Dragon Age II: Tips and Tricks

by Joe Juba on Mar 08, 2011 at 11:12 AM

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.

Stay On Isabela’s Good Side
I’m not going to spoil anything, but there is a part of the game where having a good relationship with Isabela comes in handy. You don’t need to romance her, but do your best to be friendly and not actively antagonize her.

Don’t Worry About Resistances
Dragon Age II is easier than the original, and part of that is that your enemies don’t really have their true resistances unless you’re playing on Nightmare difficulty. For instance, Rage demons are made of fire, but they will still take some damage from fire spells on all but the highest difficulty setting.

In Dragon Age: Origins, it was easier to dabble in multiple areas because each ability line only had four options. In Dragon Age II, each tree has more talents to invest in, including both passive and active abilities. The more points you invest in a particular tree, the better you get. On the other hand, if you invest a little in a lot of trees, you’re going to end up with a disappointing character that doesn’t excel at anything. It’s okay to pick an odd talent (like the heal spell for mages), but generally, you should commit to one or two skillsets and pump them up as much as possible.

Invest In Your Allies’ Unique Talents
A great area to spend your allies’ talent points is in their unique trees. Instead of having specializations (like they did in Origins), each party member has a set of abilities that only they can learn. These talents are tailored to the strengths of the party member, and even help flesh them out as characters. You won’t be able to take these abilities right away, but keep an eye open for when they become available. I particularly liked the unique trees for Merrill and Fenris.

Don’t Feel Bad About Saving Points
You’re far better off having unallocated talent points for a level than burning those points on abilities you don’t want. If you’re level 9 and a talent you have your eye on doesn’t unlock until level 10, go ahead and save the point. Then, the next time you level up, you can get the ability you want with your point from level 9, and then spend your level 10 point progress through your skill tree of choice.

(To read the review of the console version of Dragon Age II, click here. For the PC review, click here.)