This is intended as a kind of infodump reaction to the game. A full review will be coming as soon as I replay a few times.
It’s a good game all told. I just finished it, blazing through it in two nights of painful insomnia, and I will doubtlessly play it again to catch up on all the side quests I missed. Some of what Alex said in his demo impression holds true for me. While I think the female body type worked fine for Isabella, it’s very disconcerting to see every female in the game, even your mom, expanded to such proportions. My wife made the point that if your apostate sister was really serious about hiding from the Templars, that dress she has on isn’t going to avoid her any attention. She’s right. It’s even weirder when Flemeth shows up in her wildly different new outfit but the story tells you it’s taking place at the same time as the events of Ostagar and Lothering from DA:O. I get that Varric wouldn’t know what Flemeth used to look like, but it was still weird to see her with a boob window.
From here on in will be spoilers. So don’t read any further if you don’t like those.
Frankly, I wasn’t prepared for the game’s obsession with making people kill the ones they love. Between Avelline’s killing of her husband, Anders’ killing of (his heavily implied) former lover Karl, and Verric eventually killing his brother Bertrand there was a lot of opportunity for people to kill someone they don’t want to kill. Combine that with an intensely disturbing side quest involving your mother and a blood mage (I’m going to replay a few times to see if I just missed a way to do this and have it not be emotionally shattering) and at times I felt like the game actively hated me for playing it.
Overall, the 10 year story of DA2 cheats by having several large gaps in time in the narrative that are explained away by use of the narrative device that the game is in fact a story being told by one of your companions to an inquisitor. I kind of felt cheated by that, but not so much that I really felt like it broke my immersion. The combat system veered between being fun and interesting and being annoying at times, I would really have liked a targeting reticule. That said, I wasn’t playing it for the combat system, I was playing it to see what Bioware did with the DA setting. Kirkwall and the Free Marches are an interesting new locale to explore, directly north of Ferelden and as such a reasonable place for people to have run during the Blight. One of the really interesting aspects of the 10 year storyline this time around is that the game starts exactly concurrent with DA:O (you start out running from the Darkspawn in Lothering) and ends 9 years after the blight has ended, a period of time that sees your character go from a relatively untried youth fleeing unspeakable dangers with his/her family to a greatly renowned figure, possibly even ruler of the free city of Kirkwall. Along the way you deal with all sorts of foes, the darkspawn being at best a minor annoyance in this game.
I admit to liking a more varied palette of foes.
I also liked importing the save game and how it affected the game experience.
In the end I’m still processing it, but I enjoyed it. It’s definitely not Mass Effect 2 the Medieval Version. It retains inventory (although it is stripped down to some degree, and I do miss the favor text some pieces had) and while the combat and talent systems are different, I wouldn’t actually say they’re easier. This is still a very granular system.