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Dragon Age II back to reviews
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Why should I care about these characters?
Dragon Age II was not a bad game. If this is the worst Bio Ware can conjure, well done, because even with its flaws, it's still an adequate game.

The combat was more engaging than DA:O, with warriors and rogues taking a much-needed level in badass and have a greater effect on the battlefield and mages getting a much-needed nerf. However, the constant mobs of enemies appearing from the ether was annoying and it made most fights a question of simple attrition.

The level design was sub-par. The repeating caves are inexcusable and the high reliance on fetch quests involving randomly found Vendor Trash was annoying.

What really irked me was the story, though. Hawke is built up as a pivotal figure who changes everything around him, yet for the most part, he doesn't. People change things around him. Everything is reactive, nothing is proactive. Act I, he's a Lowtown thug scrounging money; Act II, he's a minor nobleman running errands for city leaders; Act III, he's the Champion, running errands for two mutually-aggressive faction leaders. And nowhere in this game does Hawke become a driving force. Everything simply happens around him. He is simply a spectator, not a pivotal figure. Also, the characters and factions? Mostly unlikable. The mages and Templars both turn out to be complete monsters, the city is filled with scum and thugs, and everything goes to hell, Hawke or not. The problem with this is that there is literally nothing worthwhile about any faction. They are all equally bad and therefore all equally unlikable. I couldn't get behind either faction and therefore ended up wondering "why should I care about these characters?" Whether I act diplomatically or harshly, nothing will change and the world is entirely worthless. You finish the game having accomplished nothing, having changed nothing, having involved yourself in nothing. Hawke is a spectator in Kirkwall just as I am a spectator playing this game, and this should never be the case in a Western RPG.
Some of what you're saying is true, but your claims that the various factions are too evil and therefor impossible to like would have more merit if you hadn't been complaining on the Headscratchers page that they weren't evil enough for you.
comment #8479 Jerrik 7th Jul 11
It was more a complaint that every faction was at exactly the same place on the gray scale (i.e. heavily tilted towards Black). There was no lighter shade of gray, therefore no really likeable faction and no faction that one could really get behind at all. Also, some comments were made by me months ago, or satirical in nature (the entire "Kill All Mages NAO!" folder). My opinions have changed.
comment #8480 CrimsonZephyr 7th Jul 11 (edited by: CrimsonZephyr)
If only people understood the difference between a bad story and their personal tastes.

You can't cause the world to stop existing just with a few dialogue choices. That doesn't make it a bad story or that it should never be in a western rpg, it just means it's different from those rpg universes that let you play god with the universe.

If you really have that much of a problem with gray characters, then I'd suggest avoiding... any rpg that tries to give you multiple factions to choose from. And some things in real life too.
comment #8481 eveil 7th Jul 11
There's a difference, sure, but your player character has very little influence over the story. There's playing god and then there's standing in place and watching a story unfold. Gray morality is fine, but gray implies that there is some benefit to choosing either side (gray being a mixture of white and black). But at the end, and really throughout the story, there wasn't. There were only negatives wrapped up in a plot that runs on stupidity. Oh, and Orsino? Zero character development. It's even lampshaded in-game where Fade!Feynriel doesn't know who the hell he is. Because, at that point, neither do we. There's also a difference between grey characters and a cast of characters who give you the urge to murder them every time they speak. I'm looking at you, Anders, Fenris, Isabela, and Merrill. Maybe Carver too. There really should have been an option to kill them immediately. Like killing Isabela as soon as you found out where the tome was, or Merrill once your business with Flemeth was over, or Anders once the Deep Roads Expedition was done. More roleplaying options, and multiple endings too.

And there were exactly two factions to choose from. There weren't multiple anti-mage factions, multiple pro-mage factions, just the absolute worst of both, with no development in how it got that way, outside of five minutes of exposition tops from Varric, events which we neither see nor have any part or any stake in. Which, by the way, form most of the story development. There are precisely three story options that decide how the story proceeds outside of cosmetic differences : 1.) Whether you took your sibling to the Deep Roads, 2.) Kill Arishok or let him go, 3.) Mage or Templar. That was it. The rest were meaningless. Everything, everything was railroaded.

I just felt like they decided to make a much narrower game, single human protagonist notwithstanding. Seriously, tell me why I should care about this cast of psychos, murderers, thugs, etc? Nothing my character does really influences what they do. Nothing that I do influences what happens to Kirkwall. Nothing matters. So why should the player care?
comment #8482 CrimsonZephyr 7th Jul 11 (edited by: CrimsonZephyr)
Then again, the average RPG does follow a fixed narrative, and your choices will be largely illusory in any case. What does making different choices do for you or for the story in Origins? Gets you a different army. Werewolves instead of elves. You still fight the archdemon at the end, you still save the world, because that's what the story says you do. Same with minor decisions in other games. Helping someone in Mass Effect, for example, does not change how the narrative proceeds in Mass Effect 2. It just results in someone sending you an email. It may not "matter," but it does make for a more complete experience.

If there's one issue I have with the game's major choices, I think the ending would have been more sensible if you had to fight a different final boss depending on your choice of faction. Orsino if you side with the Templars, Meredith if you side with the mages. As it is, there's little difference.

As for the rest...no accounting for taste, really. *shrug*
comment #8529 gfrequency 9th Jul 11
Look, some choices are illusory, but they're still choices. *shrug*

And yes, you go about defeating the Archdemon in DA:O, but what you do on the journey affects how Ferelden ends up afterward. Yes, the epilogue is mostly just a bunch of pictures with varying text, but it's better than Varric's closing narration, which says pretty much the same thing no matter which side you side with, the exception being Hawke becoming Viscount...and then getting out of dodge soon after...which makes it the same as the mage ending anyway.

The story just felt like an extended part 1. There was no closure.
comment #8530 CrimsonZephyr 9th Jul 11 (edited by: CrimsonZephyr)
Dragon Age II is more of a story-driven game rather than a role-playing one. It's a story about Hawke, not a story you make about Hawke. The choices are personal, not world-changing. You change personal lives, not Kirkwall.

You can't stop a civil war with a few dialogue choices. Although I'll admit I was mind-boggled by the fact that the ending is mostly the same no matter who you side with.

"There's also a difference between grey characters and a cast of characters who give you the urge to murder them every time they speak. I'm looking at you, Anders, Fenris, Isabela, and Merrill. Maybe Carver too. There really should have been an option to kill them immediately. Like killing Isabela as soon as you found out where the tome was, or Merrill once your business with Flemeth was over, or Anders once the Deep Roads Expedition was done. More roleplaying options, and multiple endings too. "

More freedom = Less story. What if the writers let you just ignore the Blight and run far away from it in the first game? The game gives you chances to kick them out of the party anyways, just not the option to kill them for no reason.

"And there were exactly two factions to choose from. There weren't multiple anti-mage factions, multiple pro-mage factions, just the absolute worst of both, with no development in how it got that way, outside of five minutes of exposition tops from Varric, events which we neither see nor have any part or any stake in."

There's extremists and moderates. That's pretty much how every conflict is. The extremists and moderates just didn't split up into two different factions.

"I just felt like they decided to make a much narrower game, single human protagonist notwithstanding. Seriously, tell me why I should care about this cast of psychos, murderers, thugs, etc? Nothing my character does really influences what they do. Nothing that I do influences what happens to Kirkwall. Nothing matters. So why should the player care? "

I could have sworn generalizing the actions of everyone based on a few was one of the reasons for the conflict in this game.
comment #8534 eveil 9th Jul 11
The problem is that Hawke is played up as a character who basically changed the world forever. Except he doesn't he doesn't do a damn thing that wouldn't have happened anyway, because he is a purely reactive character. Anders changes the world. Meredith changes the world. Not Hawke. Hawke does errands for inept city leaders and city guards who don't do their jobs. Perhaps it's because I absolutely despise the Villains Act Heroes React trope, but Hawke's actions don't impact the plot at all. The plot impacts Hawke's actions entirely.

And also, the complete eradication of the Templar rebels because they tried to take the Champion's friends hostage (which smacks of an Idiot Plot), or the complete lack of focus on the mage underground, rankled as well.

As for changing personal lives...yes okay, you're right. But answer why I should care about these personal lives? What stake do I have in changing any of them?
comment #8544 CrimsonZephyr 9th Jul 11 (edited by: CrimsonZephyr)
^Yeah, you have a point there. Although throughout the story, the woman was trying to blame Hawke for what happened and Varric was trying to defend him (Going to use male pronouns for Hawke). My take on it is that Hawke didn't change the world by having an influence on the revolt. It was killing Meredith after the revolt had started that sparked all of the revolts around the world (Even if you side with the templars).

"As for changing personal lives...yes okay, you're right. But answer why I should care about these personal lives? What stake do I have in changing any of them? "

I dunno. I generally don't care about anyone in most video games I play in anyways, including DAO and Baldur's Gate. Some people care, others just don't.
comment #8546 eveil 9th Jul 11
Killing Meredith sparked the revolt? That...doesn't make sense. Why would a pro-Templar man killing a stark raving mad Knight-Commander with the assistance of her own Templars be more of a catalyst than said Knight-Commander ordering an extermination against a Circle that was innocent of the crimes of a lone terrorist? Again, it boils down to reactive versus proactive. I know people don't like comparisons to the Warden, but his decisions have dramatic implications for the future of Ferelden, and are undertaken with a clear goal in mind. Hawke...either participates in mass-murder or in a rebellion, but is far from the focal point, and his actions don't really change much, nor does he really have a plan throughout the game.

Now, if they make DA 3 about Hawke again, and give the option of roleplaying him as a Knight In Sour Armor mage defender (or Annulment invoker if you prefer) who's disillusioned by the amount of legend that's heaped onto his name by the people and his peers, perhaps I can accept the "pivotal figure" angle as being unfinished, rather than absent. I know my brand of distaste is subjective, but I certainly don't think I'm alone in articulating it.
comment #8548 CrimsonZephyr 9th Jul 11 (edited by: CrimsonZephyr)
I meant that killing Meredith is what Varric's talking about in the "showed that templars can be defied" part. Although that's still really weird if you choose to side with the templars. You're right though, Meredith and Anders are the main spark of the rebellions (Which is what the woman at the end says anyways). Hawke's only important because he's a hero for either the mages or the templars. Most of his fame seems to come from his involvement with the Qunari.
comment #8549 eveil 9th Jul 11
Another problem is that the Qunari disappear too early. If, for example, the mage rebellion occurred on the eve of an imminent Qunari invasion (against which mages are the only viable defense), that would have been really compelling. I expected more interplay between the Qunari and Kirkwall, and it was sort of disappointing when they left, only for a half-baked third act to wrap up the story.

Also, it would have given Meredith a more compelling argument for wanting Orsino falling in line than "Mages are Always Chaotic Evil"
comment #8550 CrimsonZephyr 9th Jul 11 (edited by: CrimsonZephyr)
I agree with most of the criticism, but I think this is just because the game is basically a rushed, unfinished product. Orsino attacking you even if you side with the mages, for exemple, was added just because some executive thought they needed another boss. It would still be fair from DA:O in terms of character development or immersiviness, but the game experience would have been much more meaningful if we had some small changes, not that hard to execute:

1- Two final bosses, depending on the side you pick. And accordingly different endings. Possibly even the possibility of "Taking a Third Option" and just letting them work it themselves. Some people don't want to get into politics. Though, the reason why I wouldn't side with either faction if I had a choice wasn't this one, but mostly because of the lack of...

2- More development of the two factions. The way it is, the champion is forced to kill either one of the two sides (and both leaders either way) without them being sufficiently developed. There should be a more meaningful choice, like in other Bioware games. One way of doing just that would be to tell us more about both organizations (not in general terms, but their actual behavior in Kirkwall), so that we could do a more informed decision in the end.

A Note: Although I agree with most of the criticism, I DO like the NPC characters. Again, they could use more development (rushed game...) but they are overall people with realistic motivations, even if the story itself does not use this motivations as well or as frequently as I'd like.
comment #11960 Sligh 19th Dec 11
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