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S'alright
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!
Here, let me try.

Allister - Whiny goody two-shoes who has a phobia of responsibility.

Leliana - Sexually active religious nutjob with repressed urges to spy and assassinate people again.

Morrigan - Evil witch who disapproves of your actions.

Zevran - Team whore.

Sten - The serious religious stoic guy.

Shale and Oghren - 95% comedic relief, 5% anything else.

Wynne - Grandma.

Dog - Hides dead animals in women's unmentionables.
comment #11138 eveil 30th Oct 11
Oh please, everything that concerns storytelling was and imrpovement in DA 2, and that includes characters. As Eveil already demonstrated, any character can be reduced to something that sounds two dimensional with minimal effort.

How about doing the reverse? Merrill, for example, is a very driven individual with a deep sense of pride about her clan and it's history and she will go to any lengths to restore that history. She has full confidence in her own abilities, which others percieve as her being naive, but she fully realises the dangers of what she is doing and the conflict between her and Marethari stems form the Keeper refusing to acknowledge Merrills abilities. The keeper's death resulted from that same lack of faith. She only died because she didn't think Merrill could handle it. The area where Merrill's naivete is genuine would be human interaction, which she knows nothing about. This gives her a certain charm and a good few laughs to be had.

But hey, if you choose to just descirbe her as "blah" then that works too.
comment #11144 McSomeguy 30th Oct 11
The problem with DA 2's characters isn't really their depth, but their likeability, which takes a big hit because unlike DAO, every party member has one issue that they take Up To Eleven. Anders wants mage freedom, Fenris wants mages locked up, Aveline is about law and order, Merrill is about Dalish resurgence, Isabela is about whoring, Varric is about Varric, Sebastian is about the Chantry. This is all they talk about, and because Bio Ware needed to ratchet up the angst, each one of them, save Varric, approaches their chosen passions with next to no subtlety. Most of these characters are extremists, and because few players presumably suffer from Black And White Insanity, it becomes hard to relate to these characters because they are one-note caricatures built around viewpoints, rather than viewpoints being a part of their character.

Most of Anders' banter is about mages. Same with Fenris, except the other side. How many times does Aveline have to remind me that she is Captain of the Guard? Does Sebastian show interest in topics other than the Chantry? Does Carver do anything besides grouse about being the middle child? Oh, look! More sexual innuendo from Isabela. That's original. I mean, seriously, it's irritating.
comment #11149 CrimsonZephyr 31st Oct 11
That's because most of DAO's character conversational dialogue is exposition about the character's past.
comment #11151 eveil 31st Oct 11
Also, the Gray And Gray Morality is emphasized by fans, but I don't see it. It's pretty much Evil Versus Evil straight from the start, at least from the perception of the player, because the game goes out of its way to show each faction as morally bankrupt to ludicrous levels. Meredith is an extremist and an aspiring butcher. Orsino not only participates in illegal magic, he shelters serial killers in a cowardly attempt to avoid backlash, the Arishok is a religious zealot who is a monster beneath the stoicism, the Viscount is a weak and ineffectual ruler who can't even keep his own son in line, Anders is an abomination who helps a grand total of three people while killing hundreds. None of these characters have any strengths, nothing that makes you respect them in the slightest, and most people in Kirkwall are just as corrupt, just as slimy as the leaders that represent them. Combined with your utterly insane party, is it any wonder that the first question I asked to myself after seeing the endgame was why Anders couldn't have taken out the entire city with that bomb. No one in Kirkwall is worth saving, why bother? The problem is that, in trying to emphasize the flaws of each faction, very little effort went into showing strengths. There was nothing redeeming about any of these people, not in the slightest, not from the moment they first appear, and when they do have a moment of nobility, its proven to be largely insincere.

And sure, you could cite random one-off characters like Ella the mage, or Feynriel, or any other random NPC who you assist in one quest, but has no plot relevance. Perhaps this was to show Hawke as an everyday hero. If true, I'm baffled by it, because pretty much everything about the game portrays Hawke as a Young Conqueror. Instead, the game railroads you into being a bumbling hired gun who has no knowledge of anything other than how to kill things.
comment #11152 CrimsonZephyr 31st Oct 11 (edited by: CrimsonZephyr)
@Crimson Zephyr

Why such disdain for sidequests? They show just what you are complaining to have never seen - good people. The game was intended to end up in a choice between two evils where the player should decide the lesser one, which is why Cleric Elthina had to die. No neutral options here. Hawke spent the first year in Kirkwall working with unsavory types and ended up with the appropriate contacts from that. Someone who does what Hawke does has no real traffic with law abiding citizens which is why we don't get to see all that many.

Also, you say that Kirkwall is entirely filled with scum who should all die yet you call the Arishok a monster although he said the exact same thing. Hypocracy much?
comment #11153 McSomeguy 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.
comment #11154 CrimsonZephyr 31st Oct 11 (edited by: CrimsonZephyr)
@Crimson

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.

comment #11157 Blackheart91 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.
comment #11158 antiassasinguy 31st Oct 11
And my complaint about Hawke's powerlessness isn't about the lack of a godlike warrior-king figure who bashes peoples' brains in until they see things their way. I'm talking about ways to utilize power. Hawke becoming Champion should have been an awesome moment. Instead, we get a timeskip and...right, back to running errands for insane city leaders. So, even after Hawke becomes the most important person in the city after, maybe, Meredith, he still doesn't have the sense to leverage that? Making a game where there is nothing exceptional about the hero whatsoever gets old very fast.

Anders strikes me as an idiot, plain and simple. He gets possessed by a spirit, despite being told straight up in Awakening that demons could arise from spirits, he starts a rebellion with no political contacts or any kind of method for accounting for political fallout, and decides to speak for all mages and send them into rebellion. Honestly, he should have been skinned alive long ago for being an abomination, yet somehow we are supposed to accept that this clearly insane individual is a respected member of the party? What's stopping Hawke from siccing a brigade of Templars on his ass. There is literally nothing he does right. He just acts like a Jerkass and mages would likely benefit from his death.

Fenris is just a hypocrite. Most arguments against mages would easily apply to him, being the Super Soldier that he is.

Isabela's promiscuity wears thin very quickly as well. We get it, she's a rogue and she likes sex. As if we couldn't tell from the foot of exposed cleavage or the constant panty shots. And she, like so many other people, can get away scot-free for her crimes. A particularly egregious case of railroading is forcing her to go to the Arishok, or setting her free. You can't have her hanged later for her role in nearly destroying Kirkwall. No, either she goes with the Arishok, or she remains free.

Merrill, Idiot Houdini extraordinaire. She does crazy shit, and everyone around her is left picking the pieces.
comment #11159 CrimsonZephyr 31st Oct 11 (edited by: CrimsonZephyr)
@Crimson Zephyr I can agree that having some ways to excercise Hawke's social status would have been nice, but I don't agree that the game was not enjoyable without that.

As much as I hated Anders, I can't say that he was a badly written character. Having the option to kill him yourself speaks volumes for his intended purpose in the plot.

Fenris is a broken man filled with so much rage that he simply cannot see passed the dangers that mages present, and considering what he's been through that's perfectly understandable.

What would the purpose of hanging Isabela be, exactly? If you actually let the Arishok take her then that's pretty much a death sentence anyway.

Merril does what she believes to be right, and has never had any reason to believe otherwise. The only one who would have had to pick up the pieces was Hawke at the end, and Merril knew things might go wrong which is why she asked for Hawke's help. Marethari never believed that Merrill can succeed, and that's what got her killed. If she would have just let Merrill do her thing then the worst case scenario was that Hawke kills Merril, and risking her own life is something that she should be entitled to.
comment #11163 McSomeguy 31st Oct 11
@Anti 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.
comment #11164 Blackheart91 31st Oct 11
Honestly, he should have been skinned alive long ago for being an abomination, yet somehow we are supposed to accept that this clearly insane individual is a respected member of the party?

You're pissed off at him for blowing up the chantry, so you reinterpret all of his actions previous to that. Try again.

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.

Different =/= Bad. I know it's shocking, but some people change, especially when they merge with a crazy spirit that's constantly whispering thoughts to you about killing things.

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.

If you want to simplify every character and make them sound 2-dimensional in DAII, I can do the same for DAO. Which I already did.

Just because you weren't paying attention to their personalities doesn't mean they don't have one.

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.

No, that's mostly an illusion.

The game follows a 3 act format: Introduction -> Mid-game Errand-running -> Climax. The mid-game only feels more non-linear because it's split up into 4-5 disjointed sections, and involves traveling to completely different settings.

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.

DAO makes you into a Mary Sue.

"I didn't do anything yet and now people suddenly ask me to decide the fate of their entire race because I have the Grey Warden badge."
comment #11165 eveil 31st Oct 11
Sorry, I'm gonna have to call you on the "Everyone shouldn't be bi!" thing. The entire reason you make a game with romance options is to let the player live out their fantasies. Suggesting that LGBT players shouldn't be allowed to do this because you think it's not realistic is quite silly when a heterosexual player can easily charm, say, the hot witch who hates people in like ten minutes.

My LGBT friends were quite happy that they weren't being shut out for once like they are in 99.9% of the rest of games that either pretend they don't exist or include a token gay option so they'll stop pointing out the severe lack of acknowledgement of gay gamers in an industry that still believes their entire audience is 18-24 year old white heterosexual males. Actually, the real irony here is that Bio Ware pushed DA:II so hard into the faces of the Call of Duty crowd that fits that exact demographic, yet included a party member who hits on a dude and this cannot be skipped.

Beyond that, I thought your review was dead on. You can't justify the change Anders had with a simple hand wave. Awakenings introduced him as a completely different character and did nothing to set up that he was a completely different person in the sequel. You can't just say "But then the spirit possessed him! WOOOOO!" and have that count as Character Development. Had Anders started out the type of person he was in Awakenings and shifted into the person he is by the end of DA:II, I think a lot less people would have complained.

Also, Hawke has got to be the worst MC hands down. It's all the worst aspects of a WRPG hero smashed into the worst aspects of a JRPG hero - you have no characterization, but since the game forces Hawke's storyline onto you, you can't define Hawke's personality or deeds in the slightest. Compare Mass Effect, which gives you a well-defined main character with a meaningful history, but lets the player guide the kind of decisions Shepherd would make (and consequently, learn more about Shepherd). And hell, even Mass Effect let you pick Shepherd's freaking backstory.
comment #11637 Rebochan 29th Nov 11
@Rebochan

Uhh, you CAN define Hawke's sotryline. That's the only reason any game ever has dialogue options in it. And Hawke's backstory is explained to you no worse than it was in Mass Effect(granted, that's not the best example of good backstory but still).
comment #11639 McSomeguy 30th Nov 11
you have no characterization, but since the game forces Hawke's storyline onto you, you can't define Hawke's personality or deeds in the slightest.

Never use the diplomatic "I'm a polite wuss" option for your dialogue choices. Always choose either the sarcastic sociopath or the badass option.
comment #11651 eveil 1st Dec 11
Hawke's storyline is ungodly flat. The only actions you can really take are how many people s/he will sleep with before the game ends, and they still have no effect on the endgame. You get a tiny amount of meaningless choices that affect small things.

Compare to Origins where you could blow up half of Ferelden.

Frankly, seeing how Origins banked so hard in its marketing and design on the customization of your character and how it was truly meaningful to have a race and a background, having Hawke is already a huge blow. It could have been overcome if just focusing on a single human (wo)man meant deeper storylines, but no. You can play Hawke as a sarcasm spouting joke machine, but there's not actually a personality there.
comment #11686 Rebochan 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?
comment #11687 eveil 2nd Dec 11
But you CAN'T save anyone - or really ruin them, for that matter. Maybe one or two people, if you're lucky. Most of them get screwed by the sidequest story arcs or the main plot arc that has Kirkwall burn in civil war. You cannot change any events no matter how hard you try. And if you're a sarcastic sociopath or a bloodthirsty monster, you're just going along with the plot as is.

Yes, DA:O still requires the royal succession be resolved and the dragon defeated. But they still gave you a great deal of options to do so and acknowledged within the game that these are significantly unique.

DA:II ends with you fighting the same two people and picking a side purely to determine the order of your boss fights.

DA:II talks a huge game about how important Hawke is, but removing Hawke from the story would change none of the events. Everyone in this story is SCREWED.
comment #11691 Rebochan 2nd Dec 11
Having a plot that doesn't revolve around saving the world or changing societies =/= Bad story.

Yes, DA:O still requires the royal succession be resolved and the dragon defeated. But they still gave you a great deal of options to do so and acknowledged within the game that these are significantly unique.

Other than choosing Loghain or Alistair, and then choosing whether to do Morrigan's ritual, all of the decisions you make are isolated in their own little area and only affect a specific group rather than changing anything in the main plot. And you don't even get to see the main effects until the epilogue slideshow.

DAII's story structure is completely different. It actually has 3 separate main stories, and about a million unconnected side stories. Origins had 1 main story, about 5 unconnected longer side stories, and a million side quests in each.

DA:II ends with you fighting the same two people and picking a side purely to determine the order of your boss fights.

No, you still fight the bosses in the same order. Choosing mages has Orsino become depressed in the middle of the fight, apparently because his side is currently winning, transforms, and then attack you rather than go after the templars. I'm guessing Orsino doesn't like living. Choosing templars has Meredith go "We won the battle, but I feel like picking a fight with you", and then attack you."

That choice was rather lame.

DA:II talks a huge game about how important Hawke is, but removing Hawke from the story would change none of the events. Everyone in this story is SCREWED.

You know, there's a reason why Varric spends the entire game telling that woman "Quit blaming Hawke for what happened in the story".
comment #11693 eveil 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.)
comment #11721 Rebochan 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.
comment #11727 eveil 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.
comment #11743 Rebochan 4th Dec 11 (edited by: Rebochan)
Sorry, but not liking the story doesn't mean the story is bad. It just means you don't like it. There's plenty of other people who actually liked the story.

And I already admitted that Dragon Age 2 was aiming for the wrong target audience.
comment #11744 eveil 5th Dec 11
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