Think like a general, fight like a Spartan
The playable demo for Dragon Age II is now available
, offering about half an hour of combat and story segments from BioWare’s follow-up to their epic RPG from 2009, Dragon Age: Origins. The installer is on the lighter side as far as modern game demos go, weighing in at just under 2GB. This betters your chances of successfully downloading it, since the Dragon Age 2 site has been getting hammered all day. That may be due to BioWare offering to unlock a couple of in-game items once the demo reaches a million downloads… In addition, completing the demo will get you a unique weapon called Hayder’s Razor to use in the full game when it comes out in a couple weeks, so have at it!
When you begin, you’re given a choice of six combinations of class/gender. As in the full game, you are allowed to play as a warrior, rogue, or mage whether you choose to be a male or female. The warrior carries either a large, two-handed melee weapon or a one-handed weapon with a shield, filling the roles of damage-dealer or tank. Rogues can dual-wield daggers and dart across the field of battle like a ninja, or deal damage from afar with a bow. Mages are capable of dealing heavy elemental damage, debilitating foes, controlling crowds, and healing allies, making them the most versatile class, but also the most vulnerable. Each class is more than capable of holding their own in a scuffle while also complementing the rest of the party, so which one you decide to play is really just a matter of preference.
The first combat scenario in the demo introduces you to basic concepts like auto-attacking and using abilities that an advanced character would have access to. It’s immediately apparent that the action is faster and animations are more fluid across the board. Characters move and attack more quickly, displaying a variety of stylized acrobatics along the way. Closing in for melee attacks is accelerated by a warrior’s charge or rogue’s pounce, while the mage will sling projectiles from between a flurry of staff twirls. Even though all of this makes battles look really cool, it can sometimes be tricky to place your clicks when everything is moving so fast. Yes, you can still pause the action and take care not to waste time standing around because you’re missing clicks, but why bother with that tedium if you’re not micro-managing the party?
After a brief cinematic interlude, you step into the game’s prologue, which reveals Hawke and his family fleeing from the town of Lothering as it is overwhelmed by the Darkspawn horde witnessed at the beginning of Origins. Your character is back to level 1, but you can now control other members of your party, a mage and warrior. As I mentioned before, the ability to pause the game and manually assign commands to each combatant is still there, but so is the tactical menu that allows you to specify pre-determined courses of action that the AI will carry out on its own. Though there are far fewer tactics slots available than in DA:O (maximum of 7 per character), it seems to do a better job of automatically updating tactics according to general behavioral rules, saving you the hassle of going in and making sure that new ability you just gained at a level-up will actually be used.