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!)


  1. Well, everyone gets what he/she deserves in the end. You got Anders…

    • The romance options in this one are actually quite bland, imo. The only character who I thought would be remotely interesting in a relationship was the one I couldn’t pursue — Varric. Then there was Sebastian but he DLC and you couldn’t get the “full” experience with him. So sad, I had to settle for Anders 😦

      Third choice or not though, he’s pretty much the only one close to me I still have left! You could even say he was one of the terrible decisions that I loved XD

  2. I’m okay with unexpected consequences as long as they don’t screw you over in terms of being able to complete the game. On my first DA1 playthrough, I was a Rogue and I accidentally killed off one of the only two companions who can heal. I had not been speccing the other as a healer, so this left my save in a condition that was actively no longer fun to play.

    When I was in high school, I had enough free time to start over after an un-anticipate-able “mistake” like this 15 hours into a game. These days, my time is a bit more limited.

    • Oh, ouuuuch, losing two companions that can heal, yeah that would have been no fun.

      Thankfully for the most part, the things I’ve done have affected my story, not gameplay. The “bad” things are mostly heart wrenching moments and made me feel sad inside, and if I’m already thinking of what I might do differently if ever do another playthrough. Probably not for a long while though, like you said, time is limited.

  3. I’m trying to let my micromanaging self stick to actually roleplaying my character in this game as well. Though I have a huge crush on the default smartass male Hawke, so it’s making my female playthrough a bit rough. 😛

    The thing that pisses me off the most is that the Origins imports are not working. Yeah. So if your Warden got serious with Zevran or Leliana, you’re not going to see the correct dialogue. http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/306/index/6650501/1

    The good thing is that a modder is picking up the slack. I just have to wait until he/she finishes the work. http://social.bioware.com/project/4364/

    This is unforgivable, and makes me not even want to buy TOR. Really, how could BioWare let such a thing ship like that?

    • Wow, really? I played my Origins playthrough on the Xbox360 and I’m playing 2 on the PC, hence I knew I was starting fresh anyway and so had no idea at all. What a shame…it’s such a huge feature, and I know several people who were looking forward to DA2 in order to see through their story, even if we can’t continue it directly. I hope it works out in the end for them, somehow. Origins imports not working is dropping the ball big time.

  4. Update us when you finish the game, I’d love to hear what you think about the rest of the events.

    • I finished last night 😀

      I will be writing a review later this week…so much happened, so much stuff to say! Have to consolidate my thoughts 🙂

  5. I’ve never really been worried about where the story was going in RPGs like this. Mainly because I know no matter what my choices are ultimately they are constrained by the variations those who are telling the story could conceive.

    I generally just make choices based on my own personal sensibilities. Which means I often run askew of a pure good/evil path as some of my choices, which I can justify as being good, are marked as evil because they weren’t good in the eyes of the original author. Conversely some of the good choices I consider evil so would not pick them.

    • I think part of the change in me is that I’ve started playing that way as well in recent years. I try to put myself in the mind of the character, taking stock of my situation, and think about what I would do if I were in her place. Even so, it was hard to do for DA2. Choice weren’t so black and white, and then there are those constraints you talked about. Sometimes the most sensible choice you know you should make, aren’t the ones available, which was so frustrating. I just approximated the best I could, and even then it was tough, with my motivations and feelings pulled in so many directions.

  6. In every rpg i let my natural personallity play into my character reagardless. I’m a neutral renegade bad ass who doesn’t shy away from extra quests for anyone, especially if it’s going to have a major impact on the world. I have a hard time picking factions, but an easy time blindly being loyal to them. I have no problem lying or being coniving when i want or need something, and conversly kissing the right ass here or there.

    My struggle is figuring out who to help and who to shit on. TOR is going to murder me for the same sensibilities of thinking, “Damn i should’ve helped those padawans get their revenge and let my passion drive me, but continue my jedi ways where they need to be and be a balancing polarizing charismatic figure.” because there’s just no such thing as wholly good or wholly evil to me.

    I often feel there’s no reward for being a nice handsome shade of grey in life or games, it just comes off as wishy washy ambiguity at it’s height, but chicks dig a roguish bad ass with a heart of gold right?

    • I let some of my natural personality play into my character too, but it ends up being more of a mixture with what I think the way the character should be acting or feeling as well. Like, I’m not so good with confrontations in real life, and most of the time, life puts constraints on how you can normally act anyway — like, you can’t punch someone because they make you angry without getting into a world of trouble with the police or getting hit with a lawsuit 😛 In the game, however, I throw caution to the wind. I’m more apt to have my character lose her temper and show the other person what I really feel 😛

      That’s how I plan on tackling TOR as well. If it’s going to be anything like DA2, I have a feeling some of the choices are going to be bloody HARD. And I think I’m just going to close my eyes and jump in feet first, go with my instincts on everything.

  7. I got a giggle out of that choose your own adventure book title, very true. We have something called a “free table” where folks drop off stuff they don’t want. The other day someone left ten of them on the free table. So lately I’ve been reading CYOA books while I wait for the bus . . .and looking quite odd doing it I’m sure 😉 They were a lot better when i was 12 I’m sorry to say, but I still enjoy the utter randomness of them.

    • Man, I’d love to get my hands on those books again! They definitely were cheesy, but LOL the memories and the nostalgia would be worth it 😛

  8. I would be surprised if anyone actually read a CYOA book and didn’t do the “finger-bookmarking-the-current-page-while-I-skip-ahead-to-see-if-I-made-the-right-decision” technique.

    I did it more times than I can count, and it saved my bacon from everything from bloodthirsty space vampires to evil ninjas.

    • Haha, actually, when we were kids, my brother actually insisted on doing it the “correct” way 😛 He wouldn’t skip ahead and then try to go back when he made the wrong decision, and he’d be so happy whenever he completed an adventure alive without “cheating”. Probably why he had so much more fun reading those books than I did 😛

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