Archive for March 19th, 2011

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Dragon Age 2: Making Terrible Decisions And Loving It

March 19, 2011

I’m still currently in the middle of the second act of My Dragon Age 2 playthrough, and already the life and friendships I’ve so carefully cultivated for my Hawke are unraveling faster than a ball of cheap string. Everything is going straight to hell…but strangely, I am totally okay with this.

You know, it wasn’t so long ago that the impetuous little old me would fly into a fit of rage every time something didn’t go the way I wanted them to in an RPG, and I would revert to a previous save to desperately try and salvage the situation. Needless to say, fluky outcomes and mechanics like random rolls always had a way of sticking in my craw. I was, and in some ways still am, a pretty big control freak and a stickler for perfection, and it used to drive me completely bonkers not to have a good idea of where my character’s story might be going. Not surprisingly, whenever my character would come across an important decision, I’d always agonize, fighting the urge not to jump onto the internet and look up the results on some wiki or read the forums about what other gamers did.

More often than not, I’d loose that fight. Spoilers be damned, even as a child, I was never above flipping ahead to see what would happen in those old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, making sure I wasn’t going to get eaten by a dragon or fall into a pit of spikes or something before making my decision. Yeah, it was cheating, but I didn’t care, as long as I got to make the “right” choices and get the “right” conclusion.

I used to think that was what I wanted, until RPGs in recent years have made me change my whole way of thinking. Choices in games don’t just come down to multiple endings anymore; favorites like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the Fable series, and BioWare titles have all allowed players to make game-altering decisions in both dialogue and events throughout the entirety of the game, some complete with impressionable NPCs and dialogue systems. Somewhere along the way, our RPGs became elaborate affairs encompassing moral conundrums, twisting plot lines and unpredictable variables. Difficult choices became even more difficult, and point A did not always lead to point B.

I can go on forever about the complexities of the games we play nowadays, but in the end it all relates back to one thing —  RPG stories getting a lot more personal. Admittedly, part of it has to do with recognizing the futility of trying to micro-manage every decision, but ultimately, it’s also the realization that it’s no longer so important for me to nail the “perfect” playthrough. Instead, what I really want to do is to play “my” playthrough.

Despite even my best intentions, not everything in my DA2 playthrough right now has turned out the way I wanted. I thought I’d be raging by now, but I’m not. Sure, the events of this game are turning out to be more unpredictable than I expected, but I’m actually enjoying that aspect quite a lot.

I think it’s unfortunate that bad things have come out of my good decisions, but even with my Hawke’s life in shambles right now — friends hating me, family all but gone, failures abounding —  I don’t regret them. I didn’t read any spoilers or look up any guides at all, so I know everything that happens will be a result of my choices, of the things I felt were right at the time. So my ending’s not going to be all sunshine and lollipops! But oh well, it’s mine.

(And at least I still have Anders!)