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Written by Starfox   
Sunday, 24 April 2011 02:28
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Dragon Age 2: Rise To Power
Don't shoot the story...
Don't talk to me unless I want t
Don't hurt me... much
I'm Hi-Tech
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Dragon Age 2: Rise To Power


Don't shoot the story, it's already full of holes


For Dragon Age 2, Bioware tried to follow the path of Mass Effect and offers the possibility to import your savegame for Dragon Age: Origin to draw the Dragon Age 2 universe. Alas, storyline inconsistencies and player's choices voluntarily ignored hamper the process and – depending on your DA:O experience – may make the whole thing significantly more idiotic in Dragon Age 2 than in Mass Effect 2. Depending on how you played Dragon Age: Origin and Awakening the bad impact may be mild all the way up to incredibly annoying. Some people who died in DA:O may suddenly reappear in DA2 whatever the reason may be. For instance, the original Dragon Age offered the possibility to kill Leliana at one point (during the “Sacred Ashes” quest, more precisely) and even though most players didn't kill her, those who did will have a shock seeing her reappear in Dragon Age 2, no matter what. Same goes for Zevran. Unlike Mass Effect Bioware seems to have taken the most likely player decisions and implemented those instead of implementing real player's decisions which kind of defeat the whole idea of savegame import.


Mind you, most of the save import feature still works as expected (like who the Grey Warden put on the throne of Orzammar and of Ferelden...) but it's always the things that are out of order that get noticed.


Also some timeline inconsistencies are plain ridiculous. Let's take the case of Anders, for example, one of Hawke companions who was also one of the Grey Warden's companions in Awakening. Not to mention that in at least one ending of Awakening Anders may die during the defense of Vigil's Keep – and still be a companion in DA2, no matter what – even when he survived the timeline is hard to follow. Story wise, at the moment you meet him in DA2 you shouldn't be able to – according to the ending story of Awakening where he follows the Grey Wardens for some years, go teach at the Circle of Ferelden for a few months, then go back to the Grey Warden; best case of availability for him would be a few years after the ending of Dragon Age 2. Always according to Awakening ending, Justice – the spirit that got mixed with Anders in DA2 – either vanished during the final assault on Vigil's Keep or continued to serve with the Grey Warden for many years before disappearing... No matter what he will be in Anders in DA2 even when he shouldn't.


All these little things – and others – let you think that not only the whole savegame import concept was botched for Dragon Age 2 but that extends to the storyline too that in some respects could simply exist in a parallel universe. Obviously and added to the lack of Hawke's impact in the grand scheme of Dragon Age 2 story arc, that does not make the game any more agreeable to follow or like.


In short the savegame import system of Dragon Age 2 seems to be there because it's “cool” and worked great in Mass Effect 2. Unfortunately it's not because a system works great in one game that it automatically works great in all games especially when you decide to implement it “on the fly” without thinking too much about it or the storyline consequences.


And the story inconsistancies don't stop with the save import feature. Know the difference between Ferelden Templars and Kirkwall Templars? Kirkwall Templars are brain dead... if you play as a mage. Right at the beginning of the game, when Hawke is fleeing Lothering, the first Templar you encounter spots that you're a mage right on even though he's in pretty bad shape while in Kirkwall you spend several years running under their nose (with a party that may contain up to two other mages) without even seeing one of them give a thought about it. So OK, maybe they're just not very clever and that the "mage" robes and "mage" staff  Hawke wears and carries 90% of the time are not labeled "mage" enough but even when you find yourself forced to fight along side one of them against some abominations the guy does not even react. Yeah, he totally believes that you're just a normal citizen and that all the pretty colors you used to defeat the abominations were just a perfectly normal combat technique. It's only late in Chapter 2 that the truth finally blow their minds. "Wow! It's a mage! Can't believe we were that stupid!"


As far as the story goes this kind of inconsistancies does not help... at all especially when there were ways to go around the problem just by adding a few lines. For example the templar you help fight the abomination would tell Hawke "Well, I see you're an apostate. Nevertheless you helped me there so I'll let it slide. Just don't make me regret it later, ok?" That's the kind of thing that Bioware would have normally done to lighten what is arguably a plothole (as hawke is supposed to be very afraid to be caught by templars the fact that no templar is able to acknowledge a mage Hawke is absurd). But in general Dragon Age 2 is pretty far from what Bioware would normally do regarding the story. So I suppose it's not a surprise. I guess they just expected players to tune out the weird stuff and to focus on... well whatever they tried to do.


When Dragon Age 2 was in development, Bioware stated that you didn't need to play Dragon Age: Origin to play Dragon Age 2 and that Dragon Age 2 was a perfect entry point to the series for those new to the Dragon Age universe. You know what? They were right. In fact I would even go all the way to say that it's far more preferable if you never played Dragon Age: Origin or can successfully forget that you ever played it.


Dragon Age 2: Rise To Power


Keep your friends close, your rivals even closer


So what is it that you can do in the game if not being busy resolving the global mess (because the main quest could pretty much evolve alone even if your computer was playing the game on autopilot – if such a thing existed in computers – your presence being appreciated but not required). To give you the feeling that Hawke's decisions have a real importance, there are companions and there are the side quests you'll do with them. That's the big thing about Dragon Age 2 because the only real impact Hawke has during the span of the game is on the various companions met. The system there is not different from Dragon Age: Origin with an appreciation system with “friendly” on one side and “rivalry” on the other. When I say Dragon Age: Origin, it's clearly a mistake, excuse me. Let me rephrase that: the companion system is about the same than the one featured in Dragon Age: Awakening (the official expansion to Dragon Age: Origins). For me that was not without real unpleasant consequences.


Each companion features a set of quests spread across the 3 chapters of the game. Some of these quests are even tied to the main events of the game (this is true in particular for Varric's, Anders and Isabela). So let's introduce Hawke's companions:


Aveline: she's the first companion (aside the brother and/or sister) that Hawke meets in the game. She was married to a Templar – who dies early in the game contaminated by Darkspawn blood – and is a true born soldier with honor and justice as motto. If your character is the “paladin” type, then she probably will be your favorite character.


Varric: as already mentioned, he's a dwarf, and he's also kind of a jack of all trades with an ear to the ground and an infamous crossbow named Bianca. Varric is also a bit on the edge morally. He's a good character but doesn't mind going into a nasty business if that serves a purpose or if a profit can be expected. However he hates things that involve unnecessary brutality and prefer to talk his way out of situations, only fighting as a last resort.


Isabela: beside the fact that she was already featured as a minor character in Dragon Age: Origins, Isabela is a pirate lady who lost her ship in some unfortunate circumstances. As she cannot sail anymore and that Hawke gave her a hand (no pun intended) in some matter, she decides to stick around at least until she can find a new ship. Being a pirate and a rogue, Isabella is clearly on the wrong side of the law. She also has a sexual appetite unusually developed which makes of her quite the easy choice as a romance option – if that word can be applied to her case.


Anders: yeah, Anders is the same Anders from Dragon Age: Awakening except that you get two for the price of one as for some reason, Anders melted himself with the spirit Justice (also from Awakening) resulting in a guy even more crazy than he previously was. The rebel mage turned into a possessed guy a bit nasty. Technically he is an abomination but most of the time he doesn't really behave like one.


Merril: is an elf. She's also an avowed blood mage and doesn't have two brain cells to rub together if we are to believe her numerous comments and (in one of my playthroughs) the lovely way she had to blow up one of the few persuasion attempts my sarcastic Hawke was allowed to make. As with Isabela, Merril comes directly from Dragon Age: Origins (that is if you started the story as a Dalish elf – she was the one that accompanied you during the prologue). First to the keeper of her clan, she's trying to restore the infamous Eluvian (mirror) that was the cause of the initial corruption of the Dalish Elf Grey Warden by the Darkspawn. Trying to restore the mirror led her to take advice from a demon and to become a blood mage. Aside from that she seems a nice girl though, that is if you fancy the "so naive that I don't know what's going on most of the time" type. Just don't go say anything bad about blood magic under her nose.


Fenris: is an elf slave that comes from the Tevinter Imperium. Submitted to the whims of his former Magister master from the claws of whom he escaped several years ago, Fenris is a broody character who hates magic and mages. For him every single bad thing that happened in the world and in his life was the direct or indirect result of magic and its use by mages. The amusing twist is that he uses magic itself, his lyrium tattoos giving him increased performance in combat. No matter what he still hates magic and mages. If you play as a mage don't expect a friendly attitude unless you spent your time to tell him that he's right, that all the mages should die and that you're so vile and dirty yourself that you should jump into the nearest lava pit. If you're not the kind to apologize for being what you are then you should target the rivalry with him.


Carver/Bethany: Hawke's brother/sister (depending on the one who survived). Carver is a dumbass that considers himself overshadowed by Hawke and want to achieve his own destiny preferably far from his siblings. He also harbors some kind of hatred for mages which is probably due to the fact that magic runs in the family. Bethany is more agreeable... At least you don't get the feeling that you're about to kill her at her every single word unlike Carver.


Those are about the basic companions for Dragon Age 2. One already popped up as a day one DLC (surprise surprise) but won't be discussed here even though he should have been (as I see it) part of the main game. But that's EA marketing to you; It sucks which is not surprising.


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