Let me put this out there first, I first picked up Dragon Age: Origins for my 360, it was fairly fun, if a bit clunky and overly difficult at parts, but I liked it, the characters were amazing and each felt like a real person. Then I grabbed DA:O for my laptop, and I was blown away, it was a totally different game and it managed to be even more fun than before.
I immediately went out and pre-ordered the sequel and I popped it into my 360 a few weeks later, and I was only mildly disappointed. Now, my disappointment doesn't really come from the game play, in fact the game play for DA 2 felt better on my 360 than DA:O had. I felt like I was doing something more often than not, even if it was just spamming on powers. My main issue was with the characters more than anything.
Most of the characters feel like the same personality super-imposed onto a background created by some Dungeon Master in his basement. Gone were the Leilianas and the Morrigans and the Alistairs that I had grown to enjoy so much, instead I was presented with Fenris; an elf warrior so broody his own teammates call him on it, Anders; an equally broody mage that was a dramatic change from the shameless womanizer and free spirit he was in Awakenings, Varric; the overly hairy, smart-ass dwarf that was honestly one of the only characters I enjoyed, Merril; who was so blah I can't even give you anything beyond naive elven bloodmage, Aveline; the amazon who was only slightly better than Merril, and Isabella; simply the team whore.
These characters were so boring and flat that I still haven't finished the damn game! Plus, what is up with all of them being bi? That was part of the charm from the last game, they each felt like real people! You can't go up to every woman or man and assume they're bi, cause they're probably not!
Overall this game cranked up the brood factor to eleven, and even with the occasional snarky comment from Varric or the hilarious conversations between him and Isabella, they weren't on par with a lot of Alistair's dialogue. Game play wise, the game is solid, not one of the best, but it's far from the worst, and when it comes to story, it seems generic. The characters are where this game falls flat on its face, so here's hoping they can fix this problem in the next one!
30th Oct 11
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31st Oct 11
That's because most of DAO's character conversational dialogue is exposition about the character's past.
31st Oct 11
31st Oct 11
(edited by: CrimsonZephyr)
31st Oct 11
Yet he spends the next six years as a respected nobleman, yet still has no currency among civilized types? He reports to the goddamn Viscount and yet we never see him interacting with the upper-crust Hightown types. As for the choice between two evils, its a shallow one. We meet only a few named characters from either faction, and even then, only at the tail end of the final act. The mage/templar conflict is the most important one in the game, yet we spend most of it fucking around with Qunari. As a result, Meredith and Orsino's characterizations are ridiculous shallow, and Orsino suddenly grabbing the evil ball at the very end makes little sense, and was apparently stuck in for the sake of a boss fight. Everything is just so contrived. Even if you refuse to help Anders, he still somehow manages to blow up the Chantry, for example. Even if you report him to Cullen, while Anders is standing right there.
The game should have shown more good mages, more good templars, more good government officials, more good Chantry members, more good guards, and etc. Claiming that not everyone is evil simply because Arianni is not a monster matters very little when all plot movers are either incompetent or monstrous. Showing that good and evil exist simultaneously would make it more apparent how misguided, say, Anders, Meredith, and the Arishok are. Show that there is good in these organizations that these extremists risk destroying if they go too far. Instead, we're show a city that is rotten in every way possible, filled with rotten-to-the-core organizations and mostly rotten people. Why are we the Champion of this place, again? Is there anything redeeming about Kirkwall?
The problem is that the game emphasizes that power lies in institutions but forces Hawke to be a solitary figure. There is never an option to leverage the influence Hawke has at any time in the game. What if Hawke wants to buy up a mercenary company, or join the mage underground, have a rival noble assassinated, or establish a spy network among the elite of K Irkwall
? You know, proactive things, instead of hanging around a shithole like the Hanged Man waiting for Isabela to recount how she was gangbanged by eight men until he's needed to round up a mage or defend some elves. Hawke is railroaded into being clueless hired muscle, rather than a forward-thinking member of the elite.
Here's the thing - when a story is so one-dimensionally cynical, with most of the characters being evil caricatures just meant to show how society and people are rotten to the core by their very nature, it is as unrealistic as an overly idealistic one. Simply tacking on boss fights and claiming moral greyness does not make for compelling characters.
And there's always a neutral option - simply leave. Nothing
really ties Hawke to Kirkwall after dear old mum passes away. Might as well grab the money, hire a ship, and go back to Ferelden, where at least some authority figures are both competent and reasonable, as opposed to being Caligulae to a man.
31st Oct 11
(edited by: CrimsonZephyr)
You may have actually found the reason I don't like the characters, I mean, I still think they're more flat than most of the enjoyable characters from DA:O; Alistair, Leiliana, Morrigan and Sten, but it was really just the constant brood factor and always listening to them whine about their goals. Don't get me wrong, the characters from DA:O had some issues too, like Leiliana was too much of a religious nut until you hardened her, and Morrigan was a cold bitch most of the time, but you did honestly understand why, BECAUSE of the all the back story included. And most of the other characters you listed Eveil, I didn't care for.
Another thing that bugged me was the basically what you pointed out Crimson, there was no real power behind being the Champion. DA:O gave you choices and lots of them, and you felt powerful, people mostly respected you for being a Gray Warden. There was some power behind the title and you really had so much autonomy.
And how do you out dark a game in which the main monsters brutally gang rape women until they either die or until they mutate into broodmothers? Seriously, that's some dark shit and yet DA 2 tries to over and over again with downer moment after downer moment, and there is never really any change to what happens other than the dialogue sometimes.
And what was with the lack of a good moral compass? Not a single good Templar or mage in the bunch, hell, one of the main quests with DA:O had you dealing with the corrupted mage's circle, and that was better handled than this game because you could see the point of both sides; there were evil mages just as there were cruel templars and there is the constant threat of possession amongst the mages, there drama because we'd seen good and evil in both sides. The Knight Commander in Ferelden was actually a good man, with him and the leader of the Mage's Circle having a respect for one another!
There was never really a good character anywhere in 2. Hawke was pretty much a sociopath, and all of his companions were to an extent either sociopaths, or zealots, and oftentimes both.
31st Oct 11
Reading through your review I find some sectors that I agree with, some I do not, and some that leave me to my thoughts for a while. However, considering that you actually took the time to give your own evaluation of the characters, I present to you a few counterpoints. Your judgement of the characters seems to lack a degree of understanding: as to why and what they think they seem to be doing.
Isabela's characteristics amounts to an insecurity from her past; her mother's abandonment, her desire for freedom and self-sufficiency. The pirate queen can't seem to throw herself into an affair trusting anyone but herself, and alienates those that come close to her by acting the way she does. Her beat-down demeanour and casual approach to things. I actually found Aveline's attitude rather acceptable, though; she acted a lot like the communal big sister of the story, even if she did seem to drift off in her role halfway through (Understandable: her pseudo-siblings are blasted adults, after all). Fenris has a right to complain, contrary to your statement, I suppose that your qualm was that you were probably fed up of listening to his problems (People vent; seeing as you probably only knew him for 24 hours at most real-time, you probably wouldn't feel the inclination to lend your shoulder) with the trauma the Mages had given him, and his... other issues. Anders is a complex character; from one point you see him as your right-do extremist, from the the other a sympathetic figure. Anders is cleansed of all morals: his black and white represents white for the mages and black for everyone else; he's a stalwart to his beliefs, wrong as he was in the end. To me each of the characters have a base personality or role, but are complex enough to act like real people, unstable or not. Each of them have their issues, their flaws (And what flaws they can be). Each of them, to me, act like what a normal person would, when thrust into a situation that Thedas seemed to present. They're regular joes forced into circumstance, and that's how I approach them.
I do, however, agree with Merrill's personality. For me she seems just that bit too naive. And stupidly stubborn.
I think the "Bi" thing is meant to appease the LBGT community, which seems to make everything go their way these days. Honestly, I can't go into an RPG without some LBGT R Per
complaining about the lack of a gay/transsexual/furry option. Honestly, you'd think in a world where 10 percent of the world into said category, they'd act like they were the minority instead of the majority. I'm all for a gay option, but honestly? Keep it realistic. Keep the numbers right.
31st Oct 11
31st Oct 11
(edited by: CrimsonZephyr)
31st Oct 11
I didn't really mind Aveline one way or another, she was alright, I didn't mind her so much, and some of her dialogue with Varric was the most enjoyable I'd heard in the game.
As to the whole LBGT community being to blame, I really have to disagree. 90% of my gay friends found the bi thing as stupid as I did, only the straights had wanted to romance everyone in DA:O.
And the thing that pisses me off about Anders is he was so much fun in Awakenings, he was hilarious and Justice was an interesting character. I blame the failure partly on the woman that took over Anders' character. She hadn't created him, she didn't understand him. What she basically did was take an established character and throw out everything we knew about him and made a new character with the same face.
As for Fenris, well, I liked the concept, and I often enjoyed listening to some of the things about Tevinter, but it was just the constant whining about being enslaved, it was like Isabela's slutty personality, always there and always in your face. And like you point out Crimson, most of his powers were similar to mage powers.
And did I come off as wanting a godlike warrior-king? If so I apologize, I really just meant that there was an actual respect behind being a Gray Warden, many NP Cs
wanted your opinion or help and it just felt like you were something important, given all you'd done up to that point. The Champion never felt like that, it was just that, more errand running. They should have renamed the game Dragon Age: Errand Boy. I got tired of it. I DA:O you were really your own boss, you could have gone to anyone of the areas at any time and any level and it would have changed the ease of things, either making your journey harder or easier. In this, it was just too damn linear.
31st Oct 11
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2nd Dec 11
So being able to save or ruin peoples' lives is flat and boring because it's not as important as blowing up the world?
2nd Dec 11
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2nd Dec 11
I never said that the saving the world was important to having a good plot. That's a pretty common pro-DA:II strawman used to hide the games other flaws. Like how the plot still isn't that good. You can in fact tell a smaller story that isn't about saving the world that is contained to a small area. I think Planescape
answered that question quite well. Besides, you're the one that suggested saving people was important - and when I pointed out that you actually don't save anyone, dodged the question with a different one.
DA:II is hurt by being the sequel to a game that WAS spread out over a large area and required saving the world in an epic storyline. However, had it used its smaller setting to create greater depth of character and a more complex plot, I think more people would have forgiven it. I won't, because the characters are weaker, Kirkwall is boring, and the plot is rushed and uneven. Furthermore, Bio Ware
sold this game as one where your choices are important. Hawke is presented in all of the marketing of the game as the most important character in the universe. The entire reason, we are told, that you had to play a pre-defined human character with the only differentiating choice being your job class, is because Hawke is supposed to be a narratively vital character. S/he's not. You can tell the entire story without Hawke and only miss some boring platitudes/out of place snarkiness. We're basically handed a pre-defined character, in which the game should be getting us to care about them through hir personality and actions, but doesn't actually give us a personality and expect the tiny pool of actions to let us inform hir. Compare to Commander Shepherd - you can't change the galaxy from the ground up, but it's very clear that the storyline being told is Shepherd's. The choices you make are typical of what Shepherd would have to make - Shepherd is a soldier first and foremost and s/he has a job to do. While Bio Ware
has certainly had to back down on the scope of importance of your choices, even within the pre-defined narrative it's obvious that if Shepherd were removed from the story, there would BE no story. And that's saying something considering that Hawke is handed a supporting cast of family members that tell you all about hir, and Shepherd's parents are so uninvolved in the plot that two of the three backstories involve Shepherd not even having them.
As for DA:O's story structure, all of the stories connected to each other. The overarching main story affects the events in all of the areas. The choices you are making are vital to the progression of several parts of society as well as the main story. Most of these were handwaved so DA:II could Ret Con
whatever it felt like of course (seriously, the last time I played a sequel with so much open contempt for it's better-received predecessor was Chrono Cross
). But on top of that, DA:O's big selling point was how deep you could get into the world. You had all of those origin stories because they let you see this world from so many different sides. No such luck in DA:II - you're stuck with Hawke's boring perspective. The game inexplicably jettisoned the biggest selling point of its predecessor and could not be bothered to ensure that its replacement was actually better.
Frankly, I simply see Varric's line as an admission that Hawke is a useless unimportant character despite everything we're told from the beginning and the role of the protagonist in the previous story. Were this game smart enough to be a deconstruction, such a sin could be forgiven. As it stands, it's painfully obvious the role of Hawke and all of its flaws are a combination of rushed production and overall bad game design.
DA:O had a lot of issues that needed to be fixed. None of them really are in DA:II, but plenty of things that DID work got thrown out for no good reason to chase some phantom audience that they felt was more valuable than the much larger one that bought the first game (and yes, DA:II has been slacking in sales enough for EA and Bio Ware
to have to promise they're going to fix them.)
3rd Dec 11
Besides, you're the one that suggested saving people was important - and when I pointed out that you actually don't save anyone, dodged the question with a different one.
You were talking about saving people in a civil war, while most of the people Hawke saves are in various sidequests.
DA:II is hurt by being the sequel to a game that WAS spread out over a large area and required saving the world in an epic storyline. However, had it used its smaller setting to create greater depth of character and a more complex plot, I think more people would have forgiven it. I won't, because the characters are weaker, Kirkwall is boring, and the plot is rushed and uneven.
If you were playing through the game with a bad impression, you're obviously not going to pay attention to the plot or characters as much as you did in DAO, and then think they're weaker as a result. The fact that you describe the aggressive option as "bloodthirsty monster" shows that.
We're basically handed a pre-defined character, in which the game should be getting us to care about them through hir personality and actions, but doesn't actually give us a personality and expect the tiny pool of actions to let us inform hir.
Hawke has the same personalities as the Warden and Shepherd.
And honestly, there wasn't much of a choice in either DAO or DAII. It's just that when you do get a choice in DAII, they affect individual lives rather than a group of people.
As for DA:O's story structure, all of the stories connected to each other. The overarching main story affects the events in all of the areas. The choices you are making are vital to the progression of several parts of society as well as the main story.
That's because the overarching plot was "save the world". If you don't save the world, they all die. Simple as that. And as I said, not having a plot that involves saving the world doesn't mean it's bad.
What happens in one area of the game has no effect on another, with the exception of Redcliffe, but the choice of how you deal with the demon has no effect on the main plot, and is hardly referenced to later. If they're lucky, they might get an epilogue slide that says they actually affected something outside of their own local area that you'll never ever see, but otherwise, no.
The entire reason, we are told, that you had to play a pre-defined human character with the only differentiating choice being your job class, is because Hawke is supposed to be a narratively vital character. S/he's not. You can tell the entire story without Hawke and only miss some boring platitudes/out of place snarkiness. We're basically handed a pre-defined character, in which the game should be getting us to care about them through hir personality and actions, but doesn't actually give us a personality and expect the tiny pool of actions to let us inform hir. Compare to Commander Shepherd - you can't change the galaxy from the ground up, but it's very clear that the storyline being told is Shepherd's. The choices you make are typical of what Shepherd would have to make - Shepherd is a soldier first and foremost and s/he has a job to do. While Bio Ware has certainly had to back down on the scope of importance of your choices, even within the pre-defined narrative it's obvious that if Shepherd were removed from the story, there would BE no story. And that's saying something considering that Hawke is handed a supporting cast of family members that tell you all about hir, and Shepherd's parents are so uninvolved in the plot that two of the three backstories involve Shepherd not even having them.
The story is more about Hawke's life and random adventures than Kirkwall.
Origins is one over-arching story with 4 filler stories inbetween. You can take out the fillers and the main story would still be untouched. The mages' tower could have been peaceful, the elves could have not been attacked by a werewolf, the dwarves may not have been in the middle of a political crisis, the village hiding the sacred ashes may not have been filled with raging psychopaths. But you don't want that, because you enjoy these stories on their own.
In DAII, pretty much every story is filler, including the main plot.
No such luck in DA:II - you're stuck with Hawke's boring perspective. The game inexplicably jettisoned the biggest selling point of its predecessor and could not be bothered to ensure that its replacement was actually better.
Too bad in DAO, you leave behind your life about an hour into the game and spend the rest of it being a Gray Warden. There are still references to your past once in a while, but you've effectively abandoned your old life.
Pre-defined narratives aren't bad. Linearity isn't bad. They just aren't what you wanted.
DA:O had a lot of issues that needed to be fixed. None of them really are in DA:II, but plenty of things that DID work got thrown out for no good reason to chase some phantom audience that they felt was more valuable than the much larger one that bought the first game (and yes, DA:II has been slacking in sales enough for EA and Bio Ware to have to promise they're going to fix them.)
I'll admit, from a business standpoint, you should never ever drastically alter a game series. Fans expect the same, but more, in sequels. Like Call of Duty.
That doesn't mean DAII is bad. That just means it's completely different from DAO, and not what fans of DAO wanted.
4th Dec 11
Stop putting words in my mouth. I pointed out plenty of times the problem with the game isn't that linearity=bad. The problem with the game is that it first fails as a good linear experience, and second that Bio Ware
marketed it as a less linear experience than it truly was, to the point of openly trash-talking their competition. Then there's the third matter that its predecessor was far more free-form in comparison and that its non-linearity was one of its selling points
. This one does not deliver a compelling reason to change that since it's failing to be such a strong linear experience that I would rather not go back to the previous game. It's not even a good "slice of life" storyline - if you want that, look to the Fallout
or The Elder Scrolls
titles for how to do that well.
And again, the game was not
sold or presented as "Hawke does stuff for seven years and then the game ends". I walked into this really trying to give it a chance and despite some initial misgivings about the motivations for the change of direction (i.e. changing stuff to appeal to the Call of Duty audience, which they openly admitted, as opposed to changing things to make a better game), trusted that the team could handle it since their first game was good, if not extremely rough in places. If I seem extremely bitter with the game, it's because I expected it to be a good game and was sorely disappointed. I don't buy games just to hate them - if I think a game will suck, I don't play it because I don't have time to waste with them.
Had DA:II actually succeeded
as a linear experience with a tightly pre-defined lead, I would not be ripping it so hard. As I said before, it's the worst aspects of a WRPG combined with the worst aspects of a JRPG - the linear experience fails, and the non-linear experience is pointless. Hawke is a lead without enough individual storyline or character to make compelling on hir own, but the player has so little control over Hawke that they cannot successfully make hir into their avatar or window into the story. I keep bringing up Shepherd because it's painfully obvious the Mass Effect
team knows how to write a character like this and the Dragon Age
team tried to copy the formula and expecting it to just work because the character has a name and predefined voiced dialog chosen from a wheel.
As for the sidequest characters, most of them get screwed over too, either by default (Kirkwall burns no matter what you do) or by the game showing you your inability to improve their lives - hence why you're just better off being a selfish snarker since you can definitely
succeed at that.
4th Dec 11
(edited by: Rebochan)
5th Dec 11
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