Love and Dragons

9 May

I realize I’m about two months behind the rest of the video game world, but I have finally finished my first playthrough of Dragon Age 2.  Which means, of course, that I need to talk to the internet about it.

Let me get this out of the way first:  I enjoyed the story.  I got my teeth kicked in a few times and liked it.  I really dig that sometimes you have to make the best of a few bad choices and live with the consequences, that even if you’re always trying to be the good guy, sometimes you fuck up in someone else’s eyes, or have to make a call that leaves a bad taste in your mouth no matter what you do.

I admit, too, that I’ve only played through once so far.  My default party consisted of Anders, Varric and Aveline, and I only swapped one of them out if I was running around doing things for another companion.  Fenris, Merrill and Isabela languished in their homes (or, in Isabella’s case, at the bar), and we don’t yet have the DLC that brings Sebastian Vael into the game.   Thus, I write this post knowing that my game experience is incomplete.  I reserve the right, a few months down the road, to revisit this opinion.


As much as I dug the overarching plot, I felt like there was something missing.

To go forward, we must first go back.  I loved the hell out of Dragon Age:  Origins.  The story was epic, the world rich and expansive, and the characters were amazingly well-rounded.  I spent hours running around in camp just talking to my companions, and if I thought they might have an opinion on whatever quest we’d just completed, I could turn around and ask them and generally have new dialogue options.  My little mageling probably spent more time chatting up Alistair than she did killing Darkspawn, and I was okay with that.

Speaking of Alistair, yep, I went for the romance with him.  (I started a second game later on and decided my elf and Alistair were going to be the best buddy-cop-Grey-Wardens in Ferelden while I seduced Zevran and Morrigan and Leliana awww yeah.)  But that first time around, it was the mage and Alistair, 2day + 2morrow = 4eva.


I’m not only talking about the conversations leading up to the kiss and the nooky.  but also all of the other bits of dialogue — his fears, Wynne’s warnings, the decision of whether or not he should take the crown and what the repercussions would be if he did.

I chatted with Sten about swords (well, I chatted; he grunted and disapproved.)  Leliana told me all about being an Orlesian bard, then I broke her heart.  Morrigan didn’t totally hate me.  You get the idea.

With Dragon Age 2, that element wasn’t as well done.  Sure, you still got to talk to –and initiate a romance with — your companions, but it felt rushed.

No, worse.  It felt scripted.

Now, you might be saying, “Of course it felt scripted, dumbass.  Someone wrote the characters’ lines, and the voice actors — gasp! — read them off of a script!  Quelle horreur!”  But that’s not what I’m driving at.

I played a mage (again), and after one brief flirtation with Fenris, added Anders to my party.  The character that was a bit of comic relief in Dragon Age:  Awakenings is now dark and broody and has the spirit of Justice sharing his headspace.  Move over Fenris; I’m a sucker for the doomed.  We ran around for awhile, did a companion quest or two, and I think I called him hot at one point.  Not a whole ton of build-up.  Certainly not enough for me to expect the depth of emotion in this scene:

He’d been resisting?  Really?  The first attempt at flirting yielded an “I’m bad news for you.”  I don’t remember any subsequent conversation of substance between that conversation and the kiss.  Three or more years pass between acts in the game, so it seems we’re being asked to assume a lot of their relationship has happened off-camera.  I want to buy into it.  I really do.  And when you come across a line like “For three years, I’ve lain awake every night aching for you,” I get the sense there was more there in the writer’s version than made it into the game.

A lot of things got streamlined between Origins and Dragon Age 2.  I’m curious whether the decision to only allow plot-progression with your companions during their quests or at specific points in the story is a result of that.  However, I also notice, while poking about the Dragon Age Wikia pages, that different characters had different writers.  Anders was written by Jennifer Hepler.  David Gaider (who earned my undying love for telling a “straight male gamer” complaining about the gay romance options to get over it) wrote Alistair for Origins and Fenris for DA2.  Looks like I’m going to have to give Fenris another chance.

Poor me.

Did you play DA2?  What did you think about the interactions with your companions — platonic or romantic?  Share your thoughts in the comments!


3 Responses to “Love and Dragons”

  1. Mel May 9, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    I chatted with Sten about swords (well, I chatted; he grunted and disapproved.)

    He-he, and I loved him for that. *g*

    I share your sentiment about DA2’s romances feeling very scripted. They left me a little disappointed because I was so totally spoiled by the way romances were handled in DA:O. (But then they gave me the Arishok, and all was well. I have 4 playthroughs under my belt and haven’t killed the guy yet.)
    I also liked the little cameos of Alistair and Leliana.

    And then there were the things about DA2 that I really didn’t like. For once, the world felt really small. In DA:O I roamed through the whole of Ferelden, while in DA2 I was confined to one city and a handful of outdoor places. I am not bitching (very loud) about the re-use of two maps for all of the caves and outdoor places – my sense of orientation is less than non-existent and the re-use actually helped me. Don’t look a gift-horse in the mouth, and all that.

    When I compare the characters of both games I have to say that I felt much more chemistry with the DA:O characters. The only DA2 character I really liked was Varric (and he wasn’t romancable, damn!)

  2. Caulle May 9, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    That was definitely something I missed in DA2. Anytime I play BioWare games, I always make a point to advance the hell out of my companions dialogue options before doing anything else. Occasionally there’s a character I don’t like or care about (Sten) so I give them minimal effort. But character relationships are always the best part of BioWare RPG’s so yeah in DA2 they felt a little rushed.

    They were highly entertaining when I did talk to them at least so I didn’t mind that much. But I like being able to seek them out on my own time to chat and not only when they have a quest available to me.

  3. knightowl123 May 11, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    Hi, saw your post, and thought I’d comment.

    For the most part I liked DA2. Like everyone else, I was disppointed in how streamlined they made the game. I liked all of the new characters for the most part.

    I didn’t like how the romances were handled in DA2. I really miss the ability to just walk up and get a kiss from the love interest and start a conversation with them. I found the romances to be very bland. The interaction just wasn’t there. Kinda funny – Anderes standing in my home with nothing to say for three years.

    I did enjoy the cameos with all of the former companions from the previous game and expansion. I don’t think they took the time to work on Alistair and Zevran the way they did with Leliana, Howe and his sister. I thought they did the best job on Leliana bringing her into the new engine.

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