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Dragon Age II: Information Roundup
10.18.2010

BECKY CUNNINGHAM
NEWS REPORTER


Dragon Age II

There has been a lot of Dragon Age II information floating around the internet over the past few months. The DA II development team has been forthcoming with many media outlets and on the official BioWare forums. With care to avoid too many spoilers, here is a summary of interesting information that has been revealed about the game so far:

Plot and Setting:

Varric and Cassandra Varric and Cassandra

  • Dragon Age II has a framed narrative structure: a story told in the present, with gameplay occuring in flashbacks to the past. This allows the player to experience the most interesting parts of the main character's life over a span of 10 years, and also allows for players to see the results of earlier actions during the game itself rather than during an epilogue. The story will be told by Varric the dwarf (one of the main character's companions) to Cassandra, an Inquisitor in the service of the Chantry. Varric may "embellish" occasional segments of the story, creating exaggerated combat sequences in which Hawke is overpowered and overly-heroic.

  • Different eras in the main character's life will have context and a larger overarching plot/quest, but don't seem to lock the player to single scenes or areas. The player will be able to explore, do sidequests, see what has changed as time has passed, and develop long-term relationships with other characters.

  • The game takes place primarily in the Free Marches, north of Ferelden on the continent of Thedas. For extensive information on the geography of Thedas, GameInformer has posted an interactive map.

  • There is no "canon" ending to Dragon Age: Origins. Instead, if the player chooses to import a save game, some of the choices made by the Warden of Ferelden will be reflected in the story of Dragon Age II.

  • Players will not venture to underground dwarven areas, but the plot deals heavily with surface dwarves. There will be city and Dalish elves in the story; the Dalish elves are a clan that moved north from Ferelden because of the Blight.

  • Kirkwall will be larger than Denerim, and there are a lot of politics there involving the Templars and the Circle of Magi. Kirkwall is a center of Templar power and houses the Templar army. It also houses the largest Circle of Magi in Eastern Thedas, far larger than the Circle in Ferelden.

  • There will be new creatures and races in Dragon Age II, and players will meet characters from different lands.

    Main Character:

    Man Hawke Man Hawke

    Lady Hawke Lady Hawke

  • Dragon Age II's main character is a human with the last name of Hawke. Hawke can be male or female, with a customizable appearance, and can be a warrior, rogue, or mage.

  • Hawke will be fully-voiced, as opposed to the unvoiced protagonist of Origins.

  • Hawke is known as the "Champion of Kirkwall" and is an important figure in the history of Thedas. The game tells the story of how Hawke rose to power, and the player's choices shape that story. The developers are clear that becoming Champion of Kirkwall does not in any way confine the player to making "good guy" choices.

    Other Characters:

  • Companions will have a lot more quests that are directly related to them.

    Hawke and Bethany Hawke and Bethany

  • Hawke has a sister, Bethany, who is an apostate mage. Hawke's father was an apostate mage from Ferelden, and tutored Bethany (and Hawke, if Hawke is a mage). Hawke's mother was from a noble family in Kirkwall. It is currently unclear whether Hawke's parents are alive at the beginning of the game.

  • Varric, one of Hawke's companions, is a surface dwarf who was born in Kirkwall and has never set foot in the underground dwarven kingdoms. He's a rogue who works as a merchant and has a great many contacts. Interested parties can find far more information and fan art than they ever desired about Varric and his chest hair in this BioWare forum thread, which contains many posts by his primary writer, Mary Kirby. Don't say we didn't warn you about visiting that thread.

    Flemeth Flemeth

  • Flemeth is returning, and will be important to the story. She is being voiced by Kate Mulgrew again.

  • Dialog in the game will be handled by a conversation wheel similar to Mass Effect's. However, there will be "emotion" icons that will indicate Hawke's mood or intention when choosing dialog responses. This should help players feel that they are choosing the correct kind of response based on how they wish to play the character, and prevent things like accidentally initiating an unwanted romance.

  • On the conversation wheel: "One of the things that we saw is that itís not always obvious, not only in Mass Effect, but in other games that use similar conversation systems, even in Dragon Age: Origins at times, what the tone, intent of the line is based on just the text of the option. So we introduced the icons that tell you what tone you should expect from the line. The player will also play an integral part in shaping Hawke, the hero of Dragon Age II. If youíre constantly picking a sarcastic response, diplomatic response, aggressive response, over the course of the game, when you meet a character and make an introduction even before you actually have any choices in dialogue or if youíre in the middle of combat and heís doing his combat call-outs, all of this will start to reflect the character youíre making Hawke to be. Itís a very clever system and I think people will feel, along with the player voice, that these are going to add a lot of character to Hawke." - Fernando Melo

    Hawke and Bethany face a dragon. This might require some teamwork.

  • Hawke's companions will be able to contribute to conversations with NPCs. Part of the dialog wheel will be reserved for companion conversation options, although what the companions say can be affected by their feelings about Hawke.

  • Like in Origins, Hawke's party is limited to Hawke plus three companions at a time. Rather than living in a camp, Hawke's companions will live in Kirkwall, and will take part in their usual jobs and daily lives when not in the party.

  • Hawke's relationships with party members will be more complex than the Grey Warden's were. Major decisions that please a companion will raise their opinion of Hawke far more than small decisions or gestures. Companions can also receive combat bonuses and stay with the party even if they have an antagonistic relationship with Hawke.

    Classes and Combat System:

  • The combat system will be quite a bit like that in Origins, with changes to areas that needed improvement. One major improvement often cited by the developers is that all party members will leap directly into combat when given orders, rather than shuffling into position before executing attacks.

  • The PC and console versions will have the same basic combat engine, but the interface and UI will be changed to be most appropriate to the respective platform.

  • On the tactics system: The team is working on improving the default tactics for characters, in order to assist players who don't want to use the system. For players who do, they will be adding additional tactics slots and conditions.

  • In the PC version, there will be a tactical camera during battles that can be detached from the main character and used to examine the battlefield while issuing orders. Players will not be able to zoom out as far on the battlefield as they could in Origins, however.

  • There will now be cross-class combos. Mages could create spell combos in Origins, and now all classes have attacks and abilities that work together in combat. An example given is that a warrior can sunder armor, and a rogue can use that weakness to sink a blade into the opponent for extra damage.

  • (PC Version) Rumors that the player must click on enemies for every attack are untrue. Characters will auto-attack if the player right-clicks on the enemy.

  • The developers aim to make the classes more distinct from each other in Dragon Age II, with a special emphasis on warriors and rogues. For example, warriors now focus on melee AoE damage, and thus two-handed swords will deal damage to an arc of enemies. Dual-wielding weapons, on the other hand, is now exclusive to rogues.

  • Talent trees will now be branching paths instead of linear progressions like they were in Origins. Players can choose to spend talent points to improve previously learned talents as well as to progress further down in the tree.

  • On talent trees: "Currently each class will have around 6 talent trees (including weapon styles) as well as specialization trees. Each tree can have around 10 talent points spent in it, including both abilities and their upgrades. Each ability can have level, attribute and investment requirements to attain. Investment is stuff like 'you must have spent 3 points elsewhere in this tree before you can get this'. You must also have the prerequisite abilities before you get something, so you can't just cherrypick the last ability in the tree. You must have the requirements leading up to it." - Peter Thomas, Systems Designer

    Graphics/Sound:

    Hawke and Bethany Hey look, hips!

  • On the graphics engine improvements: "We've enhanced our graphics engine to support a bunch of new technical features such as self shadowing, enhanced terrain generation and smoother lip synch and more face customization. It's not a complete overhaul, but the end result looks better and runs smoother." - Mike Laidlaw

  • Combat animations have been significantly improved, and it appears that some motion-capture was done for the animations. Characters are also supposed to have more natural poses and varying walking animations depending on gender and personality.

  • Female characters have their own mesh now, and Gaider reports that they have banished "man shoulders and boy hips" from Dragon Age's women.

  • The various accents for different Thedan societies remain, though Dalish elves have been changed to use Welsh accents.

  • The game's soundtrack is being composed by Inon Zur.

    Retail Information:

  • There will be no Collector's Edition priced above normal retail price.

  • Instead, pre-orders that are made before January 11, 2011 at participating retailers will be converted into the BioWare Signature Edition, which contains a number of bonuses, as seen in the image below:

    For more Dragon Age II images, see our screenshot gallery, art gallery, and packaging pictures.



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