Following up 2009’s fantasy RPG Dragon Age is no easy task but EA is confident it can deliver the goods again.
The original is the most successful launch of a new IP for EA, and developer BioWare has completely re-written the rule book for the sequel.
Dragon Age II combines the core RPG mechanics of its original with the action of BioWare’s other hit series, Mass Effect. The game’s core principle is: ‘Think like a general, fight like a Spartan’, with an emphasis placed on more fluid action, cooler attacks, a new graphics engine and pick-up-and-play sections, with back-tracking cut out.
This time players don’t control a mute character – instead they play as Hawke, a refugee who survives the destruction of his homeland.
He has a dialogue tree similar to Mass Effect’s lead character Commander Shepherd, backed up by a clever narrative where the story is told via flashbacks which the gamer controls.
This overhaul is part of a bid to make Dragon Age II appeal to the more mainstream consumer.
“Dragon Age Origins was a huge success and has garnered many game of the year awards to date,” says EA product manager Will Graham.
“Having said that, BioWare is not one to rest on its laurels and is always looking for ways to improve the previous iteration. There were some frustrations on the console version for the more mainstream consumer which BioWare has addressed in Dragon Age II.”
Players can again choose from mage, warrior and rogue classes before specialising in certain talents such as swordplay, spells or defence. For example, as a rogue, users can learn to dish out a flurry of stabs, backflips, throw stun bombs or teleport behind monsters to stab them in the back. Mages can fire spells much quicker than before.
The levelling up system has also been overhauled. When gamers receive enough experience, they can open a more user-friendly menu and increase attributes in certain areas, which eventually unlock new paths and skills.
With the large Dragon Age fanbase, a revitalised game engine and plenty of marketing – including TV ads, online community activity and a print campaign – Dragon Age II could be the biggest RPG of 2011.
Making a new fantasy
It’s not out yet but EA already has plans for DLC in Dragon Age II. The Exiled Prince episode will be given to those who pre-ordered the game before January 11th for free. For everyone else, the download will cost 560 Microsoft Points (around £5).
The hype machine
Many critics have already cited Dragon Age II as one of the most anticipated games of 2011. These include IGN, Game Informer, GameSpot, The Guardian, MTV, The New York Times and more.
The free-to-play Dragon Age Legends Facebook game allows users to earn exclusive unlocks in Dragon Age II such as the Death’s Hand armour. Friends can team up to earn loot, defeat demons and share rewards in the social networking game.
Following on from EA’s clever cross-game promotion where players could access Dragon Age-style armour in Mass Effect 2, the publisher is now allowing owners of Dead Space 2 to unlock the ‘Ser Isaac of Clarke’ suit in Dragon Age II.