The USS Quad Damage

Dragon Age 2 Demo review

It appears not many people have been able to download the Dragon Age 2 demo, so I thought I'd perform a public service by talking about it.

This is an unusual review because it’s of a demo — reviewing the game itself having only played the demo makes for a fairly silly review. However, the unusual thing about the Dragon Age 2 demo is that only some chosen few have been able to play the demo, so this is a review of the demo itself.

Firstly, there are some choices made for the demo which are... odd... The demo does not have an inventory (which is fine, but seriously they could’ve done some Psychology of games shit if they ended the demo with “Keep the stuff in your inventory -- buy the game!”). The game also only allows you to choose Warrior, Mage or Rogue. I don’t know if the real game is like that but that felt a bit like a brawler (double dragon or Streets of Rage). You also curiously cannot change how you look, even though you can in the real game. Again, I thought trying to get a connection with your character would be a good way of asking for a sell at the end.

The game is also not very pretty. Perhaps this is a by-product of the fact that, for some reason, in the demo you cannot select the “very high” graphics quality, and cannot use “DirectX 11” . You would think they’d really try and sell the pretty in a game like this, but I guess not. In fact, the fact that you can set these in the configuration options outside the game but cannot set them inside the game makes me think this is actually beta code and they hastily removed the buggy features and said “Oh we aren't offering this in the demo”.

Let me riff on the “pretty” some more. I’m not actually interested in the pretty so much, but the real problem is the way the game presents itself is as a title which should be pretty. It screams "I’m a AAA game, look at me". The cinematography is well done, the story carries, and... well... compared to that it just doesn’t look that good. It also feels a lot like Neverwinter Nights, right down to pressing TAB to highlight clickable items. I think this ties in to why a lot of people believe it’s been noobified — it just looks so slick, and the choices you make at least feel worthless.

I haven’t played DA1, but there’s a lot of talk that the new one has been noobified. While I can’t comment directly, I can say that the system is streamlined compared to D&D, but still has a lot of depth. From the perspective of making choices, I still can’t think of any choices that you don’t make that you used to make in D&D. There’s less choice in which character you can be but within that you can still do pretty much what you could do before. The group dynamics also feel more like Baldur’s gate rather than NWN — you’ll often pause, go through each of the characters and tell them what to do.

I can see why people are talking about it being noobified though. The overwhelming feel of the game is now that of a brawler. You may have a series of moves below, but you’re now running around at a reasonably fast speed, and a horde of enemies surround you. This can feel more like God of War than a D&D game. Your abilities, skill tree, and the way you use your abilities also feels like it has no depth. However, the demo also has the option to show, say, the hitpoints of damage you’re doing, so from that perspective you can still pull the depth out of it if you want to, and the game potentially isn’t shallow, merely slick and polished.

The thing that really ticks me off about it is how it feels so constrictive. One of the female characters offers to have sex with you, whether you’re a male or a female. A lot of the dialog options make you wonder if they have any impact at all. They also often have a “good, smart-arse, evil” choice every now and then, which also appears to do nothing except maybe shift some hidden slider on how evil you are. I hate that.

This feels more like a console game than a PC game, and it feels more like a brawler than a RPG, but I think the depth is there if you want it, from a fighting perspective. The only thing that bugs me is that they’ve spent so much on the content that they need you to see it now. Like all AAA games it basically forces you through a tunnel of cut-scenes, and it feels like your decisions don’t matter. Worse, all the effort to tell the story is lost based on all the cliches they have to put in just to make it look like you have a choice. I haven’t played Dragon Age, but compared to D&D proper, that is pretty noobified.