Monday, June 13, 2011

Dragon Week: Part 1--Man, 500 words fills up fast.

I recently finished a five day marathon session on Dragon Age 2, playing all the way from a lowly refugee to the lofty heights of the Champion, a title carefully chosen for its gender neutrality so that the designers didn't have to put in a lot of extra dialogue. Once upon a time, it had been my goal to write a lengthy retrospective on every game I play, and... well... it happened three times. (Four if you count Lost Odyssey, but let's not do that again.)

And of those three, one is a part one that I never got around to finishing. I have played many, many more games than that, but I never get around to writing about them. That's because these entries are incredibly long, even by my own ridiculous standards. This time, I thought, I'd go for something different, and so I am--I'm breaking it up into a week of entries, each of about 500 words. Readers get a new entry every day, I get to do a write-up without burning out, and everybody wins! Except for the readers who don't care about video games or hate Dragon Age 2. Of which there are a lot. You guys lose. Sorry. ...See you next week, I guess?

Since there’s not a lot of word count left, I’ll focus on describing the game. Dragon Age 2 takes place in the fantasy world Bioware created for the first game in the series, Dragon Age: Origins. It’s your basic fantasy world, filled with elves and dwarves and the faceless monstrous horde known as the darkspawn, the game’s basic substitute for Trollocs, or Others, or Orcs, or *insert other generic evil here*. It’s got a lot of its own unique, or at least interesting, narrative flourishes as well, but I’ll talk about those on a different day. The game mechanistics are typical for Bioware; it’s the sort they’ve perfected (or rather, used repeatedly) in previous games such as Mass Effect, Jade Empire, and Star Wars: Knights of the Republic. Essentially, the game is divided up into combat bits, in which you command a team of four characters, and noncombat bits, in which you make Meaningful Plot Choices that impact the entire game world via a dialogue wheel that helpfully includes little symbols to tell you what probable effect your choice will have. The two sections are rather disjointed, which is a problem we’ll also talk about on a later date.

To close, I’d like to explain the title of the game. According to game’s Codex (and this information is contained only in the codex), each century is named by the Chantry, the big religious group of the series. Here's one of their churches, also called a chantry.

The Chantry’s leader, of the Divine, looks for a portent that she feels describes the coming century. In this case, it was a rampaging dragon, hence the “Dragon Age,” a century of turmoil and unrest. Like the sci-fi Mass Effect series, then, the game takes its name from a point that’s rather obscure and never highlighted in the actual game. Draw whatever conclusions you want from such a choice.

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