After about three hours, I wrote up some first impressions of Dragon Age 2. It’s been about 10 more hours, so I thought I’d do a bit more writing. Also, I was prompted. To answer the question directly: the best part of the game has to be Kirkwall.
Let me back up a bit, though. With very few exceptions, I don’t really care for the combat in RPGs. Combat is what I have to put up with to get to the good stuff. A game that will let me use brains, guile, stealth and my wits will win my heart forever. Bioware didn’t make a game like that. Instead they give me codex entries. Yes, I will scour every environment to find a new dungeon just so I can find an obscure little bit of textual world building.* I’m basically here for the story, and the chance to make my mark on a (virtual) world. I want to explore fantastic locations and great characters. I want to get inside someone else’s head for a while and learn who else I could be were both nurture and nature wildly different.
Looking back, I think I started to really understand this game when I met Merill. Merill is everything my Hawke is not. She is sweet and shy and will use blood and death to shape the universe to her will. (I’ve written before about blood magic in Dragon Age). I am sarcastic, brash, and my magic is fire and ice.
Meeting Merill was grounding for me. My thoughts changed from “what is my next quest?”, to “I wonder what I need to do to make girl happy?” At that moment I was willing to lay all of Thedas at her feat, just to make her smile. At that moment, Hawke switched from third person to first.
There was a moment yesterday when I was on the docks at the city and I very nearly tried to smell the ocean breeze before catching myself. I actually leaned in close to the monitor to catch the scent before I realized I was playing a game. That was exactly when Merrill made a comment about it smelling like dead fish. That was the exact moment when I understood how much Kirkwall had become my virtual home.
But Merill, my dearest elven minx? I think I’m going to be stuck in Kirkwall for a while. If this relationship is going to go anywhere, you really need to learn to appreciate it’s pleasant stinks. That, or I’m going to be stuck buying you a lot of fancy perfumes to cover the city’s oder.
What makes Dragon Age 2 work– at least in the 11 hours I’ve played– is that I’m not the ultimate bad-ass of ultimate destiny. I’m just a person in an interesting place doing some interesting things. I’m looking forward to drinking with Varric, and slaughtering slavers with Fenris, getting Aveline to unbend. And perhaps spending time with Merill, getting to know the city we will make our home.
*Perhaps After Mass Effect 3, they should make a game where I can play an archeologist.