Dragon Age 2 – A Letter to Bioware

To start, I want to say that I am on my third play through right now, so I am not going to say that the game is terrible, but it was disappointing. (In fact, my first play through, I was so disappointed that I almost didn’t play again, but I’m so glad I did. That second play through saved the game for me. Thank the man who created Fenris and Inon Zur, because they singlehandedly made me love this game.)

I like to start positive, so I will say this first –

1) the soundtrack is brutally perfect. It is haunting, moving, and helps to create the world where I desperately love to escape to.

2) The game play and combat are pretty seamless. Some complain about button mashing, but I play as a Mage or Rogue and still pause at the beginning of each fight to go at them strategically, so it didn’t really bother me. In fact, I found it as smooth as an Antivan. 😉

3) You had some fantastic characters. Fenris is probably my favorite character that I’ve ever encountered in a video game, ever.

4) The return of previous DA:O party members and the events of DA:O being integratable. Fantastic.

5) The sibling consequences depending on your class choice. LOVED IT!

6) The in-play banter between a love interest Fenris, a married Aveline and Isabella was hilarious! I love the mystery of potential three way banter and want MORE. Perfect!

Now, I gotta start with what isn’t working for me –

(Many people have already made comments on map repition, and button mashing and all that, so I will focus on the major thing I found lacking.)

Character Interaction, Character Interaction, Character Interaction…

1) (Why can’t I randomly talk to party members in game? When you’re out with friends and you want to shoot the breeze, do you say, “Hey, let’s go to the mansion you’re squatting in and chat”? No, you turn to them and talk, with the onlookers interjecting as they see fit. The absence of this aspect was the first BRUTAL disappointment I felt. Literally, it made me miserable.)

2) (The romance options were immersive in the first DA. When you were putting the moves on Alistair, you knew it in every interaction and in-play banter that he was in love with you. You could smooch and jump him whenever you saw fit. The loss of that was yet another spike driven between player and the DA world. Even when Anders MOVES IN WITH YOU you can’t talk to him unless it is quest related? Though seriously, why would you want to talk to him, since he only ever talks about his agenda. Even so, when you’re in a romance/friendship, you talk to the person more than six times in ten years. I’m just sayin.)

3) (And let’s be real, where are my cutaway sex scenes for a female Hawke? Where are my random make outs or fights? Why did I not see Fenris’ full body tattoo at any time, but a male Hawke DID see Merrill in her underwear for three minutes? As a girl, I feel I got shafted, and not in a good way. :P)

4) There were story/character inconsistancies as well
(in play banter about Fenris and Hawke not being together when they were officially back together – Sebastian being for mercy throughout the WHOLE game until it was time to kill Anders, etc.- This one is a bit nitpicky, but again, they cause a rift between gamer and game which Dragon Age (and Bioware) has been known for completely tearing down.)

5) A common party screen? In DA:O I could go to camp and change out everyone’s weapons/trinkets. Now, I can only do that if they are in my party at present. This is a HUGE inconvenience when you’re trying to equip everyone with their best items and you can’t compare unless you are near a GATHER YOUR PARTY location and change it out six times.

6) Gifts? What the hell? They were such an added plus to the first game, trying to figure out who will like what by the conversations you’ve had to that point. Yet again, a character layer that was lost.

My first playthrough, I chose to Romance Anders. (I play these games FOR the story, and when there is a romance angle to the story, I am involved. When there isn’t, I’m not. I’m clearing that up right now. And I speak for 99% of all the girls that play your games.) By the end, I was SO disappointed with the game due to reasons others have mentioned, but mainly because it was as though my choices in character relationships made NO difference on Anders’ actions/comments/words/intentions. I still wanted to play it through again whilst romancing Fenris out of curiosity because he seemed a more interesting character and Anders was SO unsatisfying. That second play through, Fenris literally saved the game for me. He actually seemed to react to my choices, unlike Anders. Hearing “I’m yours” when clicking on Fenris was the defining moment for the romance comparison. Anders would have said, “Hey, you remember that quest you need to complete for me?” Had there been more opportunities for mingling with the companions, I may have felt more immersed with Anders, but there wasn’t. At all. And when there was, even if a character was 100% in love with Hawke, it didn’t affect a conversation. Tore me right out of the game. Fenris literally saved it.

I’ve heard comments that these characters weren’t as deep as DA:O characters, but the truth is, I think these characters were brilliant, but the casual player doesn’t get to find that out because interaction is SO limited. Carver was my preferred sibling, Isabella was AWESOME, Fenris was perfect, and VARRIC! Don’t even get me started on Varric. Yet, we weren’t allowed to just ‘get to know them’ because interaction was only allowed when coupled with an agenda.

Character interaction is HALF of the game, maybe more. The stabbing and maiming is a blast and all, but the story and the companion dynamic IS where you gained classIC status. This was NOT the area where there should have been “shaving off.”

There’s a saying “You can’t please ALL the people ALL of the time, but you can please SOME of the people ALL the time.”

We are those SOME. We expected more of what made the first so great. I think in “Shaving off” some of the old, you shaved off the stuff that made the first game SO AMAZING in order to make it more accessible. More accessible shouldn’t be LESS immersive, and more accessible shouldn’t alienate the diehards.

I understand that Bioware was hoping to branch out to the less hardcore RPG lover’s, but the first game was a blockbuster, you had a bestseller on your hands no matter what. There are enough button masher games out there to fill the great divide. Dragon Age stood apart from all of them. It isn’t NEW DA gamers who were lining up to buy this or preordering it, it was the people who worshiped the first. We loved the first because it was fully immersive, the characters were a constant, and it was like literally writing your own fantastic novel as you cleaved your way through Thedas. Now, if button mashers want to play DA2, they can and just skip through the dialog with an easy click of a button. Sadly, the hardcore DA fans CAN’T just click a button and have those conversations back because they never existed to begin with. That’s not fair. These were the people Bioware should have been reaching out to, not the people who may STILL never play DA in their lives.

Dragon Age 3 (And even an Awakenings style explansion) should have more character interaction and freedom, less repetitive maps, and it should be BIGGER not smaller (as DA2 is in comparison to the first game). I love you guys and I love and respect what you do, but don’t lose what makes you amazing by trying to be the other guys. I don’t play the other guys’ games.


21 thoughts on “Dragon Age 2 – A Letter to Bioware

  1. I agree with every single word you wrote and Fenris saved the game for me too (I so want him in a DLC or Expansion).

    I finish the game and leaft wondering and missing the years that Hawke lived with that cool companions that i don’t. The game as a hole seems so rushed and many things of DAO that i loved were not there. (Sorry for my bad english i’m brazilian ^-^)

  2. This. I just finished the game and if it wasn’t for Fenris, I don’t think I would have enjoyed this game as much. The real challenge for me was romancing him as a mage, that made the game for me.

  3. I absolutely agree, and would like to add:

    1.)very high cost for any game, let alone one that is not as advertised – a sequel – nor compares well to DAO. should we spend more money on the prince story? no thanks. would be much better as “Escape to Kirkwall – a Dragon Age Adventure” a stand-alone Fable/Diablo/MassEffect2 game for $45, prince and dog included.

    2.)can’t take the runes out of armor and weapons? *rolls eyes*
    re-using areas. shame on you for not at least flipping them, redressing them or something!

    3.) no cheeky banter or lampost licking dialogue. + I never shed a tear in this game and only laughed out loud once – at Aveline’s quest. (brilliant) DAO had me enthralled. my own character and my party members had me immersed just like a great novel. the whole Grey Warden concept is sheer genius. the characters so real and creatively rich in backstory. tears and laughter a-plenty. hate the conversation wheel in DA2.

    4.) no story! in pretty much every RPG I’ve played there’s been some strong main storyline. not here. Act 1 was “I want a bigger house.”
    Act 2 is “Who can I get into bed?” (with all my clothes on – really?) Act 3 is WTF? (what the heck?) I don’t even need characters to get me involved. Morrowind was one of the great RPGs and I didn’t romance anyone. it was the story, the incredible environment. oh, that night sky!

    5.) DA2 has me playing DAO over for the third time. I have no desire to play DA2 again.

    6.) forget giving the main character a voice if it’s going to be that bland. (male Hawke)

    Dear David: nothing to inspire a song this time around.

    – haitsien (Bioware fan BG-DAO)

  4. Well written! I completely agree with you! If Fenris did not exist in this game, I would have put it down and never picked it up again. He is the savior of Dragon age 2.
    It’s such a shame that they took out so much of the character interaction. That was my favorite part about DA:O. I certainly hope they improve on that in the next game.
    I also hope they bring Fenris back in the next game ;D
    Assuming you get to play as the champion again. =]
    or at least come out with more compelling characters like Fenris.

  5. Omg you put my thoughs into writing!!! Everything you said is what I felt. It also bothered me that I couldn’t talk more to alister or other old party members…. I really wanted to get to know my party members more. A campsite would have helped alot.

  6. I totally agree with everything you wrote. Awesome job.

    1. Theme songs were a great idea. Fenris’s was so perfect, haunting, intense. Helped shape the character. I wish the other characters could have had that as well. Leaves a lasting impression. I enjoyed in DA:O when you met a character that could potentially be in your party and they started playing the main theme music in the background. Got you attached to them real fast. Please include in DA:3.
    Note: One of the nicest touches in DA:2 was when the grey warden’s showed up in lowtown. Don’t know if anyone else got this scene, but in my first playthrough i was wondering around lowtown and 2 grey warden’s showed up. As they did, the theme music from DA:O began to subtly play in the background. Was brilliantly done. Very nostalgic for me since i loved DA:O so much. Really tied it all together. AWESOME.
    2. Yayee on giving the females equal time in the sex scene department. While they were thoughtfully played out, we want more action. We are also part of the audience and will happily plunk down 60 bucks or more for a satisfying game!!
    3. Bring back Fenris. 🙂
    4. More character interaction. The characters were so brilliant but you didn’t get as much of a chance to connect with them as in DA:O because you couldn’t just talk to them at random, and at length. If people are worried about accidently clicking on a character and subsequently starting a love scene at the wrong time, allow us to interact with the characters in non-important ways as much as we want adn make the major important scenes location based. We will be happy!!
    5. Blood spatter needs work. In the first movie it looked sexy on the characters. In this one looks like paint.

    OTHERWISE Game was amazing!!


  7. I agree with pretty much everything you said. The character interaction was sorely missed. However, I would like to say that I do not require romance to become involved in a character-interaction oriented games (though it is nice ). I don’t believe that 99% of girls feel that way, either, or maybe I’m just the 1%? Anyway, this is spot on. You articulated pretty much exactly what I was feeling in regards to the characters.

  8. And Fenris react if there is 100% friendship or rivaly or in the middle of it. I know that on example. When you giving him a book (yet he can’t read), when You rivals he will shout at you, when full friendship he will say it with calm voice, when in middle he just sound bitter.
    Character of Fenris reali save game for me too (third time now :P)

  9. Great article! I also wrote about some of my praises/gripes with the game if you’d like to compare: http://the-name-of-game.blogspot.com/2011/03/look-at-dragon-age-2-nobodys-happy.html

    I also think Fenris was the better of the two main guys to choose from. I was mistakenly swayed originally by Anders, when he first appeared and was much less whiny about Justice. As the game went on, I found myself growing more irritated with his reactions to things, always “mage” this and “i hate templar” that, and so I started flirting with Fenris and developing both romances concurrently… when Anders came for a booty call, I showed him the door! His pissy jealousy was weirdly amusing to me.

    But yeah, Fenris is an emo guy, but there’s something about his voice and his personality that makes you realize there’s someone really decent and loyal underneath all the barriers he’s put up around himself. Persistence really pays off big time; having him confess his feeling and tell me I was his actually made me blush for real, it was pretty crazy! LOL

  10. I have to say that while I agree with most of what you’re saying, I don’t agree with your opinions on the lack of interaction and getting to know the characters.

    While, yes, it is lacking compared to DAO, it still is not as bad as Awakening. So, to me, DA2 has found a sort of acceptable medium between the two. At least in DA2, I have some chuckles and giggles at the banter and interactions. Or, I find myself facepalming and yelling, “Anders, really?!” at my screen.

    In Awakening, there was nothing. No mood. No romances. No real interactions. You couldn’t get to know the characters aside for their very shallow writing. Even the gift giving (aside Ser Pounce A Lot) didn’t elicit reactions like in the core game. The characters were overly broody and serious that I couldn’t care for them. And Anders, to me, felt like an Alistair clone but on the flip side of the same coin, being a mage instead of a templar.

    So, while I will always thirst for more interaction between the companions, I’m just happy that we were thrown a bone of SOME sort, unlike Awakening, which I felt was a true horror to get through, I didn’t even finish it.

    Maybe Bioware is still looking for that “happy medium” with interaction, so they’re experimenting on styles, depths, and reactions? Can hope.

    Regardless, the romances in DA2 cannot hold a flame to DAO. Anders seemed so desperate to get into my Hawke’s pants and then immediately asked to move in that it felt unrealistic and I found myself scoffing the character any time I had to interact with him aftwards. Gotta admit though, I’m HAPPY they got rid of the fluff sex scenes. Those made me blush in embarrassment, they were so terrible in DAO.

    • I gotta say it darlin, DA2 shouldn’t be compared to Awakenings. DA2 being better than an expansion pack isn’t good enough! It should have been a return to the quality of the first actual game, not ‘thankfully’ better than the crap expansion pack they farted out to tide us over.

      Someone posted on the forums that DA2 WAS the equivalent of an expansion, rather than a whole game. A better expansion pack than Awakenings, but still not enough to be considered DA:O caliber game. I completely agreed.

  11. As a non-traditional gamer (aka I have started many, but finished few), I need something to drive me to finish a game. The romance in DA were the impetus that I needed. I wanted to find out what happened…so I fought through every boss and challenge in order to do that. I did the same in DA2, but it wasn’t as fulfilling as it could have been. If Bioware follows the same trajectory, we could lose romance options altogether by DA3…let’s hope they change their tune and take to heart what many of their gamers are saying.

    Oh, and you are so right about the soundtrack. I have been falling asleep to it for the past two weeks every night. Simply stunning…

  12. Awesome blog, well said!

    I agree that it wasn’t that the characters themselves were lacking. I loved Fenris, Merrill, Varric, and Isabela. They all had interesting stories and personalities. When people say that they don’t like the DA:2 characters, I think they mean what you said here, that they didn’t get to know them well enough.

  13. I agree with everything in this post! I was obsessed with DAO. To date, I’ve played it through 9 times. I could hardly stand the wait for DA2, and then… epic let down. Like you, my first playthrough I romanced Anders & on the 2nd time Fenris – and yes Fenris is a HUGE improvement. But I’m really missing the feel that I had when playing a character in a romance with Alister. I don’t HATE DA2, I do enjoy playing it, but it’s just not as good as the original. You’re 100% right – the character interaction needs big improvments in the 3rd edition… come on Bioware – keep the ladies happy!

  14. I have to state also that i agree with all this. When i started the game i wasn’t looking for a romance. That is until i ran into our friend Fenris. His character was so bold, intense, and dark. His story made me fall for him. I think that game would do some good if they added harder choices. I love how if you did one thing some people in your party may or may not have liked it. Deep characters is what im saying. You know not everyone’s so cut and dry. Some of the characters were good at making you wonder but as a whole the choices and characters were either right nor wrong.

  15. i also agree whole heartedly with this. i played DA2 two times through before finding out about fenris (since i could read anything worth crap). once i found fenris the game was a total turn around for me. the only other char i liked was varric.. he had the most banter out of all the other chars and he made me laugh. but other then that i think the thing i missed most was the “on the spot” romance scene like in DAO when you kiss alister in front of morgan and gross her out. AMAZING!! xD. this game was really lacking in many of the vital points that made me (and so many others) fall in love with DAO. i totally totally agree 100% with everything you have said. i hope DA3 combines the few good qualitys of DA2 with the many fantastic qualitys of DAO for a fantastic 3rd part od the DA serise. i hope DA3 can make up for the losses we all felt in DA2. (sorry my spelling is so bad guys T.T)

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