So I’m gonna catch some serious heat for featuring a game which ‘hardcore gamers’ weren’t quite fond of, however, the important thing is that I enjoyed it, and if you give it a chance, you’ll enjoy it too. Dragon Age II is the successor the BioWare’s Dragon Age, a game that was a return to form to Bioware’s early fantasy epics such as Balder’s Gate. Dragon Age II takes the series in a slightly different direction from its precdecessor, and while it moves the saga along in unexpected ways, it turned off many of the series’ more hardcore fans.

DAII isn’t a direct sequel to Dragon Age. It starts in the middle of events that take place in DAI, and its story takes place over a period of ten years. Instead of choosing your character’s race, you play as a human named Hawke. Like Commander Shepard in Mass Effect, you can customize everything about Hawke except his/her last name. In fact, if you change his/her skin color, his/her family members will adopt a similar skin tone and look. You and what remains of your family escape from the village of Lothering as it’s being destroyed by a Darkspawn outbreak. With the help of a familiar friend, you escape to the city of Kirkwall and attempt to rebuild your life. Throughout your years in Kirkwall however, you’ll involve yourself with the city’s politics, history, and many factions that make up its population. You’ll meet several characters, and it’s up to you how things turn out. Varric, a dwarf who joins your party, is narrating your tale. The game also contains several pieces of downloadable content. Mark of the Assassin featured Guild actress Felicia Day, while The Betrayed Prince (which comes free if you purchase the game new) features an all new character.

The combat has been simplified from DAI, to the point where some complain that it was ‘dumbed down for consoles’. However, you can still assign tactical roles to members, and your skills are still developed using complex tech trees. The fast-paced combat helps things flow smooth, which is a good thing, as you’ll find yourself revisiting the same environments over and over again, unlike the exploration-heavy first entry. As in any good Bioware game, the characters are well written and developed. Varric, the aforementioned dwarf is hilarious, and the other characters you meet contribute to the game in their own way. Some even have bearings on major events in the plot. You can form relationships with the characters on your team, either gaining their loyalty or becoming their rival. Of course, romance is also an option as well. The conversations of the first game have been replaced with Mass Effect’s dialogue wheel, and it shows what reaction players could get from their dialogue choices. Many statements can be answered with either passive or aggressive attentions, or with a humorous option.

DAII is easiuer to appreciate if you consider that DAI was about the world of Dragon Age and DAII is about the people and politics in that world. While people will complain endlessly about the ‘dumbed down combat’ and repetitiveness, players who give it a change will appreciate it’s storyline, characterization, and the fact that the game establishes plot threads that will no doubt be explored in later installments of the franchise.