Dragon Age II Updated Hands-On - Spotlighting the Rogue

We take a look at some of the ways BioWare aims to improve the rogue class in this fantasy role-playing game.

EA and BioWare have shown that there's still room for fun in the dark fantasy world of Dragon Age--at least when it comes to promoting the upcoming sequel. This past summer, they silently introduced Dragon Age II at San Diego Comic-Con with a showing so free of advance warning that it would make the stealthiest of ninjas jealous. That hands-on demo showed a snippet of combat that was markedly bloodier and more over the top than its predecessor, a change that generated quite a lot of questions about the direction of this critically acclaimed role-playing series. But with a follow-up demo shortly after, BioWare revealed that the game's new direction in storytelling pulled one over on overzealous journalists; its framed, story-within-a-story narrative is told by a character with a tendency to exaggerate certain details of your heroic conquests on occasion--that extravagant battle scene being a prime example. So, as time has gone on, we've found that Dragon Age II isn't trying to become God of War with elves and dwarves. But it's certainly not on a path to become Dragon Age 1.5, either.

Meet one of your new potential love interests, Isabelle.

Indeed, you don't have to look far to spot the changes in Dragon Age II. There's the aforementioned narrative change, as well as the noticeably more stylized art design. And once you jump into a conversation, you'll see that the protagonist--previously mute--now speaks. This speech comes complete with a dialogue wheel that trades verbatim dialogue transcripts for a just-the-gist summary similar to BioWare's other hit franchise, Mass Effect. And, of course, there's that tricky business of combat. While you won't be playing as the unstoppable force of nature that we first experienced in that original Comic-Con demo, BioWare is still aiming to turn Dragon Age II's combat into a more fluid, less clunky affair--all without trading in the tactical elements that made the first game so much fun.

Last week, EA and BioWare brought a new demo by the GameSpot office to help illustrate that last point. The focus of this demo was the rogue class. Anyone familiar with the classes in Dragon Age: Origins knows that the rogue was perhaps the biggest labor of love. While the mage could throw fireballs like hadoukens and the warrior could carve through enemies with swords the size of NBA players, the rogue had to constantly worry about positioning on the battlefield to get the most out of his or her skills. With rear attacks being so important for the rogue, anyone playing as this class undoubtedly spent a lot of time shuffling and scurrying around enemies to get the best angle on an enemy. At this point, you've probably already guessed that BioWare would like to fix this issue.

And you'd be right. Though positioning is still critical for the rogue class, now you're able to move deftly around the battlefield without all that awkward shuffling. It's a change that mainly plays out with three new talents given to the rogue class. First, and most striking, is springboard. With this talent, you can set your sights on enemies and instantly warp behind them, immediately gaining that rear attack bonus so important to rogues. When you're going up against a small cluster or ranged attackers, you can use rush to quickly slide toward them and knock someone over in the process. And for when a scuffle gets too hot and you need to create some space, evade is a backflip maneuver that lets you quickly leap away from conflict to heal.

The city of Kirkwall is a dangerous place at night. And during the day.

Like other talents, these all come at a cost. Each consumes some of your stamina and has a cooldown time once used, so like Dragon Age: Origins, much of your combat strategy revolves around effectively managing these newfound skills. BioWare is also looking to add more cross-class teamwork when it comes to spells so that rogues work more closely with mages--say when a mage freezes an enemy and the rogue swiftly dashes in to shatter him into a hundred pieces. So while your movement is more effortless, the way you dispatch enemies still requires some tactical thought.

All this makes for a combat experience that feels noticeably smoother but not really easier--changes that largely serve to iron out the kinks rather than the challenge. For anyone who enjoyed the combat in Dragon Age: Origins, that's great news, but they're clearly not the wholesale changes that are going to win over those who weren't drawn into the game in the first place. Considering how well received the first game was, that's hardly a bad thing. We're eager to see some of the other changes and improvements from BioWare as we get closer to the game's March release date.

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Discussion

227 comments
jesterhead12
jesterhead12

i think i would prefer a rogue with a bow......

andreiredis
andreiredis

@twistyanddark Personally i like action oriented games and this game tends to bring the strategicaly DAO to more action like Demon Souls.I think this is great because DAO's old rpg style just seemed that it doesn't fits the whole action.For me it was like kind of a drawback.And about complexity, i agree with that.

twistyanddark
twistyanddark

Hmm it seems it is more action oriented and I have fears that character development will be even more simplified this time. What is it that makes devs so scary of creating complex things? Would a complex char development system be intimidating to a younger audience?

BenFireFox
BenFireFox

Hmmm definately i wont make the mistake again and buy it on ps3 ill get the pc version this time cause in my opinion throught the different battle system i never could get used to the ps3 version to get fun there

zenraflas
zenraflas

cannot wait, DAO ranks right up there with Oblivion, Demons Souls. Best RPGs on the market right now. Great replay value. I just hope they keep the deeply engrossing storyline as a continuation from DAO. March 8 couldn't be farther away

TheoleDominion
TheoleDominion

Too bad Bioware is still denying friends from playing this great game together online.

godonholiday
godonholiday

possible to play through this with a friend online? or is there no online at all?

blowtrees
blowtrees

It's true, mages owned the first game - yet my builds were always the same. Mass Paralysis, Horror, Crushing Prison etc, eventually taking arcane warrior. Only reason to keep a rogue is to open chests and doors. Didn't really like either of the rogue characters from the first either. Would love to see better archery damage/mechanics.

C0eN
C0eN

I hope they make the classes more balanced because even though I enjoyed the warrior most the mage was by far the strongest in Origins. Next to that I hope they don't turn it into an action game with RPG elements instead of the RPG game it is with action elements.

catausha
catausha

Why can't this be a continuation of your character like ME2?

Norwegicus
Norwegicus

@pranoy_007 Surely they are making one right now? They wouldn't just put away that cash cow. Its a success every time :o

MakiRobot
MakiRobot

I hope it will be more like Mass Effect...I mean ME was aws0me!!! Put out the RPG elements and try something new.

mERCY00
mERCY00

I'm a little worried about a lack of character customization and replayability. Other than that, it seems pretty good.

meager2
meager2

I hope they fix the balance this time around. The arcane warrior was ridiculously overpowered last time

jumalan75
jumalan75

Dragon Age was a good game, but overall disappointing to me... Won it twice and still wonder why I played it... Not going to buy this.... The game was way too confining and didn't seem to have a bone of originality in it's body... City of Orzgimmar? Are you kidding me? This game might have been nice if I never played another fantasy game in my life, but talk about just picking pieces of what's out there... lame... the world wasn't open enough, so many been there done that moments and monsters/experiences, and the combat was very monotonous after a while. The one thing they did really REALLY well was the decision making and personal-ness of the storyline. Other than that... not worth it unless they actually tried to come up with something original

MichaelMorbid
MichaelMorbid

the rouge is typically a pretty superfluous party member, falling well behind bard. extra loot behind locks are the only thing they have to offer.

Shatter28
Shatter28

I'm worried that they go the same route as with Mass Effect 2: fixing things that aren't broken. I very much liked micromanaging the rogue. I liked it that the protagonist is free to choose.

candybar_65
candybar_65

i really hope this doesn't turn into a mass effect clone. i like mass effect but if i want to play something like mass effect then i'll play mass effect. they have to their games a little different or else theres no point in buying the game. mass effect has a good system but i want something at least a little different

method115
method115

Can't wait to get this game. Getting the ultimate edition before this comes out so I can play through all of that.

pranoy_007
pranoy_007

Bethesda better come up with the next Elder Scrolls to keep up with Bioware . . . All HAIL Bioware . . . !

linkster362
linkster362

I prefer the warrior class personally, I honestly don't have the patience needed to be a good rogue or mage.

Riaktion
Riaktion

@rai814 @Purplekjw Thanks for your comments. I wasn't suggesting that playing in real time is the only way to play the game, or that I have an issue with pausing the action and issuing orders. I enjoy that system too, NWN, or Freedom Force for example. I know that pausing the game and issuing orders is probably the way most people have played DA, which is why normal difficulty upwards caters for that, and its the traditional way for Bioware fantasy RPGs to be played. I understand that. DA suggests easy difficulty if you want to play in realtime and as I said... understandably its easy. My point was I hope that somehow they can make easy just tad more challenging in DA2 if they are going to suggest it for real time players, as currently its a walk in the park. Nothing more... nothing less.

vandread5
vandread5

Bioware is by far the best dev. evar!

gijoe86
gijoe86

Dragon Age rocks! Bioware rules!

FoxY1233
FoxY1233

I like every game from Bioware...I don't care if it's more like mass effect or I don't know what...if it's high quality,good story rpg and will get me addicted the first minute I play, then I will buy it with pleasure... Go Bioware!!

Astendarth
Astendarth

I can count on BioWare, they never fail, their games are high quality. only good words from me to them! I feel like they will keep it up with Dragon Age 2 as well. :)

nigelholden
nigelholden

I'm still not bored with DA:0. I like changing tactics and creating builds. That said, this game may do all those things quite well. But from what I've seen, I don't really want to consider it as a sequel or replacement. I have a feeling it will have to be judged by it's own right.

JamesX007
JamesX007

I already don't plan to pay full price for this game. Not with it becoming more like Mass Effect 2. Will eventually pick it up however, maybe when it hits the 20-30 dollar mark or when the "Complete" edition comes out.

Nefarious13
Nefarious13

Make it more action and less rpg and you can kiss my money goodbye.

KuRf
KuRf

I hope its not becoming like mass effect series, cause dragon age is some much fun in RPG mode like Baldur's Gate and such....last thing i wast is to use my wsad key to move around....I prefer the point and click still lol...

covenan
covenan

new spring board would be coolest addition,cant wait to play.. my noble male rogue allready fun to play on DA:O(small DPS but rapidly thorough.. awesome!!!).hopefully they really release it on March without any delay.

rai814
rai814

@riaktion: There's a reason its called easy, its meant to be easy. Why dont you try to play on higher difficulties and see that pausing is actually essential in playing this game.

Purplekjw
Purplekjw

@Riaktion If you want a game with real-time combat, why can't you just accept that Dragon Age caters to a different audience and go find something else?

Riaktion
Riaktion

Although I own this on the PC I really enjoyed playing it in real time rather than using the zoomed out tactics cam with pausing. However this was only really possible on easy unless you constantly wanted to chug down health potions. I hope DA2 caters for real time players without sacrificing difficulty. Most battles where understandable easy as pie when playing on easy

Coordin
Coordin

i just hope they remember to put a storage space in...............

walters47
walters47

@squallgunblade7 *what's *too

squallgunblade7
squallgunblade7

@walters47 AND? whats your point to bad thats all you know (grammar)

mundus
mundus

Improve rogue class? I know that they really didn't have many good talents, but at least in Vanilla (didn't play awakening that much) they where the best class. My rogue was immortal, in fact i soled like 3/4 of the game on nightmare with my rogue. I know that for packs etc mages are technically better and yes i know that arcane warriors solos the game just fine. But i bet you $100 that they don't complete the game as fast. Again Rogue best class in the game imo, i played through vanilla like 7 times, all times on nightmare and i never had a hard time getting through, but the rogue just had so much damage it was unfair in the end. If there is one class that needs buff its warrior. Best group consists of 1 mage ( Wynne as arcane warrior) and 3 rogues.

organbank
organbank

LMFAO I wonder if dexterity will work this time round? FAIL!

vadagar1
vadagar1

hope we get a lot more interesting and sexy individuals this time, well more than DA 1 that is :P. , both male and female, with more diversity in romance not just 4. combat sounds promising and I hope we get more gore also (rolling heads, lose of limbs, getting cut in half....etc, brains, guts and general horror, its not pretty but it helps immersion)

Onsfan
Onsfan

@JohnisGodd: Sorry, but I fail to see in what ways was my comment an attack on you. As far as my intention goes, the conversation went: You: I don't care much for BG... does that make me a bad person? Me: No, it simply makes you a different gamer, and anyone with an intellect would accept that. What then followed was my personal thought that it wasn't smart to post an anti-BG comment in a BG- fanboy- prone forum Now, please explain how were you offended by that and accuse me of trolling. By all means, my comment was a respect towards yours, and I believe that it deserves your respect in return.

Hercules321
Hercules321

@313striker I know right! Not saying that ME2 was bad by any means, but it was just so simplified compared to the first one in terms of RPG elements. I preferred getting experience points after each killed enemy and leveling up very specific things like my assault rifle damage and accuracy in ME1. Is that not one of the cool things about playing an RPG? That by the end of the game your crew is so leveled up that they are walking bad asses that finally stand a chance against the final boss?

313striker
313striker

@Hercules321 Yeah I hope so aswell, mass effect 2 was so simplified for tards -.- they made more of an fps than rpg with me2

EzekyleAbadon
EzekyleAbadon

Why improve the rogue? It was easily the strongest class in the game. My rogue was better than my warrior even in solo battles

Fable_Lord
Fable_Lord

i did like mass effect 2 & dragon age origins. Hopefully DOA2 will be awesome!

Seifer24
Seifer24

I didnt like mass effect 1 nor dragon age origins. But i liked mass effect 2.So da2 will be awesome. Does this means that every first born game of biowares is fail. Hope this not happens for swtor.

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

Considering that the rogue was the most interesting class to play and the most rewarding to master, I'm sure they will dumb it down, so all the hardcore gamers will be doomed to find a game where the intellect and dedication still matters.

DawnForMe
DawnForMe

Dear god grant me the opportunity to play this thing. Amen.