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The sequel to Dragon Age takes some daring and different paths than its predecessor.  It went a completely different way in the combat area; however it still kept that feel of the original.  Dragon Age II is an epic journey that will grab you from the get-go.


Presentation:  Dragon Age II took a different look with its graphics.  They are significantly more cleaned up than the original; however they do not match Bioware's Mass Effect series.  Character animations are authentic and realistic and characters behave with real-life animations while in conversations. The city of Kirkwall is a rich and diverse city expanding from its slums up to The Chantry.  Every area of the city looks different from the other and being in the same spot during day compared to night is a massive difference thanks to the graphics.


Sound:  You can always count on Bioware to produce the best voice-work on the market, and Dragon Age II is no exception.  Whether our hero, Hawke, is speaking to a grumpy dwarf, corrupted mage, or innocent elf, the quality of the sound is top-notch.  Not to mention the spell variety; if you call in a firestorm; you hear meteors, if you call in an ice storm; you hear the shards of ice whip past your character.  Be blown away by all of this and think of the solid musical score as icing on the cake.


Story:  The way in which the story of The Champion is told is in one of the most creative ways we have seen.  The game opens up with a dwarf being dragged into a room and then questioned by an over-eager knight.  It just so happens this dwarf was the one who was part of the journey of Hawke.  This knight wants to know the facts and assumes her little friend has the answers.  The game then takes place in the way Varric (the dwarf) recalls it through flashbacks and memories.  Gameplay is inserted into these slots to carry out what he says.  The timing and the way the game flashes from cut scene to gameplay is fluid and flows seamlessly.  Along the way you experience both shady and memorable characters.  The rise to power may be bland at times for sir Hawke, but the way in which it is told will keep you guessing and coming back for more.


Gameplay:  I am pretty sure I speak for all of us when I say I was a bit skeptical when I heard of the path the Dragon Age combat was going down.  However, there is almost no point in ever doubting Bioware.  What they have done is keep that DA Origins feel with involving your teammates, only now it is quicker and more accessible.  You can take control of your party members with the tap of a button, pause the game with the pull of a trigger, or mow down enemies with the push of a button.  Talents and spells are quick-slotted to the button layout and they can be down while in mid-combat.  For more effective control you can pause the game, switch teammates, issue commands, and return.  Only minor glitches or freezes happen and that only happens at the most intense times.  Dragon Age II is both quicker and easier to play and slicing limbs of Darkspawn is a nice bonus. 


Hawke:  The story of Dragon Age II follows a hero by the name of Hawke and his rise to power in Kirkwall.  Before the game picks up you get to choose the specialty of your hero from three classes.  When leveling up you earn skill points that can be put into different aspects of your character that vastly improves characteristics or allows you to learn a new spell all together.  Another new part of DA II is the fact that your hero actually talks in conversations via a Mass Effect-like wheel.  The difference between a talking protagonist and a silent one is staggering. 


Dragon Age II is a refined DA Origins made simpler and quicker with tweaks to the core of the game.  Hawke is no longer on mute and new graphics bring the game to life a bit more.  It is not a flawless game, but there are many more positives than negatives.  For fans of the original and for beginners, I would strongly recommend going on the journey.  Overall I give this game a 9.0/10.