Set in the same mythical world introduced in Dragon Age: Origins, the player assumes the role of Hawke, a human mage, warrior, or rogue who arrives in the city of Kirkwall as a lowly refugee but becomes its legendary champion over a turbulent decade of political and social conflict.Dragon Age II is about prejudice, against refugees, foreigners, and those among us who are simply different. The citizens of Kirkwall hate the refugees from the Blight, they hate and fear the stranded Qunari, and like everyone else in the world of Dragon Age, they fear mages. Oh, and mages fear the Templars. The conflicts are well presented; neither side is very sympathetic as the victims often lash out with violence at their oppressors, justifying further oppression. Dragon Age II seeks to explore this vicious cycle of hate, and for the most part, it succeeds. Prejudice against mages isn’t just a major theme, it’s an important plot point with ramifications that will change the world of Ferelden. However, this delicate balance falls apart whenever the player is put in the role of victim because the player is never truly victimized or oppressed.dragon age 2, dragon age 2 trailer, dragons age 2, dragon age ii, dragon age, dragon age origins awakening, dragon age origin
Dragon Age II constantly takes the easy route whenever the player encounters some form of oppression. At the very beginning of the game when Hawke first arrives in Kirkwall as a refugee, she sees a guard blocking a crowd of people from entering the city. When you talk to him, he refuses to let you through, but once you regain control of Hawke, you can run right past him, his guards, and the crowd of shouting people. You run through some hallways and come out in the Gallows, the ghetto of Kirkwall, but still very clearly within its walls. As if to hide the fact that Hawke is already in the city, the game forces players to sort out their issues of citizenship with another guard. The Gallows are nearly empty of refugees, which begs the question: if Hawke could get in so easily, why aren’t more people here? Already the game is singling out Hawke as someone special by separating the player from the rest of the refugees. Even though Hawke is clearly a refugee, she’s a special refugee, one that automatically rises above the rest. We may still have to bribe our way into the city proper, but we don’t have to stay out on the docks with the rest of the unwashed masses. Hawke is an exception to the rule of oppression.dragon age 2, dragon age 2 trailer, dragons age 2, dragon age ii, dragon age, dragon age origins awakening, dragon age origin
If you choose to play as a mage, the lack of prejudice against you is even more egregious. No one seems to mind that you’re a mage even though Dragon Age takes great pains to show and tell us over and over again how most people are terrified of mages. Even before you save the city, no one ever reacts to you with suspicion or doubt or fear, no one ever refuses to work with you or sell to you. After Hawke saves the city and becomes Champion of Kirkwall, the lack of hate she receives is still surprising: Everyone accepts your heroism at face value. No one blames you for the attack or questions your intentions now that you’re so popular. Even Meredith, the leader of the Templars, gives you a free pass for being a mage.
What makes this such a missed opportunity for BioWare is that Dragon Age II offers a unique opportunity to place the player in the shoes of an oppressed minority and have that experience be relevant to both the plot and themes of the game. The mechanics of oppression would naturally hinder normal gameplay and can easily be frustrating without the right context. There are a few things I'm certain of in life: Darkspawn must die, dragons must die, and, from a technical perspective, Dragon Age II is the best game in BioWare's fantasy role-playing franchise. The gameplay, user interfaces, and conversation system have all been modified to the point where the game is much more functional and fun than before. Yet despite all these improvements, there are still some issues with the story and setting in the sequel.dragon age 2, dragon age 2 trailer, dragons age 2, dragon age ii, dragon age, dragon age origins awakening, dragon age origin
To kick things off, the plot is told through a framed narrative, much like the movie The Princess Bride. It's known that your character, Hawke -- a male or female human mage, rogue, or warrior -- will eventually become the Champion of Kirkwall. It's also clear that the world is on the cusp of war, and the Chantry, the main religious faction in the Dragon Age universe, is coming apart at the seams. What isn't known is your amount of involvement in the chaos, and why a Chantry seeker named Cassandra is interrogating a former friend of yours, a dwarf named Varric. It turns out that your part in this play is major, and you'll figure it out as you go along. Varric dutifully recites the tale from start to finish, complemented by stunning water-color cutscenes to add an interesting visual element to the dwarf's clever storytelling. It's easy to forget that what you're doing is technically in the past, so it's fun to discover Varric's embellishments when they pop up, such as Bethany's giant rack at the start of the game, which later goes down to a normal size.
Most role-playing games depict a prevailing evil presence that only your hero can defeat after an epic journey across the world. You can imagine my surprise, then, when Dragon Age II threw most of those ideas out the window and instead opted to document the political struggles of the city of Kirkwall. It's a gutsy move to say the least – this is a 30-hour game and most of it is spent in and around the city looking at similar architecture. I appreciate that there are distinct parts of Kirkwall like Hightown (a bright, clean spot for nobles to hang out) and Darktown (a dingy, underground area), but there's so much to explore in the Dragon Age universe that it's rather puzzling to set an entire adventure in just one area.dragon age 2, dragon age 2 trailer, dragons age 2, dragon age ii, dragon age, dragon age origins awakening, dragon age origin
I thought the narrative style was to allow for branching storylines, but aside from a few impactful choices, it's actually fairly linear, which is disappointing. Another problem is that the ending is a cliffhanger, which makes it feel more like a prologue rather than a standalone title. The plot is very entertaining though and chockfull of crazy moments that will make you go "OMG" and "WTF." Occasional slow spots can make what you're doing feel pointless, but the ending makes it clear that Hawke's time in Kirkwall is incredibly important to the Dragon Age canon.
Although Origins featured a silent Hero of Ferelden, Dragon Age II offers a fully-voiced Champion. I prefer chatty main characters, so I'm pleased that Hawke was given a voice in the sequel. Talking to folks will cause a wheel of dialogue options to appear that looks similar to what BioWare uses in Mass Effect. The difference is that Dragon Age II sports icons that help guide your decision making.dragon age 2, dragon age 2 trailer, dragons age 2, dragon age ii, dragon age, dragon age origins awakening, dragon age origin
Hawke can be aggressive, peaceful, sarcastic, romantic etc., but there are almost too many varying icons to represent all the different feelings you can express. Who would assume that a purple gem would mean charming? If you don't check out the manual, you may get confused by odd choices like that. A nice addition is that Hawke will spout off different one-liners in cutscenes that you have no control over depending on your conversation tendencies. It's a cool feature, as it really makes your character seem like a unique individual.dragon age 2, dragon age 2 trailer, dragons age 2, dragon age ii, dragon age, dragon age origins awakening, dragon age origin
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