Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dragon Age II

Dragon Age II

Dragon Age II is the sequel to the successful Dragon Age: Origins, and was first launched in the U.S. 03/08/2011.

Hawke,  male / female versions

The story continues in the world of Thedas. The player assumes the role of Hawke (only the character's name is fixed, the player can customize all other respects, including gender and race), a refugee from the events in Dragon Age: Origins, in the nation of Ferelden. Hawke will settle in the neighboring state, Kirkwall. Over a decade (and throughout the game), he will become the "Champion of Kirkwall, and serve as a catalyst for the events that will forever change the history of Thedas.

A "decade" in which events occur is experienced by the player, and as in Origins, the course of these events are defined by the choices and actions of the player. Throughout the game, the story is being "told" by a member of Hawke's adventuring band, the dwarf Varric, one of the most interesting characters of the game.

Bioware, the developer of the game, always made it clear that Dragon Age is the spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate (never heard of? Well, I urge you to get information on that right now, do not waste your time any longer!), And we recognize that this remains true for DAII. The influences of Baldur's Gate can be felt in the interactions between the characters, which remains one of the strengths of the series (as was the case with Baldur's Gate), including the option of romances. There are five in all, and Bioware announced that they are directed towards "all genders and orientations." The options are Isabela, Fenris, Merrill, Anders, and Sebastian. Kirkwall is almost as interesting as  Athkatla in Baldur's Gate II, with its various districts and sub-plots that may be encountered with its inhabitants. Some characters, like Varric may be considered interesting, although there is no one as special as Minsc and Edwin.

The dialogues, however, maintains the tradition: very sharp and witty, with several references to pop culture and Baldur's Gate itself, without, however, straining the characterization or the spirit of the history. You just have to get the right people in the group and be in the right place. Most of these dialogues take place in the Hanged Man Tavern, in Kirkwall. For example, if the player chooses to talk with Aveline (one of the characters in DAII) at the tavern, she will say that the place is a "hive of scum and villainy", a reference to Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars (1977), about the spaceport of Mos Eisley. If you have the character Anders in your group, he gives initiation into a conversation about pets. One of the other characters will suggest an owl as a pet, as he will answer "what kind of respectful wizard has an owl as a pet?". A clear reference to Harry Potter. Also in the Hanged Man, Varric will comment about a waitress named Edwina, in reference to the wizard Edwin from Baldur's Gate 2, where he is shapechanged into a woman.
"Easter Egg": The Baldur's Gate pantaloons receive honorable mention in Dragon Age II
And also on Baldur's Gate, the best of all: a waitress mentions a certain "pantaloons" which was found on a road. The pantaloons is a classic "easter egg" in Baldur's Gate, which is featured throughout the series, through Baldur's Gate, Baldur's Gate 2 and Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal. The pantaloons were loaded in your inventory through the games and expansions, and it was made useful only at the end of the series.

Dragon Age II received mostly positive reviews--8.5/10 on IGN and 80/100 on Metacritic. One of the frequent complaints refers to the fact that the central character and the story are so strictly tied to the town of Kirkwall, when the world Thedas seems so big and with so many stories and conflicts to be explored. That would not be a problem if Kirkwall was as alive as Athkatla in Baldur's Gate 2, or if only it's architecture was so interesting and varied as Sigil in Planescape:Torment (another Bioware classic). In terms of narrative and scenario, however, DAII is almost unanimously good. And the game also does a decent job in keeping the boasts of being the spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate. After all, Bioware is today one of the few, perhaps the only gaming company that gives us the experience of actually playing a role and living a history, just what led Baldur's Gate to become a model for a whole generation of RPGs.


List of characters of note:
  •   Hawke: The protagonist.
  •   Flemeth: Notorious Witch of the Wilds.
  •   Cassandra: A Chantry Seeker who is interested in the history of Hawke.
  •   Varric: A rogue dwarf who acts as narrator and a fellow Hawke.
  •      Bethany: the sister of Hawke and apostate wizard.
  •      Carver: Hawke's brother and a warrior.
  •      Aveline: A widow warrior.
  •      Isabela: The captain of the pirate ship "Siren's Call."
  •      Fenris: An elf, former slave who was infused with lyrium by his former master.
  •      Marethari: The Dalish Guardian.
  •      Sebastian: An archer of noble birth who seeks revenge for the murder of his family.
  •      Anders: An apostate wizard and former Grey Warden, from Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening.
  •      Orsino: Elf, The First Enchanter of the Circle of Mages in Kirkwall. He is one of the most respected men in Kirkwall.
  • Meredith: Knight-Commander of Kirkwall. She is one of the most influential people of Kirkwall
  •  Marlowe Dumar: Viscount of Kirkwall. He is one of the most powerful politicians in Kirkwall. 
  • Great-cleric Elthina: Great-cleric of Kirkwall. She is one of the most powerful people in Kirkwall.