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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 talk to me unless I want to

 

Taken separately, those companions show some promise. So why weren't I able to really care for any of them – Varric being somewhat the only exception? The reason lies in the way the whole companion thing is handled. As I stated previously the system is about the same than Awakening and I didn't care for any of the characters there either (except for Oghren and that's because I already knew him). It didn't really bothered me for Awakening though as it was an expansion, not a full game. Had I known that the system would be implemented in Dragon Age 2 I would have said: “Stop right there!”.

 

What's the problem? Basically it is that you only really get to converse with your different companions when the game tells you to do so, not when you wish to. Conversations is even handled via quests. Basically when the game wants you to speak to one of your companions, it creates a quest especially for that purpose. It's really one of the worst way to handle relationships ever, far worse than DA:O and even worse than Mass Effect 2 (and despite the fact that after a while ME 2 companions have nothing new to tell you). Outside of those special “go talk to them” quests, the only thing you'll get out of your companions are basic comments about the situation.

 

For me the whole thing didn't work in Awakening and it doesn't work in Dragon Age 2 either. Consequently I felt emotionally detached from the characters, only accomplishing their quests because there was a point in making the story progress -- the way Dragon Age 2 is built if you decide to ignore companions quests then you'd better not play the game at all. It's the very first full game by Bioware (if I set aside the Awakening expansion) where I felt that way. In their other games I was able to love or hate characters but there... just about nothing.

 

Varric is somewhat the exception because he's the only companion that has a real presence during the whole game as both a companion and the story narrator and as such he finishes by imposing himself to you.

 

I love you... or not

 

Romance is possible in Dragon Age 2 though given my personal grip about the companionship system I hardly cared for that. It is worth mentioning though that all the characters that can be romanced are bi so the gender you choose to be is irrelevant (simplification is the keyword of this game; why bother with sexual preferences?). Characters that cannot be romanced are Carver / Bethany – for obvious family reasons – Aveline and Varric (for story reason... I guess).

 

Due to the companionship system already mentioned, even romances are awkward anyway. I romanced Isabela during my first playthrough and that was just because it fell right in my lap without me having anything special to do for it. But then we never talked about it again for several years (game time). There again the companionship handling is the culprit. Why even having romance when the only feeling you get from the game is just "screwing around" (forgive my expression).

 

Dragon Age 2: Rise To Power

 

Do you like my persona?

 

In Dragon Age 2, Bioware introduced a new twist to the conversation system and I'm not talking about the obvious conversation wheel. You may like this one or not. Personally I do not dislike it. It worked well in Mass Effect and it works as well in Dragon Age 2. No, the real twist is what Bioware calls dominant persona. So what is it? Well, in the game depending on your answers your character can be diplomatic, sarcastic or forceful. After a while the dominant persona of your character will be the one you use the most. So for example, if you chose mostly sarcastic answers then your character persona will stick to sarcastic introductions and comments when meeting new characters or situations. This will also open some new dialog options that will allow you in a few cases to defuse some situations.

 

On the paper the thing seems to be very nice. Between the paper and playing the game there is a huge difference however. First of all, for the thing to work, you have to stick to a chosen persona, not to spread your answers all over the place. If like me you like switching your style depending on the situation or the character you talk to the whole persona thing impact is considerably reduced. Second of all, even when the persona works (which was the case on my second playthrough where I decided to be exclusively sarcastic denying myself any kind of flexibility which I never do even in real life) there are problems. Sometimes your character may sound like a downright idiot depending on the situation.

 

The whole thing is aggravated by the fact that diplomacy, persuasion and intimidation options have been mostly eliminated. Rather than basing those options on your character attributes, Bioware chose to base them on your character persona effectively taking out any kind of peaceful resolution from most situations. After 2 playthroughs you quickly discover that some situations can only be solved peacefully with the right persona. If your character persona is diplomatic then you'll be able to defuse some situations but not the same ones than if your character persona is sarcastic. The wrong persona for a given situation will automatically result in a fight, unless you have a joker in your party (and that is only in a few cases).

 

That's another thing. The joker companion. Now if you're confronted to a situation that is seemingly unsolvable by your character because of a wrong persona, you may be able to call in a companion to talk your party out of the issue if and only if the right companion is in your party. For example, Varric can help you in situations involving a sarcastic solution (if your character is sarcastic you can do it yourself). That doesn't work in all cases however and in some particular instances only your character can do the trick with the right persona. In case of wrong persona and if you don't have any suitable character to assist then you're screwed which in most cases means that you'll be forced to fight. Which conveniently leads us to the combat system.



 

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