon: Buy Now!
Written By: Matthew Prunty

April 11, 2011 - RPGs have been a staple on consoles for more than 20 years and with every generation of hardware, advancements in storytelling have come about. For the current generation, developer BioWare created a masterpiece in Dragon Age: Origins. While the game wasn't the picture of perfection, it did showcase that great storytelling could be combined with in-depth gameplay to create an immerse experience. Capitalizing off the success of Origins, BioWare got back to work on crafting Dragon Age II. This time around, several gameplay enhancements have been made and features streamlined in order to improve upon their first outing. How successful was BioWare, continue reading to find out.

For those who have played and completed Dragon Age: Origins, you may be bummed to find out that that unlike BioWare's other action RPG series Mass Effect, you won't be able to import your save data from the previous game. Your previous game data is relocated to altering dialogue and a few character cameos throughout your epic journey. This is a good thing in that it allows Dragon Age II to stand on its own merit, instead of relying heavily on the predecessor. However, this is also bad in the since that the connection between the two titles is kept to a minimum and all your hard work within Origins isn’t fully utilize within Dragon Age II.

The events within Dragon Age II unfold during and after the events of Dragon Age: Origins. You place as Hawke, a young refugee who’s simply trying to provide for his or her family, while also trying to make a name for him or herself. With the Darkspawn blight wreaking havoc on the lands, Hawke and his family flee their home in Ferelden and take refuge in Kirkwall, located in the Free Marches. It is here in Kirkwall that Hawke finally gets an opportunity to provide for his family, while also making name for him or herself.

Just like its predecessor, Dragon Age II provides three character classes –Warrior, Mage and Rouge- for which you can base your version of Hawke off of. Each character class is unique in that they provide skill sets and abilities that are unique to that particular class. For those who like to be in the thick of the battle, a Warrior would best sure you style of fighting. If you are more into stunning and confusing your enemies, the Rouge class will best suite you. For those who don’t want to get their garments soiled by the hands of his or her enemies, a Mage will keep some distance between you and your foe while delivering massive amounts of damage. More akin to Mass Effect, you are allowed to customize your Hawke character to your liking.

Besides centralizing the story around one character, Dragon Age II has a host of features that have been overhauled in order to provide a more user friendly experience. One in particular is the combat system, which is faster and more action oriented than in Origins. Attacking your foe is as simple as pressing the X/A button. Every press of the button delivers an attack, which in turns yields a more response character and entertaining battle sequences. You have the ability to map various spells and abilities to other face buttons, which streamlines the action and allows you utilize whichever attacks you have in your arsenal. L2/LT allows you to pause the game and assign various commands to your comrades before, during and after a heated battle. This took is very affective when taking on hordes of enemies and during boss battles.

Also at your disposal is the ability to assign tactics to your comrades and executing Cross-class combos. Just like with Origins, you are able to assign tactics to the computer-controlled comrades so when certain conditions are met, will perform certain attacks/utilize certain abilities without having to tell them. This is something that is useful when you have to turn your attention to your foes. Cross-class combos are yet another layer of depth added to the combat system, which allows you to partner up with a comrade and deliver devastating attacks on your enemies. Think of Marvel vs. Capcom and you have a basic idea of what’s going on. Cross-class combos feature an ability which prevents your foe from attacking or moving, while another party member; who can be of a different class, comes in and delivers a devastating blow.

Other changes are also found within crafting and skill tree aspects, as well as the inventory and equipment system. In regards to the crafting and skill tree aspects, once again everything has been streamlined in order to appeal to a broader audience. Instead of using a point system in order to gain abilities like making poison bombs and lock picking, you are relegated to gather the materials needed for the item and visiting a vender in the market to craft the item. For things like lock picking, all you need to do is assign earned points to the stat that has to do with that ability. So for lock picking, you would add points to the Cunning stat.

With regards to the inventory and equipment system, a lot of brain cells will be saved as BioWare has eased the burden of keeping your party equipped with the right weaponry and armaments. Within Origins, you were required to keep all your party members; including yourself, dressed in the best armor and wielding the best weaponry obtainable. Within Dragon Age II you only have to worry about your character Hawke. You still can put various weapons, rings and amulets on the other party members, but now your main focus is to keep Hawke fashionably ahead of the time. By doing this, you don’t have to worry about picking up random armors that you would get from storefronts and from fallen enemies.

The thing about RPGs is that they rarely boast the best visuals out there… unless your name is Final Fantasy XIII. While Dragon Age: Origins wasn’t the best looking game out there, the visuals took a backseat to the immersive story told through the various characters. With Dragon Age II, the story is still at the forefront of everything else, but BioWare wanted to improve on the visual presentation as well. From the minute you fire up the game, you will notice a visual improvement in comparison to Origins. From the character models to the environments, you definitely can tell that the team over at BioWare learned from their last outing in striving to make a visually appealing experience with Dragon Age II. The character movements, especially during combat are more fluid and life-like, rarely ever seeing a slowdown in the action.

Just about everything that was included in Dragon Age: Origins has been tweaked and/or enhanced for Dragon Age II. The dialog segments also see an overhaul in that you now have a wheel that points to various phrases derived from a good, neutral/sarcastic and critical response… something that isn’t new to the Mass Effect series. Your changes can and will have an outcome on how others view Hawke and whether he can find another mate to join him or her for some mead. These conversation pieces also can and will affect your comrades. By them choosing to like you or “rival” you, they can unlock a special ability in their personal skill tree which can be useful should a situation arise.

For those who enjoyed every minute of Dragon Age: Origins, it will take a bit to get acclimated to how things work within Dragon Age II. For those who didn’t like the original all too well, BioWare has added a host of new improvements to the sequel, which most likely is an improvement upon something you may have not liked. Whichever category you fall in, the Dragon Age series is an immersive experience that continues to reinvent itself. Whether you are simply about experiencing the story from beginning to end once, or trying to get every trophy/achievement possible out of the game, you can expect the action to last a minimum of 25-30 hours. If you haven’t already picked up Dragon Age II, I suggest you stop what you are doing and run down to your local retailer and pick it up.


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