Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Reexamining Dragon Age 2: Introduction

Cerian Hawke, rogue extraordinaire
I have a confession to make. I actually purchased Dragon Age 2. (It was on sale for roughly $4.00 over at GameFly a few months back.)  and then, in another fit of madness, I actually purchased both The Exiled Prince and Mark of the Assassin DLC. Exiled Prince was Day One DLC which introduced Sebastian Vale, a new recruitable companion.  Sebastian is so well integrated into gameplay, dialogue, and party banter that I think those calling TEP "cut content" certainly have more than a leg to stand on.  Mark of the Assassin is not integrated into the existing game, but instead acts as an additional chapter to the story.  Tallis, this DLC's recruitable, is restricted only to MotA gameplay.

Since my first play through was both incomplete, and on a PS3, my purchase of DA2 seemed like the perfect opportunity to give this game a second chance.  After a few hours in game, my opinions are mixed. Right after purchasing DA2, I sunk a good 20-30 hours into it as a warrior.  Frustration finally got the best of me, and Hawke barely made it to the second chapter boss.  Last weekend, on a whim, I started all over.  Playing this time as a rogue, the experience has still been frustrating at times, but after 15 hours I am still not losing my hair like last time.  In the following weeks (while I continue putting off discussing Jade Empire until I have a better feel for its world) I will be readdressing both the good and bad of Dragon Age 2 in real time

Why I'm doing this:
First of all, I have yet to actually finish the game.  The first time I played I got stuck at the second chapter boss.  The second time I gave up after frustration with mechanics overwhelmed my desire to complete the title.  This time I would like to actually beat the game.  Having experienced the title as both a mage and warrior, playing as a rogue gives me a chance to re-experience the game through new eyes. 

Second of all, time doesn't heal all wounds but it can certainly help mend them.  The first time I played DA2, it was out of morbid curiosity.  Passionately in love with Dragon Age: Origins, I had read the overwhelming negative fan reactions to DA2 and thus expected little from the title.  Even with low expectations I found the game terribly underwhelming and was rather shocked by a number of the design decisions.  It all pretty much ended in resentment.  The second time I played, it was with a host of balancing mods and that too ended in resentment.  More than anything I was disappointed in the fact that even mods could not fix what I perceived to be broken beyond repair.  This time however, I have entered into the title knowing what I face. Instead of trying to mod the game's "brokenness" away, I am being open minded about the experience.  I accept the fact that Dragon Age 2 is not what we all hoped it would all be pre-release, and I am making a genuine effort to experience it for what it is, instead of insisting it be something it isn't. I can't promise my thoughts will be terribly Earth shattering, but putting them here is a conscious effort to reinforce the non-gut-reaction approach to this playthrough.

What this series will be:
The goal of this blog series is to record my current impressions of the game in real time. The last time I took a look at Dragon Age 2 it was well after the fact, and the formatting (condensing my whole experience into a couple posts) was not conducive to really addressing the way I felt about the game. This time the posts will address oddities, the good, and the bad as I encounter them.  There is no predetermined number of posts, nor is there a predetermined text limit. 

How I am playing:
I will not be roleplaying here, but I will be roleplaying in game.  While some meta gaming is necessary to overcome game mechanics I am already aware of, I am making a conscious choice to eliminate meta gaming in the story.  I have caught myself about to make some meta plot decisions, but caught them before they actually happened. Hawke replies in conversations as she, the character, would reply. as such, she is a mix between peace keeping, kind, sarcastic, and hard nosed   She does not knowingly curry friendship or rivalry with anyone. through dialogue since that would require me, as the player, to know when and where companions will give a plus or minus to disposition. While a few mods are installed, mainly one that re-skinned Merrill's robe and changed Aveline's appearance, they are pretty much aesthetically based.  I have resisted the temptation to utilize balancing or lock bash mods.

Who Hawke is:
Cerian Hawke is a rogue who feels a little detached emotionally from her family members.  Always at odds to her brother, she felt Carter's loss when they were fleeing Lothering, but has since mourned and moved on.  While she understands her mother's and sister's grief, she secretly wishes they would move on as well.

Cerian feels affection for her sister, but resents the fact that she has spent her whole life covering for Bethany.  It's not that  Hawke has any love for the Templars, and she can certainly understand why her family fears the Circle, but Cerian feel like her own potential has been stiffed in the process of keeping her sister safe.  After all, should she demonstrate her true potential as a soldier, Hawke might draw undesired attention to her family ... and thus may potentially expose Bethany as an apostate.  With the move to Kirkwall, Hawke's mother has withdrawn into herself.  Learning about her lost inheritance and losing Carter was just too much to deal with.  This has left Cerian to take up the reigns as family matriarch, and she is relishing in the roll.  With everyone in the family looking to her for safety and financial security, Hawke finally has a chance to use martial skills, which she developed while in the service of King Cailin, to their full extent in defense of her family and her new home. This renders the burden of her sister's safety less stifling. It should be noted that after resenting Bethany's apostate status all her life, Hawke has rather ironically begun to fall romantically in love with an apostate.  Cerian finds this trick of fate to be rather (darkly) humorous.

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