I know that a video game review falls outside of the normal realm of what this blog is all about but Dragon Age has its own RPG (that actually looks rather fun although I haven't played it).
The first game was great. Epic story line, interesting characters, very difficult combat system. So difficult in fact I had to play through the game on easy because I was tired of TPKs every 30 minutes on Normal.
Dragon AGE brings back most of what was good about the first game and tries to expand on it. The combat system works a little better now. Fights don't involve pausing the game to issue new commands to your party every 10 seconds because the AI is now smart enough to run party members you are not directly controlling fairly effectively.
The Difficulty has also been toned down. In DA1, on easy, I would still suffer the occasional TPK but in DA2, I pretty much only had to worry about Boss fights once you learn a few combat tactics.
Again there are three main classes - Warrior, Rogue and Mage. Your choice influences the storyline but not a great deal. The mage's area effect attacks have been toned down in DA2 but they are still not to be trifled with and are to be killed first whenever encountered. The warrior and rogue both can focus of specialty skill trees (2 handed vs sword and board for the warrior or 2 weapon vs archery for the rogue) or work on generic trees which affect all combat. At levels 7 and 14 (game caps between 20 and 25) you unlock a specialty focus which opens up another skill tree (there are three to choose from so you can only get 2). The mage's skill trees grant spells instead of special attacks and work much the same way.
Combat animations are great. The amount of blood and gore borders on the ridiculous but few things are more satisfying than watching an enemy burst into pieces, blood spraying everywhere after they die from a critical hit. Any cut scenes after a battle still show the characters covered in splattered blood and gore. Most boss fights include a death animation when the main character finishes off the baddy on some wicked way. I think my favorite occurs near the end as you leap onto the head of an abomination, stab it a few times before pulling a smaller maggot demon from within. You hurl it to the ground and then walk over and crush it's head under your boot.
The settings are a bit of a mixed bag. At first you'll find each area really impressive. The reason they were able to spend so much time making them nice is that you return to the same locations over and over and over again. You fight in the foundry at least 4 times and the same can be said of most of the other locations.
Of course the best things about the game are the plot and the characters. The main plot focuses around the conflict between Mages and Templars as told by one of your companions to a Templar Seeker. There are a couple spots in the game where the dwarf begins to exaggerate and the Seeker cuts in, accusing him of lying and makes him start that part again. Each of your companions has their own quest lines which do affect how the main plot progresses. I have played through twice trying to make different choices each time and although the game plays largely the same, some of the side quests are different and your companions will react differently as well.
The characters make this game. They will chit chat with each other as you run around and depending on how things play out some will come to hate each other and others like each other. The emo elf hates mages and if you put the 2 mages in the part with him they do nothing but bicker. The pirate and the dwarf flirt and the pirate gives sex advice to the captain of the guard. Aside from your brother or sister (who you get depends on your choice of class) each of your companions fills one of the archetype roles (sword and board (Aveline) vs 2-Hander (Fenris), 2 weapons (Isabel) vs archery (Varric), offensive mage (Merill) vs defensive mage (Anders)).
Overall its a great game which is probably why I've sunk over 60 playing through twice so far. I may play through a third time as a warrior and try to find anything that I've missed. My daughter loves watching me play and is constantly asking to play the "Red game" (after the color of its start-up icon) so we can "Kill monsters". She's found it scary in a few spots but she's tough. I can see her being a big gamer in a few years.
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