Enchantment? Enchantment!

This is my obligatory Dragon Age post.

Summary:  I like it a lot.  I’m playing it on “easy” mode, which I’m so glad even exists, because in RPGs, especially well-written ones like this one, I concentrate on story, not gameplay.  And while gameplay here is fun, and fascinating, and I love the ability to take a tactical “time out” and queue actions for my whole party, the story is what keeps me hooked.

And, big spoilers ahead!  Be aware!

Life in Ferelden just sucks.  Up to thirty years ago, the country was subjugated under the rule of neighboring Orlais.  Before that, there was a demonic Blight that only the world’s special demon-hunters were able to take on:  the Grey Wardens, mythical warriors able to call on allies in time of need.  Now, due to a really interesting origin story (there are six possible), a pretty difficult test, and a pretty hairy ritual, you’re one of these mythical warriors.  Your mission remains the same as it has always been for Grey Wardens:  you rid the world of the Blight, through whatever means you consider palatable.  And life just keeps getting suckier.

A few criticisms.  A friend rightly snarked the game as being sort of “deliberately edgy” in its marketing, and boy, that’s true.  I saw a few commercials and hardly thought they went with the same game.  Don’t get me wrong, DA has a lot of pyrrhic victories and impossible choices you nevertheless have to make.  But the game itself doesn’t scream violence! sex! violence! sex!  Those are huge parts of the game, but not to the obnoxiously “hurrr, look, we have nookie cutscenes” the advertising seems to imply.

The blood and gore:  yeah, there’s a ton of it.  I’ve read (and made) a lot of snark about how if a character so much as looks at a bad thing, they’re suddenly drenched head to toe in blood, and then, by the next cutscene, it’s gone.  I hear there are ways to tone down the gore (my current character, a human rogue, seems to decapitate people a LOT), but I haven’t investigated them.

Moving on to what’s fun:  okay, my boyfriend keeps saying that after this, he’s going to start buying me dating sims.  The opportunities for “romance” in the game are numerous, and my character (and her player) are having an absolute ball trying to curry favor with various members of the party.  Yes, even to the extent that I started the game over when I realized one of my impossible decisions had blocked the way for a future relationship with one of the party members.  Oh Alastair, you befuddled Grey Warden, you.  And, props to Bioware for including romantic options that aren’t heterosexual-only.

I almost never say this in games (except for my beloved Lord of the Rings Online, and well:  duhh.), but I absolutely love DA’s lore.  It’s rich, it turns my particular crank about how religion is handled in fantasy, and it’s remarkably consistent throughout the game.  Since I’m a roleplay nut, my character is – as her status and background would indicate – a dutiful, if not especially pious, worshipper, and she makes decisions and accepts consequences based on that trait.  And it really does make a difference.

Which brings me to my last rave about the game.  Choices have consequences.  I made one choice, early on, on the first character I tried.  It was the right decision given the situation, her fear, her resources.  But as I kept playing and playing, I the player was just so bound up in having made an awful decision that I had a hard time even playing anymore.  It totally haunted my character in-game, affected everyone’s feelings toward her, and had undeniable consequence.  I ended up dumping that char for the aforementioned reasons, but man.  I was in KNOTS about my choices.  The storytelling is really absorbing.

I haven’t tried the downloadable content yet.  Not sure I will on this character.  But I’m excited to see what the scenario builder-type tools are, and I can’t wait to start the game yet AGAIN as a different gender/class/origin mix.  Highly recommended, as long as you don’t mind looking like a vat of ketchup has been upended on your character for 90% of the game.

4 thoughts on “Enchantment? Enchantment!

  1. Chris

    Ali is really wanting to pick this up so I expect we’ll have it soon. I’ll be sure to point her toward your review.

    Question: Are you playing on computer or XBox, and how are the controls on that platform?

  2. Susan Post author

    PC. I can’t handle console controls; I’m not one of these crazy kids of today!

    I find the PC controls pretty darn easy. I actually put down Neverwinter Nights because it required me to point-and-click for movement. This game has that option, but also lets me do mouse or WASD movement as well. I’ve had no problems with the UI.

  3. Brant

    Belatedly: what was the choice that prompted you to start the game over again? I’m playing through DA:O for the first time–got it for Christmas ’09, but never really played it until now–and I’m just curious.

  4. Susan Post author

    Now that everyone I know has played through the thing – when my character went to the mage’s tower, she sided with the Templars in thinking the mages (including herself) were bugnuts and should be put down. That immediately caused the healer-lady (I have forotten her name entirely!) to attempt to kill my character, and caused Alastair to hate me forever. Noo healer and noo Alastair were both unacceptable.

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