Dragon Age 2 Demo Walkthrough; Note, Spoilers Ahead

When I got word that the Dragon Age 2 demo was to be released today, I immediately attempted to install the game only to find out that it would unfortunately not run without frequently crashing on my slightly outdated Studio 13 Dell Laptop. Given the circumstances, I asked my roommate to install the demo on his brand-new HP Laptop. After encountering a Direct X issue, we figured to set the thing to Direct X 11 and got ourselves started.

Although at launch you are first taken to the character customization screen, you are unable to customize Commander Hawke, also known as Fantasy Commander Shepard, leaving you with his poorly rendered clumpy-haired beard. Now I’m all for beards, as I normally sport one myself, but not if they look like they were penciled on by an ironic liberal arts college student. Only certain people can grow a well-structured beard, and Commander Hawke is certainly not one of them.

After leaving the customization screen, we cut to Hawke and his sister, the Mage Bethany. They immediately begin fighting off a horde of Darkspawn. The Darkspawn have been given a signifigantly updated look, and look more like battle-hardened Orcs from Lord of the Rings rather than the creatures in Origins. Here, we begin to get a feel for the combat, which is a lot more fast-paced than in Origins. In this section, Commander Hawke is given a variety of abilities to chain together for devastating effect. These abilities include Whirlwind. a quick spin that hits multiple enemies, Pommel strike which is still a stun, Tremor, which pushes people away and does damage, Scythe, which allows you to dash forward and kill enemies inside the cone in front of you, the self-explanatory Taunt and Mighty Blow, a large damage modifier.

The battle animations throughout the demo are extremely well-constructed and every movement seems to have different effects and a clear purpose. For example, where you hit an enemy it affects their death animations, so if you hit an enemy in the back he will fall forward, or if you hit an enemy up against a pillar they will push up against it. The characters also have combos that are stylish with a sense of realism, except for the mage staff shots which while entertaining to watch certainly involves more style than substance.

After defeating the Darkspawn, we encounter an Ogre, which Commander Hawke promptly fells with a swiftly acrobatic stab to the eye. After seeing an ominous Dragon fly overhead, we cut to the Dwarf Varric telling the story to the butch Chantry Seeker Cassandra, who promptly calls shenanigans on Varric’s tall tale. After admitting that he is, in fact, a bullshit artist, Varric starts to tell the more plausible tale of Hawke’s flight from the recently destroyed town of Lothering, which if you recall, was annihilated early on in Origins. The continual cutting back and forth of this conversation and the actual events sets up the non-linear narrative of Dragon Age 2 while giving the player information on the events that took place after Commander Hawke’s rise as the Hero of the Free Marches.

We then cut back to Commander Hawke, his sister Bethany, his mom (we all know Hawke is a mama’s boy/girl), and his little brother Carver, a two-handed weapon Warrior. After wading our way through more hordes of Darkspawn, we meet up with the sword and shield Warrior Aveilne, who serves as the fourth member of the party, and the Templar Wesley, who seems kind of like a pre-sarcasm Allistar.

We get to know these characters a bit through dialogue choices, which are now performed on a dialogue wheel similar to Mass Effect and are labeled as Good/Idealistic, Snarky/Witty, or Asshole/Pragmatic. While fighting the Darkspawn, we begin to level up and can choose to spec Commander Hawke as a Warrior, Mage or Rouge. Given his current get-up in the demo, we decided to build our Hawke as a two-handed warrior and gave him a sweet passive two-handed ability that increases the area of attack. Also of note was Aveline’s Shield Bash, which pushed back enemies five feet or so as opposed to just knocking them to the ground like in Origins. One funny thing we noticed at this point was that stunned enemies immediately get back up, only to be still stunned while standing. Presumably, a stunned enemy would stay on the ground given that they are unable to move due to being, you know, stunned.

After some more Darkspawn grinding, we get to a second Ogre fight, where little brother Carver is mauled to death. We promptly avenged our dead brother, only to bitch out Commander Hawke’s mom when she freaked out on us for not protecting him from a scripted death. After a bit more fighting, we then see the same Dragon overhead from Varric’s BS story, only this time the Dragon mercilessly slaughters the Darkspawn. The Dragon then flies down and reveals itself to be a sexy MILF version of Flemeth, Morrigan’s adopted mom in Origins who also happens to be an extremely potent shapeshifter. After hearing about the devastating effects of the Blight from Flemeth, the Templar Wesley begins to slowly die from Darkspawn corruption, which he apparently acquired prior to our acquaintance with him. We then mercy-killed Wesley and went on our way

After a brief cut back to Varic and Cassandra, we were transported to Kirkwall, the city of chains, where Commander Hawke first meets Varic. The city is quite expanded and visually updated from its Origins incarnation, and we quickly find ourselves in the middle of a battle where Varic and an updated Captain Isabela, a minor Origins character who I’m sure many a Dragon Age aficionado tried to finagle into a foursome with their player character. We then experienced a few quick battle sequences with a vaguely motivated rival political faction, met up with some Dalish Elves, performed some wacky ceremony on top of a mountain and then were given an ending trailer for the game.

All and all, the demo is about an hour, and is definitely worth checking out if your PC will run it. If this wasn’t comprehensive enough for you, you can also view some screenshots of cutscenes and gameplay in the demo as well as gameplay video below.

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  • I must confess I hated this demo. The ‘consolisation’ of the PC version was a bit of a surprise as the devs had made much of the fact they were making the UI PC friendly… but that is a minor point and something that can be gotten used to.

    What utterly kills this game for me is the horrible animation compared to Dragon Age 1.

    The combat is simply preposterous: the toons move in a series of jerky unbelievably fast ‘spaz attacks’ unlike the more fluid naturalistic DA1. Even the mages constantly twirl their staff REALLY REALLY FAST for some reason. In DA1, a two handed sword was swung slowly and ponderously in a way that suggested “HEAVY”… in DA2 the warrior flips it around as it it was an aluminium penknife.

    In short, they have turned the RPG “Dragon Age” into an arcade fighter that should be retitled “Mortal-Kombat-with-dialogue”. Even the running animations are awkward and unnatural.

    Huge huge HUGE disappointment.

    • dude u dont know gaming if it hit u in the face

    • Daniel Horowitz (HavenDan)

      I definitely hear what you’re saying, Perry. Dragon Age 2 definitely resembles Mass Effect 2 and is meant to appeal more to the casual gamer rather than the tactic-loving Baluder’s Gate die-hard who loved Origins.

    • rey

      This is just the demo. The real game isn’t going to look this crappy.

  • Perry I loved reading your comment much more than playing the game. Its exactly what I felt during the whole game. I think mages now wear armor from the start and there isn’t much penalty to willpower. It’s like they are arcane warrior from the start. They don’t need to be placed behind warriors anymore. There is no tactics in this game anymore.

    • Daniel Horowitz (HavenDan)

      I agree with that, that’s why we specd Hawke as a warrior. Given the fact that he’s wearing armor from the get-go, it would just be awkward to give him a staff and let him shoot fireballs in his heavily clad armor.

  • drew

    You mean how they made the combat more fun and not sleeping through battles because you would attack for yourself in DA:O. They kept the tactics. Just cut the time to do them way shorter so you won’t get up and go to the bathroom during a fight. Just try playing it on harder difficulties and see if there are no tactics. 🙂

    • Daniel Horowitz (HavenDan)

      Good point, the demo is not necessarily an accurate reflection of how challenging the combat is, given that it was made to show off the new combat engine rather than be challenging

  • first of all u guys say u played orirgins, if so is’nt it worth playing just from a story perspective all everyone cares about is action noone cares about the story anymore

  • i personally loved the combat especially with the mages

  • drew

    Love the story. Never said I didnt. The reason I love bioware. Just saying that there really isn’t any reason to complain about the combat.

  • I hated this too, I found the combat interesting in terms of the FF and pace but really disliked the new feel compared to DA:O It might be passable on console but this demo did more to turn me off DA2 than get me excited for it. What a waste of time. I went from a definite sale to probably won’t bother on gameplay alone, and the only thing that could ruin a Bioware narrative for me is this bullshit story telling interruption every other fight.

    While I’m sure many console gamers will enjoy this game I this concludes my interest in any further DA content since I will have missed out on plot. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this an arcade fighter but the lack of immersion compared to DA:O is shocking especially considering the faster pace of the game. Way less thought and way less fun.