Dragon Age: Origins is one of my favorite games in recent years, and while I love Mass Effect I can safely say that I enjoyed Dragon Age more. When rumors began to swirl around about developer Bioware “dumbing down” Dragon Age 2 to make it more like Mass Effect I was at first a little angry, then mostly concerned. I kept wondering why Bioware would make a fantasy themed Mass Effect. I don’t want that at all. I enjoyed Dragon Age: Origins because of its originality. With the release of the Dragon Age 2 demo I can thankfully push aside some of my worries, but Mass Effect’s influence is still clearly apparent in this dark fantasy sequel.
Upon booting up the almost 2 gigabyte demo, the first thing I noticed is the radically different menu and art style. Dragon Age: Origins was not really a pretty game, an accurate description of its graphics could be “it got the job done”. Bioware is flexing some muscle this time around, featuring much improved graphics and interesting animated comic cut scenes. I eagerly jumped into the demo, playing as my usual character type of choice, the hack and slash warrior. Not being able to customize my appearance in the demo, I jumped right into the game and soon found myself in the middle of a heated battle. However, rather than noticing the enemies hacking my face off, all I could notice was the bleak, brown, unimpressive environment I was fighting in. There was absolutely nothing there of interest, and it was all this terrible brown color. Even the enemies, the darkspawn, in my opinion looked significantly worse than in the original due to their look overhaul. The only thing that actually looked better from the original were the human character models, which thankfully look great.
As soon as I stopped complaining about this I finally got around to playing the game, laying waste to a group of enemies and getting to mess around with the slightly new and maybe improved combat system. It is definitely faster paced, and gives the appearance of more action, but really that is not the case. In Dragon Age: Origins you would select an enemy to fight and the game would auto-attack that enemy, hitting it as often as your speed allowed. Abilities could be used and of course you could move around, but basic damage was dealt through the auto-attack system. Here, rather than just auto attack, basic damage is dealt by mashing the A button for every hit. Sure the action on screen looks much more exciting, my warrior making giant sweeps with his broadsword with every press of the A button, but the effect is the same. While pressing buttons sure is fun, mashing the A button a million times is not. I don’t hate it, it gets the job done, but I don’t really see it as a step up from the original.
Now we get to the, well, for lack of a better phrase, Mass Effect effect. The conversation wheel from Mass Effect has replaced the original Dragon Age’s speech system. Rather than choosing exactly what you want to say you choose the general vibe of what you are saying, being able to choose from nice, harsh, or sarcastic. Your character also speaks in Dragon Age 2 which was not the case in the original. This is all ok, although once again I am not sure it really makes the game any better. This next one, even though this isn’t a problem it still is going to bother me so I am going to complain about it. Both Mass Effect and its sequel have sported a radial pause menu, basically a big circle with all the different categories listed around it. Magically, as if Dragon Age and Mass Effect were developed by the same people, it appears in Dragon Age 2. Once again, as a menu it works just fine and there is nothing wrong with it. Just the fact that the game shares these elements kind of bothers me, as if Dragon Age wasn’t good enough to begin with without copying these little things from Mass Effect.
Now you probably think that I absolutely hate this game. Rest assured that is not the case. After beating the first segment of the demo I am teleported into the future of the game to experience a segment set in the city of Kirkwall. My complaint about the earlier bland, boring, and just unattractive environment instantly went away. The city of Kirkwall is gorgeous, a complete 360 from the earlier environment. I also got introduced, through a brief cut scene, to some of the games all so important companion characters. So far the Dwarf scoundrel with the coolest looking crossbow ever is my favorite but I am sure I will meet many more upon the games real release in the next few weeks. The last portion of the demo let me see the potential I initially missed, and I am eagerly awaiting this epic sequel to one of my favorite games. Hopefully it doesn’t disappoint. If you want to form your own opinion try out the demo or watch a video of it HERE.