Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ouroboros, aka Dude, this review of a thing is a good thing!

I occasionally read No High Scores, which is a pretty sweet site. Recently, Michael Barnes did a review of Dragon Age 2 (Part 1, Part 2) that I couldn't love more.The winning quote for me:

In a game where politics, intrigue, characterization, and dialogue are more compelling than swordplay, it gets to the point where the fighting just becomes pointlessly grueling.

That defines much of the tone of the article that I identified with, and in fact coincides with much of my thinking on roleplaying games in general. Killing things with numbers is something that a computer will always beat a tabletop game at. For now anyway, humans beat computers for making a universe that allows a person to interact, react, and generally feel like another person in that universe. I'm not saying the two can't fuse; quite the opposite. I'm talkin' 'bout Dragon Age 2 after all.

I only know about DA2 the same way I know about every video game but Braid: I watched a friend play it. Granted, for DA2, I watched a friend play it a lot. Enough to speak authoritatively about the game as a roleplaying game, even if I can't talk about things I don't care about (like how good combat is ["shitty to watch," if you're that curious]) or things I'd like to be able to talk about (all those little papers that built on about the universe that Richard never read, that kill-happy illiterate).

Dragon Age 2 is great. The interactions are organic, and even though when Anders asks you for a secret favor that involves distracting one of the most respected figures in the city you know he's going to fuck shit up for the final pat of the Act, and even though any doubts you have about that are erased when he starts wearing black and apologizing all the damned time after you do that favor, what he did is still shocking and fucked up, and even when I was chanting "Kill this fucker!" though out the entire scene that followed, I still voted to spare his life by the end of it, it still love it. I don't know if that means I was forgiving of obvious plots that are well-executed or just drunk (maybe both), but it was an experience that even as a person who had no stake in it at all, I cared about.

Isabella's borderline Deadpool routine is so great that people who write Deadpool should take notes from Bioware on how to break the forth wall without erecting a boorish, self-congratulatory sign in honor of having done so. Your friends in general are great, coming across as clearly defined characters you can get a handle on after a single scene (as I did after jumping in during the middle of Act I), while still having a satisfying amount of depth to them. The NPCs are great, with only Meredith wobbling a bit in being just a bit too crazy at times to believably be where she was in the story (which is mostly explained by the end), and what Michael Barnes says about the blood magic getting used excessively...let's just say that Evil Dead 2 reimagined as a Hemophiliac Emo Suicide Pact anachronistically adapted into an Eighties anime wouldn't have more blood than Dragon Age 2.

I only noticed the reused environments when it came to people's estates, but even that was fun because it was fodder for jokes about the diversity and training of interior designers in Kirkwall. In the tunnels and on the beach, there was little enough of interest for me there that I never noticed the recycling.

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