It’s hard to imagine that Dragon Age II is releasing only a few short months from now. In fact, it feels like we just finished our quest for the Grey Wardens only a few short months ago, but at EA’s recent press event, we had the chance to go hands-on with a very brief section of the game.
Our immediate impressions from the scant ten minutes we were able to play is that the same streamlining that occurred between Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 is occurring here between Dragon Age and its upcoming sequel. We noticed immediately that the menu screens and HUD had been both simplified and minimized, much easier to process at a glance and less of a presence on the screen itself.
The action, while still offering players the option to micro-manage their strategy, was considerably more fluid and action-oriented than in the previous game, requiring less pause-and-play for those who simply want to map their abilities and mash a few buttons.
The scenario found us at the center of a sprawling medieval city in the company of a character that players might remember fondly from the first title: Isabella, the capable duelist, and the woman with whom you and your party may have initiated a wild, sexual foursome. No sooner have you met than you’re attacked by a party of raiders. Switching between the members of your four-person party, you can choose to closely manage the battle through the game’s menu system or simply assign your attacks, skills and potions to either of two sets of X-Y-B mapping and wail away with a series of well-timed moves.
The most impressive effect we saw during the battle was a rain of fire that plummeted from the sky down onto our flaming opponents. Playing as a Rogue proved to be a faster, more strategic experience than our last encounter with the game in which we played a sword-wielding knight. In this go-around, we dodged and slashed our way through the encounter with a pair of duel blades, peppering in a series of ranged attacks and commanding our team to engage with their crossbows, magic and broadswords.
While the game does, indeed, look a bit more stylized than its predecessor, it still feels very much like the world of Dragon Age. The conversations play out the same way, although your character proves substantially more talkative than your last adventure. Blood still spatters on those in your company and the world is still every bit as dark and grim as you’d remember.
Overall, it was a short-and-sweet demo, but even in that brief period of time we were able to get a sense that Dragon Age II will be a more manageable, action-intensive experience and a shift away from more hardcore RPG nature of its predecessor. With a release date coming in March, we’re confident that we’ll see even more in the weeks to come.