Thursday, March 17, 2011

P.M.S Review and St. Patty's LOTD

Hey everyone, just a couple of quick things today. First, Happy St. Patrick's Day to all of you, whether Irish today or everyday!

He'll drink to that!

Our first order of business is a quick product review. Yay! I haven't really done one of these before, other than when I was showing off my new makeup. So here goes.

Now that we are planning an upcoming change of scenery (this Scholar is going back to school in the fall!), my budget for non-essential beauty stuff is basically back to nil. But, I have been looking for a cream or moisturizer or something for my face because it gets dry around my nose, cheeks, and forehead. Unfortunately, it's also oily, so I break out (hence why I don't use foundation 99.9% of the time. I also didn't want to spend $20 on a tiny pot of stuff that might not even work (my usual face-washing stuff doesn't). I happened to be in the local dollar store cruising for random stuff and came across this:

It's called Delon Daily Moisturizer (for face and body) With Shimmer. It's also says Oceanus, which I assume refers to the fragrance. Since it was only a buck, I figured what the hell and picked it up.

It smells really nice. It's unfortunately kind of hard to describe, but it's not overpowering, just a nice light scent. It goes on nicely and doesn't feel greasy or sticky, which is a big thing for me as I can't stand that. The sparkle/shimmer looks nice, noticeable, but not as bad as the fallout from when I do my makeup.

But does it moisturize? The answer to that is a resounding yes! My face was much softer after using it, even the sides of my nose that get really dry. I wouldn't recommend using it everyday, though, at least on your face. I was starting to break out a bit by about the fourth day or so. But to use even every other day would probably be fine.

Final verdict? I really like this stuff. For being dirt cheap it works really well, smells really nice, and leaves you with a nice scent and a pretty shimmer. Hands, face, whatever. I definitely recommend it. I found it at the local Dollarama, but I am sure there are other places it can be found. There were a few other things there that I want to try, but that will have to wait until I get there next.

Next up, St. Patrick's Day LOTD. Or: where I discover I don't have that many greens in my makeup collection, and only one that's nice and bright.

Inner to outer: Jane Eye Zing in Greens, e.l.f dark green from the Sparkle Eye Encylopedia, over top is e.l.f light gold and sparkly white. All of these are over a base of e.l.f cream eye shadow and matte white (which can be found in another of the encyclopedias).

In a bit different light. There is a fine line of brown e.l.f eyeliner under the eyes only that goes from the outer corner and meets the green at the inner corner. Mascara is L'Oreal Extra Volume Collagen in Blackest Black.

Here's the whole look:
Lips are regular chapstick with Rimmel Mix It Up Lipgloss 700. Blush is random I've had forever. Don't mind my hair and how bleh it looks, I'm planning to chop it all off next week.

Well, there it is. I've got at least one new P.M.S Cooks! to do (this time with real recipes!) coming up, as well as a Dragon Age II review, once I finish the game, although that may be a video. I'm not sure yet. But until then, I'll leave you with this:

For anyone going out and having fun tonight! See you next time!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dragon Age II: First Thoughts (Length Warning, but there's pictures!)

So I've been playing me some Dragon Age II (after having to redo 3/4 of the Awakening playthrough I had all ready to go because I oopsed and accidentally deleted the wrong save game). I've put in about 11-12 hours, and I thought I would share my thoughts on the game thus far. I can only go on what I've seen and done up to this point, so this is not an analysis of the entire game. I will try to keep things spoiler-free.

The Good:

1) The characters. I am LOVING the characters so far. I take back every "meh" thought I had about Varric and Merrill, I'll tell you that. Here are the party members/characters so far and my thoughts: (note, I haven't recuited everyone, which is why Fenris is missing. And some I've talked to more than others, hence the uneven amount I talk about each)

Varric (voiced by Brian Bloom)
I don't know what it was, but I wasn't really interested one way or the other in Varric prior to the game's release. I don't know what it was, especially given how much I loved the dwarves and their culture in the first game. But I was wrong, Varric is great! He really is an enjoyable character, from his party banters, to your conversations with him, to what I've seen of the interaction of him and Cassandra. Plus, once you have a few points to spend, you can get some pretty nifty upgrades for that crossbow that are pretty sweet. I also really, really like how the dwarves don't have Scottish accents, like every other dwarf out there, and Varric has a great voice for his personality.

Bethany/Carver (voiced by Rebekah Staton/Nico Lennon)
Now here's my one and only spoiler. I don't really know anything about Carver. I've been running with Bethany in this playthrough, but next one I will be able to give you something on him. Bethany is an interesting character. She's a mage, and understands what your family went through to keep her (as well as your character's father) safe from the Templars and the Circle. In a way, she wants to be normal, but it's not overwhelming. As a mage, once you get some talent points into the various trees (I have her specced as a DPS mage), she will destroy enemies. The sisterly banter is really fun, and is a nice addition to the game.

Aveline (voiced by Joanna Roth)
Two words: lady tank! This is what Mhairi should have been. Aveline is a sword-and-shield tank you meet very early in the game. She's a sweet person, loyal and a believer in the good and right decisions. She can also smash in a hurlock's skull with her bare hands and lift a full-grown man like a child. Maybe you won't like her if you play a Renegade-type character, but even a "Paragade/Renegon*" type should be fine without venturing too far into rivalry (unless that's what you want, I suppose). I love Aveline, personally, even if she and my Hawke don't see eye to eye all the time.

Anders (voiced this time by Adam Howden)
Oh Anders, what did they do to you? *sniffles* Yes, Anders is in many respects still the awesome, snarkly mage that we all loved in Awakening (well, I didn't the first time through but I didn't really give him a chance, either. I blame Alistair withdrawal). But at the same time, he's not the same. He's more melancholy. And without saying what he tells you, I can tell you this, not ONE of my Wardens would have stood for it, and I'm sure my Queen Cousland would have used all her backing to make those responsible pay. My Aeducan Commander would definitely not have allowed such dishonor (what does a dwarf care for the Chantry anyway?). After a personal quest and conversation, in which I tentatively attempted a flirt line or two, I just wanted to hug him and send him back to my Amell warden so they could run off and be happy apostates together. But, we shall see how the game progresses.

Merrill (voiced by Eve Myles)
I didn't know who Merrill was when she was announced, although she was in Origins. Reason being, I hadn't played the Dalish Elf Origin (although the Cynic did). Luckily, my brother came over and played through as a Dalish Elf. Merrill in Origins was bland and kind of bossy. Merrill in DA II is adorable. She's like Sigrun, minus the harsh, casteless upbringing, and with an extra dose of naivete about how Kirkwall's society works. The new Welsh accent is really cool too, and differentiates the Dalish more from the City Elves and the Dwarves, which I really like. And she's a mage, so with her, Anders, Bethany, and my warrior Hawke, it's wonderful destruction every battle.

Isabela (voiced by Victoria Kruger)
Holy tits, Isabela's back! Now I've only just recruited her, so I haven't been able to ask her who in Thedas does breast implants, how she can stand upright with those, or where her pants have gone. I have, however, already been told where she's staying, in case I want to come keep her company. I wonder if she'll tell you she slept with your Warden (if you did), or about the possible threesome or foursome (I did the threesome with Alistair). So yeah, I can't tell you much about Isabela just yet, other than she's a dual-wield rogue.

Sebastian (voiced by Alec Newman)
Now I know what you're thinking; another noble-born archer with a dead family? Now, I haven't actually recruited Sebastian yet, but I have met him in game, and he isn't just a Nathaniel Howe clone (doesn't seem stoic enough). I shall have to see once I have him in my party, of course. His circumstances seem different enough to make him a different character just for that. More to follow once I know him better (but oh mah goodness, dat accent!).

There are also lots of great NPC's that you meet in the game. Cassandra is one such character. I'm looking forward to seeing some more cutscenes with her in them to see more of her and about her. It is also interesting to see more of the Qunari, including the Arishok. Also, Flemeth! She is as mysterious as ever, especially if you played the Witch Hunt DLC for Origins, but with a badass new look. And is once again magnificently voiced by Kate Mulgrew. I want more Flemeth! You also have a mabari, this time as a summon, which was a fantastic idea. I named him Gimli this time. As I said, I haven't really gotten all that far in the game, so I am probably missing lots of awesome characters I simply haven't met yet.

2)The Story. We are building up to something exciting. I doubt this game will be able to bring the overarching story to resolution, but I can see the set-up to continue it in further games (like the end of Mass Effect 2, which was holy shit to say the least). Mages, Chantry, Templars, Qunari, Flemeth, Wardens; there are so many angles (and more than this even) that are going to align with and against each other into something cataclysmic, whether for good or ill is still up for debate. And right now we see this through the eyes of a Fereldan refugee scraping their way up from nothing in Kirkwall. I can see it being a bit like Mass Effect 2, in showing a very specific story, but as a build-up to the events of a later game.

3) The redesigns for the races. I was very skeptical about these, but I like them a lot. It makes the races different, rather than a Star Trek-ish they all look like humans but adjusted for height and maybe prostheses, like ears. It makes them more individual as separate races. Humans and Dwarves seem to have had the least alteration, basically just updating their graphics into the new desgin. Flemeth, Elves and Qunari have had the largest changes, including the horns the Qunari were supposed to have in Origins. Although, not all Qunari have horns, as Sten is a notable exception.

Velanna (left) in Awakening, and Marethari (right) in Dragon Age II showing the new Elf look.

Sten (left) and a horned Qunari (right). You can definitely still tell they are Qunari when you talk to them. It's very cool to see more of them, and learn about their culture, such as the Tal'Vashoth and Qunari mages.

Flemeth in DA II and DA:O (inset)

4) The graphics. The graphics were vastly upgraded and the entire style of the universe was overhauled for DA II. And I like it. Maybe it won't impress everyone (in fact, I know it won't), but I like it. I'm sure a lot of people will complain it's too simple and lacking in detail, but I like the simplicity, without feeling like they're trying to cram as many pixels in just because they can. Now, I played the demo for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, and it looked very, very pretty. But you know what, the Dragon Age universe isn't pretty. It's dark, it's dreary, it's not a nice place. But then again, I'm not terribly picky about graphics, so maybe I miss the point entirely when it comes to that.

5) Gameplay and combat. These two things also went through a massive overhaul. The dialogue wheel from Mass Effect makes it's DA debut. And you know what, I like it, after being sure I would hate it. The icons that show the intent (sarcastic, diplomatic, flirt, etc.) is an awesome addition, and makes it much easier to plan the conversation. the UI is easy to navigate and the combat talents have been organized into easy to handle talent trees with upgradable skills. Combat is wicked now. It's faster and more effective. When you hit a button for a spell, it happens now. It's much more responsive and you feel more in control. Your character also moves faster in combat, making the overall experience very satisfying.

6) Voice acting. Was there a doubt here? Several changes were made, such as the voice of Anders and Merrill, and switching the Dalish Elves to have Welsh and Irish accents. But overall, the voice acting is every bit as good as you expect from Bioware. A lot of people were iffy on the voices for Hawke. I haven't played male Hawke at all, but I like Lady Hawke's voice. I'm glad it's a little more feminine sounding, otherwise she would have sounded (and thusly been compared to) Commander Shepard. I love Shepard and I think her voice is perfect for her, I'm just glad they went for something a little different here, and I think it works. There was some complaints because they sounded too posh to be from Lothering, but Hawke's mother was nobility, so it does make sense.

7) Preset Hawke. I love character creators. I will spend an hour in just the character creator, especially in a first playthrough, looking at all the options. I've never really cared about the presets since I love customizing my own. But damn, I'm going to have to try out default Lady Hawke. She is probably one of the prettiest defaults ever! Not only that, even the default name is awesome. I've never used a default name in an RPG (if I could change it) until now. But I just couldn't think of anything I liked better than Marian. So I went with it. I did change up how she looked, though.

default Marian Hawke

My Marian Hawke

The Not So Good

1) Tiny Writing Syndrome. I know, I know, it's the fault of my old-ass, obsolete TV. Doesn't mean I can't complain about it. The text is tiny, especially for loading screens. I can read it, but I generally have to sit closer to do so. I don't really even pay attention to the loot I'm picking up because it's too hard to read whatever the damn thing is. Unfortunately, until I acquire a new TV, I'm stuck with it.

2) Anders' voice. Now, I have no problem with the voice actor who plays him in DA II. And I now know why they changed it and why he isn't voiced by Greg Ellis but I wished they'd done it the other way so that he was. I think it could have worked the other way too. Oh well. It's a bit of a fangirlish complaint, but it wouldn't have been my preference. His current VA does do a really good job though, and really illustrates how he's changed based on how the world has treated him.

Final Verdict- So Far

Well, obviously I'm enjoying it, or I wouldn't have written a novella on my first thoughts. It's a darker game, that's for sure. Damn dark. There are still moments of levity and snarkiness, but I agree with others that there doesn't seem to be as much. Or at least, it is more overshadowed by the grittier part. But we shall see as I play more. I read an interesting review that compared it to the old RPG Planescape Torment, which I think is an apt comparison. It's bleak, concentrated mainly in one area (in and around the city-state of Kirkwall) rather than a whole country, and while an excellent game, it won't be for everybody. I think the best way to describe DA II, at least so far, is Planescape Torment crossed with Mass Effect 2 in the Dragon Age universe. Not to say it doesn't feel like a Dragon Age game, because it very much does. Though I'm still in the First Act, I will say that I am really enjoying the game and am looking forward to getting more time into it.

Well thanks to everyone who slogged through yet another ridiculously long post with me. As a reward, The God Drums, in their entirety. The video's trippy though, even for Lud. :D

See you guys next time!

*Paragade- combination Paragon ("good") and Renegade ("evil") more to the Paragon side.
Renegon- same idea, but opposite to Paragade.

Hey Folks!

Sorry I haven't put up a first impressions of Dragon Age II yet. I've been trying to play through a bit more, and the Cynic wanted to get up his Devils in the Desert #3 review. So hopefully I will have something for you tomorrow.

And big news in the CWTC world: I, the Picky Mama Scholar, am going to be even more scholarly! Well, what I mean to say is, come the fall I will be starting my Masters Program! Hooray! It's very exciting, although it will be a lot of work, but it will be worth it in the end. It will be a big change, but it will be a good one for us in the long run.

I really have to go to bed now, but that is the plan. Hopefully something new for you all tomorrow (errr... later today).

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

It's Here!!

Today* was the big day. I got myself ready:

L'Oreal Hi-Intensity pink over a black base with e.l.f gold over top with a white base. Intentionally unblended, but the effect didn't really work like I wanted it to.

And headed out. And off to EB Games, where this was waiting for me:


Hurray for release dates and pre-orders! That, my friends, is the Signature Edition. With oodles of delicious, free bonus content; like an Exiled Prince with a hot accent, a wardog (who I will have to think of a new name for, because I can't name a second dog Hannibal, despite how awesome that sounds), and a pile of other goodies. There's even has a tie-in if you bought Dead Space 2, much the same as the DA:O-ME:2 Blood Dragon Armor. I'm super excited about this game and I will have my first impressions up very soon, don't worry. :D

While we were out and about we also picked up a) a bigger hard drive for our 360-which we needed quite badly, especially with DA II, Mass Effect 2, and Warriors of Rock. And b) a renewed Gold Membership, which means I can do my Demo Reviews more efficiently as I won't have to wait the extra week for the games to switch to Silver. So excitement all around! Now if I could just shake this tummy bug, we'd be grand.

So yes, I will have something up with my first thoughts on the game as soon as I can!

*And today it shows the right date. Ack. Well, by today I mean Tuesday, March 8th.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

P.M.S Cooks! Stew and Biscuits & Latest Looks

Hey all, another entry look into my cooking and makeup hobbies. Let's start with the food!

Today's post is yet another stew lol. Here's the rundown:
Prep time: ~9 hours (8 of which were prepping the soup bones)
Ingredients: beef stock & meat (from soup bones), 3 chopped green onions, 4 grated parsnips, several small potatoes cubed (probably 3-4 large ones), fresh rosemary, Worcestershire sauce, sage.

Instructions: cook beef bones for about half an hour with rosemary, some crumbled sage, and Worcestershire sauce. Boil/simmer/cook in water for about 8 hours for broth. Remove meat and bones, let cool, then put meat back in. Add potatoes, parsnip, onion and more rosemary, Worcestershire sauce, and sage. Then you're good to go! It's actually better the next day, as the parsnip flavor mellows a bit and is less harsh.


Oh, I almost forgot what I whipped up to accompany the stew!

Cheese Biscuits!

These were just a basic biscuit recipe you can find anywhere, with added shredded cheese. Very yummy when nice and hot with butter/margarine.

On to the makeup looks. Well, I've done a few. Not all of them were great, but these are my two favorites from the past week or so.

First was a dupe of a pink/gray smoky eye. I wanted to do a bit of a toned-down version, as it was pretty intense and I'm still not sure how crazy of makeup I can pull off well. So here's how it looked. As a dupe, it was awful, but as a look, it looked really nice.

The gray is e.l.f and the pink is L'Oreal Hi-Intensity Pigment Eye Shadow in Brazen (it's a duo with a brown. The grays were sparkly and the pink is matte.

This was the second look, from the other day.

The eyes are with a Bonnebell 4-set called Backstage Beauty Browns. For powder, they're really creamy and go on really nice. I used the silvery brown, the purply brown, and a coppery brown for this. I used L'Oreal Glam Shine Juice in Mambo Juice for my lips, and my usual mascara- L'Oreal Extra Volume Collagen in Black. No foundation or anything, I'm usually too lazy or rushed, and my face doesn't like too much stuff on it. Blush is random stuff I've had forever.

Well that's about it. This week is a very exciting one, I'll have my first thoughts on Dragon Age II up for sure sometime. As to what else, I'm not sure yet. Perhaps a day-of-release makeup look. For now, I'll leave you with an amazing early song from my very favorite band!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

While I'm writing...

Here's the last video I did, a look at why I think Avatar is NOT the greatest thing since sliced bread. I'm really happy with this video, it was fun to shoot and looks great!

I may yet get the new post up tonight! Until then, enjoy the video!

*EDIT*- Huzzah, a new background! I like this one a lot. Simpler and very much awesome.
Also, new post is finally live! See below for my look at the world of music (or the journalism therein)! Tomorrow I will try and get up a PMS Cooks! and a quick makeup spot of yesterday's look. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Music and "Relevance"

Okay, so I've been trying to hammer this post out for a while now, so here goes.

I have noticed something when it comes to talking about music. Especially people who write articles about music for various publications. It is the word relevance.

Relevance: having significant and demonstrable bearing on facts or issues. Synonyms: applicable, germane, apposite, appropriate, suitable, fitting (from, as my physical dictionary is currently AWOL).

I keep seeing this word pop up in musical articles and I have always wondered about this particular choice of wording. For some reason the phrasing of such statements always put me off, and not just because it usually implied that the newest flash in the pan was more "relevant" than older, well-established acts, or not in a comparison but still implying that said older, well-established acts were not "relevant". Up until now I've just sort of taken this position on the whole thing.

Then I read this article talking about the Superbowl Halftime show from this year, where the Black Eyed Peas were the headlining act. This was the line that started this whole thing:

Sure, the band's music is aimed at "mindless partying," and Fergie's glittery top was "absurd and somewhat laughable," but the Peas had more relevance than previous baby boomer acts..."

My reaction to this was as follows:

What? The show put on by the Black Eyed Peas was panned almost across the board as underwhelming, stale, inane, and just more of the same with nothing new and interesting added to the act (TRON costumes notwithstanding) to their regular show repertoire.

Why? Why are the Black Eyed Peas more "relevant" than past performers? Let's look at the halftime shows for the five years previous to this one.
2010: The Who
2009: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
2008: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
2007: Prince, Florida A&M Marching Band
2006: The Rolling Stones
2005: Paul McCartney
2004 was of course the famous "Nipplegate" show with Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. Now then, all of these previous five shows were performed by famous and well-established acts, and that's putting it mildly (I mean really, The Who, The Stones, and a Beatle?). These are big names, that have not only had hugely successful careers of their own, but have influenced countless acts that have followed. And it isn't as if the songs by these artists aren't well known. Anyone who watches CSI knows at least as many songs by the Who as incarnations of the show that they watch, for example. Either way, these are some of rock's biggest acts. Ever. That is not an exaggeration.

And, how do you qualify this? What really bothers me about these statements about how "relevant" a band/artist is is that there is never any kind of qualifier for this. These statements are made without ANY context at all. What is the criteria for determining the "relevance" of a musical act? The number of hit songs? If so, according to what charts; Top 40? I-Tunes? Billboard? Something else? Does relevance have to do with how popular an act is at that specific moment in time? And again, how is that measured? Is it how fast a concert sells out? Because in the past two years or so both Metallica and AC/DC stopped in our area and the tickets sold out in 10 and 30 minutes respectively. Did I mention that the 30 minutes to sell out AC/DC was because the played the football stadium instead of the arena
, and so had almost three times as many seats?

Anyways, what it really comes down to is this; what is the basis for the statement of one artist/band being more "relevant" than another? Can you back this up somehow? As someone who's chosen field of study deals a lot with context and where citing and having sources for one's information is very important, I cannot stand having someone throw out something like this with nothing behind it. So please, tell me why The Black Eyed Peas, or Ke$ha, or Justin Bieber are more relevant than bands like The Beatles, Judas Priest, or Black Sabbath. Tell me why you refer to an act with a career longer than the lives of these "relevant" acts, in this way? Explain your reasoning behind the idea that a band or artist who has been an inspiration to countless others is not relevant. Is Judas Priest less relevant because they were one of Pantera's influences? Or Metallica because of bands like Trivium? On the pop side, Lady Gaga lifts tons of stuff from Queen, Madonna, and David Bowie. I argue that they will ALWAYS be relevant for the two reasons I have stated; for the accomplishments of their own careers, and for the inspiration they provide to younger acts. They are well within the definition of relevance; as
having significant and demonstrable bearing on facts or issues. The acts of today would not be what they are without those that came before them. Therefore you cannot classify an a band or an artist as nonrelevant*, except in the context of specific genres or in talking about a specific artist (Beyonce was probably not influenced by Ozzy Osbourne, for instance). But that is the key, there MUST be context.

I apologize that this has become a big wall o' text post, but I have found myself greatly irritated by this, and not just because they are usually referring to bands I like compared to ones I don't. No, I don't like the Black Eyed Peas, or Ke$ha, or Taylor Swift, or Justin Bieber. But other people do, and that's awesome that they found artists that they like. Just like not everyone is going to like Def Leppard, Disturbed, Judas Priest, and Rammstein because I like them. That is totally cool, it's individual taste. What does irritate me is when artists are labeled as nonrelevant by journalists simply because they aren't on the Top 40, or the latest tween/teen craze. Just because an artist doesn't factor into your little bubble of oh-so-knowledgable pop-scene journalistic sense, doesn't mean they aren't relevant to someone else, or to a whole other genre you haven't considered. I say pop-scene because this is where I most frequently see this type of thing. Then again, these are the people that at one time, Vanilla Ice was relevant, and Rick Astley (twice!).

I must now bring this rant to a close, or I'll lose my cool it will be a big, never-ending mess. If you've made it all the way through, then congratulations and thank you for slogging through with me. I hope that I've made myself clear in my argument, but feel free to leave a comment here if I haven't, or if you have thoughts on the subject. I will leave you all with a song about the awesomeness of music (despite how crappy the rest of the world might be) from an awesome artist. Yes, it's a pop song (shock! I know!), from the one pop artist I love. Enjoy all and we'll see you next time!

*I know I should use "irrelevant", but it doesn't fit as well. Sue me.
Regarding the date on this post, the date reflects when I started writing this. It was actually posted March 6th at 1:47 am.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Demo Reviews: Dragon Age II

After an extra week of waiting I finally got to dig into this demo on Tuesday. Since then, I have played it twice and the Cynic has played it once. Now that it's had time to sink in, let's have a look. As usual, spoilers ahead.
Dragon Age II takes place during and after the events of the first game. You play as Hawke, either male or female, on your quest to become the Champion of Kirkwall, and whatever that entails. As with the first game, you have a slew of companions, some of them romance options, that accompany you on your travels. The difference here is that one of these companions, depending on your class, will be a sibling. You will either have a Carver, a warrior, or Bethany, a mage.


You are introduced to three other possible companions at this time. First you will meet Varric, a dwarf who also serves as the narrator. He's a rogue that carries a crossbow.

And chesthair.

Next is Aveline, a sword-and-shield tank warrior, who already has a reserve spot in my party, especially after the demo.
Lady Tank FTW!

And finally, some of you might remember Isabela from the first game. Yes, the one with whom you can have a three-or-foursome with that will teach you the Duelist spec. Well, she's back with a spankin' new revamped look for Dragon Age II.
Holy massive boobage, Batman!

I won't get into too many spoilers here, but there are two other returning characters that I'm really excited about. The first is Flemeth, once again magnificently voiced by Kate Mulgrew. She also has a vastly new look from the eccentric old-Wilds woman bit she pulled on our Wardens.
New Flemeth look, but still the same awesome character.

The other is everyone's favorite mage from Awakening (and I'm certainly not talking about Velanna): Anders! I won't get spoilery, but suffice to say, Anders has changed. And I'm so psyched for his story.
Oh, and ladies, this time he's romancable!

Anyways, onto the game itself. I played through twice, as a warrior and a mage (both female). The Cynic played through as a male rogue.

Although why you would when default Lady Hawke is this pretty is beyond me.

The rogue class doesn't really appeal to me, but the Cynic was having fun with it. It's a very acrobatic class, but at least on the demo, the DPS is quite low overall. This is for a very low-level dual wield build, however, and later talents may boost that. My first choice was warrior class, as that is my preference. It's about the same as Origins, only minus the dual-wield talent. The faster and more reactive combat definitely gives this class more flair, and I had a lot of fun with it. Mage is very fun. The same talents are available, now divided into talent trees, but the mage seems more melee now than before. You can actually hit enemies with your staff when they get too close. It's nice to actually have that recourse. The casting of the regular staff bolts is much faster as well, as is casting and cool-down times of other spells. The mage is definitely formidable, and I can't wait to see some of the high-level talents like Blizzard and Chain Lightning out to try. I did get a chance to use Crushing Prison during the demo, and it was gleeful.

As everyone knows, the graphics have been updated for this installment as well. Personally, I like the look. It still looks like Dragon Age, but nicer, if not... pointier. Things are spikier, especially armor. Although some familiar things will be there, although updated; such as the Templar Armor, which seems a little more toned-down this time around. The regular mage robes look nicer, and default Hawke (who you can see in the top pic) is actually wearing mage armor. How is that not exciting? The demo ran smoothly for us, both cinematics and in-game without a problem, and the facial renders during conversations looked very nice.

Onto the gameplay. A lot of things were locked in the demo, like the inventory, the character creator, and such, but it was nice to see that those things were still there. The radial menu was more or less the same, but the map has been separated from the rest of the menu. Not a huge deal, but something to be aware of. The dialogue wheel, which I was against at first after having some surprising responses in Mass Effect, is very well executed. The icons that accompany the responses make things much easier (although it seems to follow the Mass Effect pattern of: Top answer-nice/Paragon, center-sarcastic/ME-neutral, bottom-dickbag/Renegade). But there were no other options such as flirt, so we will have to see when all of that is available as well.

The combat. This was a big thing, the change to the combat. And you know what? I like it. No more shuffling around enemies and allies to get to your target. No more waiting for the character to get in position to use a talent. It's faster, it's fluid, it feels better. You can still play tactics and give orders if you want, or you can hack-n-slash. You can also still switch between party members the same way. There will also be the option for auto-attack in the full game, for anyone who wants it. I greatly enjoyed it, and I'm happy that this was implemented.

The voice acting. Now, this is BioWare, so of course it's going to be good. Your character is now voiced, and I like both the male and female Hawke voices. However, if you wanted a Commander Shepard-type voice for your Lady Hawke, I'm afraid you might be disappointed. Lady Hawke's voice is much more feminine, and it's a nice change, as you wouldn't want your characters to sound too similar to one another (despite the fact I adore FemShep's voice <3). From what I can see, you shouldn't be disappointed by the voice acting.

Did I have any complaints. Maybe just one. The text. I know that console games (yessir, I'm one of those evil, mouth-breathing cretins known as a console player lol) are taking into account the widescreen and high-definition and all that stuff that comes with today's TVs. It just sucks that it results in text been very small on my giant, old tube TV (how archaic!). Although it's not too bad for the most part, and not as bad as Two Worlds II, where part of my screen was actually cut off (thankfully it could be adjusted) because of the aspect ratio setting.

Final thoughts? Well, I only have to make it to next Tuesday before I get my grubby little meathooks on the full game. Until then, PLAY THIS DEMO. I definitely recommend it, and not just because I'm a fangirl. It really is a lot of fun. The world created in these games is an amazing one, and you would not do wrong to give it a try. I give it 4 1/2 hurlocks out of 5.