There may have been disturbingly few posts lately because there hasn't been much news to speak of - oh! Apparently Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is set to be shown off at PAX East this weekend! - but it's much more likely that I've simply been playing a lot of Dragon Age II. Let me check my save file time... eighteen hours? That seems unlikely.
Anyway, I've just begun Act II of what I've heard is a three-act game, with a 45-hour playtime. I've put some time in.
Is it good? Yes. Is it great? Well... it's very good, let's say that. It sports improvements here and arguable sacrifices there, so far. It's significantly more playable than Origins, and I do find that when I get home what I would prefer to do is boot it up and see just what the hell I have to do to get a conversation option with Merrill that features a heart.
I adore Merrill. She falls neatly into the same category as Yeoman Chambers - but she also illustrates a point about the characters of Dragon Age II.
They are designed to perfectly contrast with Origins' party members. Merrill is your go-to glass cannon DPS-machine mage. In Origins, that was Morrigan - and the two are polar opposites, personality-wise. Morrigan was, well, a bitch. A confident, sexually aggressive, mean, selfish person.
Merrill is, for lack of a better word, adorable. She is self-depreciating and self-doubting, nervous, socially inept, disarmingly naive and utterly charming.
Likewise, Dragon Age II's tank party member is the stern, serious antithesis of Origins' Alastair. Your party's requisite dwarf sports no beard and no Scottish accent, but is instead possessed of smooth-talking social graces - and II's damage-dealing warrior is the polar opposite of his counterpart Sten:
Meet Fenris. His shit is way tormented.
Even though that aspect of it is rather transparent, it still manages to be entertaining - and unlike... any other RPG I can think of, it's almost ridiculously fast-paced. I'll explain why in the review, but if you decide to throw a half-hour or sixty minutes into Dragon Age II, you'll be able to get a half-dozen quests done and three-quarters of the time it all zips by so fast you have no idea who you just helped and why.
These are the fetch quests. The small quests. The found-something-shiny-on-the-ground-and-you-have-to-return-it quests.
The quests with a bit of narrative, choice and consequence - those are classic BioWare, and a rather tasty treat.
I suppose it would behoove me to write more, but I shall be honest with you, friends:
I'm going to go play some more Dragon Age II now.
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Oh, I suppose I should mention the combat:
It's definitely an improvement over Origins, and far more fun to actually play - but when it's crunch time and you need to pause the action to deliver specific commands to your party, half the time I'll discover the crucial ability that I need used was already used by the AI, and is now on a timer, and I'm screwed.
Perhaps fiddling around with the "tactics" thing would help, but I'm not that micro-manage-y. Dragon Age tries to straddle the line between action RPG and strategy, but it has a hard time doing both.