Dragon Age II hit store shelves today, and RPG fans across the country are beginning to craft their versions of Hawke’s story. However, even the most powerful person in Kirkwall could use a little advice; I’ve already played through Dragon Age II, and these are a few pointers that I wish someone would have told me before my journey began.

Spread The Power
I know it sounds obvious, but you should try to advance your two key attribute points at approximately the same rate. For instance, for rogues, you should be spending your points pretty evenly between Dexterity and Cunning. It is particularly important that you do this for Hawke, regardless of class. The reason is that both of your main strengths have to cross a threshold before you can equip certain pieces of gear. For example: An awesome new mage robe might require that your Magic and Willpower are both at 30…so if you’ve just been pumping your points into Magic, you’ll have to spend a few levels playing catch-up with Willpower before you can wear the robe. Best to keep the attributes as even as possible until they hit 30ish, then pick your favorite of the two and focus.

Check All Shops
Kirkwall has plenty of places to shop, and you’ll want to investigate all of them – even if you don’t think they sell what you want. The reason is that sometimes they’ll carry unique items that don’t fit with the rest of their stock. Furthermore, you’ll want to check in with each merchant in each new act, because they might get new items. For instance, a dude who sells robes (which you wouldn’t need unless you’re a mage) also sells an extra inventory expansion…but not until the final part of the game.

Be Careful With Your Money
The first act of the game involves Hawke saving up 50 gold in order to go on an expedition. You earn this money by completing various quests for people around Kirkwall and advancing the story missions. Be warned: You don’t have a ton of wiggle room with your savings. I’d advise against going crazy buying weapons, armor, or runes until after you’ve gone on the expedition. If you’ve spent too much money, it is possible to hit a point where you run out of quests and cannot hit the 50 gold mark. While the story does give you a workaround, you want to avoid it if possible. In the first act, I recommend only spending money on the essentials: inventory expansions, ally-specific armor upgrades, and potions (as necessary).

Roll Force Mage
For your first specialization as a mage, I highly recommend Force Mage. The main reason is the spell Gravitic Ring (or Gravitic Sphere when upgraded). The ability slows down the movement and attacks of enemies inside its large radius. While that’s cool as it is, this makes it a great spell to combo with one of your area-of-effect damage spells, like Firestorm. By stacking the slowing effect and the damage in the same area, you ensure that enemies are within the blast radius longer and take more damage.