I have heard mixed reactions to Dragon Age: Origins, mostly involving the differences between console versions and the PC version. I have the intent to pick up the ultimate version of the game on Xbox 360 when I think the price is right. Hence, I will not be comparing this game to its prequel, but instead to the small subset of knowledge I have concerning RPGs, including Resonance of Fate, Mass Effect 1 & 2, The Elder Scrolls 3 & 4, Pokemon, and The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, among a few others.
I played the game through once early in the morning, not paying much attention to it because I did not think I was going to like the demo, nor have I had much interest in this game since it was first announced. I picked the standard warrior character because they seem to be the character class that is the most balanced to do battle, whereas I view mage characters taking a little more work to play as. I had some fun, so I decided to come back after classes and go through the demo again with another class. With my second playthrough, I chose the female rogue, whose specialty is archery and duel-wielding daggers.
The demo opens with a cutscene of a female character unknown to me interrogating a short, stocky fellow who knows the tale about the Hero and his history. Cutscenes are very dramatic with very good camera work, although close-ups on the environment lack detail, looking a little smeared. However, the characters all look detailed and do not look the same.
Right after I was drawn into the cutscene, trying to figure out what was going on, the option to pick character class is given. There are rogues, warriors, and mages. Once you choose class and sex, the character can have their look individualized. Nevertheless, most of the personalization features are locked on the demo, but you can name you can name your character. It should be noted that it seems like the demo takes place at the beginning of the game, the demo is quite long, almost an hour, but your save will not carry over to the full game, so it doesn't much matter what you name your character.
After character selection, you are immediately thrust into a combat situation. Combat is fast, mostly fluid, completely intuitive, brutal, but does not have much weight to it. Critical attacks do not have any more feel to them than a normal attack, but this did not bug me much since the big chunk coming out of the enemies' health bar was satisfying in itself. The 'A' buttion on the 360 controller is a normal attack which you will use waiting for your special attacks to come back online. Each special attack can be used as soon as its cool-down time is over. Cool-down times vary from attack to attack, but you are never longing for them much as they are necessary for combat so the game allows you to use them much, but they are not spammable.
All of this seeming button mashing does not come at the cost of strategy and cunning, as the first mid-boos fight, which comes right at the beginning of the game, got me down to very low health and all of my compatriots were dead causing me to run around, evading, chugging health potions. If I would have planned a little but more, I could have beat the boss faster, but I got a little too used to button-mashing. Some of the strategy will come in the form if switching characters, which can be done on the fly, but you do not need to switch characters if you do not want to. I never fought with a character besides the main one, though the option is there. A lot of the strategy come from allocating your attribute points with some thought to it (putting all points into strength is a bad idea, especially if you are a mage).
I noticed the score during the cutscenes and battles and am quite impressed by it. In fact, there was a dramatic scene where a character dies, and the score at this point really added the layer of depth necessary for emotion to be conveyed.
A cutscene leading to the second part of the demo was presented in a manner which I found confusing and ugly. In Dante's Inferno, most of the story was told through layered-cardboard cutscenes, which seems like a bad way to spoil a good story. Maybe it is just a place holder in the demo, but it really looks like crap and is totally out of place. Something else that is out of place are the large breasts on every single woman. Since when was Dragon Age anime?
I really wish I was able to get a handle of the loot in the game as well. I seemed to be picking up some really cool things to supplant the basic weapons given to you at the start of the game. Some of the difficulty present in the demo may be due to the fact you cannot equip the better swords and bows you find. Loot is plentiful, though, so I am not worried about its inclusion in the final product.
And thank God Dragon Age does not delegate Experience Points like Mass Effect 2, where one is given XP at the end of each mission in a set amount, regardless of how many enemies Shepard killed. In DA2, the XP bar will slowly fill as you kill enemies and at the end of a skirmish, the game will show you how much XP you accrued. I am very happy about this because the last RPG I played with a 'standard' XP system was Borderlands.
As a whole, Dragon Age 2 is shaping up to be a very strong action-RPG, with more emphasis on the RPG part than the developers other franchise, Mass Effect. The combat is as brutal as one would expect from people swiping at each other with swords, the story drivaes the quest with an unrelenting push, the options for player customization are deep and intuitive, and the XP system takes on a more traditional system. Although there is some room for improvement, DA2 will be great even if released in its current state