If you’re involved in the world of gaming you’ve probably heard of Bioware a lot. Creators of the Mass Effect series, Dragon Age series, KotoR series, etc. They’re one of the most well-known companies in the business because they put out some of the best made content. Their stories are only rivaled by companies like Bethesda. It’s hard to pit more business’ against them because their stories offer options. Games like Red Dead Redemption and Batman: Arkham City, though brilliant, are fairly linear in story and choices.
Choices are what set Bioware apart from most brands. In most of their games, your choices matter. You shape the universe; whether you’re fighting dragons or alien beings bent on destroying the universe. Most, if not all, of their games offer the feature “choice.” I find this to be one of the most brilliant things about them.
I’ve played almost all of their games. I don’t have a computer rig that’s good enough to solidly play The Old Republic, but I’ve played all of their console games. I recently decided to revisit the Dragon Age Series (one of my favorites) after I finished the extended cut of Mass Effect 3. I bought Dragon Age II and the DLC that I didn’t already have (when it was released I bought the “signature” edition and thus received the Black Emporium and Sebastian DLC). Good God. I forgot how brilliant the writing of Dragon Age II was.
I usually play the game as a male mage. Sometimes I delve into being a rogue, but I find the magic aspect so much more appealing. In Dragon Age II this causes a plethora of problems.
In the game, you always have 3 party members with you. Here’s my team (for people w/o the Sebastian DLC, substitute his spot w/ Aveline). From Left: Meet Anders, Fenris, and Sebastian. (The banner from the top is also there because I inserted a gallery. C’est la vie.)
These are, in my opinion, the best mates to have in the game. Anders is a hot-headed, semi-possessed (w/ the spirit of Justice/Vengeance) mage. Fenris is a former slave who was abused by mages his whole life. Sebastian is a member of the Chantry, who is ok with mages as the maker’s creation, but is totally not ok with mages who mess with demons and use blood magic. With me being a mage, that makes the dynamic so much fun! I’m nice to mages, Anders is nice to mages, Fenris hates mages, and Sebastian hates bad mages.
One of the things that I miss in the Mass Effect series is banter whilst roaming the worlds. There may be a small comment here or there, but in Dragon Age II, your companions (and your own character) are CONSTANTLY talking. The best conversations come from when your characters disagree with each other. When you complete a mission or a side-quest in this game, your characters discuss it, and even bring up past side quests and whatnot as arguments. This brings me to my favorite plot arc.
Anders is possessed by the spirit of Vengeance. Vengeance used to be the spirit of Justice, but being brought into our realm, and seeing what Templars do to mages (hint: they aren’t having tea parties) has turned him into a force of power who hates Templars. This is understandably upsetting to everyone else in the party (I don’t like demons either). Anders is constantly trying to balance justifying him and keeping control of him, to the point where he almost kills a mage girl because Vengeance was going nuts.
Fenris and Sebastian are always ragging on Anders for this possession deal. They know it’s bad and don’t mind telling him so. He argues that mages are treated wrong in Kirkwall (where you all live) and they argue that it’s the mages fault for taking things too far by using blood magic (bad juju). This all culminates in a huge standoff between mages and Templars. As Hawke, you try to keep the peace (or you can rile up trouble! That’s the beauty of these games!), but Anders decides to blow the Chantry (church) sky high because, “There can be no compromise.” Dumbass.
Seriously. I was all ready to form an alliance, and he ruined everything because he wanted to throw a temper tantrum. UGH. When I first played the game, I killed him immediately afterwards. This is probably the best moment of writing in the whole game. After this happens, all of your party members are present and they can chime in about what to do.
Fenris wants to kill Anders right out. “Why are we talking about this when the criminal is right in front of us?” Merill (an elf, who is the worst character in the game. You complement this chick and she gets mad. I hate you Merill. She’s also evil) says, “Let him live. We could use him and he can make things right.” Varric (an awesome dwarf) says that he can’t justify this. Aveline (guard captain) says basically the same thing. Isabela is gone (cause I never romanced her and she ditches you in act two because she wanted to steal a book. What a bitch.).
Sebastian has my favorite moment though. He grew up in the Chantry. He loved the people there. He adored the grand cleric, who refused to leave even when he asked, and died in the blast. When you ask him what to do he says this. Paraphrase: “Would you be discussing this if I had been in the Chantry when this happened? He needs to die now.” If you offer to keep Anders alive (you can keep him, kill him, or banish him) Sebastian (who is also the rightful heir of a land called Starkhaven) becomes enraged. “NO! Hawke, if you do this, I’ll go to Starkhaven and I’ll bring back an army. We’ll burn this city to the ground to find Anders and make this right.” Here’s a video that shows the whole scene (not mine). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avFaFKe3O0g
Oh by the way, Sebastian has the sexiest (Irish? Scottish?) accent ever. It’s like a lighter Gerard Butler voice. *swoon* But he’s DAMN intimidating in those last moments.
These characters are so deep, so fleshed out, that you can’t help but love them all, even the stupid ones (yes you Merill). The Dragon Age games don’t really have the scale of the Mass Effect games (you’re saving cities/lands instead of the universe), but they nail the character aspect better than any other game I’ve ever played. The one complaint I have about Dragon Age II (besides recycle maps and little nitpicks) is that the epilogue isn’t long and descriptive like the first game’s was. The first game basically let you read for 20 minutes as you read how your actions played out across the lands.
As someone with a film degree, who loves writing, this game makes me write better. This game inspires me to create characters that matter. This is why Dragon Age II has the best writing of any Bioware game ever. Now go buy it already.
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