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Dragon Age Day#2: I’m an Army Man Now

Back to Dragon Age for some so-so combat and mixed storytelling. They are trying here in terms of making the story interesting, but the results are mixed. But to be totally frank, the basically cliched fantasy focus is biasing me very much against this game. I also get my first instances of group combat, which I clearly have not gotten yet, since I basically let my team do whatever occurs to them and can’t be bothered to go through the 14 tons of crap I typically pick up to help them. Maybe I just don’t like modern western RPGs either. Spoilers within.

We return to our young hero on a “quest” to find Irving, who I imagine is some important person in the tower. I come into his room to witness conversation CS between Irving, a mage, and Gregor, a templar, about a war.  I try to figure out some of the narrative, but oh the characters are so creepy. It bugs me out every time I see my first cutscene of the session. I’m then introduced to Duncan of the gray wardens. Duncan heard that I passed my Harrowing and wants me to  join the war at Ostegar. I’m not sure what it is about game narratives right now that they seem to want to spring major plot points on players without any explication before hand. It’s not immersive; it’s confusing. And to prove my point, Irving interrupts him to say that I should have a chance to enjoy my success first, and to show off my accomplishments,  actually says, “Your phillactory (sp?) was sent to Denesham.”  I almost laughed out loud.  What that turns out to mean is that they have a sample of my blood (that’s the phil thing) in storage somewhere in order to hunt me down in case I go rogue. Irving asks me to take Duncan back to his room, and I now have control again.

When I get control, I immediately dialog with Duncan. I ask a bunch of questions,  but it’s more fantasy nonsense, so I only half pay attention and figure I’ll catch up later. The gist is the the Chancery (templars) don’t trust the Mages.  There is a crappy moment at the end of the dialog where my last choice is forced to be something like, “I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” and when I say that, Duncan chastises me. Nice to beat me up for something I had no choice but to say, Dragon Age. Anyway, I get Duncan to his room and wander out.

When I get to the hallway, Jowan (the apprentice guy from last time) shows up worried. I have dialog choices, but it ends with me following him no matter what I say. You know, it’s not interesting to have a variety of dialog choices if picking one or the other has no effect on the story development. Anyway, Jowan takes me to the chapel to meet with a girl. The girl is his lover, but she’s a member of the Chancery, so it’s a forbidden relationship. The big thing is he thinks he’s going to be turned into a soul-dead tranquil, and the two of them want my help to stop it. It seems fishy, but I do have ethical issues when the whole “kill-the-mage’s-soul” thing. So I agree to go along. Jowan’s still an apprentice, so his blood is still here in the tower. He wants me to help him destroy it so that he can flee without being tracked. To do so means breaking into the vault, which requires a rod of fire.

I go to the storeroom to get the rod, but it turns out I need a form signed by a senior mage. I wander off to find one, and do in another room. I enter a dialog when her, in which she’s quite shady about something, and I eventually choose lines that lead her to admit that there’s a spider problem in a storage area she may have caused. I agree to help her in exchange for the signature and she agrees. Into the storage room I go. It’s a pretty quick dungeon where I fight these giant spiders. I die once because I was reading the wrong meter as health (it’s the red one, just so you know), but otherwise I quick settle into the rhythm of clicking on the thing that’s recharged. I kill all the spiders and find a bunch of treasure, but I kind of can’t be bothered to keep track of that crap. I head back to the senior mage, get my signature, and get the staff.

Staff in hand, I head back to Jowan. The whole thing is still fishy to me, and I learn about accusations of blood magic (which it appears is a bad thing) which Jowan denies as rumors, but I agree and we go.  The three of us go down to basement to find Jowan’s blood. There are two doors blocking the vault. The first door requires a password from the Chancery and mage’s spell, which the girl and I perform.The second door is locked, but the Templars put some anti-magic wards on it, so the rod won’t blast through it. However, there is a side door that may lead to the vault. We open it, and that’s the next dungeon. We fight our way through the rooms, killing sentinels and picking up a variety of objects I barely register.  My character dies once, but I then switch to another party member and I get through the fight as her. The fights are still pretty blah — there are too many powers among my party to possibly keep track of, but my own power use is pretty much entirely clicking the thing I can click next, so the only choice that’s interesting is when I use healing potions. We eventually end up in a room next to the vault, and we use a spell amplifying artifact to boost the rod and blow through the wall. Once inside, we break Jowan’s philwhatever and head out to his freedom.

Or instead to getting caught by Gregor and Irving. There’s some interesting dialog choices here, where I have to decide whether to try to save myself or be honest about my guilt. I am honest, but I don’t know what effect that had. They are going to kill Jowan, but he stabs his hand and casts a spell that sprays his blood all over the elders and knocks them out. Oops, I guess Jowan is a blood mage after all. He does seem to love his girl Lily, and promises to give up magic just to be with her. She doesn’t believe him and refuses, and Jowan runs. The elders come to, and Lily is imprisoned for her crime. There’s an interesting moment where they ask me if I took anything — I admit I did and give them back, which prompts a reply of “At last some honesty” for Gregor. Still, I flouted the rules and they try to decide what to do with me. At this point, Duncan the grey warden stands up for me for protecting friend and asks me to join his group. Not seeing a future here,  I agree and we go to the front.

We CS see a map with a bunch of countries on it, and we zoom in on a ruined fort. There Duncan and I meet the king, who is a confident and arrogant youngin’ itching for fight. I get control back wander around camp until I’m ready for a new ritual call the Joining. I decide to get some of my Zelda sub-quests out of the way.  I meet a prisoner and convince a guard to give him some food. I meet a vet of some kind and agree to get a flower to help a sick dog. I talk to a woman pointlessly. Evenutally, I remeet Duncan and he tells me I  have to go into wilds as part of the quest of Joining. We have to get three vials of darkspawn blood and find some archive or something that the Wardens abandoned. I have three companions: a wise-cracker, and two other guys I can only tell apart because one is a knight and has a family and the other doesn’t. They have dialog and I hear a bunch of their histories, but they are just not that distinct. Anyway, off into the wilds we go.

The wilds are another fight area, and fight we do. I have yet to do anything different in my fight strategy — it’s basically hit the buttons I can. It’s not interesting, but it’s not painful. The map is not easy to navigate at all, because the icons  in the field are not good — they are too small and there are a few different kinds that aren’t distinct from each other. We kill our way through the woods and get to where docs should be, but they are not there. Instead, we meet a witch-like figure and dialog with her. My team are a bunch of superstitious hicks, but I do manage to talk her into taking us to her mother for docs — turns out she took them. We cut to the mother’s house, and the dialog with her reveals that she was protecting the documents for us, and she hands them over. She also tells us that the Blight is worse that any of us think, which is of course a colossal surprise in a fantasy story. This whole scene is clearly just an excuse to lay track for something later.

We CS cut back to the camp, where Duncan tells us that the ritual of Joining is the next step. On the way to the guy who does the ritual, I drop a flower I picked up with the dog-handler, who tells me that I get a pet from my trouble. That surprisingly makes me quite happy. I get to the guy to do the ritual, and CS Duncan tells us that the reason that gray wardens can detect the darkspawn is because the ritual makes us drink their blood, an act that will either kill us or awaken our minds. The guy without the family goes first and he dies from the drink. The knight’s next, but he doesn’t want to do it. When he pulls his sword to keep the vial away, Duncan kills him.  Then CS I drink; I get that I have to do this to progress the plot, but it would have been really cool to have a choice. When I drink, my eyes turn white,  and I get a vision of a dragon. I wake up and I’m congratulated, although Duncan is upset the other two are dead. He tells me I have to meet the king and they walk off. I decide this is a good time to call it  night and quit.

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