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Dragon Age II Preview Bonanza
Preview - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Tue 21 December 2010, 13:16:36Tags: BioWare; Dragon Age II
A couple of hands-on previews of Dragon Age II hit the web. Let's have a look at them.
The Escapist is extremely happy because BioWare will fix DA:O's flaws, like the too harsh difficulty and ugly graphics.
The combat in Origins had many failings, beginning with its unbalanced difficulty. "Was the default setting, especially on PC, too hard? Yeah," admits Laidlaw. "'Normal' felt more like 'Hard' to me." Even players who mastered the combat noticed other issues: It frequently felt sluggish, the rogue didn't feel much different from a warrior, and trying to be an archer just plain sucked.
The tactical side of combat returns, allowing you to pause the game and form a cohesive plan based on your current party, but the quick pace of fights has been ramped up for those favoring a more action-oriented combat style. Combat in Origins often got bogged down by fighting animations - rather than actually throwing a spell or shooting an arrow, a character would go through a big windup and then, eventually, get around to actually doing whatever it was you they were commanded to do. According to Laidlaw, BioWare wanted the fighting in DA2 to feel more immediate and less like "some invisible person rolling D20s behind the scenes."
The design team also decided to inject a bit of common sense into the combat. "If you're a mage, and you're carrying around this big stick, why can't you hit someone with it?" asks Laidlaw, pointing out that ranged combatants, like mages and archers, had little recourse when the fighting got up close and personal. Now, rogues and mages also have melee attacks - not particularly strong ones, but certainly better than just standing there and getting socked in the face.
One new feature in DA2's combat is one you'll almost assuredly come to hate, but for all the right reasons: assassins, commanders, and devastating mages. These new specialized threats are mixed in with more common enemies and have moves all their own. They will also kick your ass. I ran into a few Assassins during my playthrough, and I'm pretty sure I could hear them giggling as they cut me to pieces.
As of patch 1.04 one can play through Dragon Age: Origins on NIGHTMARE difficulty without even intervening in 99% of all combat encounters. Sometimes you take over the mage to aim an AoE spell or something but that's it. The game pretty much plays itself. On nightmare. AND APPARENTLY THIS IS NOT YET EASY ENOUGH!
ActionTrip were a bit worried with the recent Dragon Age 2 news, but thankfully their concerns seem to have dissipated.
This upgrade to the combat system did feel faster and more engaging, but thankfully, the deep strategy elements I enjoyed from Origins are still present. You can still pause combat to issue orders to the group. You can still control individual characters with a press of the button. The interface has been streamlined so that it takes up less space and yet, is more helpful and easier to navigate. The icons for your skills and attacks make more sense with a single glance at the simplified, yet improved button bar. And the overall process when upgrading your characters is better as well. Characters are still stat driven but they have added more detail to the process, demystifying what bonuses you receive with the increase. Even crafting, inventory management and loot drops have been tuned up, all in the hopes of taking the drudgery out of the process of managing the game and allowing you to instead, well, play the game.
Faster, more engaging, streamlined and deeply strategic. Why, it sounds wonderful.
The rogue is pretty much the exact opposite of the mage, and playing with this class definitely brought many of the improvements to the game's battle system to light. The original Dragon Age was sharply criticized for having a slow battle system that didn't react quickly when you were trying to hammer on default attacks to defeat bosses. Because the rogue class is so focused on hasty attacks, the changes to the speed of attacks were noticeable, and spamming the attack button served my rogue character well in most instances. Of course, boss battles couldn't be fought this way, but for casual encounters, nothing felt better than just blasting away enemies with the standard attack.
Another improvement made to the rogue class is the archery skill set. The archery battle mechanic in Origins was noticeably slow and not user-friendly. However, archery has been completely re-tooled for the rogue in Dragon Age II and is now an equipable skill that pauses the gameplay so you can aim and then allows you to release your shot when ready. The archery skill set also has a number of secondary skills and abilities you can pair with your character, which makes it a much deeper experience.
The original Dragon Age was sharply criticized for having a slow battle system that didn't react quickly when you were trying to hammer on default attacks to defeat bosses.You couldn't button-mash bosses in Dragon Age? The horror.
RPGFan ask themselves whether BioWare goes JRPG with Dragon Age 2:
Second only to story in the hierarchy of fan concerns, gameplay has undergone a somewhat less significant change, but one that I found refreshing. Battles are quicker, requiring consistent button pressing to fight. Characters move more fluidly, more quickly, and more realistically, with mages fighting more like staff-weilding Shaolin monks at close range, and archers getting away from enemies instead of shooting arrows point-blank. Even the rogues act more like rogues, employing tactics such as disappearing, poisoning, and hopping around like rabid ninjas.
You know, a thing I liked in Dragon Age was that one could play it in a point&click way. So this whole "requires constant button pressing" leaves me rather unimpressed. But of course I do understand that one has to push buttons in order to make awesome things happen. Derp.
GameZone are happy that they're no longer befuddled by all the stats and numbers filling the screen in DA:O:
But before they could put the hammer on the nail with the style, the combat had to be re-tooled to make it eye-catching. In the past, numbers and statuses would fill the screen and possibly befuddle the player on what truly was taking place when participating in the battle. Now, Dragon Age II takes that all way and, instead, gives only what is needed: gorgeous animations with a much cleaner HUD.
If players have experienced BioWare’s sci-fi epic Mass Effect, they’ll immediately recognize Dragon Age’s new dialogue wheel. To give Dragon Age its own spin on the dialogue choices, small icons are presented to the players to know what tone the response on the wheel corresponds. Since the silent protagonist of the first no longer resides as the hero, BioWare has granted the player the ability to deeply customize a character that goes by the name of Hawke, an individual rooted with a family and bound to a legacy from a framed narrative. Moving to a more dramatic lead character that speaks his/her mind, the game permits for new possibilities within storytelling.
The storyline follows Hawke, a normal citizen on the run from the Darkspawn’s destruction of Lothering. Entering the Free Marshes to escape to Kirkwall, a city that is already overrun with refugees, Hawke is no “chosen one.” While Dragon Age II is about Hawke becoming the Champion of Kirkwall and his rise to power, the actual story of how he got there to spark the revolution is shrouded by myth and rumor. As a story told in the same fashion as The Princess Bride with a narrator that, at times, corrects him/herself throughout the plot, there may be scenes that are completely untrue that players will revisit to find out the truth.
So Hawke is not the chosen one, eh? The trailers certainly left a different impression.
SarcasticGamer entered the magic world of polar bears, digital wizards and maple syrup.
As I maintained throughout being offered this trip and throughout meeting the nice people at BioWare, I was not the biggest fan of Dragon Age. I knew other people lauded it’s praises, but I had problems with the main character lacking a voice and the combat (while playing as a mage) was unimpressive and felt disconnected from my button presses. Admittedly, I played on the 360 and the consoles versions were not as well received as their PC cousin. Also, as I reasoned to the makers of Dragon Age themselves, I was spoiled by Mass Effect. With Mass Effect’s seamless blend of RPG combat and fluid conversation system, Dragon Age felt like a step backwards to a land that RPG’s forgot.
Well, now I am going to tell you from what I have played and seen that Dragon Age II could not only be a good game, but may be an early contender for RPG of the year in 2011. It takes and refines the good points of Dragon Age, then borrows and evolves some elements from Mass Effect and some other surprising influences. Mike Laidlaw and Mark Darrah lead the way on a presentation to introduce us to the key concepts behind the design of Dragon Age II.
Well, I can only assume that they're being sarcastic.
Spotted at: Gamebanshee