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Dragon Age was a popular and critically acclaimed title followed in the footsteps of earlier Bioware games like Baldur’s Gate, a Dungeons & Dragons-based RPG that has since been considered one of the most classic games of its generation. As the year comes to a close, it is good news to know that the sequel, Dragon Age II, is set for release shortly into the new year (March) with a new storyline, new characters and a fully voiced main character.
Dragon Age’s story is set in the mythical kingdom of Ferelden, a place with all sorts of fantasy creatures which is under attack from a race of monstrous humanoids called the darkspawn that emerge from the depths of the earth. The player takes control of a mage, rogue or warrior, as well as selecting a race and gender; each choice impacting how their character will begin and be treated for the duration of the game. Shortly after suffering a personal setback, the player is recruited into an army of warriors called Grey Wardens that are specially suited to fight darkspawn. He/she must then unite the kingdom under your banner to meet and defeat the leader of the darkspawn army. In Awakening, the player returns to his/her new holding that was granted to him to clean house and defeat new darkspawn threats. However, Dragon Age II splits from this story to venture north and open a new front with a new character: Hawke.
The main character in Dragon Age II is a human male or female warrior, rogue or mage named Hawke, a survivor of the darkspawn invasion (known as the ‘Blight’) and a famous “Champion of Kirkwall” who becomes a major force in the future of a land north of Ferelden called the ‘Free Marches’ over a period of ten years. As choices are made and time moves on, present and future events are influenced and changed by past exploits and moral decisions. While this was present to a minor degree at the end of the original game, choices often didn’t change the overall plot, but rather just changed the specific outcome of a single event; affecting rewards or party affection. The chance to actually make waves and have your actions felt throughout the lands is a welcome change and may prove to add to both player involvement and suspension of disbelief.
As in the previous title, the story changes based on the decisions of the player, as well as possible romance options with both party characters and non-party NPCs. DA2 takes several features from a similar Bioware title, Mass Effect, introducing full voice acting for the main character as well as the dialogue wheel that allows the player to more readily identify the tone behind statement options. In addition, players can import the save data from Dragon Age and its main expansion Awakening, to alter the story of DA2. The control system for the console versions was considered to be weaker than the PC version, as many of the tactical elements either were difficult to use or were absent entirely. DA2 attempts to remedy that issue by creating an entirely different control system for consoles while keeping the original for PC users.
It can be said that Dragon Age wasn’t amazing in terms of graphics; that’s why it’s so heartening that one of the biggest focuses on DA2 is the work on improving the graphics-“to make it visually super hot,” in the words of developer Greg Zeschuk. It’s obvious already that many races have been visually redesigned, such as the Qunari warrior race and the Dalish Elves, as seen in the two trailers that have been released thus far.Hopefully such claims will come through and be fully realized.
If you liked Dragon Age, you may find that Dragon Age II attempts to improve on every aspect of the game, from gameplay to graphics to plotline. A fully-voiced main character can add troves of characterization and interest to the plot, while a long-term storyline can make you feel like you’re having a vital hand to play in the development of a nation. It sounds really nice and if you’re a fan of how Bioware already showed it can fix issues that players care about (like in Mass Effect 2), I’m sure that DA2 will be a critical success. Dragon Age II is reported to be released on Windows, PS3 and Xbox 360 on March 8, 2011.