Content Warning: This is a rant. It will get salty as hell, and there will be language. Foul, foul language.
All right, pumpkins, y’all are gonna want to strap in. We’re going for a bit of a ride. Now, real quick, I know some of y’all are going, “Drea, I thought this was going to be a video.” Yeah, well, welcome to 2020. Besides, I never said video, I said visuals. And there will be visuals. I am prepared.
So! Way back in 2011, during the before times, this game studio by the name of Bioware created a little game called Dragon Age II. Now, Bioware is owned by EA, and EA gave the studio 14-16 months to develop the game, because they’re soulless corporate monsters. For real, pretty sure EA is the devil. And I know I need to stop saying shit like that if I want to hold onto my fanciful dream of being hired by Bioware, but let’s be honest, since I’m female and no longer in my 20’s the gaming industry doesn’t want me anyway. So fuck EA, they’re bastards.
Anyway! Dragon Age II was largely admired by critics for the changes made in game play and the way parts of the game were streamlined in comparison to Dragon Age: Origins, which came out in 2009. The fans, not so much. EA was, supposedly, “shocked” by the backlash from fans when the game came out. I mean, sure it still sold, but there was an assload of negative press floating around the internet about how the game was repetitve, reused assets (maybe because they had less than two years in development, HMMMMMMM!?), and unlike its prequel, forced you to play a human character with no options for changing their background and very limited customization. Basically, fans were worried that they were going to make the game too much like Mass Effect, and Bioware went, “We totally won’t!” and then did it anyway.
Enter me. I had fallen in love with Dragon Age: Origins, first by watching Josh play it, and then later by playing it myself. If I’m being honest, Dragon Age: Origins is the game that got me into computer gaming. I was a Dirty Console Peasant for a long ass time, happy to be one, and didn’t see a point in changing. Then after that first play through, I was like, “The fuck do you mean I’m not queen? We’re doing this again.” And Josh was like, “Then you’re doing it on your own.” And I was like, “Fine! I will!” Okay, that’s not exactly how it went, but it was close.
When Dragon Age II came out, I was SO EXCITED! OMG ANOTHER ONE! And so soon! Yeah, I know, poor innocent 2011 Drea had not been playing games long enough to be suspicious of the fact that the game was coming out a scant two years after the last release. I adorably and naively assumed that the game would release when it was ready, and certainly not before, and would naturally be as complex and involved as the previous game in the franchise, because when you already had a working model WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU FUCK WITH IT!?
Ah, those halcyon days. Before EA and Capcom destroyed my faith in game companies. Good times. (Oh yeah, and fuck Capcom, but we’re not talking about them right now.)
Now, the truly galling thing about Dragon Age II is that it had the bones to be something great. Sure, being railroaded into playing Hawke was annoying, but Hawke was also a hot badass with a Mabari warhound. Honestly, the most frustrating thing about Hawke was wondering why the fuck she mattered (yes, “she,” I always play Marian, after years of being forced to play a guy in EVERY GAME I no longer do it if I don’t have to). Setting the game in one city was interesting because it gave you the opportunity to really explore every aspect of that city, know its politics and its gangs, and see it change over the years. The writing and characterization were stellar, because of course they were. Bioware excels at story and characters, it’s why we play their games. Sure, the gameplay is also fun, but the reason you pick a Bioware title over a similar title is for the story and the characters. Also, Dragon Age II Flemeth = Grandma Goals. If I can pull off that cosplay at 65 I will die happy.
Which is why it is abso-fucking-lutely infuriating that the game dropped so many goddamn balls at the same time. Hawke’s story is clipped and rushed. She spends her first year in Kirkwall as a mercenary or smuggler, and they just…skip it. That could have been an entire fucking arc. The other members of your party have these fantastic, in depth back stories that you’re lucky if you catch tiny snippets of, because they dumped 75% of the character interaction, so now you just hope you run around the city with them long enough to hear all their party banter. Which, for the record, is brilliant, but does not make up for not being able to have conversations with them the way you could in DA:O. The enemies are identical, and come in waves, and fights eventually become an absolute slog that you care nothing about, especially when you’ve fought your way through the SAME FUCKING CAVE for the nineteenth time.
The romances are aggravatingly quick paced, and the limited character interactions don’t do them any favors. In Origins by the time you finally convince Alistair or Leliana that this is love and it’s serious you actually feel a real sense of accomplishment during that awkwardly animated sex scene (Zevran is easy and only masochists romance Morigan). You’re all, “YAAAAAAAASSSS!” And it’s awesome. In Dragon Age II, it’s a poorly paced romance that culminates almost abruptly, and most of the time you don’t even get a satisfying cut scene. I mean, there were a couple moments that came kind of close, but also not really. I’m not saying it wasn’t hot when Fenris pushed Hawke up against the wall. I’m just saying it could have been better. Like, almost-any-other-Bioware-game better. I would even go so far as to say that Mass Effect: Andromeda did better with the romantic interactions, and that is a bold statement. (Thought not by much, but that’s another conversation.)
And then the DLCs! Legacy is the only DLC that was worth the money. The only one. Period. And it’s worth that money because it contains some SUPER FUCKING IMPORTANT plot points that pave the way for Dragon Age: Inquisition. I had not played Legacy prior to Inquisition, because I was heartbroken and disappointed and was definitely not about to give this game more money, and then proceeded to go, “Wait, what!? Motherfucker!” and give the game more of my money.
I did pay for The Exiled Prince, because I liked the idea of another romance option and found the character concept fun. A brooding princeling, now a brother in the service of the Chantry, who needs your help seeking revenge and reclaiming his throne? Sexy AND sacriligious, sign me up! Let me just say for the record, Sebastian Vael is not worth it. Though listening to Varric make fun of him is funny as hell. And then there’s Mark of the Assassin. Insert incredibly long sigh here.
Okay, so, my Dragon Age II rant has also been referred to (by others) as my Felicia Day Rant. Which seems unfair, because I go on about DAII for a while, and only talk about Ms. Day for, like, three minutes. But here’s why. Mark of the Assassin introduces a character that originated from Ms. Day’s web series, Dragon Age: Redemption. Tallis was written and played by Ms. Day, and the character is as Self Insert Mary Sue as you can get. I am not kidding. Redemption feels like a 14-year-old girl’s fanfiction. I am not the only person who thinks so.
Also, nothing but love for Doug Jones, he’s absolutely brilliant, but his Saarebas just looks like a demon you’d find in a horror movie. Saarebas are enormous, and Mr. Jones is exceptionally slender, it doesn’t fit. And, again, the make up just looks demonic as opposed to looking like a Qunari. I appreciate that they were limited by budget, but it simply does not work.
Anyway, this is where someone will get mad at me for hating Felicia Day. Bitch, this is not hatred. Ms. Day is fine. Seriously, in everything she does, she’s fine. Not great, not amazing, not a Red Haired Queen of Geekery sent by a benevolent deity to grace us puny mortals with her Hotness. She’s fine. She’s pretty, she’s a decent enough actress, some of her stuff is good. I never watched The Guild past the first episode – and never will, because I’ve known too many neglectful parents to ever find that stereotype amusing or funny – but Do You Want To Date My Avatar was giggly fun and clever. The Bollywood number from The Guild was also good. She was good in Eureka. I did not like her in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog, simply because putting her softer, largely untrained voice next to Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion just felt like a bad fit. Her acting was fine. It’s the same reason I didn’t like Moulin Rouge. I studied music too long not to have opinions on this. (And don’t tell me she’s supposed to be quieter in comparison to the two, I know that, you’re not getting what I’m saying.)
ANYWAY, the point of this background is, I don’t hate Felicia Day, I’m just salty that her Mary Sue character is cannon in the Dragon Age universe. That’s it. But apparently too many of my friends decided Ms. Day was a Ginger Goddess back when she hit the scene, and get super prickly if I dare speak against her. Fucking stans.
So there you have it, that’s pretty much the rant. I’m glad Bioware (and presumably EA) listened when everyone got super pissed after the release of DAII and put a lot of work into getting player feedback while they were laying out Inquisition. They did a good job of making the players feel heard, and when the game released it was delightful. Yes, some people will always be unhappy that it’s not closer to Origins, but it was involved, the areas were enormous and full of things to do, the character development was good, and I squee’d myself into oblivion when they brought back Cullen, Leliana, Cassandra, and Varric. Oh yeah, and Hawke. I’m excited as hell for Dragon Age 4, and if anything fucks with it, I may go firebomb the closest EA office. I’m joking. Mostly.