My EXTENSIVE Dragon Age II thoughts. Spoilers, obviously.

If you’ve been following me for a while now, you know that my love for Dragon Age: Origins knows no bounds. The same goes for pretty much all of its spin-off material, such as the books Stolen Throne and The Calling. I waited in line for hours at PAX for a chance to play the Dragon Age II demo, and never once did I regret the time I spent in that line when I could have been playing everything else in the expo hall, or roaming the Secret Level, or going to see panels like Acquisitions, Inc.

Even once I finally received my Signature Edition copy of the game and settled in throughout the first act of three, I felt nothing but love for the game in spite of small observations–they weren’t really severe enough to call complaints–regarding things I felt could have been done differently. The further into the narrative I explored, though, the more and more I felt ill-at-ease with one thing or another in the game.

Don’t get me wrong. Dragon Age II is a fantastic game, even in spite of my concerns. It just wasn’t the game I’d come to expect.

For one thing, I remember two promises from early into the advertising for this game:

  1. An epic narrative spanning a decade
  2. The chance to expand our experience beyond Ferelden to the whole of Thedas.

Bioware successfully met half of each claim, but then fell short on the other.

Let’s start with that decade-long narrative. Dragon Age II begins as the Hawkes are fleeing Lothering during the Blight. After completing the Ferelden portion of the introduction, the game skips ahead an unstated amount of time to Hawke’s arrival in Kirkwall and the beginning of a year working off the debt that was incurred gaining the family passage into the city when so many other Ferelden refugees are left in the cold. After skipping again to the end of this year of indentured servitude, together with the time it must have taken to get to Kirkwall, we can guess that up to a year an a half has passed since the first scenes until the true beginning of Act 1 of the game.

I won’t go into too much detail on the actual events of each act at this point as the specific plot isn’t relevant, but if you look at the achievements/trophies for the game one of them is for completing “a full year in Kirkwall without any party member being knocked unconscious” implying that each act spans one year of the narrative. That, in and of itself, leaves me feeling cheated regarding the decade-long narrative promised in the game. The game is only three acts, remember? So in reality, we’re only getting a three year game, not a ten year game as was advertised. Can we say “scale the epic back by about 60%”?

Next comes my disappointment with the physical scale of the game. In Origins the locations we have to explore span Ferelden, from the bitter Korcari Wilds in the South to the warmer coastlines of the Waking Sea. In the sequel, however? We’re given a single city and its outskirts–oh, I’m sorry, we’re given a city by day, the same city by night, or the outskirts. That’s not exactly the whole of Thedas. It’s not even a small portion of Thedas–just one small, independent city-state of the Free Marches. Physically, the epicness of the game is reduced even futher, and that left me very sadface.

True, we don’t have a Blight to quell, or treaties to enforce, or any of the urgency of Origins’ plot, but that doesn’t mean that we have to spend nearly the entire game running errands for random townsfolk. While some of these quests do later relate to significant plot details–especially the one regarding the women going missing from Kirkwall, which I felt was probably one of the best subplots in the entire game–most of them consist of nothing more than delivering random items found while cave diving and the like to their misplaced owners. Tim over at Ctrl+Alt+Del wasn’t exaggerating in the slightest with this comic. At least in the first act running all these random errands made sense in the context of the story: you have to gather the gold needed to become a partner in the Deep Roads expedition Varric’s brother is leading, and these odd jobs are a means to that end. It just makes no sense later in the game for many of these quests to be present, though.

Now then, I’m not nearly has hot over what I perceived as injustices and insults in the game’s final act as I was on Saturday night. My initial, raw reactions that I tweeted that night and the next day:

1. Well, that was a let down. I enjoyed *playing* the game. I have next to no desire to replay it though.
2. Even with various quests here & there that were engaging, the story as a whole did nothing for me.
3. My first impression rating for the game was an 8 or 8.5… After finishing it, though, it’s a 7 at BEST.
4. (In response to a reply I received stating the poster found the game “incredibly underwhelming”): Agreed. Being the 2nd part of a trilogy is one thing. But Empire Strikes Back this ain’t.
5. the locations are dull and repetitive; the mechanics of gameplay are fine. Overall, though?
6. just a plea for the franchise to stay fresh in our minds until they can complete the “real” next installment.
7. being the second of a trilogy is one thing, but you have to actually contribute to the over-arcing story, not just pass the time

I think #4, my final response before going to bed for the night Saturday, is the most efficient assessment I can make for the game overall. I don’t think anyone, anywhere, doubted that there would be a third game. Unlike Empire, though, DA2 falls flat on its face as an individual installment in the larger story. I have a feeling (or at least, I’m hoping) that by the time the final installment is released, whether through DLC and expansions or through the next game itself, we’ll have more context for the events of DA2 that lessens the blow of this particular shortcoming. As of now, however, there just isn’t enough content to justify the game as its own entity.

But wait, you said that in spite of everything, it’s a fantastic game. It sure as hell doesn’t sound like it from what you’ve said so far!

Just because I have complaints about the game–even ones as potentially damning as the ones above–that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. While the locations can be dull and repetitive, the mechanics are smooth and battles are fun. With the exceptions of random system freezes in Act 1, I didn’t experience any of the random bugs I’ve heard about online.

Probably foremost in the pluses for the game is the development of the characters and their relationships, even though I didn’t like how some of that development would later become relevant to the final plot. In my game specifically, I played a femHawke rogue, and was incredibly close to younger sister and apostate mage Bethany. Considering my sympathies for the difficulties that mages faced, my Hawke eventually hooked up with Anders, and their relationship continued through the rest of my game–through and beyond his ultimate acts against the Chantry. On the one hand, I despise Bioware for what they did to Anders in this game.

Honestly, the fact that my character was so closely intwined with Anders and other mage sympathies is probably why the ending of the game left such a bad taste in my mouth. But at the same time, it illustrated what was probably the one shining triumph for the game: even though what I felt when I finished the game sickened me, I nonetheless felt at the end of the game. I hated–no, despised–what the story made me do in order to be true to the character I’d built. The feeling of despair in the epilogue when it’s revealed that not just the Circles in northern Thedas rebelled, but all fourteen Circles followed suit, crushed me, because by association that means all the good I’d done in Ferelden in the last game may as well have been erased by the actions of Hawke, Orsino, and Meredith. I may not like what I felt in the game, but I did feel, and in the end, maybe that’s what matters.

Stream Today?

I have errands I’m running right now, but odds are Prince Spaceman will pick up at the beginning of chapter 9 in FFXV later today. (Hopefully Prince Spaceman will have an easier time with that chapter than Noct did on my original game.) Gaming will depend somewhat on how I’m feeling after an appointment I have, but I think I’ll be okay.

Now then, when I stream will depend on whether or not I go see King Arthur this afternoon or not. I have no expectations other seeing Charlie Hunnam, so I think I’ll probably enjoy it even if it is bad. But again, it’ll depend on how I’m feeling. Feeling rough = go home & game earlier; feeling okay = go to movie and game after.

Final Fantasy Hell Again

This time, it’s FFXIV. I played the betas for both the original and ARR, and I loved the second especially, but never got a chance to actually sign up for the full game. Well, thanks to a certain asshole, I set everything up last night.

Well, not everything yet. I haven’t actually set my character up, because as of typing this it’s 8AM and I was up until 2-ish last night getting the client updated and such. Also, Brian and I have to get his account and character set up because a) if I’m going down he’s going with me; even if he wasn’t willing, he’d be forced into it for forcing me into DCU:O years ago and b) I need my healer, and he’s my healer. At least Brian’s PS4 client is already up to date; the software itself was still in our library from the beta or a trial or something, so we just have to activate his service account.

So! What will we be doing, and where? I’m told by the above-referenced asshole that our server is going to be Sargantanas. It kind of defeats the purpose of being bullied encouraged to start the game but then don’t get on the same server, so Sargantanas it is. Then again, it could also be a kind of funny? Not funny enough to actually do considering my current sleep-deprived state. Anyway. I’ll be starting in Ul’dah, though I don’t know if I’m going to start with gladiator or pugilist. I know gladiator is going to be quicker overall for me, but I’m going to need pugilist leveled eventually to pair with the rogue I’m going to switch to at the first chance I get.

You know. ‘Cause ninjas.

Brian I’m assuming will be in Gridania, because of 99% chance he’s going to go healer. God, I hope he goes healer. If he doesn’t then that’s going to be awkward. I’ll meet up with him once I unlock rogue.

Anyway, I’ll post names/portraits/other details up when we have all that set up, if anyone’s interested. In the meantime, this old post has some of my beta characters. I was on PS3 at the time, so they’re just pics of the TV unfortunately. It doesn’t change how obnoxiously adorable Ria is, and since the beta it looks like freckles were added so if I make her instead of a random character, she’ll be even more adorable than in those pics.

[Personal] Life and delays

So, a few things, I guess? Basically, work’s been absurdly chaotic for about a month now. I’ve been able to get in some of my anime/tv time as planned, and I got through a first playthrough of Episode Gladiolus, but other than those I’m more or less asleep before I even get home so very little’s been done on any other front. Well, I did catch up FFXV to the back-to-streaming point last… Sunday? …but I’m going to try to put that down while I catch up on Dragon Age stuff. Once I get another few posts to the Re-Everything in, I’ll go back to alternating the two. And the Re-Everything? I’m planning to get one more post up for that by this next chapter of The Stolen Throne. So, tomorrow or Sunday, so long as I can stay awake long enough to type something up.

Let’s see what else was I meaning to include here?

My new hair dye came in yesterday, so I’m going to get Brian to help me with that this weekend. Before and after pics to follow. I went this morning to delete my LJ, since I’ve been planning to do that anyway, and found it already deleted. I guess some admin somewhere saw me post about planning to do so, and did it for me? Either way, that site comes off the “where to find me” posts I have everywhere now. I might replace it with Dreamwidth, but I don’t think I used it enough to need a replacement. I’ll update everything if I decide otherwise.

Crap, I swear I had more to post when I opened up this window. I guess whatever for now…

tl;dr: life is hectic, I’m sleeping more than getting me-things done, but I’ll catch up eventually.

Stream Tomorrow: Episode Gladiolus

Life wouldn’t let me start this first DLC for FFXV right away on Tuesday, but hey! By waiting ’til tomorrow, I get more uninterrupted time with it for my first go at the content.

Now then, while looking for the promo image I noticed a few headlines claiming that the DLC “isn’t as fun” as the main game. I’m not reading those specific pages to avoid spoilers, but my guess and hope is just that the difference in Gladio’s combat versus Noct’s is hard to get a handle on. In fact, no matter what the rest of the DLC is like, I fully expect my stream tomorrow to be laden with obscenities before, during, and after figuring out the new combat. So, yeah. Be prepared for that.

Anyhow, I’ll have Morning(tm) things to do first, like waking up, going to the gym, and eating. Then once all that’s done I’ll set up to start Gladio’s life changing field trip with Cor. I’m thinking maybe… noon Eastern time? I’ll put on Twitter in the morning maybe an hour, and then a fifteen minute, warning before I start.

And since no one asked but I just thought of it anyway: no, shirtless Gladio will not be joining #PrinceSpaceman. Shirtless Gladio can wait until I get to my next NG+.

DA Re-Everything Status

I haven’t given up on the Re-Everything, but I am having trouble with getting distracted by other Dragon Age things. Among other daily things fandom and otherwise, I’ve gone back to trying to sort my thousands of existing screencaps of multiple playthroughs of all the games–Origins & Awakening, DA2, and to a smaller extent Inquisition (since while I’ve beaten that game three times on console, I haven’t finished it on PC yet, so those caps are much more manageable). I figure this is technically a sound use of my time considering the Re-Everything project, since if I’m still unable to stream by the time I get to the games, I’ll need space for newly-organized caps to make series of posts here and FRAPS is the best way for me to do that. So… yeah. It’s legitimate preparation for future installments of the project without delays later on.

But, it’s also making it easier to put off reading The Stolen Throne, though, which is pushing me behind on the current stage of the project. It also provides another semi-distraction from the book: seeing all these caps is making a lot of room for Elissa in my headspace, making me want to skip ahead to the game to give her all the love she deserves. Also, to help outline the rewrite of her Blight fic.

I’m also starting to wonder if I should stream the games if OBS finally sets up the way I need it to. I really want to, but I also have a habit of adjusting Elissa’s appearance (and to a smaller degree, some of the companions’ appearances) based on plot details. That means one set of armor and hair style for one section of the game, stopping the stream and adjusting for the next progression of her appearance, starting a new stream that (whether a single session or multiple) covers the new style, and so on. For example, in Castle Cousland she has a combo of the Armor of the Black Fox that’s adjusted to Cousland-y colors and a dress gown (I have two that I love, but don’t know which to use yet; I might post each here and let people vote on which gown I should use), with hair up for part of the scene and down for the rest, with the ABF continuing through the Joining. After the Joining she gets Warden armor, then after Ostagar she goes back to a nondescript, non-Cousland and non-Warden armor so she’s not as recognizable. Do I have to do all this? Of course not. But since the game saves for the Re-Everything are going to be role-played for the most part, I want those adjustments to be reflected.

Finally, on the stream-or-no-stream decision to be made, I’ll need to see if I can run OBS and FRAPS together without the game crashing, because stream or no I really want those new caps. So! If anyone with a lot of experience streaming has time to help, can I get some advice on setting OBS up? Once I get it set up, with or without help, that’s when I’ll be able to test it and FRAPS together.

Fake Edit: Also, I need to put together up to date character pages for each of my DA characters, for reference when I get into the games. I’ll be putting those in the pages section of the site, so they’re out of the way of the regular posts, but I still want them there so anyone interested can reference them. The main characters I’ll be posting for this project are Elissa (Warden), Ria (Hawke), and Mika (Quizzy), but at some point I’ll also put one of for my non-Warden Vrania Amell. Most of her story takes place as side material in Inquisition, though so she’ll just get a bare bones page until I get to that game.