For many gamers out there, the name of Eastern Europe’s biggest gaming expo, ‘”Igromir” is practically in another language. From this point going forward, you may remember it since actual gameplay footage of Dragon Age II from the event has made its way onto the Internet. Since BioWare announced the sequel to fan-favorite Dragon Age: Origins, it’s been unclear just how much the game would follow the trail blazed by the original. Some fans are concerned that the sequel may abandon the structure of the first game altogether, as Dragon Age 2 news has seemed to indicate that the title would closely resemble the form of the critically and financially successful Mass Effect series.

BioWare has already confirmed that the story will be adopting Mass Effect‘s structure of one protagonist, a citizen of Lothering named Hawke. For a series based in the RPG genre, one of the defining characteristics will be the combat system. BioWare spoke about the ability to both command troops and fight up close and personal, but what that really means in terms of mechanics has yet to be seen.

A video of gameplay on display at Igromir 2010 shows some in-game action:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zg478Ui-jc

The first notable change has to be the increase in detail as to the look of the characters and enemies. The Dragon Age series appears to be following the same transition into moodiness set by Mass Effect 2. Where the first ME was bright, vibrant, and somewhat cartoonish in its character design, the sequel dimmed the lights and cranked up the shadows and angst. Given the slaying of enemies and ogres, a darker tone wouldn’t be out of place in DA2.

The animations are a bit more sophisticated, or have at least been given a bit more flourish. The Ogre’s crushing tackle, which would knock any characters in front of him out of the action, now seems to be a more realistic charge that can be dodged if not in his direct path. It may seem like small tweaks, but grounding the combat in reality (albeit with limb-dismembering and blood splatter) can create a big difference where tone is concerned.

The environment should be familiar to anyone who saw the first screens of the game, but Hawke’s surroundings look much better in motion. Fans of the first game will notice just how new the massive vistas are. This advancement in performance inevitably comes after more time is spent on the game engine, and is a welcome improvement since the first game’s environments were artifically walled off.

Dragon Age 2 Hawke Ogre Screenshot

BioWare wishes to create an entire living world larger than any one character with the Dragon Age series. While this area of Ferelden seems unfamiliar, it’s possible this barren wasteland is the result of some decisions made in Origins. Changing an entire game environment that the fans have become accustomed to is certainly one way to inject some newness into a game. If this sprawling aesthetic is adopted for the rest of the game, Ferelden could become a much more immersive place.

BioWare has spoken about its satisfaction with the dialogue system developed by the team on Mass Effect, and the video shows that the system as a whole was lifted and modified for Dragon Age 2. The system works and also gives more attention to the game’s writing, meaning players will enjoy an entire voiced performance.

The video footage seems like a clear step forward, even if that is simply on a visual level. Whether the game’s similarities to the Mass Effect franchise will add or detract from the experience is something we’ll find out when Dragon Age 2 hits the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC on March 8, 2011.

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