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There always seems to be a warm, familiar feeling every time we play a fantasy RPG set in traditional fantasy realms. [firstpara]

Dungeons, dragons, shining breastplates, sharp swords, that sort of thing.

And that is probably the reason why Bioware’s latest opus, Dragon Age 2, will be so endearing to all RPG fans out there who continue to fancy slaying creatures with a broadsword in hand, and a shield in the other.

Like a gritty Final Fantasy
First, let us make it clear that we aren’t talking about gameplay when we refer to Final Fantasy in the subhead.

They’re both well-respected series, but we all know that each represents opposite RPG styles, with Dragon Age being a western-style RPG, and Final Fantasy being a traditional JRPG.

But in terms of characters —your protagonist, the villains, the non-playable characters—Dragon Age 2 feels like a Final Fantasy game where you’ll actually care about the characters. The knock on western-style RPGs has always been that the characters tend to be dull plastic dolls without any personality.

Thankfully, Dragon Age 2 and its inspired cast of characters led by the protagonist Hawke, has avoided that, giving us a game that we can’t help but be drawn to. The voice acting though, could be a lot better, as it could sound hammy at times.

The setting, the city of Kirkwall and its immediate surroundings, doesn’t really add anything new to this dungeons-and-dragons genre. But it feels alive. It carries that lived-in aesthetic that definitely add a lot of flavor to the appeal of the game.

What’s familiar can be new
As we said, Dragon Age 2 is as traditional-fantasy as you could get in this generation of games. But the game proves that being traditional doesn’t mean that you’re never going to evolve. Dragon Age 2 revamps and overhauls the game play, and feels like a distinct change of direction for the series.

And it’s a direction we like, as it feels faster and less complex. For one, the quest structure is a lot linear with just one main arc, with sidequests thrown in that you can do whenever you want. The last game in the series, we think, became directionless at times with its multi-arching quest system.

The combat system is more accessible. It is more exciting though? Not quite, it’s fun and frenetic, but this system has the tendency to become a button mashing workout that makes the game feel dragging at times.

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It doesn’t ruin the game, especially when it’s so fun to play around with the myriad weapons that you could enchant, and modify for maximum Dragon-slaying capability.

The most compelling part of Dragon Age 2 though is still its ability to give the player the power of choice. Throughout the story, you will encounter points where your decision to do one thing over the other will affect the game world as it progresses. And it’s rarely a choice between black-and-white; the choices could be morally ambiguous, which simply makes thing more exciting.

Let the smiting begin
Once again, Bioware proves just why they’re master RPG makers. With Dragon Age 2, they’ve created another classic RPG that sucks you in, and reminds you why it’s totally okay to be a dungeons-and-dragons geek sometimes. Play at your own risk though; the game’s length requires a little bit of dedication, especially compared to games with warring pigs and birds in it.

Dragon Age 2 is now available for the Xbox 360, the PC, the MAC and the Playstation 3

WORDS BY: GELO GONZALES

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