Saturday, March 26, 2011

Girl on...Game? Action: Dragon Age 2 by Bioware

Dragon Age 2 by Bioware
Executive Producer and Project Director: Mark Darrah
Lead Designer: Mike Laidlaw
Lead Writer: David Gaider

Blurb:

Dragon Age II tells the story of a member of the Hawke family, a refugee of the Fifth Blight who became a central figure in events that would reshape Thedas.

The full story is not well-documented, and the details of how a refugee became Kirkwall’s Champion are known only to a few.  The story is not told as it happens, but long afterward.

And the narrator is sometimes prone to exaggeration.

***

Aside:  What’s this? You say.  Well, I’m here to show you that while I love books, I do other things, too, like play video games.  I even have a book review all written and ready to go – but I couldn’t stop thinking about this game.  So I did what any blogger would do – I asked twitter if I should review a video game.  What stuck with me most out of the responses I got to the query is someone saying that there aren’t enough women who review games and it would be interesting to see what I had to say about it.  You see, since the game’s release, the majority of people on my list talking about Dragon Age 2 have been girls, or rather, women (while the boys have been talking about the Pokemon game...no, really).  So here I am, ready to give you some girl on Dragon Age 2 action.  Are you ready for it?

My  Morrigan Action Figure
My Thoughts:

First, an anecdote, if you will.  I loved Dragon Age: Origins and I spent many hours feeling unrequited love for Morrigan, knowing full well that she was not a female romance option (and there was no patch to fix this for the XBox version *sigh*).  I went so far as to kill Wynne, the character who would normally be your group’s healer, in an effort to impress.  I didn’t think anyone could replace her in my pixellated heart.  I was wrong, but we’ll get to that...eventually.  My point is, I wasn’t sure that Bioware could top the emotional engagement I felt with Origins and I am happy to say that I was proven wrong.

I’m going to do my best to be really, really vague about the plot.  I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone and I truly believe that you have to experience it on your own to really appreciate it.  I’m also worried that I’ll give away alternate endings / outcomes if I talk about how my game went in too much detail - some people, Wren among them, have these responsible 9-5 job things and haven't finished the game yet.

That said – holy bejeezus the story was engaging!  And the characters!  I had pretty much avoided reading about the game before it came out aside from watching the trailers – I knew nothing about my companions, or the world I’d be playing in.  So, when we run into Anders (whom I pined for ceaselessly in the romance-less Awakenings expansion) I was a-titter with excitement (Morrigan who?).  Now, if you’ll forgive me a moment of fan-girl crush gushing: Anders, omg! I love him! And back off my kool-aid Isabella!  Okay, focus Doom; no one wants to read about your infatuation with a character in a game, regardless of his smoldering, broody looks.  Case in point:

Anders *swoon*
Where were we? Oh yes, the story! It pulled me in and held me captive in the best sort of way.  I liked the progression of events and that early choices actually had an effect on the way things worked out later on, which is something other games promise but don't deliver.  Also, as much as I enjoyed the first game, I was happy to not be fighting a Blight.  In some ways, I would argue that this game is more political and even more character-driven.  Eventually, I had to put everything else aside and sit down to finish the game, because I could not handle the anxious anticipation anymore.  That's a sign of a well-told tale.  At the end, I was left with more questions than answers and I’ve been mulling things over ever since – not just related to the game, but how some elements of the narrative can be related to the real world (which is way less interesting than Thedas, if you ask me, we could benefit from some dragons).
And the characters – aside from Anders *sigh* - were all well-written and dynamic.  I didn’t really hate anyone in my party, but I also disagreed with a lot of them.  Oh wait, I retract that – I hate Carver and want to stab him in his stupid face.  The interaction between Hawke and her party felt organic, natural.  The background banter really helped with establishing that the characters had relationships outside of running around at your beck and call, too.  The banter in the first one was entertaining, but it didn't have this same feeling of being part of an ongoing conversation between the characters and that they were forming friendships on their own.

I think my only real complaint is that there wasn’t enough.  I finished at about 35 hours played, which is a bit short all things considered.  Although, I very much appreciate that there weren’t any dungeon-areas that felt like they would never end (I’m looking at you Fade quest in Origins), even if they ended up feeling repetitive due to environment recycling.  Honestly, this was probably the most annoying part of the game and detracted from my enjoyment - it's hard to stay in the story when you are in the same cave 100 times but it's supposed to be a different one each time.  I know that caves are supposed to look alike, but when you can memorize the maps and remember all the hidey-holes it's a problem.  But, the story was tight.  

Generic Hawke as a rogue
I think where I would have added extra playtime would have been interactions with your companions.  In Origins you could go to camp and pretty much strike up a conversation anytime, you’d learn about Alistair being raised by dogs, or hear about Leiliana’s time in Orlais or what have you.  Giving a few more conversations with your fellows would have fleshed things out a little more and would have helped with feeling like they’ve known each other for years by the end of the game.  (Oh and because I'm lonely in my Ivory Tower, I could have gone for a couple more romance scenes, just saying.)  And really, saying I wanted more is not a proper complaint.  There were a couple of glitches - two quests glitched on me, but it wasn't anything a quick reload didn't fix.  Oh and once I backstabbed something and ended up stuck in an invisible wall.  That was fun and reminded me of the mantra "save often," because my last save was, well, a while ago at that point.  Minor stuff for a big game.

I could probably keep writing about all the things this game did right in my eyes, but I’ll leave you with what is obviously a hearty recommendation.  You know, unless you need to do responsible things with your life rather than have fun in Thedas.  And now, I need to go finish my second play through, hopefully with less swooning (okay, who am I kidding? There will be just as much Anders-induced swooning, anyone have a fainting couch I could borrow?).

7 comments:

  1. i loved this game, but had some issues. i.e. its short length, its repetitive locations, and that well the adventures were not so grand.
    it felt like an add-on or expansion; not a full fledged game. it basically set up a third.
    not that i mind, i loved every moment i was playing that.

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  2. I agree about the length and the locations, but while the adventures were less grand I think they gave the game a more...intimate feeling. The end (I don't want to get into details for fear of ruining it for others) could have just been the beginning of a new chapter for a longer game (oh, how I wish!).

    Although, the shorter length made replaying it more likely for me - I've always meant to play the first one again, but I'm always daunted by the length and scope.

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  3. i am replaying the first one (on my ps3 and pc) and da2 until whatever i want to buy next comes out.
    if you ever go to my blog i wrote reviews per chapter.
    i have a morrigan figure too, she protects my ps3 along with two cloud stryfe's :)

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  4. I tried going back to play through the 1st one again when I finished DA2, but I couldn't do it - the graphics and combat are just so much better in the 2nd. And...I missed Anders despite Morrigan.

    And I am totally going to go read those! Sounds like it's right up my alley.

    My Morrigan travels around the apartment right now, sometimes she hangs out on my book shelves, sometimes on the bedroom dresser, or the living room table. Eventually she'll have a permanent spot somewhere.

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  5. the fade still sucks. dear fuck it still sucks lol.

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  6. Yeah, I dread the Fade...and the Deep Roads.

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  7. i guess there is a pc patch that skips the fade...

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