Thursday, May 26, 2011

Unexpected Differences

I have mentioned before that one of the things about Dragon Age: Origins that has me hooked so deeply is the potential for replay built into the game. Depending on the race and class you choose for your character when starting the game, there are six different starting stories that you have the opportunity to play through. The way your story goes branches further based on the gender you pick for your character as well.

These things not only affect your starting point within the game but they also affect how you interact with every other character you come across while you are playing, be that character a companion or just a random NPC. Some people won't even talk to you unless you are a certain class. Some people grossly underestimate you if you are, say, a girl. Or an elf. Your companions warm to you at different rates depending on who you are to start out with as well as the choices you make as you play through the game.

So in my second time through, playing as a different class than I had played before, I was expecting these sorts of differences in my game experience. I was also expecting some differences due to my increase in personal experience. Having been through the whole thing once before, I would be able to see a little bit ahead in some instances and could better prepare myself for what was to come. I was also, quite frankly, just better at playing than I had been the first time around. So that was bound to make the second time through different than the first (in that, for the most part, I did not die nearly as often in certain battles and was better able to equip my party).

What I wasn't expecting was how drastically the actual story of the game would change with my new playing style and decisions. Don't get me wrong, the overall arc doesn't change, but many of the little details certainly do. Especially once you get down to the end of the game.

Spoiler alert! Some major plot points for the end of the game discussed after the images below. Read on at your own risk of spoilerage.

Some things don't change. The game still keeps trying
to get me naked...

...with Alistair, no less. Is it just me or does that underwear
just look really uncomfortable?

The first time I played through, as I have mentioned often, I romanced Alistair. During the game it is revealed that Alistair is actually the illegitimate son of the former King Maric, father of King Cailan, who dies at the beginning of the game. This means that Alistair is the last remaining member of the royal bloodline and there is a push from certain parties to put him on the throne in the wake of his half-brother's death. Alistair, however, really, really, really does not want to be king. He suggests supporting the claim of Cailan's widow Anora.

So I honored his request the first time. I mean, he and I were the only Grey Wardens and he didn't want to be king, it seemed silly to force him into it, especially since Anora had pretty much been running the country for Cailan anyway.

This time around though, out of curiosity, I decided to see what would happen if I made Alistair become the king. Dude. He was not happy with me. Somehow, even after breaking his heart (which broke my heart in real life a little bit to do), I did still manage to have him at 100% approval and he was my in-game best bud. He more or less forgave me for pushing him to take the position though, admitting it would probably be best for the kingdom after all. He even agreed to marry Anora to shut off any avenue of rebellion by her supporters, though he was quite reluctant at the prospect (understandably, she's kind of a conniving not-very-nice-word).


But. When it then came time to take Morrigan's proposal to keep the Grey Wardens from dying while killing the archdemon to Alistair. Well, that didn't go at all as I expected. See, here's the thing. The only way to kill an archdemon (the Big Boss of the game) and make it stick is if a Grey Warden delivers the final blow. The Wardens take on the darkspawn taint, you see, and when an archdemon is slain its essence goes into its killer. If the killer is a Warden and carries the taint, the archdemon's essence is destroyed. If the killer is someone else, the essence just wanders along until it finds a new dragon to possess (if I understand the lore correctly). Unfortunately, the destruction of the archdemon's essence will also kill the Grey Warden that killed it.

So, that means that of the three Wardens going into the final battle (we do find one reinforcement from a neighboring nation toward the end of the game), at least one of us is definitely gonna die if we manage to kill the Boss. But Morrigan has a solution for this. She can do an ancient magic ritual that will allow her to lay with a Warden and conceive a child the night before the battle. When the archdemon is slain, its essence would then go into the still forming child, which carries the taint, rather than the Warden that kills it. Because the child is still forming it would be able to survive the destruction of the archdemon's essence, taking on some of its aspects for its own (but apparently not the evil bits--still a little muddy on that part). Morrigan would then take the child and disappear to raise it on her own.

If you play as a guy, your choice here is pretty simple--she asks you to perform the ritual with her. But if you are a girl, it has to be Alistair. It can't be the other Warden because he has had the taint for too long and that apparently disqualifies him. So Morrigan asks you to ask Alistair to help her conceive this child, regardless of his status as king or not as well as his relationship status. Bear in mind that these two characters cannot stand each other.

So the first time around, I had to ask my boyfriend Alistair to hook up with Morrigan. He didn't really like the idea but in the end agreed to do it. This time? Nothing doing. I could not convince him to take part in the ritual. When I told Morrigan it hadn't panned out, she ended up getting all huffy and left. Just left. No Morrigan in the final battle. Granted, I barely used her during this play-through since I was a mage myself, but still. We had built up a friendship.

So, I went into the final battle one man down and quite curious to see how things would play out. The first time I had the protection of the ritual and my character was able to slay the archdemon and survive because of that fact. This time around it came down to me and Alistair to fight over who got the final blow and was therefore sacrificed (the other Warden of course having already perished). Alistair was pretty adamant and still really didn't want to be he killed the archdemon and sacrificed himself. I'm not gonna lie, it was pretty hard not to cry about that. Definitely not making him king ever again. Nope. Also gonna make sure he hooks up with Morrigan if I have to knock him over the head and drag him in there myself...

I've still got the expansion pack, Awakenings, and then Dragon Age II to replay through, and then it will probably be a while before I pick up Dragon Age again. But I will certainly come back to it. I can see this being a game I play through at least once a year. I already know that next time through I will play a rogue, and I will definitely be romancing Alistair. Yeah, I am missing out on all of the other relationship possibilities, I know, but I can't help it. He's totally my in-game soul mate. I will also most definitely not be making him king.

But I have got to hand it to Bioware. They really do know how to make a game that captures the mind and the imagination. It's not just the game play (which is pretty spectacular), and it's not just the overall story. It's the fact that every time you play it, your experience is unique, and not just in the ways you would expect.

I don't know that I am ever going to cease to be amazed by the wonder that is Dragon Age. If no more video games were ever made again, I don't know that I would really mind. It's that good.

1 comment:

  1. I love replaying RPGs that I'm hooked on. I even remember doing the same thing you did, only in Knights of the Old Republic.

    I turned to the Dark Side near the end of the game and ended up killing Bastilla, your love interest in the game if you're male. That nearly broke MY heart! :P