Having just (finally) finished Dragon Age: Origins, I was dismayed to see my colleague's comments on the newly minted demo for the upcoming Dragon Age II.
The beautiful thing about Dragon Age has always been the versatility of play: if a player wishes to tactically play the game they can, utilizing different powers and setting traps, as well as combining powers and attacks in an effort to be the most effective; however, if the player wishes to just play the game as a hack-and-slash, they can too, and this is what Dragon Age II recognizes.
I fought with the battle system and control scheme from Dragon Age: Origins from the first. After buying the game at launch and hitting a series of snags, I was unable to review the game as planned, first from the difficulty of the proceedings (I, like many gamers, don't like to knock down the difficulty because of a little challenge) and then because I encountered a disc read error on my 360 that would not resolve.
So I sold the game, finally repurchasing and finishing it almost two years later (and discovering that I was something like four hours from the end when the game stopped working).
Coming from that experience, with its jerky combat woes and long areas of disconnected grinding, Dragon Age II was a welcome change. You press a button... something happens. This was not what Dragon Age: Origins did, and the change is good. Things feel solid. Combat carries weight. And the writing is great.
Another welcome change is the protagonist, who is actually a character this time. I understand the nostalgic feel of the silent protagonist, but the inclusion of that made it hard to care about what happened in the last game. Here, however, I do care. And not only that, I'm fascinated by the way that they're telling the story. Framed narratives, such as the one presented in Dragon Age II, aren't a new thing, but they aren't often done well in games. That doesn't seem to be the case here.
Ultimately, I came away very pleased, and anxious to get my hands on the new game. I don't know if Deep's comments were because of a static control scheme or the lack of familiarity with the original game, but I do know that on the console, Dragon Age II is looking to be the first great RPG of 2011. If that's the case on the PC, I don't know, but I wouldn't doubt it; the combat has lost none of its depth, it's just far more accessible.
For Bioware fans, for fans of any significant story or action game, that's a very good thing. And it means that Dragon Age II is going to be excellent.
As an aside, there were several sexual references in the game, along with a focus (unnecessary, actually) on large breasts, and tons of blood and gore flying everywhere. This is seeming to be a pretty hard M, so if you're not old enough or don't want to deal with that stuff... don't play it.
-Drew "Drewsov" Regensburger