I Liked Dragon Age 2 and Other Gaming Heresies

[Note: Expect SPOILERS for Dragon Age 2[

This post is brought to you by the videos “Why the Elder Scrolls Isn’t Dumbing Down” and part 2, which is more of the same.

Recently I’ve been hacking away at the kind of PC RPGs that I used to play in the late 90s, starting with Divine Divinity. When I’m finished with DD (most awkward name ever, BTW) I’ll probably go back and play Arcanum and the games in the Dungeons and Dragons Anthology (particularly Planescape: Torment).

The one game I probably won’t be revisiting, though, is Icewind Dale, because I tried playing Icewind Dale, and, to be honest….

Icewind Dale isn’t very fun.

Don’t get me wrong, the environments in Icewind Dale are still really pretty (especially considering how long ago it was made) and the music, I found myself stopping in the middle of town because I was just like “HOLY SHIT WHAT IS THAT TRACK CALLED?! IT IS GORGEOUS.”

I just didn’t think it was very fun.

The reason I don’t think it was very fun is that I just don’t like games where I have to make my own adventuring party. I like running around recruiting characters with names and back stories and personality quirks, characters my MC can talk to and argue with, not a bunch of cardboard cutouts who are basically there because I really need their particular numbers in that particular stat.

Also, I don’t give a fuck about the “strategic combat” or micromanaging every one of my party members down to what colour socks they’re wearing. I don’t enjoy trying twenty different strategies just to find the one that doesn’t result in a Total Party Kill.

Contrast something like Icewind Dale with games like Arcanum and Planescape: Torment. Both of these games have been criticized for their combat systems (which is more or less “click an enemy, wait until they die”) but the thing is, I like both of them waaaaaay more than Icewind Dale. The reason I like both of them waaaaay more is that they focus more on story and character than hitting things until they die.

I’m just that sort of gamer.

Actually, I should say that my mad gaming skillz run all over the map in terms of games that I find difficult and games that i find easy.

Case in point: Devil May Cry 3 is not hard. I don’t care what anyone says about it being the hardest game in the series. It’s not hard.

The first time I played Devil May Cry, though, I had to load my brother’s New Game+ file to beat the very first boss.

Seriously, fucking Phantom kept pwning my ass.

And then the final boss was ridiculously easy.

On the other hand, I just read about someone who played the first Devil Survivor and couldn’t get past Wendigo when I’ve beaten the game about six times now.

Enough about the older games, though. Let’s talk about newer RPGs, specifically Dragon Age 2.

I liked Dragon Age 2.

This game has been taking a lot of heat from folks. Fans of the original Dragon Age: Origins (which I also liked) don’t like it because it’s been “dumbed down”. They criticize the same-y environments, the combat system, the characters are too angsty, the romance sidequests are stupid, etc. The old skool PC gamers, on the other hand, don’t like it because it’s one of those newfangled RPGS (AKA “not Baldur’s Gate”). You also have folks that hate it because EA sucks, or Mass Effect 3’s ending sucked. (To be honest, Mass Effect 3 killed any interest I may have had in Dragon Age 3).

You know what DA 2 didn’t have? A long sequence in the Fade that I, as a mage, should have been able to skip. I mean seriously, I train my whole life to resist demons, Y U NO LET ME DO MY MAGE THING, BIOWARE? (This is why I loved the “special actions” in DA 2, because I was able to use my class to my advantage.)

Anyways, let’s talk about Fenris, shall we?

This is Fenris:

In case you can’t tell from the pointy ears, Fenris is an elf. In the world of Dragon Age, elves are generally treated like crap. See, humans had this nasty habit of enslaving elves until Joan of Arc Andraste started a new religion and was like “NO ENSLAVING ELVES YO!” so a bunch of nations stopped treating elves like chattel (although they still treat them like second class citizens).

Notice I said “a bunch” because there are still some cultures in the game that still legally enslave elves and other humans, most notably in the Tevinter Imperium, which is basically run by mages. Fenris is an escaped slave of one of these Tevinter mages. The white lines on his face and neck are the result of lyrium (the stuff that you make magic potions out of) being burned onto his skin, because of this, he doesn’t like being touched as it causes him pain.

The other thing that you need to know about Fenris is that he hates mages.

Seriously, he hates mages, like, everything he says has to include at least one anti-mage comment.

My first character in Dragon Age 2 was a mage. She was very snarky, but generally friendly and willing to help everyone. Naturally, she butted heads with Fenris at every opportunity.

And then something amazing happened….

It’s the endgame, and my character and Fenris find themselves on opposite sides of the major conflict between Mages and Templars.

And then Fenris is all like “Sorry Templars, I’m siding with my friend.”

After all the condescension my Mage character got from Fenris, to have him abandon the Templars not only to help Hawke, but to protect the kind of people that he absolutely loathes with the burning passion of a thousand suns, was just….wow….

Don’t get me wrong, though, Dragon Age 2 isn’t a perfect game, and in some (but definitely not all) respects I prefer Dragon Age: Origins (Bann Teagan….*sighs*).

Oh, and I like Skyrim too. I like Skyrim and Oblivion and Morrowind and there were things I liked about each game and things I didn’t like. (Morrowind, your choppy combat makes me sad, Oblivion, your Oblivion gates all look the same, and Skyrim, all your random dragons ruin my day all the time (also, giants are overpowered).

Cry on, fanboys*, cry on.



*And it usually is the fanboys who cry the loudest, not that fangirls are incapable of poor behaviour.

6 thoughts on “I Liked Dragon Age 2 and Other Gaming Heresies

  1. I have some of the same issues with Dragon Age 2 that you mentioned above, but in the final poll what really killed the game for me was the utter hate-on the game had for mages. In particular the head mage at the end of the game kind of pissed me off. Here I had done all this work the whole game (through two characters because why not?) to try and bring some semblance of peace, and no matter what the guy is just going to make himself an abomination? I just..yeah, it didn’t sit well with me. It was the utter lack of impact on the endgame, I think that wrankled me more than anything.

    I loved the characters. There was a lot of heart, interesting dialogue, and I thought the sidequests were often funny. It’s just frustrating that the ending didn’t stick it for me.

    • The game’s utter hatred for mages is why I really liked how they handled Cullen (who seems to be the only templar around with his big boy panties on) especially considering what happens to him in Origins. Seriously though, I was going through the game and every time there was something involving a mage NPC I’d be all like “Let me guess, demon incoming, right? Yep, there it is.”

      I was very upset about Anders and Justice. I thought it was going to be awesome having the two of them together, but nooooo, Anders’ wangst screwed everything up. There’s a moment in Awakening where Justice goes on about how lyrium “sings” to him, and now that moment is ruined forever for me because I KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IN THE SEQUEL.

      I feel the same way about Mass Effect 3. Great characters, some great storytelling, but WTF IS UP WITH THAT ENDING?! I was sort of satisfied with the “Director’s Cut” content, but only sort of, because it was just a whole bunch of stupid after the game made me tear up three times, and I’m the type of person who tries REALLY HARD to save everyone that I possibly can.
      And then after all my hard work, all the endings are like kicks to the groin.

      • *nods* Yeah, Cullen was a good character. And I know exactly what you mean by the mage-demon thing. It’s like, shit, does ANY mage bother resisting any more? What exact point are you trying to hammer home with this? *facepalm*

        Oh man did Anders screw that up big time. I was genuinely shocked when he done fucked up the place though, considering it was my first run-through and I was romancing him as a female character. I was just staring going “The sonovobitch just used me!”

        Oh Gods. The Mass Effect 3 ending had me raging for months. Months. The DLC only sort of made that sting go away; it’s still a shit ending to me. A better shit ending than the original ME3 one, but not by far. I invest years into that game just to get punched in the groin. I enjoyed the years it spent hitting me in the heart, but the last 15 minutes…Man. *shakes head*
        Unfortunately I think I may just swear off everything Bioware/EA after that.

        • This is pretty much where I am concerning anything by EA/BioWare as well, and I hate having both Origin and Steam on my PC, also treating your customers like pirates (which is why I like GOG.com) horrible marketing campaigns, ugh….

          This just in, they’re making Mass Effect 4, one of the writers came out and said they’re working on it. Gods. Fucking. Dammit. Now I’m going to feel like my collection’s incomplete forever.

          Fortunately, I have Project Eternity, Torment: Tides of Numenera, and Divinity: Original Sin to look forward to (if you like old skool CRPGs, it’s a good year to be a fan), plus all the games I really should beat but haven’t yet….

          • 0.o Wait, how the hell…? Didn’t the writers spend all the time last year or the year previous explaining the series is totally wrapped up, sorry, that’s it? Oi.

            Ooh. I may have to check these out. Been a little while since I was on GOG, so it’ll be worth a shot to jump back on from the sounds of it.

            • They said (and I quote) that “Mass Effect 3 is the end of Shepard’s story” which implies that there are more stories left to tell.

              Mass Effect just won’t feel the same without Shepard, though. I dragged my FemShep through three games and a crappy ending, and now her story is just….over….

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