Friday, 12 August 2011

own goals

(Spoilers for Dragon Age 1 and 2)

I've seen some people firing back at the DA2 haters, claiming that they felt more personally involved in Hawke's story than the Warden's, mostly because of voice acting but also because of the fixed origin.

I have to differ.

As best as I can tell, the problem I have with Hawke's story is the lack of ability to set and pursue my own goals - or even a default goal! While Origins piled a dramatic (to varying degrees) backstory on each possible origin character, they still gave you some leeway about what you really wanted. You had to take care of the Big Bad issue, sure, but beyond that, were you out for revenge, or justice, or personal power? You could believably have some ideas of your own that you wanted to carry out, and get some chances to advance those personal causes. You could pick different rewards at the end and feel like you'd accomplished something.

Hawke's story seems largely to be about a person swept up in larger forces - someone who absolutely did not cause any of the disaster that unfolds, but just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time with enough power to move things along. That's not a bad story, but the problem is that it leaves you somewhat adrift otherwise. What are YOU trying to do while all this unfolds around you? In one act, you're trying to raise funds to eventually buy a home (not that you get any choice about that home either). Past that, you're just... sort of going along with things and taking quests because they're quests and someone asked you to do them. You can claim that you intend to start a business or intend to return to Ferelden but you can't do either of those things or work towards them in any way afaik.

You may care deeply about the cause of mage freedom. If so, tough - you still can't choose to do anything about it. Again, on my first playthrough, when Bethie was taken off to the Circle I absolutely expected that I'd be organising a raid on the circle to break her free in the next chapter, and was baffled to discover that apparently I'd been sitting around for years doing nothing. Even more, when she's later kidnapped from the circle and I can actually see her and talk to her again... I *still* can't talk to her about getting away? Apparently no matter what Hawke has actually said on the subject, Hawke really doesn't care. The only slight difference it makes to side with the mages or not is which set of quests you do in the final runup to disaster - which will still involve shutting DOWN rebellious people. You can't promote rebellion at all. You can only help runaways if someone else asks you to.

Maybe you want to be viscount? Too bad, you can't actively pursue it. You might get it, but if you do, it may come as a complete surprise because you weren't interested in the slightest - and you don't even get the chance to say no, it's just thrown in at the ending that "Oh by the way also you're Viscount now. Or were. Except also you left."

So no, I don't feel really involved in Hawke's story because I don't feel like Hawke had a story. Hawke's just someone that things happened to. That doesn't mean it wasn't entertaining watching things happen, but it does mean I look confused at people who claimed that they did feel more attachment. :)

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