I'm close to almost done with this livejournal business, but I do kind of like griping about the media I consume, so here we are. I was actually going to write a post a week or so ago about this dumb book I read, but then I decided it would be better if I actually wrote a review on Amazon so other people wouldn't make the same mistake of reading it. Of course, I decided Amazon probably wasn't the place for some tirade about how I thought I was reading a sci-fi book, which it turned out was actually just Twilight set in the future, and I really should have been able to judge by looking at the cover...ironically enough.
But no, I logged on to write about Dragon Age 2, for two reasons. 1. I just finished it and was rather disappointed with the ending, and 2. Jerry Holkins is once again picking on someone who made the mistake of disagreeing with Jerry Holkins when he doesn't have a million internet fans, and usually when that happens, things get dumb. I thought I'd go ahead and speak my
piece on Dragon Age 2 because I guess I had way different issues with the game than everyone who gets paid to talk about video games.
Yeah, they reused a lot of areas, but you know what, I've been a DM before. When you need a different part of road for a different set of kobolds to ambush from, you don't draw a whole new map, you just turn the one you've got around. BOOM! Different road! These guys made a 50-hour cinematic RPG in two years, someone along the way had to get creative. The alternative is Final Fantasy 13, which was delayed for years so they could craft hundreds of painstakingly rendered locations for you to spend 30 seconds in and forgot about forever because A. it was just a place for you to fight till you got to the next bit of plot, and B. you really didn't give a shit anyway. I think BioWare made the right call here.
Also, a lot of people complained about how dull the combat got since every fight included multiple waves. Yeah, that got old, but if you're bitching about tedious combat in DA2, you probably didn't play much of the original. Sure, in DA:O, you had to make important tactical decisions sometimes, but mostly you had to pause every 5 seconds because Allistair was standing in the damn fire again. Even with the multiple waves, combat in DA2 felt a lot faster, and I'll call that a great thing since in either game1
, you're still going to get in a dozen fights just on your way to breakfast from the hotel.
So yeah, people complaining about that stuff are whiners. The real meat of Dragon Age is that it is an engrossing story you get to control bits of. In that sense, Dragon Age 2 is a resounding success. It's a lot like Mass Effect: Middle Ages, which is A-OK in my book. It's got quite a different feel than the first, and I can see people being disappointed in that. But no, they're mad about bad guys calling in their buddies or caves looking eerily similar (spoilers: they're both holes in the damn ground).
Or, I guess they're upset because everybody is gay. To read about it from all the "sensible" people on the internet who all hold the "correct" opinions, this is due to nothing more than the fact that they're a bunch of worthless homophobes. If we're honest, though, it really seems like BioWare has overcompensated due to all the hemming and hawing over the lack of gay sex in Mass Effect2
. As a male Hawke, I was either hit on and/or had multiple options to hit on all of my male companions before I was offered a single opportunity to flirt with any of the female characters. This may be partly due to the fact I got Isabella last, but still, it's more than a bit conspicuous.
The guy Tycho is picking on is upset that he doesn't like any of the female characters. Kind of a silly nitpick, but I can see where he's coming from. Let's run down your options here: you've got a rather cold knight who's all-business-all-the-time3
, a wild slut who will bed anything breathing (and spends all her time talking about it), and the little elf girl who I suppose is supposed to be cute and innocent, except she spends so much time dabbling in forbidden magic her clan hates her, and is so willful, no matter how often you tell her she's being dumb, if you don't play out her sidequests right, she can wind up being responsible for the slaughter of every last one of them.
I mean, the dudes don't seem like much of a prize either: two of them are terribly emo, and carry around more baggage than a freight train. The other is a dwarf. Seriously though, these guys were my party pretty much the entire game, if for nothing else but the banter. The first half of the game the dwarf picks on the elf for being so emo, and after you help him work through his isuses, they become best buds and pick on on the mage because he's a git.
But that's not the biggest problem with your companions. No, the biggest problem is your mages. Mages in Dragon Age are feared, and with good reason. They've been known to summon demons, subjugate minds, perform sacrifices, and according to legend, staged an assault on the gates of Heaven itself brining the wrath of God down upon the earth in the form of the Darkspawn that were the bad guys murdering everyone in the first game. Even when they're not actively summoning demons, they're constantly targeted by them for possession. So yeah, they're kept on a pretty tight leash.
In the first game, your two mage choices were a high-order mage who works within the law as a mage trainer, and an apostate4
who was raised by a witch. This was posed as a sort of dilemma, but even the apostate wasn't evil5
, she just lived outside the law. I guess that wasn't gritty enough for the sequel, because your two mages in this game are a blood mage (the forbidden magic) and one who is possessed by a demon.
Maybe what a normal person would do would be to say "screw these assholes," and just go see if any of the circle mages want to help, you know, defend the city they live in. In fact, considering all the murder the game forces Hawke to dish out against slavers, mercenaries, bandits, and other general lowlifes, in any other circumstance these are exactly the kinds of people whose blood he would be wearing like a fashion statement. But no, you're stuck palling around with these assholes for the whole game.
One of the undercurrents of the entire game is the conflict between the mages (who just want to be free, man!) and the Templars (who are trying to keep the children safe from the evil mages!). The game uses the imagery of its city's past as a center of the slave trade to depict the terrible conditions under which the mages are forced to live. The templars are portrayed as overly agressive and tyrannical oppressors. It basically asks you to choose between these two bickering factions throughout the entire game, on the grounds that the Templars are just trying to protect people, and not all mages are evil, just some of them and we shouldn't all have to suffer for it.
Except, in Dragon Age 2, mages are
all evil. Every single one of them. Every mage you meet is one rough day at the office away from demon summoning and human sacrifice. Your companion choices only reinforce this. Sure, they may claim
that they were driven to it by extenuating circumstances, but I don't think forbidden magic has easy step-by-step directions printed on the back of the box. If you're spending your free time studying how to slaughter dudes and re-animate their corpes into undead horrors to do your bidding--you know, just in case
--I think maybe you've already taken a wrong turn somewhere.
That's not the disappointing part, though, it just makes the moral "dilemmas" easier. The problem is that the leader of the Templars really is
a tyrannical usurper, but unlike the mages, the templars aren't
all like that. This is a problem because most of the choices you have to make are either "yay templars, torture all of the mages!" or "yay mages, overthrow the templars and the order of the whole city!" There's no, "hey, these mages are assholes, and need killin', but you know what, maybe the templars could use some change in direction, because this lady is just making the problem worse." There's no room for nuance; you have to be all in, one side or the other.
You know what though, it's just a video game, and they still did a pretty damn good job at it. There's only so many paths they can program for. And to their credit, they did let me give Merrill the Blood Mage a really good dressing down after I had to reload twice to avoid killing her entire clan because she's a stupid blood mage who does stupid things despite my warnings. In fact, she even turned herself around, smashed her demon mirror, and swore off blood magic, so that actually turned out to be a nice little arc of hubris and redemption.
I guess my biggest problem is Anders. He's a radical mage-ist who you're forced to pal around with even though he's constantly trying to take actions that would throw the whole city-state into anarchy. And you're forced to buddy around with this asshole the whole time, instead of killing him like every other demon-possessed abomination you come across throughout the course of the entire game
because that's what you do
with murderous superhuman entities who literally cannot control their actions.
And to top it all off, he's your only healer
, guaranteeing him a spot in your party at all times, because there just aren't enough healing potions in the game to keep your dumbass dwarf alive.( And here are the end-of-the-game spoilersCollapse )
So I guess what I'm trying to say is that the biggest problem with Dragon Age 2 isn't the combat, or the maps, or anything else the critics keep griping about. It's that they've crafted a fantastically engrossing story, one that made me actually care about the story and characters enough to get genuinely angry at them, and then didn't let me customize the outcome enough
1. ...and in any video game, really.
2. This is a silly claim anyway; as anyone familiar with Star Trek could tell you, there are no homosexuals in space.
3. At least until her ridiculous sidequest where she asks you to help her stalk a guy she likes.
4. In this context, it mostly just means an unregistered mage who doesn't live within the mage asylums, where they are watched by the Templars, an order of knights whose sole purpose is to hunt down mages who go bad or get possessed.
5. Except for the fact that she hates it when you do nice things, and likes killing people. So I guess she is pretty much evil, but not because she's dabbling in evil magic, because she's just a giant evil bitch.
6. I bet they're sacrificing virgins and summoning demons right now.