Dragon Age II definitely feels very different from Origins, but in this case it is an overall step forward. Bioware has changed much of what was wrong about Dragon Age Origins and while there are some aspects that could be improved upon in Dragon Age II, the game feels like an improvement over Origins and definitely shows a more promising future for the series.
The first thing you will notice about Dragon Age II is the new art style. It looks very different from how Origins looked, but not exactly in a bad way. The graphics overall are a slight improvement over Origins. Especially with some of the vistas you are treated to in the areas around Kirkwall. Dragon Age doesn’t have the best graphics seen this generation it works for the game and never gets in the way of you being able to enjoy the game.
Dragon Age II focuses on Hawke, a character of your making (although they do have to be human). The story focuses on Hawke’s rise to power, as the so called Champion of Kirkwall. It is told in a “Framed Narrative” over the course of ten years. Most of your time is spent in the various areas of the city of Kirkwall, although you do make a few trips to the surrounding areas. Even with the lack in the diversity of areas, it wasn’t a big issue to me. You really get to know the city of Kirkwall like your own neighborhood, and come to care about what happens to the city and its inhabitants. This is by far the best aspect of Dragon Age II, the experience it builds. You and your party members feel very connected to the story and events, and it really felt like a great experience even if the story feels like a bunch of side quests strung together with no real villain emerging until the later parts of the game. Like usual, with this game Bioware has crafted an incredibly interesting cast of supporting characters that you will want to get to know. Instead of an approval rating like Origins, your party members now either have a friendship or a rivalry with you. Either way they will still fight for you, and the two routes open up new conversations with each character.
This time around Hawke has a voice, unlike the voiceless Grey Warden of Origins. The conversation system has been given an overhaul too, and the influence from Bioware’s Mass Effect series is evident. Conversations play out just like in Mass Effect, with a conversational wheel with different responses and options to investigate into what characters have said. Most of the time I found myself tending to choose the sarcastic, humorous response in the middle. What truly surprised me later on though was how my character developed into just acting like the kind of person I would choose him to be. Even in cases where I didn’t have a choice as to how Hawke would respond, he would be the sarcastic ass that I wanted him to be.
One of the major complaints about the original game had to do with the battle system. Bioware listened to their fans on this, and decided to go for a more action based approach with much faster combat. The concept was for you to hit a button and instantly have something happen, unfortunately in the early stages of the game this leads to you mashing on the X button for your basic attack. This gets stale very quickly, however as you progress and unlock more abilities the combat truly starts to shine. In addition, Dragon Age II on the normal difficulty is a challenging game. With the faster combat and decent challenge, the later half of the game becomes a lot of fun to play. The controls work well, with no unexpected problems popping up. It is obvious that Bioware developed this game with the consoles in mind, seeing as the controls are much better than they were in Origins. Like Origins, you have three classes to choose from. Those of the, Warrior, Rogue, and Mage. They function very much like their roles in Origins although they have all been powered up to ridiculous levels for the combat.
Voice acting in Dragon Age II is across the board fantastic. It is difficult to think of any characters that had a bad voice acting job; of course this isn’t a huge surprise as this is a Bioware game. The score while not fantastic, is definitely above average. It may not be the kind of thing you want to listen to on a regular basis, but it is undeniable that it fits and it is epic to say in one word.
With Dragon Age II you will definitely get your moneys worth. Completing everything except for a few sidequests, the game took me just under 50 hours to complete. However, the replay value is high with all the different choices that can be made throughout the game. Dragon Age II improves on most of the problems that were seen in the original game, and while its not as huge of a leap as Mass Effect 2, its an exciting new direction for the series. Dragon Age II wont appeal to everyone, but if you were a fan of the original or of fantasy and rpgs in general, I would definitely recommend it to you. Its a game you will probably want to own, and worth a rental at the very least.