Dragon Age II: Rise to Power - Cautiously Optimistic

Disappointed but not surprised by the new fixed Hero aka Dragon Age Shepard.

One thing these critics/fans don't comment on is just how hard it was to code all that extra racial crap. I absolutely loved the dwarven/elven/mage origin but I can also appreciate the thought that it was actually very very hard for the writers and developers to keep track of all the dialogue options based on your character variables. So much variation makes it extremely difficult for a sequel. Awakening /tried/, but mostly Awakening bounced over it or managed to fluff it by tossing darkspawn at you every time something got personal.

I think the decision to make a semi-predefined hero is a technical one. They tried having a flexible hero and while it worked to a certain degree of 'worked', it required far too much manpower for the end result.

Having a fixed hero also gives the writers a certain edge of control on the storyline.

Tell me the truth. When you played your Dalish Elf, did you not find the whole deal with Howe very strange? You barged into his supposed home and murdered him in apparent cold blood. It made no sense, and that was because it wasn't supposed to make sense. The whole DAO story was not personal and the writers couldn't make it personal because of the myriad of character variables.

When things are not personal, it becomes very difficult to justify why your character does anything. My little Cousland only had one wish and that was to beat the shit out of Howe. The whole goal of that playthrough was to avenge and revenge and THAT was a desire that lay very close to my own.

That moment where your character's wishes and your wishes align; something magical happens. The story becomes real. It's not something you watch, it becomes something you live. This is what every writer wants to achieve. This is why people /write/. Films, books, GAMES, anything with a plot is trying to reach out and touch your heart.

The Cousland + Howe storyline worked precisely because of limitation. The writers predefined your parents, your heritage, your little nephew. They made your character happy with a bright future and secure in a loving family. Then they wrote Howe who ripped it all away from you and tossed you out into the mud and rain. And then brought the same villain back, again and again, to steal your father's lands and titles, to brand your murdered family as the traitors and to turn the kingdom against you. He even taunts you when you finally meet up with him again. Oh sssssshit, this just got personal, MOTHERFUCKINGBITCH.

I don't think the Archedemon ever did anything as cruel as what Howe did.

If every aspect of DAO was as personal as the Cousland storyline, then shit, DAO would be universally acclaimed and I would die happy knowing I have seen everything there is to see in interactive storytelling. But instead 80% of the game is cookie cutter Save The World bullshit that you, the player, is railroaded onto. You don't WANT to save the world, but you have to.

This is the same reason why Neverwinter Nights 2 was mediocre while Mask of the Betrayer was fucking sweet. In one, I HAD to save the world and would someone remind me why I'm working for DoucheBag Nasher again?? In the other, I WANTED to save the world (well, I wanted to save myself but it works out good for everyone, trust me.)

So in that regard I am very happy with the fixed hero because it will give DAO's excellent writers the chance to really shine.

On the other hand, I am sad because giving me so much control over my character made me care about her. Writers get this all the time - you essentially fall in love with them because you devote so much of your energy into the making of them. They are like your offspring. Non-writers, I'm sure, will have absolutely no farking clue what I'm talking about, but it's like this: I don't care about John Shepard as much as I do about Elissa Cousland.

Part of this is the voice acting that comes with Shepard and gives him a life outside my directive. John and Jane's voice; the entire character of Shepard, has an edge of authority, of /hardness/, that I did not dictate. That's just part of the universal Shepard. Which is perfectly in keeping with the actions of Universal Shepard but it just means that this character is not mine. It's Bioware's.

Hawke is not mine. I will never care about this character as much as I did about the Grey Warden. For one thing; the name is dumb. Hawke. Sounds like deliberate fangirl/boy fodder. I'd never name a toon that. His mother gave birth and decided to name him that? Or did he pick it himself after a life of privation in the streets? Insert facepalm. Either way, it's a dumb cliched name.

Still, I do look forward to this game.