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March 17th, 2011 |
By Matthew Scott Hunter

‘Dragon Age II’

Perfect balance of role-playing and action

(M) ***1/2

Electronic Arts

Xbox 360

Action games and role-playing games appeal to different people for different reasons, much the same way that movies and books do. Movies are enjoyed passively, while books require a little more patience and effort. Bearing the unmistakable influence of “Mass Effect,” “Dragon Age II” feels like a long movie very faithfully adapted from a book. While this makes it more accessible to an audience that prefers to avoid sifting through countless menu screens, it also may disappoint long-time fans that enjoy the depth afforded by infinite micromanagement options.

Like “Mass Effect,” “Dragon Age II” is fully voiced — a feature that helps give personality to its motley crew of standard fantasy characters (the colorful dwarf, the buxom pirate, etc.). As you interact with characters, you’re given a number of abbreviated replies to choose from, and what you choose to say will have an effect on relationships within your party as well as the branching paths of your quest. The rest of your time is spent in combat — real-time combat, for the most part. Action game fans can hack and slash to their hearts’ content, but may grow irritated that their comrades don’t quite take care of themselves and require a little babysitting. RPG fans can have fun adjusting and readjusting their allies’ attributes, but may be disappointed that skill trees and item upgrades have all been streamlined and simplified.

If you like a little role-playing with your action, or vice versa, “Dragon Age II” might strike the perfect balance for you, but if you lean too far one way or the other, you might feel it’s all too complicated… or too dumbed down. CV