Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Let's Play Dragon Age II - Part 2

Part 2 is Act 2 where my character becomes the Champion of Kirkwall.

I'm still not a fan of the timeline and the huge gaps of missing content. Three years here. Three years there. Three years everywhere!

I seriously doubt that my entire team would stick with me in Kirkwall with all the shiz that is going down. Isabella would at least have left by now, and in fact she does for half a sequence during the end of Act 2. And then returns. And manages to waste another 3 years of her life with me. Okay then.

No one ages, either. That's the other super annoying part. I realize that this is 2011 but I'd have hoped for some physical changes to my character and compatriots. Nope! Hawke still looks like she's in her mid to late 20's while Cullen still has the curly crop-top hair.

Act 2 seemed to focus more on the side-story of the companions and Hawke's life before it ramped it up towards the end. Stuff went down. Stuff I didn't KNOW went down so I was a little depressed and creeped out by the time we wrapped it up.

Here's your spoiler warning.

I'm sure at this point in the game people were complaining a lot about the linearity. I still like it. Granted some of the "dungeon's" get a bit repetitive, but I enjoy the fact that I can go at the game at my own pace and not feel helplessly lost. That I'm able to focus on certain quests without it diminishing the game play because the progress is linear. While I do miss the ability to roam around without barriers, this was a welcomed change by comparison to DA: Origins - where getting lost was a way of life.

I did my best to clean up every side quest I could before going into the main expedition. It helped immensely since these quests are where you start accumulating additional gear for your companions. It's sorely needed since I'm a mage. I'm squishy by nature. I need my tanks to be able to handle a blow to the head and not die. But it also helped flesh out more of the lore of Dragon Age. I'll still harp on the three year time gaps, but it doesn't feel as troublesome as it should be.

You're also building friendship levels, and as we all know, friendship is magic. Woo.

Because I'm a sucker for brooding, handsome elves, of course I went with Fenris as the romance option. Duh. In spite of his disappearing act after "doing the deed" at least he stuck around and didn't pull a Solas.

I see that red band you're wearing on your wrist. You can't fool me. You heart my femHawke, Fenris! Admit it!

Various quests aside, the main events are what really kick off the game into that "wtf just happened" mode.

Hawke's mom dies.

In a very creepy way. A murderer has been on the loose since Act 1, and Aveline your guardsmen have been doing a terrible job at fixing that problem. It quieted down by the end of the first act, but ramped up again in Act 2. This time Hawke's mom becomes the target without anyone's knowledge. The twist is that blood magic is being used where her body and the parts of other women are cut up to form the "image" of the killer's lost love. It's eerie and weird and all kinds of wrong. So thanks for going there BioWare. Now I'm all depressed again.

You hit that point in the game where Hawke has pretty much lost her entire family and you wonder if it's worth progressing any further. The entire expedition to Kirkwall, everything that you have done so far has been for your family. It's not for you. It's not for your pride. It's not even about doing the right thing. You wanted to get your family out of danger and build them a better life. And now they are no longer there to take part of it.

It sucks!

Yeash. Bioware with the feels up in here.

You could argue that your companions are now your family, but the responses by the characters after the death of Hawke's mother seem blasé. Maybe it's because, for most of them, they don't have a consistent family in their lives. Or they have experienced death so frequently that it doesn't phase them.

At this point in the game I had to take a break for a little bit and clear my head. What the heck does Hawke have to live for if his/her goals centered around their immediate family?

Time to find new goals! I'm going to be the snarkiest Champion of Kirkwall if there ever was one! I don't know what else to do other then to sass my way to victory.

After the rush of feels, the game moves you forward into events leading up to the Qunari's rebellion in Kirkwall. In an attempt to find their stolen goods, they take over the city and it's up to you to stop them. It's also the only moment in the game where I want to turn against one companion in particular. I did the "I should have given them Isabella, this sh*t is too hard" dance with the boss at the end of the Act.

For the first time in the game my status as an Apostate came to a head. I met the Knight Commander of the Templars and she does not like me. She tolerates me because I hold so much sway with the citizens. I help them, they help me. But that's it. I'm a mage. She does not like me. And it was good to finally see that tension that has been bugging me since beginning the game. Even Hawke's brother Carver, now a Templar, shows his true colors about the entire scenario. A lot of my earlier qualms regarding my mage freedom in Act 1 are addressed in Act 2. Much appreciated BW.

Not that it doesn't stop the awkward amusement that they name a rebel mage as the Champion of the city. Because...why not? It works for Inquisition.

And the game really pushes you quickly from there. The idea of "this game is too linear" fell completely out the window and I felt like there was major progress in the story. It didn't feel cluttered, and that a rightful movement in the rising action was on it's way.

My big gripe is with the end boss for Act 2: The leader of the Qunari. You have a few options here to either fight him or give him your rogue friend, and never see her again. I enjoy her party banter. That's my style anyway. So I wanted her to stay around. I'm not a complete jerk about these things.

I play these games in the "Casual" format. I'm in it for the story, not the hard as balls battles. Unfortunately this particular fight is not scaled properly at all for Casual or Easy mode players. As a mage, it's a guarantee 2-3 hit kill. And the boss uses a charge/take-down move. Once you're hit, you will get a subsequent 1-2 follow-up attacks against you and there is nothing you can do about it.

I died a lot.

Many replays later, I still died and had to relive the same cutscene numerous times before hitting the boss again, as there is no autosave from the cutscene to the boss. I kept looking to my left at Isabella and wondered if I could deal with myself the next time I played the game if she was sent to the Qunari. It wouldn't be all bad, right? She obviously makes a return in Inquisition's multiplayer mode and seems just fine there.

But I didn't. I wanted to beat the boss. His weaknesses are magic, nature and ice in particular. I have a staff that uses nature damage. So I kited him around the pillars of the room in a figure 8 pattern for 10 minutes. Hitting him with my one ice spell whenever it recharged (I have 2 spells but the cone attack requires me to stop and I wasn't going to do that.) Barkspawn2point0, my faithful pet, could never hit him. The boss moved too much that no attack worked. And whoever wrote the wiki page that the boss slows down enough for you to get a few spells off was lying. He was ALWAYS moving and at stupidly fast speeds. Even my haste spell couldn't slow him down. If I stopped, I was hit.

Eventually I completed the challenge. I flung one final ice spell and he fell to the floor. I saved the day. The Qunari left (sort of because they came back once more in Act 3 to collect the swords of their fallen brethren), and Hawke was made Champion.

Rejoice!

At that point I was exasperated, and praying to any deity that would listen that the game would not crash until I hit a spot out of a cutscene to save. I did not want to run through that fight again.

Now we're getting to the good part. The fall of the Circle is neigh! Mage vs. Templar. Which side to pick! Will I convince Fenris to stop wussing out and accept the obvious relationship he has with my Hawke? Will Isabella decide to stick around, though she keeps threatening to leave (my answer is yes)? Will Merrill still be creepy with the Eluvian mirror? Can I convince Varric to keep throwing around witty one-liners in my party?

Stay tuned...

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