When you press a button, something disappointing has to happen.

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Marokai

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Edited By Marokai
Hop on over to Origin™ to have a grand old time! Exclusively on Origin™!
Hop on over to Origin™ to have a grand old time! Exclusively on Origin™!

Note: I wrote about playing Dragon Age: Origins awhile back, if you're curious. Also, spoilers. Duh.

Upon realizing the download size for Dragon Age 2 from Origin is only a smidge over 5GB, I knew to set my expectations accordingly. Who hasn't heard something bad about this game by now? Dragon Age 2 is probably the go-to example for the beginning of Bioware's slide in quality over the last few years, and I remember all the coverage surrounding it at the time of its release in March 2011 being pretty gnarly.

Still, when a series hooks you, there's always the impulse the see it through to the end, and Dragon Age: Origins definitely hooked me on its dark fantasy world. Besides, it's still Bioware! I wasn't about to just give up now. Dragon Age 2 being a mere five dollars on an Amazon sale or whatever was all the extra push I needed to finally dive into one of the most controversial releases of the last generation and find out what all the fuss was about myself.

I feel like noting beforehand that Origin is... well, sort of lame. As a game client, it functions, but the lack of some features seems baffling. For instance, Origin has no client-wide screenshot function. How the hell does that happen? As a person that enjoys taking a lot of screenshots, particularly for integrating them into any sort of writing, it's mystifying why one of Steam's best features, and presumably one of its simplest, would go missing for this long. Origin also has had the nasty habit of mixing up my account information for no reason, on more than one occasion mixing around my country of residence (Uh, the United States? It's not rocket science) with random others. Maybe these are nitpicks, but it's a strange series of small issues that make me sort of cock my head at Origin and wonder what it's doing from time to time. Thankfully, however, Dragon Age 2 has a game-level screenshot function, as any game should.

So there I was, all settled in and ready for a Bioware RPG experience like any other good Bioware RPG experience. I was disappointed to find out that Dragon Age 2 plateaus pretty early on.

Dragon Age 2 kicks off nicely, and plays better, but it sort of gets stuck in second gear.

Mage Hawke is much more satisfying to play as than Rogue Warden.
Mage Hawke is much more satisfying to play as than Rogue Warden.

For the first few hours I was actually incredibly optimistic about how I was going to come away from Dragon Age 2. The combat feels so much more satisfying to actually play, for one thing. I'm sympathetic to the sort of strategic, placement-focused combat of Origins, but most of those encounters felt pretty unwieldy and I never really felt like I had a good grasp of the action. On top of that, many of the encounters in Origins felt decidedly unfair; enemies would start in positions that completely surrounded you and one wrong move led to you dying almost immediately.

I can't sit here and pretend that Dragon Age 2's combat is anything close to as difficult. I died far less than Origins, barely had to use potions for most of the game, and the need for a dedicated healer was less pronounced. Having no friendly fire means that you barely need to put any thought into area of effect attacks, but honestly, that wasn't really much fun in Origins to begin with. The addition of the "Quick Heal" and "Quick Mana" buttons get rid of the need to have five different kinds of potions on your hotbar, and it's still useful to pause the action on a regular basis, so the need for thinking ahead hasn't been completely squashed. I especially liked the snappy animations that come to really hard stops at the end of each attack. It's a nice style, and makes it feel like attacks have weight and impact.

Let me be clear, though: The way the enemies literally spawn out of nowhere is some hot bullshit. Dragon Age 2 throws way too much waves of trash mobs at you from out of thin air, and there's way too much combat for the game's own good. There were plenty of times where I was simply left exhausted by the amount of trash combat that was at no point challenging, at no point compelling, and just wanted to finish the damn quest. DA2's combat is a mixed bag, for sure, but in the end I feel like it's more good than bad. The UI, in particular, is leaps and bounds ahead of Origins in both aesthetic and function.

The introduction to the events at Kirkwall are interesting, but don't stay fresh for long.
The introduction to the events at Kirkwall are interesting, but don't stay fresh for long.

Most of the game takes place in Kirkwall, a city in the Free Marches, a confederation of free city-states to the North of Ferelden, with your family having fled the Blight. There are a lot of call backs to the first game, which are nice, such as your family's home having been in Lothering, one of the earliest towns to get destroyed by the Blight in Origins, and running into Flemeth in the game's combat prologue, but these callbacks don't all feel like they belong. Anyway, being refugees, and learning your dirtbag uncle sold away everything your family used to own in Kirkwall, Hawke, a sibling, and Aveline, a solider in service to the former King of Ferelden, are forced into indentured servitude for a year as a way to get into the city and make a new home for themselves.

Then there's a jump in the narrative roughly a year forward in time and everyone's out of indentured servitude, presto-magico!

Kirkwall is an alright setting, as far as RPG settings go. The beginnings of the story are simple and straightforward - establish a home and reputation in this new, unfamiliar setting - and Bioware still has this wonderful effect on me where I just want to listen to every bit of every conversation. Other RPGs are doing this pretty well these days, but nothing has quite the je ne sais quoi of a Bioware conversation tree that makes me react with happiness whenever I click on an NPC and it goes into a conversation. The voice acting is pretty solid, the credits revealing a surprisingly large voice cast that should put any Bethesda game to shame. The problem is that Dragon Age 2 is writing a lot of checks it can't cash. In fact, let's just run down the list.

Act 1 is, in a word, boring. The environments do absolutely nothing to make up for this.

This is the Wounded Coast. You'll be seeing this exact zone a million times.
This is the Wounded Coast. You'll be seeing this exact zone a million times.

The over-arching goal of Act 1 is "collect 50 gold so that you can go on an expedition into the Deep Roads, because you want to get rich." What this means in practice is that you're going to be doing sidequests pretty much entirely for around eight hours or so, perhaps more, depending on how thorough you are. There's some honeymoon period here with going through the various environments for the first time, and being introduced to the internal politics of Kirkwall and its characters, but by and large, very little of this portion of the game is memorable. You're basically just the Kirkwall nanny, helping out random people for no reason and mindlessly trying to collect as much money as possible. There's really no other way to describe what this portion of the game is except as padding.

I'm not really playing around when I say Act 1 is utterly forgettable. I played through this game all within the span of the last week and I've completely forgotten almost anything that happened during it.

The various zones you'll be spending time in don't do much to make up for this repetitive content, either, since Dragon Age 2 has about three or four unique environmental designs. There's "Cave"! Generic craggy coastline! The Deep Roads that you see like three times! The same portions of Darktown over and over again! Dragon Age 2 recycles its zones with such frequency it's sort of pitiful, and the easiest indicator this game did not get the development time that it deserved. Everything seems to happen in these exact same places. How many times do I need to investigate a shady meeting in the Darktown sewers? Why does so much bullshit happen in the same two spots of The Wounded Coast? There's also like one mansion design for all the houses in Kirkwall. There are only so many times you can enter the exact same cave environment, whether it be backwards, forwards, or sideways, before you're sick of it. Bioware should be better than this.

The constant jumping forward in time adds nothing to the story and strains credulity.

Sure, have sex with me, and then don't talk about it FOR THREE YEARS.
Sure, have sex with me, and then don't talk about it FOR THREE YEARS.

On the one hand I guess I understand the desire to create a story that spans years and years, but on the other hand, it takes some real storytelling balls to try and write a years-long epic, and Dragon Age 2 does not pull it off. Throughout the game, time will just randomly jump forward, narrated in the background by Varric and Cassandra, and then continue right where it left off as if almost no time had actually passed. After arriving in Kirkwall, the story moves a year forward in time. At the end of Act 1, the story moves ahead three years in time, and at the end of Act 2, the narrative jumps ahead three more years.

To pull this off, you need to do a convincing job of showing how the people of the city, and the city itself, are really changing and evolving over time. You need to show events moving even without seeing them, to show that the world lives on even without your direct involvement, and each Act needs to be relatively self-contained. If events aren't largely contained within each individual Act, the progression of events becomes nonsensical, progressing super fast in the few days or weeks you're in control of Hawke and then going on ice completely, never moving forward at all, until years ahead in time.

The year between the prologue and Act 1 do this just fine. The jump in time is acceptable here, because nothing really major is actually happening. You need to work your way up the social ladder and secure a safe place for your family, working your ass off. Nothing is really lost in the transition because there's not any major plot threads in the background that inexplicably don't progress until you're back in control. The time jumps between Act 1 and 2, and Act 2 and 3, fail at being convincing for this reason. Numerous plot threads are started in Act 1, such as a murder mystery investigation where numerous women are falling victim to a serial killer, that just abruptly dead-end, only to be picked up against with great urgency in Act 2, as if nothing had happened in between those two points. Several women dying under suspicious circumstances would go completely unnoticed for three years? It would take three years for a single lead to pop up about it?

How that particular plot ends is also terrible. The serial killer abducts, and kills, your mother in some bizarre scheme to rebuild his wife with various female body parts. The fact that there's almost no time dedicated to this story before it comes to this point, and then is so quickly forgotten, is strange. The main character's mother dies and it's barely talked about. Fenris - my romantic interest of choice - shows up to offer a sympathetic line or two and then it's back to investigating the Qunari, or whatever.

Awfully flirty for someone who gets shy for 36 months after fucking me.
Awfully flirty for someone who gets shy for 36 months after fucking me.

Kirkwall never really changes much over the course of the near-decade, either, which is especially weird considering all that actually happens to it. In Act 2 the Qunari launch an all-out assault on the city and most of Kirkwall is suddenly up in flames, but nope, jump three years ahead in time and it's like nothing happened. Fable did a better job, in all three main games, of portraying a growing and changing world over the course of their stories than Dragon Age 2.

Some companion interactions work in all of this, and some don't. Aveline becomes attracted to, and subsequently marries a fellow guardsman through the years that pass, and this is believable, and even cute. It makes sense that many of the companions would build lives of their own, and making companions whose lives don't completely revolve around the main character is an interesting experiment for Bioware. The romances for Hawke, however, don't make much sense so stretched out over that long of a timeframe. Fenris and I fuck, and then time jumps forward three years, and he's all "You know, we never talked about that night between us three years ago." Really? A relationship develops so suddenly and then goes into stasis for three years for no good reason? I just don't buy it. In general, the romantic relationship felt incredibly distant.

What's so sad about the time jumps is that they really weren't even necessary to sell the events of the story. The tension between the mages and the Templars, and the ensuing rebellions against Knight-Commander Meredith could've easily been sold over the course or weeks or months. The decision to make it years only reinforces my pre-existing belief that there was originally supposed to be so much more story here than there actually was in the end.

Act 3 is a choice between psychopaths in an unnecessary sea of blood mages. Also Anders.

Zevran, who beat you with the ugly stick? Also, why are you here?
Zevran, who beat you with the ugly stick? Also, why are you here?

Dragon Age 2 suffers from a lack of real narrative focus until the final Act. The Qunari plotline comes to a sort of half-assed conclusion before being tossed aside and more or less forgotten. King Alistair (should he be the King in your story, I suppose) appears at a point in the story, just to basically say hello before peacing the fuck out. There are too many sections where Hawke spends most of his time collecting lost knickknacks only to turn them in to a reaction of bemusement. There are more callbacks to Origins than there should be, and they feel more like continuity porn than convincing storytelling.

Act 3, however, is when the game finally decided to singularly focus on the plot of the Templars vs. Mage conflict. At first blush I was relieved by this, because I was actually genuinely interested in seeing how that plot would play out, given that the game devotes so much time to setting up this conflict it was giving me blue balls by the end, but the way its told within the context of the game is so contrived. The need for the game to present you with some sort of "now choose a side!" scenes means the writing needs to effectively write both sides as equally valid or flawed, and the writing fails miserably at this, making Meredith out to be a psychopath, and almost every rebel mage you come across evil for no discernible reasons.

Toward the end of Act 3 I'm sent to investigate a meeting of Templars and mages that are sympathetic to each other, working together to take down Meredith so there can be peace in Kirkwall, but when I get there, one of the mages goes nuts and wanted to kill me out of nowhere. It makes no sense at all! It's just a lame way to try and create tension over who you side with. Why did that have to happen? The idea of sympathetic Templars working with mages to reform the system makes so much sense and is such a believable way for the plot to progress, but then it all goes to hell just for the sake of drama. There's a really interesting story here, but it's hamstrung by the need of the game to try and make both sides out to be flawed so that you have a bevy of choices at the end, and the only way Bioware knows how to make either side flawed is to make them homicidal maniacs. I mean, for the love of cock, why are there so many blood mages in this universe? Even the most prominent mage in the story that is standing up to the Templars, First-Enchanter Orsino, decides to become a demon at the end, because hey, gotta have a big dumb boss fight.

That it turns out Knight-Commander Meredith is being possessed by an artifact from the Deep Roads all along is even more of a bummer, because I really enjoyed that character upon introduction. In addition to being voiced by a kick-ass voice actress - the voice of Merlwyb Bloefhiswyn from FFXIV - her cause isn't entirely wrong. Many of the mages you investigate are (somewhat pointlessly) evil, and the Circle serves a good purpose. Then she just goes insane and tries to kill everyone. And then there's Anders...

Anders is literally possessed by a spirit of Justice. Insert social justice joke here.
Anders is literally possessed by a spirit of Justice. Insert social justice joke here.

Anders is written like a creator's pet.

I can't think of any other way to describe it. Throughout Dragon Age 2, Anders expressed a deep hatred of the Templars and a desire to set all Mages free, even going so far as running an underground railroad to help mages escape the clutch of the circle. This is fine so far. Over the course of the game, though, he becomes increasingly hostile and in-your-face over this issue, to the point of being sort of unhinged. This all comes to a head in the final hour of the game when he puts on his terrorist cap, and bombs the Chantry to hell and back, sparking an all-out war.

My frustration with Anders is honestly sort of similar to my teeth-gnashing hatred of Bella Swan from Twilight. Anders' actions are always portrayed as if they are just, and his attitude is rarely smacked down by anyone else. He is routinely portrayed sympathetically even when he is clearly a hypocrite, endangering countless innocent lives to get what he wants. Throughout the game he lectures other mages you meet on how they should know better than to consort with demons, when Anders is an abomination himself. He approaches the world from a deeply privileged position, benefiting from all the knowledge and know-how of the institutions he seeks to dismantle, refusing to understand how solving problems aren't so simple as just erasing the Templars from existence.

What sent me over the edge with Anders is a bit of banter he has with Aveline when you're navigating the ruined streets of Kirkwall. Aveline asks Anders if he will turn himself in for what he's done when the fighting has come to an end. Anders responds dismissively by saying "Oh, I know your commitment to oppression, Aveline." Motherfucker, you just blew up a church for the lulz! Where the fuck do you get off being sarcastic about it, like you've done nothing wrong? My understanding is that Anders was a much better character in Dragon Age: Awakening, which makes me regret not playing through it. Apparently he was written by someone completely different. Go figure.

A largely well constructed shell that needed about 18 more months in the oven.

This is the kind of clusterfuck that the final battles are like.
This is the kind of clusterfuck that the final battles are like.

It is difficult for me to imagine that this is the game that Bioware truly envisioned. A game whose main story content is threadbare, with so little unique assets, and so short a time in development. I don't wish to deify Bioware as a developer here or anything, because they've certainly made tons of mistakes, but I know that they are better than this, and surely they knew it too. The amount of call-backs to the previous game all feel like an attempt to distract you from noticing how thin the main story content of Dragon Age 2 really is.

Even some of the things I enjoyed the most about the game's narrative content, the romance with Fenris being one of them, is really just a revisiting of the first game. An elf, a troubled past as a slave, trained from youth to think like a soldier, dogged by his former slave-masters. It's all awfully similar, down to a line from Fenris about how he grew up around men and women who were "free with their affections." It's a retread of Zevran top to bottom, even written by the same person. Kirkwall never really changes, Hawke's family never feels as important to him as it postures as being, and trudging through the same old zones over and over is tiresome.

Dragon Age 2 is not a complete failure. The combat is more engaging, the UI superior in both fashion and function, and the choice to make Hawke a more defined character, with a more directed backstory and a voice of his own, was an excellent move. Yet I can't shake the feeling, given the ending cutscene, like I just played a prologue to Dragon Age: Inquisition. Like Halo 2 telling me to be continued, that I need to wait for the next game to finish the fight. Hearing from @yummylee on twitter that the "Templars vs. Mages" is largely dropped a third of the way into Inquisition only reinforces my feeling like more story meat was meant to be in this game, but didn't make it due to a rushed production schedule, and was hastily wrapped up in the next.

I don't necessarily regret my time with Dragon Age 2. I want to play Inquisition to see how these stories progress, so it must have been successful on some level, but I am incredibly disappointed. I end on my time with Dragon Age 2 more upset that my only avenue for playing Inquisition at the moment is a last-gen console, but I suspect I only feel that way because Dragon Age 2 seemed so incomplete.

If-I-Had-To-Give-It-A-Rating-I-Guess: 2½ / 5Total Playtime: Around 26 hours.

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nightriff

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Welcome to the club!

I decided to replay DA2 before Inquisition last Fall. While I didn't hate it as much as when I bought it day 1 and beat it within a few days...it is an incredibly disappointing game. There are some bright spots occasionally but it was a huge misstep in the franchise. But that's what you get when it was released.....18 months (give or take) after DA:O came out and exactly 1 year after DA:O's large expansion.

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Draugen

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Dragon Age 2 has the best story and the best characters of any BioWare game.

Because of this, I can forgive its many shortcomings. Love it.

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I_Stay_Puft

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@draugen said:

Dragon Age 2 has the best story and the best characters of any BioWare game.

Because of this, I can forgive its many shortcomings. Love it.

Yeah in the same boat really enjoyed everything about the story and characters for 2 but I can understand where the hate for the surrounding and rehased environments.

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ArbitraryWater

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I'm a Dragon Age 2 apologist, but at this point I might just have to play through it again one of these days to see if I can still honestly give myself that label. I remember really liking (some) of the characters and the way they bounced off each other (but seriously, Anders suuuuuuuuucks), and I really appreciated the ambition of DA 2's story, even if it all goes up in flames in a manner I'd describe as "Hilariously inept". Because the Templars have the sympathy disadvantage of being an oppressive group, how does the game try to turn the tables? By making every third mage you run into an axe-crazy blood mage! Vivienne in Inquisition does a much better job of being the poster child for mages under the chantry being a good thing, though I haven't seen that game to its conclusion to say much more than that.

In some ways, it's the antithesis of the "Bioware Story" in that your character, even for all their power and prestige, can't solve all of the problems on their own. Hawke can express his/her opinion and intent as much as they want, but the inevitable conflict between the mages and templars happens no matter how much they can try to compromise. It's also much smaller scale than their usual fare and almost slice-of-life-y, for as much as Bioware blunders on making it seem like time has passed. At least, that's my spin on the lunacy that results.

It's not a good game, but it is an interesting one. While Mass Effect 2 had a bit of that "Post EA Buyout" stink here and there with the way they streamlined and simplified a lot of the game, DA2 is positively drenched in corporate oversight and deluded mass-market ambitions. And it was probably made in about 18 months. Of course, given the part where I finished that game and have yet to finish Inquisition, maybe that's a point in its favor.

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Evilsbane

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#5  Edited By Evilsbane

I hated being stuck in that awful town and about the third or forth time you go into the same Cave/House/Coast I wanted to blow my brains out.

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TheBlue

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#6  Edited By TheBlue

Man, fuck Anders.

Worst character is annoyingly the best party member.

Fuck that guy.

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militantfreudian

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#7  Edited By militantfreudian

DA2 had more bold ideas than any Bioware game since the first Mass Effect. It's a shame the execution on those ideas was poor. They could've done so much more with the unreliable narrator, the smaller scale of the world and the story that spans a decade. I also liked the fact that the story didn't revolve around some world-ending threat. Anyway, that was a good read, and by the way, I haven't managed to finish Inquisition, but from what I've played (40 hours or so), the story and main quests are much better than DA2. That's not saying much though; it was still a disappointing experience.

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donchipotle

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By the time Inquisition rolls round, pretty much everyone is like "Yeah no FUCK Anders for doing this shit." So it's something, I guess, considering how awful he was/is.

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Chocobodude3

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@theblue said:

Man, fuck Anders.

Worst character is annoyingly the best party member.

Fuck that guy.

This

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Jimbo

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It's pretty bad all in all, but still has more going for it than Inquisition. Isabella is a great character, and Act 2 in general is quite good.

@draugen said:

Dragon Age 2 has the best story and the best characters of any BioWare game.

Fuck the hell no.

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Draugen

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@jimbo said:

It's pretty bad all in all, but still has more going for it than Inquisition. Isabella is a great character, and Act 2 in general is quite good.

@draugen said:

Dragon Age 2 has the best story and the best characters of any BioWare game.

Fuck the hell no.

Fuck the yell yeah, bro.

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Baal_Sagoth

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That was an excellent read! Fascinating and insightful commentary on a technically really played out topic even. I must say I'm quite impressed by your ability to discuss complex subjects very in-depth yet coherent and not meandering. Not just this blog - a lot of your comments too. Great work!

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tyashki

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I romanced Anders in my playthrough and STILL killed him when he pulled that shit at the end.

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CouldbeRolf

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#14  Edited By CouldbeRolf

I vastly prefer the story to the one in Origin and Inquisition. Given proper development time it might have been Bioware's best. Unfortunately the short-cuts they had to take to get it out in the time they were given are quite obvious.

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deactivated-5e49e9175da37

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To pull this off, you need to do a convincing job of showing how the people of the city, and the city itself, are really changing and evolving over time.

Totally agree. I was disappointed in Act Two when I realized how little had changed in the city, visually or otherwise. I was past frustrated when even less appeared to change as Act Three starts.

My understanding is that Anders was a much better character in Dragon Age: Awakening, which makes me regret not playing through it. Apparently he was written by someone completely different. Go figure.

As much as this might just be a convenient cover, I think they maybe did manage something of foreshadowing. Hawke is not the Warden-Commander from Awakening, so he wouldn't recognize how different Anders is even when he first meets him. There's a reasonably solid theory that Awakening!Anders ceased to be the moment he merged with the spirit, and the change in voice, demeanor, humor and perspective should have been instructive of plot development rather than bad writing. The entire time Hawke had known him he's been an abomination, and you might actually be getting the first non-special snowflake character; an abomination who actually is bad even though he thinks he's good, just like everyone says about abominations.

You should definitely play Awakening, though. It's my favorite Dragon Age campaign out of the 4 I've played, even if it's by far the shortest. That might actually be why it's better. If DA2 was 22 hours instead of 36, it probably goes down easier.

I guess what Dragon Age 2 really did was break me of the need to violate my interpretation of the character in order to see the content. I agreed to do a lot of stupid bullshit for Anders that I thought was pretty sketchy and didn't want to go along with because I thought well what if I'm missing out on something cool. My friend Kane played Origins and didn't invite Wynne or Leliana, killed Zevran and left Sten in the cage. I yelled at him for missing out on all that content but he was playing his version of his character and roleplaying accordingly. Now I'm capable of missing out on shit, because it's probably just going to be some corridor-strewn map with shades that spawn out of nowhere anyways.

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aktivity

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@draugen said:

Dragon Age 2 has the best story and the best characters of any BioWare game.

Because of this, I can forgive its many shortcomings. Love it.

Hope you're being sarcastic. I'll give you good characters, but DA2 has one of the worst stories Bioware has ever put out. I can see what they were going for, but IMO they completely failed.

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Draugen

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@aktivity said:
@draugen said:

Dragon Age 2 has the best story and the best characters of any BioWare game.

Because of this, I can forgive its many shortcomings. Love it.

Hope you're being sarcastic. I'll give you good characters, but DA2 has one of the worst stories Bioware has ever put out. I can see what they were going for, but IMO they completely failed.

No sarcasm what so ever. If you think they failed, I violently disagree with you. The family and location-centric approach made the narrative come together in a way they've never managed before or since. Worked fantastically, and I loved it, again, despite all the flaws in the game at large.

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aktivity

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#18  Edited By aktivity

@draugen said:
@aktivity said:
@draugen said:

Dragon Age 2 has the best story and the best characters of any BioWare game.

Because of this, I can forgive its many shortcomings. Love it.

Hope you're being sarcastic. I'll give you good characters, but DA2 has one of the worst stories Bioware has ever put out. I can see what they were going for, but IMO they completely failed.

No sarcasm what so ever. If you think they failed, I violently disagree with you. The family and location-centric approach made the narrative come together in a way they've never managed before or since. Worked fantastically, and I loved it, again, despite all the flaws in the game at large.

But the family story-line gets resolved by the end of the first arc, after that Hawke doesn't really have a goal. He just wanders around aimlessly and stumbles into things. The game effectively removes the family angle really early into the game. That's why I said it failed. Let's not even begin on the ending.

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Marokai

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#19  Edited By Marokai

@militantfreudian: As @arbitrarywater says, Dragon Age 2 is certainly an interesting failure. I can see the things they were trying to go for, and some of the changes to their usual formula could've been a great thing, but there was really just no time to expand on the concepts and do them justice. The idea that EA thought this game was going to be some sort of mass-market success if they actioned it up is batshit, having now played it.

@donchipotle: That is good to hear. It really bothered me how basically no one spends any time condemning Anders for bombing a church. Sure, I guess you can kill him, but considering he's one of the best party members, and especially if you've spent time using him the whole game as I did, there's pretty big gameplay reasons why you can't just do that prior to the final fights of the game.

@baal_sagoth: I greatly appreciate that. I sort of just like jumping straight to the things that are on my mind. I also had like four pages of notes.

@jimbo: Act 2 is compelling but they really don't stick the landing with it at all. The Qunari presence in the city is an interesting plotline, and the way they've managed to spook the entire city without even doing anything; there's a lot of potential storytelling meat with that. It's really sloppily wrapped up, though, and then just kind of discarded to get back to the Templars vs. Mages stuff. It leaves very little impact on the city aside from being a contrivance that gets rid of the Viscount so Meredith can take over. Like the rest of the game it was a real let-down.

I enjoyed Isabela but unfortunately pissed her off and she peaced out on me. I barely ever got to use her or Carver because they apparently never liked me much. In fact, now that I mention it, how the game handled my relationship with Carver was also pretty shit. He leaves to join the Templars after Act 1 and then I barely saw him again. Didn't even have some cool rival fight with him or anything.

@aktivity: The fact that Hawke's mother dies mid-Act 2 with basically no fanfare kind of ruined the whole "He's a guy trying to protect his family" angle, so I'm backing you on this. By the end of the game, my sister died escaping the Blight, my mother dies to a random serial killer for no reason, and my brother is in the Templars and hates me. If the game was really more about that angle, I think it would've spent more time than all of five minutes talking about my mother being murdered, or more time than none at all trying to repair my relationship with my brother. Is it even possible to talk to him after the first Act?

@brodehouse: Yeah, I'm more sympathetic to the idea that he was just super fucked up due to the whole being an abomination thing than I let on, it just sucked that there was no one really calling out the fact that Anders is really messed up and needs to be stopped. Everyone just reacts to his increasingly deranged and aggressive grandstanding with the equivalent of this for 95% of the game:

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jiggajoe14

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#20  Edited By jiggajoe14

My only foray into the DA was Inquisition last year and I enjoyed it for the most part (at least the writing and me repeatedly begging Vivienne to bend me over and twist me sideways, which never happened :( )....oh and the damn tactical combat would never fucking stretch out far enough for my liking. It kinda petered out towards the end. Either way, I need to get around to Origins but I'm hesitant due to difficulty and learning curve and I wonder if 2 is worth it. I mean I might as well at some point if only to get more story on Hawke and because some of the stuff continued from 2 kinda flew over my head.

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thatthereitalian

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Really good writeup. I played through Origins on release but wasn't so floored by it that I felt like I needed to pick up 2 by default. Then they released a demo for 2 shortly before its release and that failed to butter me up at all either. I've been contemplating going back to it recently but I think your argument has further assured me that I'm not really missing out on much.

Funnily enough though, I beat Inquisition back in November and the Dragon Age Keep thing that lets you import a particular world state made the general plot points of Dragon Age 2 sound so interesting. Sad to hear those are implemented poorly.

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#22  Edited By Rahf

*Note* I realize that this post is extensive, but this lovely blog post sparked me on. Do forgive the fractured paragraphs and topics. *Note*

One of the biggest differences between DA:O and DAII are the stakes and motivations. During the first game, it really is a matter of scrambling to save the kingdom, with dire consequences showing themselves time and again -- I'm thinking of the Blight's progression on the world map. All the characters in your party have reasons for joining you on this perilous journey, with the exception of one or two. Not only are there reasons, but characters are compelling enough to keep around.

Dragon Age 2 felt like it had too many party members with no intersecting agendas. You meet them. You solve an immediate issue. The party member is then available, because they're, "hanging around".

"I'm joining you on your quest."

"Why? You're free to do whatever you wish."

"I must have vengeance. Or justice. Maybe your strange charisma compels me. Any contrived reason is good enough-- Please take me with you!

I think the two most compelling arguments came from Varric and Merrill. One is an exile in need of support, and the other has you as their BFF. (Both characters were my favorite sources of comic relief).

The number of unlikeable companions was close to overwhelming. Leading to only one set of party members that I ever wanted to bring along (Varric, Merrill, Aveline). I'll list my reservations:

- Anders is a phenomenal character in Dragon Age: Awakening. He is funny, charming, witty, relatable, and ultimately a selfless guy. He still retains aspects of this writing in DAII, but the new voice actor makes everything fall flat on its arse. Not a single joke lands -- and there are some. Make no mistake, he has aspects of the same zeal in DA: A as in DAII, but the nuances are blended shades, instead of contrary pastels.

- Fenris falls in the same trap as Anders, recurring blood mages, and high-ranking templars; zealous and opinionated to a fault. Not only that, but I can't remember why he sticks around at all. Everything is dreary drudgery. Everyone is either an enemy or an idiot, with the magical exception of Hawke. I suppose he represents a Sten-like figure, but where Sten was condescending and aloof, Fenris is antagonistic and confrontational.

- Isabela is sexualized to a point of absurdity. She is, template-wise, the equivalent of Morrigan in terms of what gets them going and how to best increase favor. But where Morrigan was thrust into your party by events unfolding, Isabella seemed to simply stick around. I just didn't understand why she kept coming back.

- Sebastian (DLC character, right?) is one my all-time most useless and disliked teammates to-date. As a foil to Anders, he is even more egregious in the writers's attempt to force the player into making decisions. He is selfish to no end, with constant bickering over mages, his family name, honor, and mages again. Sebastian also stands as the pinnacle of worst moment in any big budget game I've ever played (the immediate reaction to Anders bombing). A combination of bad writing and voice-acting sunk that plot twist into a quagmire of awkward production.

Perhaps one of the biggest grievances I have is the lack of influence you have over these characters. Despite what the Rivalry / Friendship system says, everything still plays out the same way for them. The only influence a player has is how much they are liked by companions. They can never unite under a single banner in the end.

*Edit* Party banter and conversations with both Varric and Merrill can be hilarious. They can also be sad. Both voice actors nail their characters.

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@aktivity said:
@draugen said:
@aktivity said:
@draugen said:

Dragon Age 2 has the best story and the best characters of any BioWare game.

Because of this, I can forgive its many shortcomings. Love it.

Hope you're being sarcastic. I'll give you good characters, but DA2 has one of the worst stories Bioware has ever put out. I can see what they were going for, but IMO they completely failed.

No sarcasm what so ever. If you think they failed, I violently disagree with you. The family and location-centric approach made the narrative come together in a way they've never managed before or since. Worked fantastically, and I loved it, again, despite all the flaws in the game at large.

But the family story-line gets resolved by the end of the first arc, after that Hawke doesn't really have a goal. He just wanders around aimlessly and stumbles into things. The game effectively removes the family angle really early into the game. That's why I said it failed. Let's not even begin on the ending.

How do you figure it gets resolved in the first arc? Depending on how you play it, the family thread goes to the wire, with the possibility of Hawke and his sibling on opposite sides of the conflict. It doesn't get more involved than that. And the aimless wandering is the genious of the story. How many hundred games has had you on a mission to slay the big baddy, and save the world? This has you merely trying to improve the lot of you and yours. And getting caught up in bigger conflicts as you go.

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DedBeet

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@i_stay_puft: In total agreement. I've played through DA2 multiple times because I like the story that much.

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#26  Edited By Oldirtybearon

Bruh, do yourself a favour and don't play DA3. If you really dug Origins, nothing that has come since has ever managed to top it, or even come close to the high watermark it left. Save yourself a lot of grief.

DA3 is like... picture how boring you found DA2, but stretch that strain over 80-90 hours.

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Marokai

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#27  Edited By Marokai
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@marokai: Abandon ship while you can, duder. For every Dorian in DA3, there's like, at least a baker's dozen of grindy MMO fetch quests. Most zones have no plot at all, and side quests in DA3 are "go here, kill 10 ram, deliver meat".

And the ending sucks. Really bad. And DA3 introduces time travel to Thedas. It's like some horrible fan fiction you'd find on Tumblr or something. You're far better off playing Awakening and convincing yourself that Origins + Expansion was all BioWare ever did with the Dragon Age setting.

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#29  Edited By aktivity

@draugen said:
@aktivity said:
@draugen said:
@aktivity said:
@draugen said:

Dragon Age 2 has the best story and the best characters of any BioWare game.

Because of this, I can forgive its many shortcomings. Love it.

Hope you're being sarcastic. I'll give you good characters, but DA2 has one of the worst stories Bioware has ever put out. I can see what they were going for, but IMO they completely failed.

No sarcasm what so ever. If you think they failed, I violently disagree with you. The family and location-centric approach made the narrative come together in a way they've never managed before or since. Worked fantastically, and I loved it, again, despite all the flaws in the game at large.

But the family story-line gets resolved by the end of the first arc, after that Hawke doesn't really have a goal. He just wanders around aimlessly and stumbles into things. The game effectively removes the family angle really early into the game. That's why I said it failed. Let's not even begin on the ending.

How do you figure it gets resolved in the first arc? Depending on how you play it, the family thread goes to the wire, with the possibility of Hawke and his sibling on opposite sides of the conflict. It doesn't get more involved than that. And the aimless wandering is the genious of the story. How many hundred games has had you on a mission to slay the big baddy, and save the world? This has you merely trying to improve the lot of you and yours. And getting caught up in bigger conflicts as you go.

As already mentioned, you don't interact with your sibling(if alive) after act one until the end of the game and your mother also gets removed from the equation mid act two. And by the end of act one you already resolve the "improve the lot of you and yours" angle once you hit the jackpot. Having a goal doesn't need to be about saving the world. I think the Witcher games are a better example for this type of story-telling. Geralt is never out to save the world, his goals are about saving his friends or helping himself. This thread runs consistent throughout the entirety of the games. He just happens to stumble into big plots, but he never feels aimless or seeking to be a champion.

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