Is the story of the Champion of Kirkwall a classic? (some spoilers inside)

User Rating: 8 | Dragon Age II PC
Like most people I have been eagerly awaiting Dragon Age 2 to the point I pre-ordered it via D2D, I was ready in all senses - food and drinks check, time check, system ready check... installed and activated check.

Then starts the game, I knew what to expect from the start from the demo but was ready to start my epic quest..

The graphics with the HD pack for DirectX11 cards is very very good, DX9 is also nice but not as impressive, the sound and look is still authentic Dragon Age.. but the game engine is different from the previous title.

The game now requires you to think strategies before big fights, at the start is more of a tutorial of sorts so it is not so difficult (until you play it on hard or nightmare mode), but later on fights do become more intense and waves of mobs come at you on the easier mods it is more forgiving than the higher difficulty settings but will still present the user with a challenge.

Some may be not happy with the removal of death blow animations like we had in the previous installment when attacking larger foes like the ogre or dragons, but there is a refreshing splatter of bloody goodness that will satisfy people.

DA2 has been designed to allow combat to be more flowing than DA:O and it succeeds once you level your characters and open up the skills you do get some nice attacks and spells that can decimate large waves of mobs. With a delightful crunch of splatter as you randomly decapitate body parts or blow them up.

And the sound is well used as is the music, and one looked forward feature that is present is your main hero or heroine, whatever tickles your fancy, has a voice at last allowing the user to feel that they are a part of the Dragon Age world.

Now to the story, it is revolved around your Hero Hawke (you can change the first name and pick one of 3 classes Warrior, Mage and Rogue), who along with his family members Carver a retreating soldier of the battle at Ostagar, Bethany an apostate mage and the mother Adreana are fleeing the devastation of Lothering, which original players of Dragon Age: Origins can relate to, eventually find their way to Kirkwall along with another character that plays a role in future events as told by a member of your party later on called Varric. In a way he is the story teller.

Our hero and family find themselves now refugees and trying to get to their estate which unfortunately they find out has been sold by their uncle and Adreana's brother. So our hero has to do some work to eventually bribe their way into the city which you can easily do by doing one quest, once inside a year has passed and the hero now has to find a way to get their family fortune back and a unique situation arises where the family can take part in an excavation trip to the dreaded Deep Roads but at a cost... 50 sovereigns.

Thusly our hero is thrust into many quest lines where the outcomes can affect the lands of Kirkwall to different scenarios. And finally to the end where the hero has to make difficult choices.

As said the games system allows a variety of potential ending outcomes which in turn gives the game replayability for each class and of course a good or evil nature. Not only is the choices on quests you make a huge factor in the outcome but so is your interaction with your fellow members you pick up along the way.

The games interaction wheel has been greatly improved over DA:O's and will allow the user to feel more control over what can be said and done. Each action and response will contribute in member's feelings towards you they will either like you or hate you but that's not all, each member of your party has a special feature if they fully trust you they will give the hero a buff of sorts as will if they hate you.

Some characters have charm appeal to them, and you will instantly like them or hate them depending on your tastes, and their party interactions while on quests is amusing, for instance Isabella and Varric present a well lets just say risqué set of amusing conversations.

Locations look nice and enjoyable to travel through, character models have been greatly improved, the Qunari from the original DA:O title no longer look like that but large strong humanoids with horns to give a more menacing look. The Elves have more prominent ears so they are more discernible from humans and of course the mysterious Flemeth has had an upgrade also.

As said the games High Definition graphic pack for DA2 which can be downloaded from bioware's site after activating the game and registering it presents even more spectacular looking models and lighting and shadow effects. That is not to say DirectX 9 or 10 users are left out as they still look nice without it.

Quests present opportunities to change the world, but unfortunately (and it is sad to see this) some maps are over used, you will find that a cave in one area is the same layout as other caves in other areas, even to the point where if you have the Exiled Prince DLC activated you come across an underground dungeon although looks spooky will have you realising quickly that you have seen this map before to an extent, which you will have as it is only minor adjustments to other places.

This is a shame as the game had potential to be spectacular and be worthy of Game of the Year, but this overuse of maps will remove that possibility, why Bioware insisted on not using separate maps for caves and dungeons is beyond me - or maybe it was just that they ran out of time. Lets hope they give out a major patch that will give unique maps for caves etc as I feel that would increase the enjoyability of the game.

Also another minus would be the fact that you are confined to Kirkwall and the immediate areas. Thusly it doesn't feel like an open world, it would be nice to meet neighbouring towns and settlements rather than Sundermount the home of the Dalish.

With the potential for some great enjoyable DLC to come to open up more of the characters, I just feel that Bioware let the ball go a bit on this one. Do not get me wrong this game is far from being a disaster infact it is enjoyable and worth while playing as it is very much fun, but as said could have been something greater.

Therefore my score is 8/10 and would have been higher if they allowed free roaming and not overuse the same maps.

EDIT: I have noticed people are voting reviews unhelpful based on score which they don't agree on. It's not about the score but the content - if it is helpful or not for people to decide if the game is for them or not. Don't vote out of spite.