Alright, I think it’s time. *cracks knuckles*
I bought Dragon Age 2 on Origin, was on sale for like 4 dollars and I had a few Paypal bucks saved. I got very into it. This made me resent some so-called ‘Dragon Age fans’. Because, see, I was told things about this game that made me question whether or not to purchase it; even on sale, and now that I have bought it and played it through once to the end, I feel a bit ashamed for taking all that talk into consideration. I love this game. I may not love it as much as Origins, but I want to go ahead and ramble about all the things I thought were awesome and/or an improvement over Origins. Yes, internet: Some things in DA2 are better than in Origins. If you disagree with that too strongly, or if you’re not prepared to read a possibly long ramble about a computer game. You are excused and may leave the blog right now.
Before I go on about the great things in this game let me say that yes; some things bothered me right off the bat. Most of it has to do with aesthetic consistency. Some characters and some races were established to look a certain way in DA:O and in DA2 they were completely remodeled. As much as some people/races do look better such as the Qunari and well… Isabela (right? *nudge nudge*) they bear little to no resemblance to their DA:O counterparts. And the Darkspawn… For Andraste’s sake, what the fuck happened to the Darkspawn? They look like albino lizard people, and I’m being polite here. They were scary in the first game, the build up to the first time wandering out in the wilds to fight them demanded it, the cutscenes of the battle in Ostagar were blood chilling and when you thought you were getting used to them… Shrieks… And the Broodmother… I’ve had nightmare upon nightmare with the broodmother. *shivers*
Come Dragon Age 2 and we’re greeted by these dudes:
If you’re not very familiar with Origins, or haven’t played it in a long time, here’s DA:O darkspawn for comparison:
Now, Darkspawn haven’t played that great of a role in the game, but they are the very first thing you see, even before the game starts for real. I have to admit that the sight of those funny-looking lizardmen put me off a little bit, but not enough as to call the game horrible.
So, now… The Qunari. The Qunari in DA2 look badass, so much that there are mods for DA:O to make them look like that in the first game as well. They don’t look terrible, like the darkspawn; that’s not the problem. My issue is that one of the main companions in DA:O, Sten, was a Qunari, and… Well, if this is what Qunari look like then what the fuck was that guy?
I think it matters little though, in the great scheme of things, the remodels, so I got past my annoyance rather quickly. My friend was even so kind as to point out that the entire game is simply Varric telling a story, so the changes might as well just be him embellishing the story. I’ve accepted that premise and the remodels no longer bother me as much.
The main character’s voice… The Male Hawke’s voice to be precise… Annoyed me. He sounded a lot like a pretentious douchebag even while his mother was dying in his arms. The voice acting there bugged me, but I was able to get over it due to reasons I will list below.
With that out of the way let me go on about what I liked the most of all in DA2… There are a couple of things, not just one, some features I thought were actually a great improvement over Origins:
Friendship/Rivalry: The approval system in DA2 is so much better than in Origins. My first playthrough of Origins was a goddamn struggle to get enough approval out of Sten to unlock his personal quest, to max out approval to get him the ‘massive’ stat boost was a freaking chore. Of course, later I learned how to do the approval thing and fine, with gifts and a bit of management, it was certainly doable. However, if you want all your companions’ personal quests to unlock and gain them the maximum stat boosts, you’ll have to agree with them as much as possible. That means choosing your party not only based on battle strategy, but on possible approval gain/loss. That isn’t entirely different on DA2, but in DA2 you have a ‘rivalry path’ you can follow with a companion in which you disagree with their ideals and actions (often times for their own sake). Rivalry will not cause your companions to abandon you if you have enough of it during crucial points of the game, it gives perks to companions just as much as friendship and changes how the characters react to you during several moments in the game. It allows for some consistency with how you make choices for your character without worrying too much about your companions’ approval. If you follow similar choices throughout the entire course of the game you will always gain rivalry from some characters and friendship from others. If you gain as much of either one as possible you’ll be fine.
This was something that would’ve come in handy with characters like Morrigan in DA:O who would disapprove of you trying to act like a freaking human being. Similarly in DA2, Isabela will be annoyed if you are too helpful to people for no personal gain, but you always have the option of saying ‘screw that’ and just choosing to make her a rival. The main reason I like it though is that, much like some other changes, it gives more depth to the main character’s relationship with the companions in the sense that even if they disagree in things there is still respect and I dare say affection between rivaled characters. It’s a more realistic take on human relationships than “agree with me or I’ll try to stab you!”.
On that note:
Interactions/Gifting System: I’ve not played too far into DA:O Awakening yet, I didn’t have the chance to before my PC’s hd was replaced, but I think I saw glimpses of this in Awakening already. You can’t just bug your companions for dialogue every 3o seconds, dialogue is triggered by some items, events, and circumstances. While that is somewhat unrealistic in the sense that people traveling together won’t necessarily just walk in awkward silence until one of them sees something interesting or finds something the other might like, that’s also not what happens in DA2 either. The characters don’t walk in awkward silence, far from it, you just can’t stop and have hours long conversations in the middle of nowhere while off to find a group of bandits. That actually does make a lot of sense.
Some of those cutscene-triggering events is gift giving. The gifting system is DA:O was very bland. You just gained a pre-determined amount of approval with most gifts (a few of them were quest items, so that’s different). In DA2 you have one or two gifts for your companions and they don’t automatically respond well to them. Aveline for instance, you can give her ‘Ser Aveline’s Shield’ and she’ll mention her deceased husband’s shield which, in my game at least, got sold pretty much as soon as I found her a better one and how she wouldn’t feel right accepting this now. Depending on what you tell her she’ll either accept the gift and or refuse it and tell you to keep it. With Fenris, you may give him a book at one point. He will then reveal he doesn’t know how to read and you can offer to teach him. He will either be grateful or insulted by that depending on whether your character is on a friendship or rivalry path with him. In my case he was a bit of an asshole. Heh. Again; these things added a level of depth to the characters that wasn’t there before, in the sense of your companions being able to disagree and be upset with you and it being maybe a necessary part of the development of their personal storyline as well as their relationship with Hawke. For me, as a roleplayer, it made the game incredibly enjoyable.
Dialogue/Banter: Yes, more on companions. Bear with me. Above I mentioned how I was a bit irked by Male Hawke’s voice acting, but I was able to get over it. This is the reason why I was able to get over it; the characters having a voice meant that when choosing an option in a dialogue you’re not choosing the character’s exact line, you’re choosing a conversational path, what Hawke actually says may surprise and amuse you. What Hawke actually says will also depend on his/her personality being more witty, diplomatic or aggressive. That alone contributed greatly to my enjoyment playing this. Every interaction was just so entertaining.
The banter is not only awesome between characters such as Aveline and Isabella or Fenris and Varric, but because now Hawke has a voice that also means that there is only so much they can talk behind the main character’s back before it triggers a response. Especially when you’re in a relationship and it gets brought up. That’s great on my book. Because honestly some of the most awkward moments in Origins for me had to do with Leliana and Morrigan talking about my Warden when he was standing right there! >.<
Combat: I like it better. A lot better. Many of the skills, especially assassin skills are a lot more useful than in the first game and the animation… After playing enough hours with my rogue character I began to appreciate how much detail went into his movements. Now, I have two RP character who are dual-wielders: Jake and Crys. I did plenty of research on fighting styles, watched videos and read up on it and… The movements the rogue character makes fighting with two daggers are really very accurate. The attention to detail here really went unappreciated.
So there. These are some of the things I think Dragon Age 2 did right, if not better than Origins. I just don’t understand why this game was so hated the way it was. I mean, I understand that people probably bought it and went into it with Origins and Awakening in mind and what they got was something different, but… The game is not horrible. It’s a freaking awesome game and all the Dragon Age element are present one way or another. It’s a not a disgrace. It doesn’t warrant people telling me not to buy it even if it’s on sale and just pretend it never existed. It exists and it’s great! I had loads of fun playing it. I wouldn’t have if I had listened to these ‘fans’ and their misguided views. Thank God I’m my own person and make my own decisions or I would have never known the joys of playing Dragon Age 2.