Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dragon Age II: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I got home the other day to find a brown package protruding obscenely from my mailbox. The mailman was kind enough to leave our pre-ordered copy of DA2 out for anyone to grab to save me from a trip to the nearest post-office. That was sweet of him. I grabbed, echoed a "yay" through the stairwell and rushed up the stairs.

"Oh look," I told the kitty "it's from the Queen! God bless Her." I'm from a republican country (in the sense that Republic is our government style, nothing to do with that whole republicans/democrats thing that I completely fail and refuse to understand) so anything that says "Royal" in it is instinctively associated with the good old bag o' bones. So, Royal Mail is mail ether from or to the Queen and since I know I'm not the Queen, I like to think that she knew I was anxiously looking forward to getting my hands on the game and made it her personal mission to cheer me up on this most desolate week.

At first I was a little taken aback by the differences from the first one, as usually happens with sequels. But then I wrapped my mind around the concept that, even though it is a sequel, it's a different game and the concept of different is not the same as. However, what was disturbing was how certain things were exactly like... Mass Effect. Yes, they were all made by the same people or at least the bulk of them were but, for example, the dialogue wheel was copied from ME2 and they completely ditched the more Baldurs Gate approach of dialogue line choosing. Which is understandable since Hawke (you) is completely voiced unlike the Warden in the first one.

After a while I kind of forgot this was a Dragon Age game and wondered where the space and the Turians and Joker had gone. What's more, in Dragon Age II you have an entire city where your party is camped about. It kind of reminds me of, shock horror, ME2, where you had everyone in different sections of the ship. This made a bit more sense, however. Though these people are your friends and can tell which one is the business end of a sword, which makes them useful in battle, they continue about their old lives of binge drinking, casual sexing and mansion squating instead of leaving everything behind to ride around the world with you with just a few breaks to contemplate their own impending demise while you clear out old armor from your inventory. It's not like you're saving the world or anything. I mean this. I am currently not saving the world. From what I can tell, at most, I'm helping ruin it.

One other thing has influenced my appraisal of the game. Having been struck by this sudden nostalgia about the 90s, I recently took it upon myself to watch all the 8 seasons of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. I'd never done so before. I did this also because, according to some sources, many of the characters in Dragon Age were inspired by characters from the show. The same can be said about the ones in DA2, for better or for worse. Anders is a brooding Angel, Fenris is as charming as Spike (and for that matter so was Zevran), and Merrill is a rambler like Willow. This is not just my girly mind talking, this is fact. Ok, maybe in a few months when I've completely forgotten about the show I won't see it but now it's as clear as day.

But the game is good, I'll give it that. I missed Ferelden, sure (the continent/country where Origins takes place) and I miss the king I chose for it and all his little buddies. I miss going to camp and having all of the party laying about being stoic or cooking gray soup in what I thought was a convenient way for me to get all my interaction (read flirting) done with in one fell swoop. Swooping isn't always bad. Yet, these new concepts of killing Dragons - which, btw, is way easier to do now; level 20 and I've killed 2 already, - are kind of cool. I like the game, honestly. The worst thing about it, by far, are the loading screens. That and the fact that after 6+ hours of playing, my 360 started forgetting about a few tectures. First all of the flames turned to white rectangles. In an pre-industrial revolution age, this meant that every indoor space was crowded with them. Pretty soon it forgot to render the city's textures as well and the world was one big gray mess. So I decided to give it a rest.

Oh but I forgot to talk about the one step back, didn't I. The voice acting. No, no it's not bad. It just isn't... great. Marian Hawke, or FemHawke if you will, reminds me of Morrigan and I hated Morrigan with a fiery passion. Some other characters seem to be slurring a bit, taking their time to enunciate certain phrases in fear that I might not understand them. I miss Mr. Valentine and Mr. Green. Those guys know what they're doing.

An interesting moment was when I first heard Fenris. Something in my chest tightened and I thought 'I know this voice. I know it intimately. Dear God, I've been in love with this voice before!' I paused the game and I swear I stared at the screen for minutes before I remembered. That was Balthier I was hearing! That explained it. Some men are God's gift to women's ears. I'm partial to a good Vin Diesel myself but Gideon Emery (much like Raphael Sbarge) just does something to me, stirs up something primal (Mr. Hildreth isn't too shabby himself). It's as intoxicating as listening to Sammy L. swear.

I haven't played much of the game yet, just bailed on responsabilities for one day but I'm enjoying it, I look forward to playing more of it. In fact, I think I might just go do that right now, going to "cup my joining", "shank my Jori", "get my dwarf in the Deep Roads", that sort of thing.

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