When Dragon Age II Fell Apart

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When Dragon Age II Fell Apart

Dragon Age 2's story is just plain broken.

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I agree with everything in this post. I wouldn't let anyone who kidnapped one of my family live no matter their politics (in the context of the game that is). I also interpreted Hawke leaving Kirkwall and parting ways with his companions as "Screw this town! Everyone is stupid!" "Hawke, want to talk about Kirkwall?" "No! Don't even say the K word!"

Its like I say:

Dragon Age 2 was not an RPG, simply a playable dramatic documentary like we seen on the BBC.

Its like being able to play Caesar...sure here or there in an game about Caesar you can make choices. But when it comes down to it Caesar still became the first Emperor of Rome, and died in the Senate.

For me DA2 did fall apart in act 3 chiefly because its run by the idiot ball, and not any human motivations anymore.
Hawke HAD to side with one or the other factions, in the overall lore of Dragon Age....but they went about it all wrong.

No consequences, no real choices, and a very pathetic idiotic final act.
It could have been done much better, but since it was not I will wait for DA3.
If as they say they are listening I will wait to see if DA3 gets better than DA2.

If they dont? Well then I can just weep that the company who brought me KoToR, Jade Empire, Baulders Gate, Origins, and Mass Effect 1 has come down to this.

I hate to be that person but... Orsino, not Orsini. Orsino.

Oh yay!
Another "Let's take a dump on DA2!" rant - because there are totally not enough of those yet ...

Don't get me wrong, I agree with a lot of what you're saying - yes the ending did seem rushed and that quest seemed stupid, but this is about the thousandth time I time I've heard pretty much this exact same rant.

I've beaten this horse to death already, so I'll just say "Dragon Age 2 is shit" and move on.

However, that was some good writing in my opinion. It was a pleasure to read. I'm no expert, but I know what I like.

I really enjoyed the game, and the party members made DA2 one of my games of 2011, but I have to admit the ending did collapse in on itself. I'm hoping the end was the bit that got rushed (especially in the light of Orsino's final actions, which made it look like initially-alternative end-bosses were instead both brought into the same storyline), but isn't the middle normally the bit that gets trimmed?

Maybe the three-act structure (plus prologue) meant that this couldn't be done without one of the acts seeming obviously short.

The DLC has been great, though. They seem to have learned their lesson, in the short form at least. They are going to have to work very hard to restore DA's reputation, with the third one coming out (hopefully not for a while yet).

It's interesting you pegged the narrative-fans as the DA2 defenders. In my mind, it's always been the opposite (as a traditional narrative fan, I was very displeased with Dragon Age 2, so much so that I found it literally impossible to replay the game because the story was so bad that I just did not care to see where my new choices took things.)

Why am I reading a whole article on the most simple, obvious flaw in DA2's story almost a full year after it came out?

Dennis Scimeca:
When Dragon Age II Fell Apart

Dragon Age 2's story is just plain broken.

Read Full Article

There's one point in particular upon which I wholeheartedly agree: If you give the player the choice, you must honor it. The corollary, of course, is that if you're not going to honor the choice, just don't present it as a choice -- which isn't a bad thing, it's just being realistic and ensuring your game doesn't draw attention to its shortcomings.

I find it interesting that your misgivings about both this game and Skyrim sound very similar, but read quite differently. In both games, you feel your choices eventually proved not to matter. Dragon Age II countermanded them, while Skyrim simply failed to give them enough weight. Both problems are very valid, and I think they're both equal-but-opposite examples of over-balancing a particular equation:

The number of options you can offer is inversely proportionate to the impact each choice can have.

If you offer more choices, the impact of each must be toned down, so that they can be allowed to coexist in a way that makes internal sense. If you want choices to truly feel epic and world-defining, you need to carefully control how many branches that tree has.

The over-example of "too much weight" is a game that presents choices that have no impact on the ending. In a way, that's what DA2 did with this storyline for you. You played your character one way, and things seemed to be going well, and right at the end the game tells you, "Wrong! You're THIS now!"

And the over-example of "too many choices" is a game that allows you go in a million directions, each of them pretty underwhelming. And that's where Skyrim is for many people. You've rocketed to the forefront of X number of elite groups (some public, some secret), you've killed potentially hundreds of the most fearsome creatures known to man and orc alike, you were once and possibly still are a werewolf or vampire, and you've either ignited or stopped a full-scale war several times over... and the best you get is a few passing mentions in the NPC dialogue.

This means we've successfully defined the two extremes. Hopefully the next step is just dialing in the sweet spot between them...

Seventh Actuality:
Why am I reading a whole article on the most simple, obvious flaw in DA2's story almost a full year after it came out?

I'm just glad you can read!

Possibly, and I am just using a drop of logic here, because people complained a lot about reuse of area's (which was terrible) and not enough about a story that should have been rich with choice but gave none. Such as having half a brain and being able to figure out what anders is up to but being unable to refuse him or do anything about it.

I think the other bit about the ending that ticked me off was the way they decided to link it to Act I with the Red Lyrium. I expected that to be a major portion of the story considering the way Act I ended with this thing spreading some great evil and doing all sorts of nasty work. And instead you find out Meridith made it into a sword just so there would be an excuse for her to be a stronger boss encounter than a dragon. That's literally the only reason for that thing's existence, yes presumably it made her insane and drove her to be harder on the mages, but none of those decisions actually seemed insane, just tyrannical, and at this point justifiable tyranny considering what has gone down. So it doesn't really help the story at all except to justify a boss encounter and you find out nothing else about it.

whoa spoilers! guess i just totally ruined Dragon Age 2 for myself. Oh well, I didnt like the game anyways

I do however agree with how the choices should matter, other wise why program them in. Ive had characters were every choice they have to make didnt represent them at all. Its stupid and the role playing falls apart at the seams. Potentially ruining the whole game if the mechanics are not up to snuff

Tragedy =/= Illogical decisions.

Tragedy is when an event has unforeseen consequences that end up causing what you were trying to avoid.

Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy.

Original Plan: Take poison, send letter to boyfriend, meet up with boyfriend, live happily ever after.
What happened: Poison is to strong, letter with secret plan gets intercepted, boyfriend kills himself in agony over his dead lover, double suicide because boyfriend is dead.

That is tragedy.

There is no tragedy in the exact opposite happening JUST to have the exact opposite happening. If there is no Logic there is no tragedy because in this case Both outcomes are equally true.

Meredith IS a maniacal racist and the mages ARE power hungry abominations. This is all disconnected from the choices you make so there is no tragedy. These are facts, not consequences.

What would have been a tragedy is for example by helping the mages you feed their rebellious thoughts, allowing evil spirits easier access into their minds. Thus surprising BOTH the mage circle and the templars when the mages start transforming. The mages see that there is a point in control and the templars see that repression breeds the very emotions that feed demons.

That is tragedy. Not what the game presented.

But here is the real reason Dragon Age 2 fell apart.

The Second Dungeon. It's a direct copy paste from the first. All interest in game GONE. If the devs are so lazy that the first two dungeons are clones I'm not gonna be excited for the rest.

Dastardly:

Dennis Scimeca:
When Dragon Age II Fell Apart

Dragon Age 2's story is just plain broken.

Read Full Article

There's one point in particular upon which I wholeheartedly agree: If you give the player the choice, you must honor it. The corollary, of course, is that if you're not going to honor the choice, just don't present it as a choice -- which isn't a bad thing, it's just being realistic and ensuring your game doesn't draw attention to its shortcomings.

I find it interesting that your misgivings about both this game and Skyrim sound very similar, but read quite differently. In both games, you feel your choices eventually proved not to matter. Dragon Age II countermanded them, while Skyrim simply failed to give them enough weight. Both problems are very valid, and I think they're both equal-but-opposite examples of over-balancing a particular equation:

The number of options you can offer is inversely proportionate to the impact each choice can have.

If you offer more choices, the impact of each must be toned down, so that they can be allowed to coexist in a way that makes internal sense. If you want choices to truly feel epic and world-defining, you need to carefully control how many branches that tree has.

The over-example of "too much weight" is a game that presents choices that have no impact on the ending. In a way, that's what DA2 did with this storyline for you. You played your character one way, and things seemed to be going well, and right at the end the game tells you, "Wrong! You're THIS now!"

And the over-example of "too many choices" is a game that allows you go in a million directions, each of them pretty underwhelming. And that's where Skyrim is for many people. You've rocketed to the forefront of X number of elite groups (some public, some secret), you've killed potentially hundreds of the most fearsome creatures known to man and orc alike, you were once and possibly still are a werewolf or vampire, and you've either ignited or stopped a full-scale war several times over... and the best you get is a few passing mentions in the NPC dialogue.

This means we've successfully defined the two extremes. Hopefully the next step is just dialing in the sweet spot between them...

I dont necessarily disagree with you, but I would like to point out that Alpha Protocol was pretty much nothing but choices, and pretty much all of them managed to have an effect on one thing or another, some admittedly much bigger than others, but it was there. Dragon Age 2, I honestly don't remember any choice really mattering much ever, except for one scene at the end where you had to choose between killing Anders and losing Sebastion's support (The only thing in the game I think was done well).

To me Dragon Age 2, and to a much lesser extent Skyrim, were the developers putting out something quickly with the thought "We're Bioware/Bethesda! Those fuckers will buy it." I'm glad to see that at least it didn't work for Bioware.

Mamzelle_Kat:
I hate to be that person but... Orsino, not Orsini. Orsino.

Its an easy mistake to make, Orsino Orsini lived in the late 15th Century. Shakespeare used the name is as you like it. I suspect given the nature of plots and counter plots in most of Shakespeare's work, the use of the name is a homage to where they borrowed the idea from.

Which brings me back on topic. I think, and its only a personal opinion here, that the endings are meant to be a tragedy. I think they fail in that aim but as least it shows ambition.

@1337mokro

Sorry to be that guy but, technically, R&J is not a tragedy, just a tale of woe. :)

Tragedy requires a "fatal flaw" in the protagonist, that ends up destroying them. MacBeth, King Lear, Hamlet and Othello are tragedies. (Love for his wife, pride, indecision and jealousy, respectively).

Would've been uncomfortable to post that alongside the 5/5 review from this site, eh?

Regarding "Best served Cold":
This quest follows on a quest where you have to hunt mages for Knight Commander Meredith. Two of these were a danger to the city, the third was not, you can tell Meredith he was killed to help him escape. It doesn't make a good impression however you handle it. And your last big acts of helping mages date back some years. Si i'd say that the rebellious templars suspect you of working for Meredith is not at all illogical. And as the leading mage of the group has personal problems with Hawke, the inability to defuse the hostage situation isn't either.

1337mokro:
Tragedy =/= Illogical decisions.

Tragedy is when an event has unforeseen consequences that end up causing what you were trying to avoid.

Actually, no, that's dramatic irony. Tragedy is simply when a narrative involves human suffering. So, Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy, as you said, but so is La Boheme, where Mimi dies because she's got tuberculosis and not because of any ironic arrangement of circumstances.

Wilhelm Figge:
Regarding "Best served Cold":
This quest follows on a quest where you have to hunt mages for Knight Commander Meredith. Two of these were a danger to the city, the third was not, you can tell Meredith he was killed to help him escape. It doesn't make a good impression however you handle it. And your last big acts of helping mages date back some years. Si i'd say that the rebellious templars suspect you of working for Meredith is not at all illogical. And as the leading mage of the group has personal problems with Hawke, the inability to defuse the hostage situation isn't either.

Exactly. The main kidnapper just hates Hawke, because of something that happened some years previously. Hence "best served cold", I always thought - the kidnapping was someone using heated circumstances to exact their own petty vengeance rather than to sensibly reach some political goal.

Grr, doublepost!

*delete*

cynicalsaint1:
Oh yay!
Another "Let's take a dump on DA2!" rant - because there are totally not enough of those yet ...

Don't get me wrong, I agree with a lot of what you're saying - yes the ending did seem rushed and that quest seemed stupid, but this is about the thousandth time I time I've heard pretty much this exact same rant.

Quiet, you. For once this is coming from a contributing editor of a gaming mag. This is big news, a totem needs to be erected in this article's honor.

I found the ultimate outcome of either side's support to be a very interesting and different way of showing players that their decision on whom to support may not always be vindicated, especially after choosing your final side in the battle for Kirkwall. Yes, Meredith may be insane, power-hungry and corrupted, taking the Templars to an absurd overreach of their station, BUT she was right about the mages the whole time, since Blood Magic is widespread in the circle, and Orsino himself is a blood mage also. Even if it could be spun as that the mages were practicing Blood Magic to resist Meredith's insanity and repression, demonic possession and corruption -and all the chaos and destruction surrounding that- still occurs, no matter what their original motives were.

I think that the point that BioWare was trying to make here is that both sides were in the wrong, and that no matter who Hawke eventually allied with, it feels like you made the wrong choice. I think it's a fresh and innovative way of showing players that just because they have a story and choices that are unique to them, that does not automatically mean that the story will have an ending where their choices feel vindicated.

If the game had depicted that one side was clearly in the right and lorded it over the other faction whether you allied with them or not, that would be problematic storytelling. However, since the leaders of both factions are revealed to be inherently evil at the end, I think it was a refreshing look at the "no way you can come out of this smelling like a rose" ending.

The main annoyance I have is that there is obvious room for a middle option: Side with the City. You're the Champion of KIRKWALL, not Champion of the Mages, or Champion of the Templars. Hell, there's enough quests where you side with the City Guard that they could be considered their own faction.

Undead Dragon King:

If the game had depicted that one side was clearly in the right and lorded it over the other faction whether you allied with them or not, that would be problematic storytelling. However, since the leaders of both factions are revealed to be inherently evil at the end, I think it was a refreshing look at the "no way you can come out of this smelling like a rose" ending.

This. I absolutely loved the ending - both sides are rotten, both choices are a compromise, and neither side will let you abstain from choosing.

The last act showed a city spiralling out of control into fanaticism and violence, and how can one person, even a Champion, stop that? Gamers are so used to being the Chosen One who gets to be all-powerful and decide how everything pans out. The real world isn't like that; DA2 chose to show that fantasy worlds don't have to be like that either.

Seventh Actuality:
Why am I reading a whole article on the most simple, obvious flaw in DA2's story almost a full year after it came out?

Because you saw it, clicked the link, read it, then came here to post.

OT: excellent piece. Focusing on one of many examples of terribleness found in DA2. When I got to that bit I was like "I have to do this?" A middle option would have been so much better.

Mamzelle_Kat:
I hate to be that person but... Orsino, not Orsini. Orsino.

Le fixed! Thanks for the heads up.

Thoric485:
Would've been uncomfortable to post that alongside the 5/5 review from this site, eh?

Not really. We don't insist that contributors agree with our review scores, and welcome discussion about a game's pros and cons. If Dennis had pitched me this article when the game came out, I'd have run it, then, too.

Word. DAII had a horrible, horrible story (and gameplay). No real buildup, and no real confrontation. Even that whole Qunari business was shelved, Isabella received nothing, not even a stern look from the authorities, and my greatest dissapointment: there was no real dwarven story. DA dwarves are a very refreshing take on the old archetypes, showing them as a bigoted culture based too much on old customs and not wanting to change, and dwarven things look awesome. And we got may two hours of simple, linear, dungeon-crawly stuff. Meh.

BioWare's narrative specialty is giving players the ability to shape worlds through moral choices.

Is it? Maybe this is just a failing of my memory but I can't really recall any Bioware games that have executed on moral choices with meaningful consequences well. They're typically rife with false dichotomies, cartoonish good/evil morality, morality bars with gameplay effects that actively limit choice, and railroading. I always felt that Bioware's narrative specialty was in creating interesting worlds, populating them with some likeable and nuanced characters and having a fairly decent plot with a nice twist or two, but I felt like the choices were generally pretty bullshit.

Actually, Dragon Age Origins did choices pretty well, but other than that, I wouldn't say Bioware is good at it.

Great article. Still don't regret giving the game a pass.
In the end, I think the bigger picture around it boils down to this: BioWare shouldn't be owned by EA. It does not under any circumstance make sense and cripples gaming.

Also there's the addition of the craptastic dialogue wheel, lack of race choice, lack of aesthetic customization in companions, reused areas, those quests where you would find an item and bring it to some random person for some reason, and the goofy departure from the aesthetic of the first game. All of which make the game a huge step backwards from its predecessor.

Let's not forget those problems.

Ahem.

1. Before you start Best Served Cold, you are REQUIRED to complete another quest called "On the Loose" in which Meredith asks you to hunt down some mages who have escaped. You can deal with the mages in a number of ways, but since several of them have gone batshit insane and attack you, you have no choice but to kill them. So you are so totally working for Meredith at the point Best Served Cold comes up.

2. Mages are renowned for going batshit insane, so under stress they're certainly not always going to do the sensible thing. These are not civil, stable people protesting nonviolently against a regime they find unpleasant. Many of them maintain a civilized veneer, but Orsino (apparently the most stable of the lot) actually helped the guy who killed Hawke's mom with some illegal and highly evil researches.

3. "Show, don't Tell" does not apply to secondary details. It is not appropriate to waste vast amounts of time narrating every single thing that ever happens (if you did, it'd be impossible to tell any story of any kind at all). The fact that mages and templars across Thedas are now rebelling is not really part of Hawke's story or significant TO Hawke's story. It simply informs the significance of the events post-story on the overall world. The ending could just as easily have been "and three weeks later the Divine showed up with three thousand templars and they cleaned up the whole mess and shoved it under the rug".

Dennis Scimeca:

Dragon Age 2's story is just plain broken.

I loved DA:O but never got around to playing DA2. I hope to at some point. The complaints Ive heard havent put me off I just always have other things to play.

Copy paste dungeons? Well there are plenty of similar buildings thrown up on housing estates etc so is it so far fetched?

Onto the OPs point about "Best served cold". We can all get dragged into things that dont concern us, having worked in prisons Ive seen "neutral" people have to side with gangs from their area because they were targetted by rival gangs thinking they're affiliated. Similar things happen in places like Northern Ireland, and the middle east. You are roped in with a group you dont have any real links with and have to stand your ground or flee. Whats is so far fetched? Sometimes other people make your choices for you.

As far as the ending; what's so wrong with both sides being arse holes? Isn't that most wars ever fought? Look at recent events in Libya where most observers agree that NATO, the pro Gaddafi fighters and the "freedom fighters" are all guilty of war crimes. (Thats Bombing civilian targets, deciding someones a pro Gaddafi supporter to be tortured and killed based on skin colour and burying deserters alive respecively to name a few allegations). Life is not so black and white unless you believe TV and movies.

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