Lost in a World
One of the aspects of a good game that I have always been amazed by is just how lost you can become existing in that world. With the upcoming release of Dragon Age: Inquisition mid month, several of us have started re-playing origins in an attempt to get a new save file to import into Inquisition. I realize that the process for importing works a little differently than it has in previous Bioware games, and is done through an intermediary program called Dragon Age Keep that also allows you to choose the decisions you would have liked to have had from previous games. However with some experience with the Mass Effect 3 “comic book” tool, it tended to also make a lot of really horrible decisions for me. One of the most enjoyable experiences I have had with a game was playing through the entire Mass Effect series in sequence over the course of a Christmas break… so while the games in the Dragon Age series do not connect as tightly, I am hoping it will still be very rewarding.
Over the weekend I said that I had decided to start the “least” Belghast character possible for this play through. That I guess is not correct… the least recognizable character would have been me starting an Elven Mage. We all know that one is never going to happen, as I tend to be allergic to playing finger wigglers. Instead I basically picked something other than the high born warrior I always tend to play, and in this case that was a Dwarven Casteless Rogue. I love the Dwarves of the Dragon Age series, and having my very first play through be the Noble rogue pretty much ruined every other introduction storyline for me. That said the Casteless introduction is pretty great as well, and especially after having played through many of them… you see hints of the other introductions as you play. Like I know the events that are going on with the noble houses, and while they are only loosely alluded to in the casteless introduction… they are still very much there and very much the way they play out as a noble. I like thinking that there is a fixed story arc with multiple windows out onto it.
Death to Darkspawn
This game has always hit every trigger for me… in a good way. I love dark ominous demon filled landscapes where I am the only person with the tools to dispatch them. I love the political infighting and backstabbing and the identification of a truly wicked person that I can focus my anger and rage towards. But I also like that apart from that central story arc, nothing is really certain and the game doesn’t judge you much for dabbling in the grey areas. It is an absolute feat that this game manages to make me NOT side with the mage haters. Given my feelings towards finger wigglers, it would make sense that I would want to help the Templars eradicate the “Mage Threat”, but instead each and every play through I cannot bring myself to go against the Circle Mages. Maybe it is because I like the character of Wynne too much, or maybe they just manage to create a narrative that makes me actually care about magic users.
Granted personally I greatly prefer the side of the Apostates, and generally their cause is one that I can get behind whole heartedly. I am a huge fan of Morrigan, but I have found her character to be extremely polarizing even among my close friends. She is dark and brutal and abrasive… but I always enjoy listening to her quips. One of the things I am doing this time around that I have not in previous plays is varying my group composition based on what I know my intended action will be. Generally speaking if you make Morrigan happy…. you won’t make Alistair and Leliana happy for example. So I hedge my bets and end up simply not bringing the person that I know I will end up pissing off. It is a strange line to walk but at this point I have some duplication of most of the roles I might need. There are certain characters that I just absolutely cannot stand… I am looking at you Zevran. Though this time around I am finding myself softening to that character, especially after seeing him in Dragon Age II.
I am taking my sweet time moving through the game. At this point I am just shy of 20 hours spent and have saved the Circle of Mages as well as Redcliffe Castle. I am however trying really hard to do every single side quest in a given area. This means that while I can just blow through Lothering… I am trying to do all of the little side missions which end up dragging out that area considerably longer than you might think. In a way I am treating this as though it were my last time playing Dragon Age ever. I realize that is likely not going to be the case, but I guess I am trying to make every choice count since I will ultimately be importing this game into Awakenings and Dragon Age II before finally importing the entire mess into Dragon Age Inquisition next month. On this play through I am more acutely aware that I am building a world around me, a series of consequences that lead to other consequences later down the line.
This is a strangely different feeling than when you do the same process in the Mass Effect series. There you are living the legacy of one person, your version of Shepard… and it is a direct lineage from game to game. The choices you make on one game, are effect the relationships you have in the next game because you were the person that made them both times. Here you are setting up a conflict that spans multiple generations, and while you are creating ripples it is somewhat uncertain how the final events will play out. It is also playing through a game knowing the beginning and the ending but having the steps between be rather fluid and changing. This will make my fifth play through of Dragon Age Origin since release, and I am still finding little details that I don’t remember from previous plays. That and the fact that I am not bored with the game, really are a testament to just how good the writing is.
Sneaking into Denerim
Right now I am tempted to save my game and then make a run at getting to Denerim before completing any other areas. I would really like to resolve the whole Urn of Sacred Ashes business before moving too much further in the storyline. I have also never actually gone to Denerim this early in the storyline before. I have no clue what the rammifications of doing that are, but I already have several quest chains that take me there. So I think that might be the order for tonight, to create a good clearly labeled save game so I can roll back if I am not happy with the consequences started by my actions. That is one of the things that is interesting about Dragon Age is just how unforgiving it is when it comes to your choices. It is super easy to close off a quest chain to you by picking the wrong answer… and there will never be another way to get that option back. In some of the later Bioware games they have given us the ability to escape out of a dialog tree, but this being a fairly early one has really strictly binding choices. As such it is making me super careful about what I end up choosing.
If it has been awhile since you last played Dragon Age then I highly suggest you dust off your copy and give it a proper play again. I am currently playing the “Ultimate” edition that comes preloaded with all of the DLC… and there was quite a lot of it. I’ve found this game plays significantly better through Origin than it does through Steam, as anytime I have tried to play through Steam I have issues with it not recognizing my DLC as being “genuine” and the official Bioware answer to this is to hack the save game file to turn off the protection bit. I would rather just play the game without doing all of that so I am using Origin and overall the experience is not too horrible. I have to say that Origin as a whole has gotten considerably better since its launch, and right now the only problem I really have with it… is that it is not steam. I still to some extent resent having to have a separate launcher just for Bioware games but the experience is worth it so for the time being I just deal with the frustration. Thankfully Ubisoft is taking steps to move towards better integration with steam so that the entire process will be transparent to the users. Unfortunately with the rather public falling out between EA and Valve… I doubt that will actually ever happen. In any case… I am having a blast with Dragon Age and look forward to completing it.