Saturday, 10 July 2010

Dragon Age 2: Brave or Foolish (time will tell)

So Bioware have decided to announce that unlike the almost blank slate we were presented with in the original Dragon Age 2's player character will be a fully voiced and back storied individual named Hawke.

Obviously the Bioware forums are now full of cries that its the end of the RPG, and the wailing and nashing of teeth.

The main grievance seems to be that Hawke is “not MY character”.
One of the most loved things about Dragon Age Origins (DAO) was that it allowed the players to experience the world from the perspective of one a number 'Origins'. Each Origin gave a glimpse into the way the land operated, and made it far easier to for players to feel a sense of building a personal narrative in some as they wandered the roads of a strange new land.

The withdrawal of this perceived freedom was bound to lead to a backlash, and when you add to the mix DAO's open ended and vague conclusion, plus the expectation that many had that they would be able to move their character to the new game (just as Bioware had allowed in Mass Effect) then its not surprising that many feel betrayed.

The best stories need a rich and believable context to take place within, and in many ways it seems DAO was designed to allow players to build this sense of context, to immerse themselves in a world and the people who inhabited it.

Looking at the preview/press release on Game Informer the single most interesting detail to me is
“Dragon Age II is not about killing an ancient evil or about quelling another blight”
The idea to take a step back from one of the biggest tropes of the fantasy genre feels pretty brave in many ways. But you only have to look to the Hobbit which is far more a tale about the life and adventures of Bilbo than it is about the slaying of a dragon, to see that this can be a very successful approach.

I remain hopeful that DA2 could perhaps be The Hobbit to DAO's The Silmarillion.
A personal journey through a time in a character's life and things which are personally significant, rather than a tale of epic deeds and arch evils.
Obviously to someone searching for a sandbox RPG this is a disappointment but Bioware have been drifting from that template for a while now and perhaps its time for another studio to pick up that particular torch.

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