Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Let's Talk About - Dragon Age 2, Part 3

Now that we have talked about the good and the bad, there is one more category left to consider.  Last, but certainly not least, there is one thing that continually makes me cry "why?!" The amount of re-skinning that took place in DA2, makes me wonder if those involved with the game know what the definition of "continuity."

Be warned that Flemeth's section contains a minor DA:O spoiler.

The Perplexing-
Look, I realize that having a sequel allows you to redesign things you were unhappy with in the first game, introduce a new color scheme, or otherwise visually alter your preestalished world.   But please Bioware, re-design and re -skin responsibly!

Flemeth in Dragon Age: Origins
Flemeth in Dragon Age 2

Let's start with Flemeth.  I must say for one, that I love her new look.  Yet, for all its showy "I'm a powerful sorceress" appeal, one can't wonder if her new look is not a bit counter productive.  According to DA:O, she has managed to survive the Templar's efforts to kill her for years because she was not afraid to run, was not afraid to show her strength, and was not afraid to blend in.  Fancy headgear and a long, impractically skin-tight gowns will not help Flemeth remain one step ahead of the Chantry.  Let's also notice for a moment that she has a different skin color, a different hair color, and she looks decades younger in DA2. I am well aware that Flemeth is capable of taking over the bodies of other individuals, as we found out in Morrigan's personal quest in DA:O, but that is not the case here.  When Hawke originally runs across Flemeth in DA2, he/she is seeing the witch after DA:O's trek into the Wilds for darkspawn blood, but before the Grey Warden's opportunity to kill Flemeth for Morrigan's sake (DA:O).  In both DA:O instances, Flemeth looks like the woman at left, but during the inbetween time Bioware somehow expects me to believe that she looks like the image at right.  Morrigan makes it quite clear in the first game that while shape shifters can turn into other animals, they cannot turn into other human beings.  How then does Flemeth manage this feat?  A cleaned up look I could have understood, but this was  a complete redesign ... right down to the witch's new willowy, youthful body.  Atleast the "new" Flemeth knows how to properly apply her make-up.  That is a blessing.

Merrill in Dragon Age: Origins
Merrill in Dragon Age 2

Of all the drastic re-skinning that went on in DA2, this one makes the most sense to me.  DA2 elves were skinny, sprite like individuals while DA:O elves were simply short humans with long ears.  At least DA2's Merrill retained a similar facial tattoo and kind of has the same eye color.  The problem?  Unless you really paid attention during the Dalish origin story in the first game, Merrill is all but unrecognizable this time around.  Her clothing is different, her voice is different, her eye shape is different, her mouth shape is different, and her ears are very different. She retains a green color story and a similar hair cut, but those are hardly identifying factors since everyone and their mother had that same hair style in DA:O.   That of course doesn't even approach the fact that Merrill was a knowledgeable, competent elf in DA:O, and is a seemingly naive, flighty creature in DA2.  The phrase "too stupid to live" comes to mind.  Don't get me wrong, I do not dislike Merrill as a character. In fact, aside from Aveline, she was one of my favorite companions.  I just feel like they should have paid more attention to the small identifying factors that help players draw connections between the two games.

Isabela in Dragon Age: Origins
Isabela in Dragon Age 2

The one re-skinning that blew me away, however, was that of Isabela.  In DA:O, your warden finds this duelest in The Pearl.  She is dressed in traditional rogue's armor, has white skin, and red hair.  Do you know how long it took me to realize that DA2's Isabela was the same individual?  I had no clue they share anything but a name until the internet told me ... while I was trying to figure out why she was not turning up in game.  Somewhere in between her appearance in DA:O, and her appearance in DA2 (which I hazard to not be very far from each other time wise), Isabela dyed her hair brown, started wearing impractical earrings (considering her line of work), got a lip piercing, was reborn with olive skin, and decided that armor was just too passé.  You know what is appropriate duelist attire these days?  A man's shirt, no pants, and thigh-high boots apparently.  If you read my last entry you will note that I never had a chance to play Isabela in DA2, so I can't vouch for her personality in game.  What I do know though, is that the no nonsense NPC (well ... when it comes to fighting anyways) from DA:O would not have been caught dead in the new Isabela's attire.  Ok, so her skin could have been darkened via artificial means, and her hair could have been dyed as part of a disguise ...  But you know what?  I honestly had no clue that these women were supposed to be the same person. What on Earth possessed her character designer to obscure Isabela's origins like that?

Alistair in Dragon Age: Origins

Alistair?? in Dragon Age 2
No words. Just take a look at the handsome individual at top, and then compare him with the individuals underneath. What did they do to my poor, sweet, adorable Alistair?  Alistair 2.0 looks like he was beaten in the face, to death, with a massive frying pan.  When pronounced dead, the design team then resurrected him just so they could go at him with a cast-iron frying pan yet again.  Please tell me I'm not the only one who sees this.

The Verdict-
Going into the game my expectations were very low. They were so low, in fact, that I can't say that any expectations really existed at all. Well, perhaps that is the best way to go into a game since no high expectations can be left unfulfilled and you can't be more indifferent to the title than you already are. All in all DA2 has proved a mixed bag. From a gaming standpoint DA2 exceeded my expectations. (That can't mean too much since the bar was already pretty low, but it has to count for something.) From a fan standpoint the game was a combination of pleasant nostalgia and odd disappointments. It is impossible to say that Dragon Age 2 was a complete and utter failure. It wasn't. There were some bright spots and even a couple strokes of genius that really showed through in this title. It is also, however, nor possible to say that this title was a rousing success. There is simply too much wrong with it to do that. Would I play it again? Most certainly if only to experience the game from a male avatar's perspective. Will I buy it in the future? Not unless it is accompanied by a very very steep discount. Would I recommend it? If you play it as a solo game, and not in the context of DA:O, then you should most certainly try renting the console version or buying the PC version on sale. If you are unable to divorce DA2 from your DA:O experience, however, then forget it. You will only be setting yourself up for disappointment.

Image: Source  
Flemeth Images: Source  
Isabella Images: Source 
Merrill Images: Source  
Alistair Images: Source  


  1. Ugh! Please tell me Alistair doesn't really look like that in DA2!

    I didn't play the game - didn't even make it through the demo. Shame, because the first one was certainly memorable.

  2. Because I was playing on a friend's console, my time with the game was limited. I did not personally run into Alistair ingame, but those are screenshots off of the Dragon Age Wikia. I would *love* to see proof that he looks better. Considering the youtube videos I've seen, however, even Zevran was carelessly rendered in the sequel. The only "imported" character from DA:O who looks decent is Leliana. She, as always, appears to be her charming self. The execution of this game really was a shame, because DA:O was outstanding. It sits up there with Morrowind as one of my favorite games of all time.