Respecting Player Choice

Warning: Major spoilers for the conclusion of the main quest of Dragon Age: Origins ahead.

I finished the Dragon Age expansion, Awakening, not ten minutes and I’m really pissed off. Overall the game was fine – easier than the main game, but I didn’t really mind that. I did sort of mind the compacted, abbreviated storytelling and character relationships, but I understand that it’s hard to make that work in the shorter span of an expansion. But what has really got me going just now was the epilogue – just the simple sequence of paragraphs that get generated at the end of the game based on the choices that I made in it.

The last paragraph was all about how my dwarf lady and her true love Alastair were spotted hither and thither throughout the countryside in the years following the game. The problem? Alastair, in my main campaign, was very much dead. I went and tried to make the heroic sacrifice to end the blight myself, but big dumb Alistair had to go and insist on doing it himself on my behalf. And it was a really affecting moment. I’d really enjoyed the way the relationship with Alastair forms over the course of Origins if you let it – this really nice mix of silliness and seriousness and earnestness. I’d even let Alastair’s death inform some of the choices I made within Awakening, actually role playing, which I almost never do in these sorts of games. And so now when Awakening hasn’t respected the path I walked down in Origin, even in this little way right in the epilogue, it really disappoints me. I feel like I put in more effort than I usually do in this, and it didn’t meet me halfway.

It also leads me wondering whether the upcoming DLC featuring Morrigan will respect the choices I made (obviously, given my ending, she did not go away pregnant), and even more, I worry about how and whether Dragon Age 2 if going to deal with continuity. Though it appears with the sequel that they’re taking the easy way out, and setting the game in a far enough removed time and place from Origins that they can minimize the direct connections between the two. It’s all the more surprising given how well Bioware did with Mass Effect 2. They went out of their way there to make sure you knew that they were tracking every choice in every quest in the first game, even a lot of the seemingly minor ones, to the point where it started to seem just a bit absurd, like the universe of Mass Effect is a very small place. But of course this especially worked, since it holds out the promise that the very significant consequences of my choices in Mass Effect 2 will carry over into the third game. Let’s hope they can at least get that one right.

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