Let’s clarify before we begin – I fucking love Dragon Age. Origins completely owned me for months at a time. I didn’t just play it through once, I played it through three separate times, simply because I didn’t want to leave the world that the game had created (nor did I want to stop making out with Alistair, my royal husband, but that’s beside the point). When the much-anticipated sequel hit shelves, I was amongst the first at my local Game Stop, picking up the game and the strategy guide. Now, having finished my first play through, I have some fucking questions.
Bioware – what the hell?
First of all, I will speak up on what I enjoyed about the second installment (there are some details here to be found in the strategy guide, but I will try to keep the spoilers to a minimum).
1) Your choice of class directly affects your party member options
Namely, you end up traveling with one of your siblings. On my first play through, I played as a Rogue (a Human Rogue, because there are no other race choices in Dragon Age II) and hauled ass through the thing in three days. (The first night, I was up til 6am) As a result of that choice, I had a sister named Bethany with me and a deceased brother named Carver who died in the first scenes of the game. When I chose to play through a second time, I chose MAGE! As a result, my sister Bethany, a mage herself, perished in the first scene and instead I had my brother alongside for the game. That was epic in my eyes. The notion of an entire party character hiding in the game, only to be revealed if you play a second time with completely different choices as you start out left me with a whole new experience laid out before, not just because of my class, but because of my compadres.
2) You can import your Origins game for optimum continuity
I had a Rogue Queen in Origins, so naturally I imported her. This resulted in her being mentioned many times, including by characters that ‘know’ her personally over the course of the game. This was one of the greatest points in the Awakenings expansion for me, that my character’s story wasn’t left behind for the purpose of easy game propulsion.
Sadly, now we need to turn to the down points.
1) Hey, I think I’ve seen this before
Several times during the game, your character is required to go underground into the sewers, into a cave system of some kind. One might be in a mountain pass, one might be under the city of Kirkwall, where your character now lives. Oddly enough, apparently in Thedas, all tunnels lead to Rome. Seriously, every underground tunnel was the SAME underground tunnel. I noticed it within the first two hours of the game. The repetition of maps didn’t stop there. Any mansion you enter is the SAME mansion, any mountain pass, any abandoned building – they’re all the same map. This is just LAZY. What programmer thought that was a good idea? Oh yeah, the lazy one.
2) The Writing – is lacking
There are several points where years pass through an animated cut away scene of crayons and narration, all of which show a MALE champion, even if you’re playing a female. Rather than play the journeys from one place to another, they just tell you it happened. I’m sure this was to avoid having to design a NEW map. If it didn’t happen underground, they don’t have a MAP for it!
3) I think I love you!
Now, if you’ve read my Dragon Age blogs before, you know I love these games for the romance far more than the killing. Flirting with Alistair was the reason I fell madly in love with this franchise. That having been said, I was expecting them to expand on the perfection of that system in the last game, not deflect it. Yes there are romance options, and each time you have an option to get flirty, it blatantly tells you with a heart icon on the dialogue choice. In my first play through, I went with Anders, given that I knew him to be an Alistair replacement in Awakenings. The process was instant. I literally could have complimented his shoes and he would have threatened to drown the world in blood to be with me. The writing was just as lazy as the programming. Given that I was playing a good character (as I always do) Anders made it very hard to complete the romance with his actions in the last scenes of the game, but I stuck to my love motivated guns. (That’s all I’ll say)
Which brings me to –
4) You talking to me?
The aforementioned isn’t the only reason why the romance was unsatisfying. Bioware, for whatever reason they might have seen this as a GOOD idea, (oh yeah, because they’re lazy) took away all dialogue in play. You can’t stop in Lowtown and romance your honey in front of your compadres anymore. You can’t randomly kiss them and get the other characters reactions. You can’t turn to the character you dislike and annoy the shit out of them in tag team form with other companions while you wander through Dalish country anymore – why god? Literally, if you want to speak to your companions you have to go visit them in a special room and hope they have something to say to you and they don’t unless it is related to a quest. This is garbage and directly relative to the speed at which the relationship seemed to progress. Of course he fell madly in love with me after one conversation, cause that’s the first of only three conversations opportunities we get to have with that character during the first half of the game. Lazy…just effing lazy.
Gift giving is gone, save for tiny ‘gift quests’ you get when you find particular gifts; having a main screen (ie the camp in DA: Origins) where you could adjust everyone’s armor and give gifts and talk to everyone – yeah, that’s gone too. Literally, Bioware split the character relationship screen from inventory and made extra screens with LESS on them. Seriously, were they on crack? No, they were smoking weed, clearly. Crack would have resulted in more shit going on.
I fear Bioware saw that people were purchasing their expansions (Awakenings being a short glitchy experience that came nowhere near the satisfaction of the first game) and decided, “Well, since they’ll tolerate this, let’s just do more of it.”
Bioware made an amazing and perfect game, a franchise that I would have followed to my unshowered, jammy pants wearing grave, and nearly stripped away everything that made the first one good to make room for, what? The game is SMALLER than Origins. There is no excuse for the shortcomings of the second Dragon Age. Laziness should not be the reward we get for having been loyal to their first endeavor. This game should have been everything the first was, and more.
Now I understand that the romance side of the game is something that snags their female fans more than their male fans, but for fuck’s sake, we make up 45% of the gaming population. Where’s my make out scenes in the middle of battle, where’s my romantic, first time cutaway sex scene? Bioware, for shame!
Bioware, try again. If you fail me a second time, I won’t be lining up for your games anymore.
That having been said, I gotta get back to wooing the mage hating elf warrior, with my MAGE! 🙂