A worthy reason to go back to the Age of Dragons

With new characters, new quests, more dragons and a streamlined progression system, Dragon Age II is a worthy sequel to Dragon Age: Origins.

Dragon Age II

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

Genre: Role-playing; Publisher: EA Games

ESRB Rating: M, for Mature

Grade: 4 stars (out of 5)

With new characters, new quests, more dragons and a streamlined progression system, Dragon Age II is a worthy sequel to Dragon Age: Origins.

You play as Hawk, and you choose your character’s gender and class type at the beginning (warrior, mage or rogue). The resulting dialogue will be based on your choices, which allows for multiple outcomes.

The most noticeable change from the original is its simplified progression system. Your abilities, weapon and armor upgrades, and level advancement are easier to navigate.

But the party system is more rigid, limiting alterations to characters and making the game less compelling.

The fights offer better graphics for spells and attacks and better pacing. So the game feels more balanced between dialogue cutscenes and fight sequences.

After the success of Origins, Dragon Age II had to be good to measure up. Fans may not like some of the generalizations made to accommodate newcomers to the franchise, but the sequel is strong.

Okamiden

Platform: DS

Genre: Adventure; Publisher: Nintendo

ESRB Rating: E, for Everyone

Grade: 3.5 stars

When Okami found its more natural home on the Wii in 2008 (it was originally a PS2 game in 2006), I figured it was set to be a leading Wii franchise for years. But the roots didn’t take hold.

Now fans can savor a sequel (of sorts) with Okamiden’s arrival on the DS.

You primarily play as Chibiterasu, a small wolf puppy gifted with a magic paintbrush. Swipe it across the screen, and objects are cut in half. Draw a circle around trees, and they spring to life. Draw a line connecting two objects, and they tether together.

Although quite similar to the original Okami, the quest to rid the land of darkness and bring it alive with color is wonderful on the DS.

The watercolor feel of Okami translates well to the DS. The characters, environments and action all have a hand-painted effect with strong brushstrokes and pastels.

On the downside, the game is pretty easy. You almost always know which power to conjure up to solve a puzzle or get past an obstacle.

Okamiden would be better with tougher challenges and more diverse powers than we saw in the original. But for DS owners, Okamiden is still a strong addition to the library.

Follow Chris Campbell at twitter.com/campbler or e-mail him at game—on—games@mac.com.

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