Dragon Age 2 review

Dragon Age II

You’ve just finished Mass Effect 2. You’re desperate for your next hit of Bioware’s sweet RPG crack. You figure, hey, I’m an awesome space commander, I can be an awesome fantasy champion too. Well, hang on to your dragonscale codpiece.

Dragon Age II might still be massive, it might still include sexy time with team members, it might even have more menus, but it’s just not quite as stellar as its gold award-winning predecessor.

First up, this is fantasy, so it’s infinitely more beardy than the sleek world of space suits and lasers, from the in-depth menus and inventory management to the story. You’re Hawke, a human refugee, and you trace his or her (your decision) life through three acts, from lowly slave to glorious hero via satisfying battles and varied missions.

The level of customisation for your character is LA plastic surgeon deep (one Keira Knightley lookalike with red lips, green eyes and a mega fringe coming up), and there are three classes to pick from: rogue (fast and sneaky), mage (weak and zappy) and warrior (strong and punchy).

Along the way you also recruit a team of fantastical allies, slay giant monsters and shape the city of Kirkwall with your actions, slowly revealing your destiny as a survivor of the demony blight that threatens the lands, and an all round awesome type.

So far, so standard RPG. But there have been changes. Bioware couldn’t have made it easier to keep track of your quests; even a blind dwarf cursed by a rage demon could follow it. Objectives appear across three maps – Kirkwall by day, Kirkwall by night (for shadier dealings) and the wilderness area outside the city. You can fast travel to each location via various gateways in the city, sort of the equivalent of hopping onto the tube. (‘Mind the giant dragon and evil book.’)

The upside of this system is that it cuts down on aimless wandering and random encounters with the gobliny hurlocks, but you pay a price. By fast travelling to different locations, you lose a sense of the world as a whole: it’s just a lot of disjointed sets strung together with loading screens.

It’s not foolproof, either. In act one I somehow missed the chance to add hot Isabella the rogue to my party, and she was gone forever. Am I going to play a 30-hour game all over again just to try to sleep with her? Probably not.

But as much as the quests are organised in a sterile way, the content of them is still Felicia Day-in-elf-ears exciting. Some apparently run-of-the-mill serial killings turn out to be something far more sinister, a rescue mission means entering an elf’s dreams to argue with demons, and one high stakes quest can lead to a major character being left behind forever, or killed off entirely.