The hefty 1.9GB demo of Dragon Age II contained quite a lot of things, but leaves much to be desired (as is the case with most demos, which is why they are called demos, right?). The demo contains some fairly decent story pointers and sticks to the previous games’ difficulty spikes. Considering that Bioware has gone the Mass Effect way with this game (fully-voiced main character, previously saved data importing and others), it will be worthwhile to check out if the game is actually a beacon of shining light towards the new path of Role Playing Games (RPGs).
The game does not reveal much in the way of story (except for the lone important character from Dragon Age: Origins making an appearance towards the end of the prologue chapter). The fairly overused You are the savior of the Worldtrope comes into play here. As Hawke, you will be the Champion who one day saves the world from [insert obligatory evil person/thing here]. You can choose between three classes (Mage, Rogue or Fighter) and play either the male or female version of these. The story is fairly straightforward except when you reach Kirkwall wherein the narrative gets totally flummoxed and you just flit between skirmishes. The artwork style is quite brilliant with a washed out hand drawn feel to it.
The dialog options are akin to Mass Effect‘s radial option dial. The dial shows the gist of what Hawke will actually say and there are four main kinds of responses that Hawke might have a peaceful response, a neutral/comic response, an aggressive response and an investigative question. These are extremely simple to understand and actually make you wait and listen to the entire dialog instead of Esc-ing through the long drawl of the player’s talk.
The gameplay, on the other hand, has taken a completely different approach from Dragon Age: Origins. With a camera behind the main player overseeing an extremely fast battleground, it can be daunting task for RPG-lovers used to an overhead camera to come to terms with this new approach. The fighting is absolutely chaotic and without the assistance of a pause options, it would have been well nigh impossible to coordinate attacks. Players playing as a mage will most likely be hit upon by the Darkspawn and other enemies spawning faster than their magical abilities refresh. The game is as hard as it used to be and without carefully coordinating the attacks and the AI of your party characters, it will be difficult to win many battles, if not impossible.
With the prologue seeing the same battle being fought twice due to an unreliable narrator, it is hard to miss the similarity between the double-take in Dragon Age II and The Witcher 2‘s initial gameplay impressions.
In short: Mass Effect + Dragon Age: Origins = Dragon Age II. It is really hard to look at the game’s gameplay without comparing it to Mass Effect. Yes, there are still vast differences between them (the tweaking of the AI tactics being the most prominent) but the main game will tell how Dragon Age II really matches up to its predecessor.