Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Competition is Edging Up

My husband sent me this link yesterday:

Why Dragon Age Was More Memorable Than Mass Effect 2

I found the timing a bit amusing because I had already been thinking that today's blog post would be about Dragon Age and how it seems to be eclipsing other franchises that I love.

Now, with regards to the article, I found it amusing, and there were a few examples that I totally agree with on both ends. But I have to admit that a lot of the points they brought up are moments in the games that I never triggered. Part of this is because some of them were gained by playing dark side, which I just don't do most of the time. I know there is some inherent fun in playing evil, but I rather like being a good guy. Though, as I told my husband, now I want to go replay both games just so I can find a few of those moments. (If you read the article and click on no other video link, click on the one about Sandal. He made me smile every time I talked to him, he was just so happy. "Enchantment!")

Still, I agree with the overall point of the article.  Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 I tend to view as a whole, because I played them one right after the other. There were definitely aspects of each I preferred in one game over the other (not always the sequel over the original). But even though I kind of look at Mass Effect as a different animal than Dragon Age, if pressed, I would choose Dragon Age over the other. Still, Mass Effect 2 will always be near and dear to my heart for three reasons. 1) The Normandy 2.0 is my favorite spaceship ever. Period. 2) If you play as a girl, you can romance Garrus. The article I mentioned above noted this, though the author seemed not too amused with this fact. I have to say though, that was hands down my favorite part of the game. It was hi-freaking-larious. I was in fits of giggles every time a new scene in that courtship played out. 3) The game literally starts out by (spoiler! roll over the text to read) killing off the character you are playing. Then you are resurrected with science. By the nominal bad guys. It is a hell of a way to kick things off, and it leads to some pretty interesting character development.

But Mass Effect isn't really the franchise that my love for Dragon Age has so surprisingly overwhelmed. What it is starting to take over, much to my shock, is Stargate. Yes, I may have found something I like more than Stargate.

I'll pause for a moment to let that sink in.

Pouty Alistair is pouty.

Maybe it is a simple matter of being thoroughly let down by my most recently read Stargate novel right in the middle of a whole bunch of Dragon Age awesomeness. The book started to get a little better only to fall completely flat at the ending, which wasn't so much an ending as a thinly veiled set-up for a follow-up entry. I will reiterate, the story itself was actually kind of interesting, but I don't think it is one that really fit in the Stargate universe. The author had a very minimal grasp on the established functions and limits of the technology, and he also had a few very major fail moments in regards to the characters. I was literally shouting at the book as I finished it, I was so frustrated. I haven't been that let down by a book in a long, long time.

But after that I picked up the first of the two official Dragon Age novels (Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne by David Gaider). I am only about five chapters in but I am already blown away by how incredible it is. Sure, it is much easier for the author to get the details write since he was the lead writer for the game itself, but still. It is a video-game tie-in novel, yet it feels like its own fully crafted story. It's set about twentyish years before the first game, and though we know the general outcome of the story already, it is still fascinating to see these characters only mentioned in the game's codex brought to life on the page. It also gives some of the main characters from the game a little more context (*cough*Alistairisjustlikehisdad*cough*), which is nice.

Add to that that I was finishing up the downloadable content for the first game. I just played through all of the stand-alone quests, since I will have to play a whole new game to experience a lot of the smaller in-game extra content, but overall I was very impressed with them. There were four: Witch Hunt, which was okay but I felt like the ending was a little lacking; Darkspawn Chronicles in which you play through the game's final battle as one of the bad guys--it was kind of fun at points, kind of meh at others (and full disclosure, I didn't finish it, because I couldn't get past the final final battle); Leliana's Song which lets us play through the events of Leliana's life before she stumbles into your party--I was blown away by this one actually, it was tons of fun and it made me appreciate this character a whole lot more; and The Golems of Amgarrak, which was another pleasant surprise--very fun to play through and a truly interesting story.

After all that, this Tuesday saw the launch of the Dragon Age II demo, which I highly recommend. It took me all day to download it, the server was crazy busy, but once I got to play it, I got even more excited about the March 8th release of the full game. The demo lets you play through the game's prologue and one more later little story mission. It took me about an hour and a half to get through. I already can tell I am going to like the improved dialogue functions in the new game--it mirrors Mass Effect's dialogue wheel so your character can actually speak his or her lines, rather than just reacting mutely to everyone else's conversations. Also, in addition to the "nice guy" and "bad guy" speech options, there was usually also a "smartass" option, which is just fun. I think that once I get used to it, the new leveling up system is going to be much more user-friendly than in the first game. I didn't get to play with the inventory since it was disabled for the demo, but from what I could see of it, it seems to be much more intuitive this time around. I am already pretty sure that over the next two weeks I will play the demo at least two more times, once for each of the classes I didn't play already (I played as a mage the first time through, but warrior and rogue are also options). That way I can have a better idea of which class to make my character for the actual game.

Garret Hawke, the Champion of Kirkwall (Dragon Age II).

There is also, of course, Felicia Day's upcoming web-series set in that world, which you guys know I am hopping up and down about.

So, with all of that said and done, right now I am just totally immersed in Dragon Age, and I have to say, I am totally in love with the whole world. I am super impressed with how rich and engaging it is, and it is very much fully formed. Maybe when Stargate Universe returns on March 7th it will start kicking back and be able to retain its place as my favorite imaginary land, but for now...well, I'll be in Ferelden if you need me.

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