Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

Impressions: Dragon Age and that other Bioware game…

Posted by deckard47 on November 6, 2009

So I played an unhealthy amount of Dragon Age last night. I now have two characters, a female City Elf Warrior (dual wield, thinking of going Templar and Berserker for her) and a male human noble Rogue (dual wield backstab specialist, going assassin and dualist). I liked both origin stories, although I’m still unsure what I think about the City Elf origin. It was extremely unpleasant in its subject matter, and the way the bad things were portrayed (rape, murder, and racist oppression) were very abrupt and matter-of-fact. It was very George R. R. Martin, which I don’t really mean as a compliment (to Martin, that is). I’m not sure, as I said, how I feel about it. Another playthrough is in order before I come down hard on Bioware (if I come down hard).

I think he brutalizes his characters just to show how REAL his world is, and I got tired of watching him murder, rape, and abuse them after a few books. Bioware likes its characters more, and isn’t as willing to destroy them to keep their world Dark, which endears them to me. I like people who like the fictional worlds and people they create.

I also love Alistair and the Dog. Alistair is hilarious (the actor who plays him does a great job), and the Dog is really impressive in how it is animated and characterized. I already like it better than the Fable 2 dog. But back to the origin stories. It is obvious that Bioware was keen to create emotionally charged stories, and I think they succeeded. As a City Elf, I was perfectly happy to murder the man who had my friends murdered and raped, and my fiancée killed. My only complaint was that we didn’t get to know any of the elves in the alienage. As a noble, I met and got to know my whole family. Thus, when they were murdered while I slept, and their murderer escaped, I was ready to track him down and kill him. And then stupid Duncan whisks me off to fight the Blight. It made sense as a delaying tactic narratively, but I wanted to get straight to the revenge. I still don’t know what happened to my brother. Is he dead too?

The combat is uniformly excellent all of the skills have their place, as do the spells, potions, poisons, and various abilities. I’m still trying to figure out how to use traps well… I suspect I’m not being sneaky enough with them. I really enjoy playing as a back stabbing Rogue. It’s much more complex tactically than playing my fighter is. I can already tell that I want to play certain classes as certain races. Right now, it breaks down like this: Dalish Elf/Warrior Sword Shield, Dwarf Commoner/Ranger, Elven Mage. I will of course play all of the origins eventually, but I want to do it too much for fear of overplaying Ostragar and the Korcari Wilds.

Finally, I think I like the morality system better in this game: it doesn’t exist. Instead, you can make people in your party like you or not like you, just by doing things they would or would not like. So far I’m sucking up to everyone, but I might make my human be a little more picky. Also, I love Sten. I really need to talk to him more. It’s a huge game, and I love wandering about and fiddling with things, talking to my party members for hours (really, I spent an hour buttering up Morrigan, Alistair and Leliana), and fighting tough, exciting battles. Oh, and as expected, the lore is deep, well-written, and very fun to read. I’ve read every one, from the religious songs and histories of the chantry to the constantly-updated history of my doomed noble house.

So, after reading this, I hope you get the sense of how big and varied this game is. All of that was just me rambling about what I like. I could have talked about a dozen other things (gifts, armor set bonuses, shape changing!), and lauded those things just as much. It’s a great game, and it has its faults, but it’s the best RPG I’ve played since Mass Effect, and it’s great in a way that is very different from Mass Effect.

Which reminds me. Here is an absolutely amazing set of videos from Mass Effect 2. Things to note: Garrus, I love you! The dialogue and cutscenes look even better this time, as do the character’s reactions and expressions. I can’t wait for this to drop!

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7 Responses to “Impressions: Dragon Age and that other Bioware game…”

  1. Alex said

    Ugh, yeah, that is exactly why I stopped reading ASOIAF midway through the second book. I just don’t want to deal with that stuff when I’m trying to relax and read. If I want to read about brutality I will go on Google News =(

    I am doing my best to remain uninterested in Dragon Age, but you and everyone on Twitter are making it hard! … I shall resist!

    Last thing: GARRUS! What I found intriguing about the trailer was his comments about how Shepard hasn’t changed and it’s time to kick ass, just like old times, right? They are really going to have your choices carry over in small and big ways, and that is super exciting!

    • deckard47 said

      I just wish they’d change things and let you have romances with aliens who aren’t Asari. I really wanted to start romance with Garrus, Wrex, and Tali… Garrus especially. Oh well. Maybe the second one will be better with aliens.

      Sorry about the late response, my blog keeps listing your comments as spam even though you’re on the list of nice people 😛

  2. I was surprised that even though a lot of reviewers described playthroughs as a City Elf, I haven’t seen anybody else actually talk about the content in that origin story. I thought it was too much too soon, and I didn’t like that there’s an option to sell out your friend in that scenario. Maybe it’s good that binary morality systems are going out of style; hopefully that element won’t encourage players to adopt increasingly horrible choices. I suspect that the raped character may feature in the story later, so it’s possible that the game’s portrayal of the aftermath of rape may become more emotionally sophisticated, but for right now it seems like a shortcut to portraying the evil in the game world.

    I’m only about ten hours in, so I’m still piecing together the game’s lore, but gender features prominently in a lot of its mythology. I wish I was more familiar with the history of mythology, because then I might be able to determine if Bioware’s take is a reimagining with contemporary sensibilities or reinforces the gender bias so prevalent in western history. The game’s messianic lore, in particular, is refreshing, as both the male and female divinity figures have their pronouns capitalized–a fact I only discovered because I use subtitles. Leliana seems to be a Joan of Arc figure, and her engagement with the Chantry has feminist elements. I think I’ll have to finish the game before I try to draw any conclusions.

    • deckard47 said

      Yeah, it seems like whenever the plot goes somewhere violent (rape and abuse, most often), they’re telling a story _using_ that kind of violence as a storytelling method, not telling a story _about_ gendered violence or class oppression. As you say, they’re obviously bringing these people back later, so we will see how they handle it then.

      And I’ll second you on your mythology curiosity. I think there was a Robin Hood tale where Robin Hood was a woman, but I can’t remember where it was. There’s also the Dryden leader of the Grey Wardens, who is a woman. She sounds pretty amazing. I’m concerned about Morrigan/Flemyth. I think the conclusion to their plotline could be pretty iffy, depending on which way they take it.

  3. Brendan said

    Aaargh. I’m trying so hard to put off buying this until January (I am going overseas in four weeks and need to save as much as possible) but it is getting harder and harder to walk past EB without picking it up.

    Perhaps its is time to see what the copy of Tales of Vesperia that I bought impulsively then played for one hour (I know, I know) is worth on a trade in… as well as that old 360 20gb HDD… and *browses gaming shelf for cullable titles* hmmm… perhaps my brother’s copy of Gears of War?

    Either way, it is sounding more and more like I need this game now.

    So how do the Origins work? Does each character play a different story that all meld into a greater narrative once you play every POV, or is it more generally the same greater narrative but with varied opening circumstances to explain how the character got into that situation?

    • deckard47 said

      It’s a bit of both. The main story is the same, but they manage to make it feel and play much differently (from other character types) than you would thinks. Gender matters a bit, but race, and esp. origin, matter a lot. I can see wanting to play all of the origins, as both genders, if I had the time.

      The classes are more important for play, and factor in to the story less. BUT, they still matter with how people treat you. Mages will feel for you if you’re a mage, thieves will like you if you’re a thief, etc. It’s pretty amazing.

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