Back in 2009, BioWare released a game called Dragon Age: Origins. Since that time, it has been enhanced with four playable DLC packs and a full on expansion pack (not in that order). Come to think of it, we may have mentioned them before. Today, BioWare announced Dragon Age 2, coming to us sometime in March 2011.
Dragon Age 2 introduces a new character to the Dragon Age world: Hawke. From the press release:
Dragon Age 2 thrusts players into the role of Hawke, a penniless refugee who rises to power to become the single most important character in the world of Dragon Age. Known to be a survivor of the Blight and the Champion of Kirkwall, the legend around Hawke’s rise to power is shrouded in myth and rumor. Featuring an all-new story spanning 10 years, players will help tell that tale by making tough moral choices, gathering the deadliest of allies, amassing fame and fortune, and sealing their place in history. The way you play will write the story of how the world is changed forever.
The first thing that stands out in that statement is the assertion that Hawke will become the “single most important character in the world of Dragon Age.” Dragon Age 2 Executive Producer Mark Darrah includes:
With Dragon Age 2 we are creating an exciting new entry point into the Dragon Age universe while ensuring that fans of the original game retain a sense of satisfaction and familiarity in the world. We are amplifying the things that made Dragon Age: Origins such a huge success while introducing a more dynamic combat system, improving the graphics, and telling the most important story in our world.
Again with the “most important” bit. Did my Dragon Age: Origins character (Magnus Aeducan) not take the time out of his day to defeat the Archdemon and end the Blight? Did Magnus not expose Loghain’s corruption and restore King Maric’s blood to the throne of Ferelden in the person of Alistair? Did Magnus not bang the shit out of Morrigan then dump her for Leliana, while having a little strange fun on the side with Zevran? How quickly his efforts are forgotten!
I’m very happy that Dragon Age 2 has been announced. I had hoped that it would somehow continue the story of Dragon Age: Origins, or allow me to import my character and continue (because Magnus Aeducan is a fucking badass), but it seems this is not the case. Well, maybe I’ll just create a new dwarf named Magnus and pretend it’s the same one. Wait, that’s right, I can’t. Dragon Age 2 provides the player with Hawke, the pre-made lead character. Hawke is human, Hawke is Hawke. You can choose to play Hawke as male or female, but not as dwarf or elf. A large chunk of character creation and connection has disappeared. I can understand that boxing the player in to a single character like this allows the game to reference the character by name, but I don’t think that name-recognition is enough of a trade-off to give away character creation. Part of what I love about role-playing games is the ability to choose which role I want to play. While I’m sure I’ll still be able to choose my class in Dragon Age 2, I no longer have the option of playing as a Dwarf or balancing different race bonuses against each other when determining my character’s stats. One of the most intimate, creative, and meaningful parts of a role-playing game has been taken away from me with Dragon Age 2.
Improved graphics are almost always worthy of a high-five. The Dragon Age 2 website, however, also mentions a change to the visual style of the game as well. I liked the style of Dragon Age: Origins. I may very well love the style of Dragon Age 2, but I’d rather have the style I know I like than a style I may love or may hate. The dynamic combat system also worries me. According to the Dragon Age 2 website, players will be able to “Think like a general and fight like a Spartan with dynamic new combat mechanics that put you right in the heart of battle whether you are a mage, rogue, or warrior.” Again, I may love the changes to the combat mechanics, but until I actually experience them, it still worries me. I enjoyed Dragon Age: Origins immensely, visually and functionally. I worry that making radical changes could ruin a wonderful game.
I like the scope of the game. A ten-year timespan allows for a great deal of long-term development of characters and plots. New areas of the Dragon Age world will provide a familiar, yet new setting for the story to take place in. Improved graphics are almost always welcome. Incremental improvements to both form and function are almost mandatory for game sequels. Name recognition caused by a static lead character will make the game seem more polished and complete.
I dislike being pigeonholed into the character of Hawke. Taking away my ability to really create my character takes away some of my connection to the character. Improved form and function could help the game transcend the experience of the first game, but it could also drive away fans if the changes are too extreme. I worry about Dragon Age 2.
And in March 2011, be on the lookout for the review, which will almost undoubtedly be positive, proving my fears wrong.
-[insert PIGEON CRAP here]