The protagonist in Dragon Age II is Hawke, and you can play as either a man or a woman. You can start as a warrior, a mage or a rogue, and as you gain experience, you can evolve into a berserker, a healer, an assassin or one of six other job classes.

Hawke's initial goals are to find a new home for her mother and to protect her sister, a mage, from the Templars. As Hawke's power and influence grow, she attracts an entourage of lively characters with their own problems and ambitions. Anders (who returns from last year's Awakening) is a mage who's struggling to control the vengeance demon inside his head. Isabela is a saucy pirate who yearns to return to the high seas. Merrill is a wistful elf who's alienated from her clan. There are about 800 more stories in this naked city, and almost all of them are intriguing.

Most of the story is told through dialogue, and the way Hawke responds to friends, rivals and others influences the course of the game. You usually have three ways to respond: polite, sarcastic or stern, but the choices don't always break down that simply.

Of course, there are thousands of enemies, human and otherwise, to battle. You control one fighter while the computer controls your companions, but you can switch among bodies at any time.


RATING M for Mature

PLOT A sprawling role-player

advertisement | advertise on newsday

DETAILS Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, $60

BOTTOM LINE Creates a new urban legend