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Dragon Age 2

I’m almost done with a second play through of Mass Effect 2 when I decided I needed a fantasy break.  Also, I was missing Ferelden.  So I loaded up Dragon Age 2 and started to play.  I’ve spent three nights playing, and this is a really feeble game.  Looks great, the combat has been streamlined though I liked combat in the first one just fine, but there’s no there there.

Who ever wrote this game seemed to have forgotten that the foundation is always story.  They make a lot of mistakes right out of the gate.  First they give me this family, then never give me a chance to connect with them.  You fight Darkspawn, and then you are rescued, and suddenly you are in Kirkwall with your surly brother, droopy mother, and grieving widow.  Next you meet your sleazy uncle who tells you you have to spend a year as a smuggler or a mercenary to earn enough bribe money to get into the city.  I picked the smugglers, did one stupid little job, and suddenly a year has gone by, and now I’m done with my indentured service, and I’m broke in Kirkwall.

I never interacted with this family that I’ve been saddled with.  I have no emotional connection to them at all.  Then I start getting flooded with stupid little quests, and a few quests that start to build a team.  But why would I hook up with any of these people?  I have enough people to support and lead with surly brother and droopy mother, and sleazy uncle.  But I hook up with them because it’s a game, and that’s what you do.  And that’s a lousy reason.

So, what is it I’m supposed to be doing?  Apparently gathering up fifty gold pieces so I can go on an expedition to the Deep Roads and get more treasure.  This is why I didn’t like D&D back in the day. So, the only thing that’s motivating me is getting money.  Big whoop.

What else do I hate.  They’ve redesigned the elves and now they look like donkeys with these enormous ears.  And they all have Scottish accents.  I rather liked the fact the elves had American accents in Dragon Age 1.

They’ve changed the history they gave you in Awkenings as regard Anders.  I like Anders, he’s a cool character, but which version am I supposed to accept?  Here’s my one point of praise thus far — What they did with Justice was rather cool.

Now let’s contrast this with DA1.  You have a harrowing experience and you are given a second chance by Duncan.  You come to know and respect Duncan.  Then there is the shocking battle scene and then you and Alistair are the only two Grey Wardens left in Ferelden with a Blight spreading across the land, a bounty on your heads, a civil war brewing.  Stakes are big and getting bigger by the minute, and all of this happens very early in the game.  

When people come into your life you accept their help because you need all the help you can get.  There is a compelling reason to gather a circle of heroes. You also learn about these people, their hopes and dreams and fears.  I still haven’t figured out in DA2 where I get to have these personal conversations with my companions.

Perhaps there is an overarching story in DA2, but it is pretty opaque at this point in the game, and I’ve probably played for close to ten hours all together.  Because I read some reviews I know this is going to be about the qunari, but without that prior knowledge I would have no idea.  Thus far it’s been about killing things and getting treasure, and it takes a damn long time to get any and _I don’t know why I’m doing it_!

I have enjoyed day in the life and small adventures in role playing games where I am interacting with real people and my friends, and we can have conversations that aren’t canned or preplanned.  I didn’t mind in the Rome campaign that what motivated us was running for higher office, and eventually leading an army.  We came up with our own agendas that suited our characters, we got married, we started business.  That was fun.  When it’s me alone with a controller I’ve got to have a narrative drive to keep this interesting and meaningful.

So, if anyone from Bio-Ware should have a Google bot to find comments about your game, please consider bringing back the team who write DA1, and give us a real story.  And give me back a choice in my character.  One of the charms of DA1 was the chance to play an elf or a dwarf.  To be the outsider.  I can stand being Commander Shepard because his/her mission is so big, so impressive that I don’t mind the limits.  But getting 50 sovereigns is just not cutting it for me.

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