To be fair, this is my reaction after playing a tiny, ten-minute slither of the game at EA's November showcase. This is an enormous RPG, after all - an entry in a genre that revolves around building storylines, skill-trees and, crucially, familiarity with the core mechanics. It's hard for developers to serve up an illustrative demo for games like these, and it's equally tricky to appraise them. Besides, this is BioWare we're talking about; these guys deserve a bit of faith before we've seen the full extent of what they're offering.
EA's latest demo is a brief showcase of the Rogue class. In this build, leading-man Hawke has been cast as a sneaky sort who focuses on single targets at a time, using their powers to leap in and out of harm's way. While abilities like Explosive Strike still give the Rogue the ability to hit several enemies in one go, it's the Back Stab that seems more indicative of the character - warping across the field of battle to appear directly behind the target, hitting the victim so fast that the attack is essentially invisible. At advanced levels you'll be able to upgrade the Rogue into either an Assassin, Shadow or Duelist - respectively concentrating their talents on damage, stealth and evasion.
Appropriately enough, the demo also provides as chance to meet a Rogue party member. Veterans of the first Dragon Age will remember her as the busty duellist who used to hang out at a brothel called The Pearl. Today she's got a strong gypsy-fashion vibe going on - all scarves, tight fabric and bling-tastic earrings. The brief quest on offer finds Hawke helping her out of a slight spot of bother with a past business acquaintance, a mardy chap who shows up to moan about some human cargo that he lost - apparently from a ship that was being captained by Isabella at the time.
Needless to say, the dispute soon turns ugly. Thanks to the redesigned dialogue system, which now indicates the emotional response of each conversation choice, it's a matter of time before Hawke is laying out the withering put-downs. Blades are drawn, but the enemy don't have much to offer against the combined might of Hawke and his allies. Back Stab proves to be very useful, since it provides an easy way to warp across a given area in addition to doling out heavy damage. The cooldown prevents the move from being overused, however.
After the last foe has been cut to the ground, there's a chance to catch up with Isabella for a quick chat. I'm happy to report that Dragon Age 2 retains the first game's habit of soaking its cast in buckets of gore, allowing for some amusingly odd-looking post-fight chats. Isabella's face and heaving cleavage are covered in blood, but she doesn't seem to mind: her purring words of thanks suggest that she's more than happy with the day's outcome, and before long she's dropping not-so-subtle hints about letting Hawke delve into her furry dungeon. For all Dragon Age 2's revisions, it seems that some things never change.
Dragon Age II is due for release on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on March 11, 2011.