Dragon Age II • Page 3

The second cut is the deepest.

I still found that my inventory quickly filled up with fantastic weaponry that nobody could use. All unusable items, from diamonds to torn trousers, are now automatically stored in the junk tab of your inventory. They can be flogged to a merchant in one job lot, with a single button press.

Undeniably convenient, but I miss sifting through this stuff myself. When the game makes the decision for me it does so at the risk of breaking the spell, of making us see all this loot as ones and zeroes distinguishable only by database tags.

Crafting is a hands-off affair, too. No longer do you merrily pick herbs and flowers on your travels. You simply find hidden pockets of infinite crafting resources which merchants can then use to deliver potions direct to your inventory. It's strangely soulless, as if Tesco Direct has inserted itself into this fantasy realm.

Only the truly hardcore role-player will allow such design choices to dampen the experience. The genre is evolving, like it or not, and once you stop obsessing over what's different and start paying attention to what's important, Dragon Age II has plenty to offer.

4

Visually, the game is a massive improvement over Origins. Stunning lighting, varied character models, gorgeous scenery and very few technical hiccups.

If the gloriously messy stat-heavy guts of the RPGs of old are being carved out and replaced by simple mechanisms, it's not because the Bioware designers want to appeal to drooling simpletons. It's because they want us to engage with story rather than statistics.

If Mass Effect 2 took its cue from the propulsive thrust of pulp sci-fi, Dragon Age II gladly follows its own genre roots and echoes the meandering myth-building of a doorstop fantasy novel.

This is a game packed with stories. With no monstrous uber-foe to defeat even the smallest side quest takes on its own importance, feeding back into the whole and weaving a saga that draws you further and further in as the hours tick by.

Some will bail out long before that, muttering darkly about the changes to beloved genre tropes. Yet more will find the languid pacing too directionless, and will duck out in favour of something with a more obvious endgame in mind.

15 minutes more, a couple of hours in as you loot a dank, dark dungeon.

For those who stick around, able to forgive the moments when the game spins its wheels, there's a substantial and muscular experience to be had. This game builds steadily to one of the more interesting climaxes in recent memory.

It's never quite as great as it could be. Nor is it as successful as Mass Effect 2 at pitching itself across genres. Nevertheless, Dragon Age II presents an absorbing, sprawling story encased in blood-stained action RPG armour.

For all the ideas that don't quite take flight, for all the design decisions that feel restrictive rather than liberating, when the credits rolled I was already itching to devote another 40-odd hours to reliving it all again.

An enduring classic? Not quite. A satisfying epic? Absolutely.

8 / 10

Read the Eurogamer.net review policy Dragon Age II Dan Whitehead The second cut is the deepest. 2011-03-08T17:00:00+00:00 8 10

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