Hesitations and Fears Regarding Dragon Age 2

Note: I tend to hype things a lot here at Nightmare Mode. But occasionally, I’m skeptical, too. Both can be fun!

You may not have realized it or guessed it, but Dragon Age has been Bioware’s biggest game so far. “”Dragon Age was an extremely successful title for us – last November it was the single most globally successful title we’ve put out to date,” they’ve said. “Triple-platinum-selling,”even, whatever that means (how does this get calculated outside the music industry, when they keep lowering the number?) And with all the hoopla you hear about Mass Effect, the eternal flagship of today’s Bioware, how could you have ever guessed so?

As you know, Bioware has officially announced & dated Dragon Age II. It’s happening, I’m glad, Dragon Age is one of my most favorite games ever. But then, I read the press release…here, I’ll copy some snippets of note:

“Dragon Age 2 traces the rise to power of Hawke, a survivor of the Blight and a hero who will transform the face of the Dragon Age universe forever”

“…telling the most important story in our world.”

“…sealing their place in history. The way you play will write the story of how the world is changed forever.”

“a new, more responsive combat system”

Okay, so the first three are all related. And it’s almost like I’m getting deja vu here, really, because…if you take out the words “Dragon Age 2”, and replace it with “Mass Effect,” you might not know what game we’re talking about anymore (though the stuff about the blight might give you a clue). Why, it almost sounds as if Hawke will be the center of the universe, using strong words like that, don’t you think?

Ultimately, that’s what Shepard exists for, no? To show you just how awesome you are in video game land? Choose the paragon option, oh isn’t that precious, Shepard is such a saint. Choose the renegade option, holy balls, Shepard is such a BADASS. Either way, you’re a pretty fucking awesome dude, don’t you think? Not so much in Dragon Age. Sure, you get to save the world, and sure, by that count, you’re a pretty damn important person, too. But geez, play as a Cousland and, even though you’re royalty, no one really knows or cares about who you are. That’s not the point. The harsh choices, which aren’t there to give you a million pats in the back, those are the point. Choosing between two evils, sifting through all that gray area to try to find an “answer” to your problem. It’s a game about morals, ethics, subtleties. It’s more of a thinking man’s game than Mass Effect could ever hope to be, which basically told you that you don’t have to think about this! We quantified it for you, you see? You did +10 good, and -2 bad. It’s science. Besides, you’re so awesome, why does it matter? Look at you sparta this guy down the window.

Enter Hawke. In DA2, you don’t get your pick of Origins. You play as a male or female human Hawke. Hmm, this reeks a bit of Shepard, too, don’t you think? And sure, ultimately, the meat and potatoes of Dragon Age weren’t the origins–yes, they changed the nuisances of conversations, but the skeletal framework was the same. I’m sure this will upset many a fan, though. I personally am unable to play anything but a human in any game. It makes sense, yes–it’s much harder to have continuity if players can have their pick of Origins. Doing it this way may set it up so that an eventual Dragon Age III can continue where II left off, since the variables are on the same scale as Mass Effect. It’s just disappointing to see them take away that little extra bit of customization that picking your origins and race offered.

And with this, too, comes the ability to personify Hawke.

Unlike DA, DA2 will feature a fully voiced protagonist. And if they’re men of their word, then Bioware will want to show me just how amazing this “most important story” in their world is. By all accounts, call me rash here, but it sounds like they want to give us a medieval Shepard. Initially, I was scared that this meant they would give us less conversation options in 2 than they did 1…but, if The Old Republic is any indication, then, they might not skimp out on this one. In a way, the full voice acting might not be so bad. DA had its cast of great, complex characters, whose voice acting (barring perhaps Lelianna) was spot-on. But then you engaged in a conversation with these lively people and you just stood there, staring back all wide-eyed and confused, somehow telephatically communicating your thoughts to the other person’s head. It was strange, if you stopped and thought about it. Having your character speak gives you a bigger opportunity for immersion….but at the same time, telephatically communicating my thoughts to the other person meant that I didn’t have to hear what I was saying. It’s efficient, I like it. And since, unlike Mass Effect, in DA your answers are complete thoughts, you always said what you meant to say. That means you don’t have to hear it, even though such an inclusion would mimic a real conversation. It doesn’t need to be real, though,  it just needs to communicate what I want to say accurately and efficiently. But how can they possibly show you how fantastic Hawke is without giving him a voice?

On the other hand, Hawke gives Bioware ample opportunity to create an icon out of him in the same way they did Shepard. Shepard’s iconic alright, you put him next to Master Chief and Samus, and people recognize him. It’s Shepard. You know this guy. He’s awesome. But then you put their rendition of the Dragon Age guy, and people just go, who is that guy?

Who the heck is this guy?

Lastly, at least, in terms of the press release, what was wrong with the combat system? It wasn’t flashy or anything, though I concede that most people complained the gameplay was too hard. But there was nothing wrong with it, it wasn’t unresponsive. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I want it to stay exactly the same. But it wasn’t unresponsive, either. With words like that, I’m almost scared that they’ll ME2 this thing and streamline its RPG elements in favor of more cinematic, action-y battle. In fact, it almost makes it sound like it’ll be less of a tactical RPG and more of an action RPG. Who knows?

To tell you the truth, I’m really just miffed that this isn’t a continuation of DA1, not that I think such a confession makes my reservations about this game any less valid. I…want to see what happens to my demon spawn baby, okay? Like a responsible father. And who knows? Maybe we’ll see Morrigan again, maybe she pulls a Flemeth by finding another host body, or maybe she finds the vial of eternal life or something. Hell, what if Hawke is the demon baby? Yes, I’m guessing this game takes place in the future. This can’t possibly be the most important story in the game if it’s not really referenced in Origins. That would make it seem like it’s not all that important at all. I’m also not sure we’ll be importing our characters anymore, even though they hinted at it before –“certainly this is a world that is going to continue to evolve and we’d like for the choices that you make to impact that.” But they haven’t told us to keep our savefiles, so who can really say? It would be pretty amazing to see them address the choices you make in Origins, though.

I’ll say it now, I will eat every single one of my words if Bioware proves me wrong. But if ME2 is any indication…I may have plenty to fear when it comes to Dragon Age 2. In the end, I don’t see why they seem to be pushing to make DA more like ME, when DA is the bigger title. Shouldn’t they be making Mass Effect more like Dragon Age, then?


  1. Okay I’d kinda just let myself gloss over the DA2 announcements up to now, just acknowledged a sequel was coming and left it at that (not finished DA:O yet, didn’t want to spoil myself)
    But this is just a bit annoying. Especially removing the origins, and the idea of a DA Shepard. Also I loved DA:O over ME2’s watered RPGness, I really hope DA doesn’t go the same way.

    • Well, all of this is skeptical speculation…so, we’ll see how it goes. I just sincerely hope it doesn’t turn into a watered down RPG, because there are few games out there that retain that level of detail in respect to RPGness.

  2. Pistol Piet

    I voiced similar concerns over at giantbomb.com, and someone gave me a quote from a Bioware employee that I found reassuring:

    “There’s a lot of info in the upcoming Game Informer issue, and once that’s out, we can talk a lot more. It directly addresses a lot of the questions out there. I can say, “don’t worry, you’ll love this game,” until I lose my voice. But it won’t mean anything til you get the big infodump that’s coming.

    I’ll say this to those who are all concerned about things being changed to reach a more massive audience. We already reached a massive audience with DA:O. It would be silly to make DA2 into something that the DA:O audience couldn’t recognize.”

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