owlmoose: (da - alistair 3)
KJ ([personal profile] owlmoose) wrote2012-01-01 06:32 pm
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30 Days of DA: Reference post and Day One

I like these 30 Days memes. Something about answering questions posed by another gets me to thinking about things in new ways. Also, it forces a regular posting habit, which is always a good thing for me. I've wanted to do the Dragon Age one for awhile, but I was holding off until I finished my second time through DA2, to give me a more rounded picture of that game and its possibilities. That happened a couple of weeks ago; then I decided to wait for the new year. Now that time has come, so here goes!

Cross-post note: I will be posting shorter versions of most of these answers to Tumblr, then linking back here for the full-length entries.

Day One: Favorite Dragon Age game (ie: Origins, Awakening, Dragon Age 2)
My favorite game in the series so far is Origins. Awakening was fun, but not substantial enough for me to consider as full a game as the main titles. Dragon Age 2 was probably a better and more complex story than DA:O -- I love how it deconstructs the fantasy and heroic tropes that Origins plays pretty much straight. But in terms of the game as a game, Origins wins for me, hands down. I found it more fun and more engaging. I also appreciate the greater variety in the kinds of missions and characters and places -- and I don't just mean the repeating maps, but the epic sweep of the story and the settings. I'm particularly fascinated by the Grey Wardens: their history, the lore, the outsider culture they have created for themselves.

But even if that weren't true, I expect Origins would still get the nod for sucking me into the world of Thedas so quickly and completely. I haven't fallen in love with a source this hard and fast for a long time -- for a game, not since Final Fantasy X. If I had played DA2 first, I don't know that I would have been quite so compelled by the series. As it is, I have my first new fandom obession in six years, and my life is definitely the richer for it.

The Questions

  1. Favorite Dragon Age game (ie: Origins, Awakening, Dragon Age 2)

  2. Favorite character

  3. Least favorite character

  4. Favorite Love Interest

  5. Least favorite Love Interest

  6. Your Warden’s story

  7. Favorite quest

  8. Least favorite quest

  9. Favorite class (ie; mage, warrior, rogue, assassin, healer…)

  10. Favorite party banter

  11. Favorite song from the soundtracks

  12. OTP

  13. Mages or Templars?

  14. Character you wish was a romance option

  15. Your favorite “Bro”

  16. Your ultimate team from all games

  17. Favorite Origins story

  18. Character you are most like

  19. Character who’d be your best friend

  20. Character you wouldn’t get along with

  21. Favorite villain

  22. Favorite NPC

  23. Scene you wish you could change the outcome of the most

  24. Most shocking scene

  25. Scene that made you cry

  26. Crack OTP

  27. Best part of the games

  28. Worst part of the games

  29. If you made a deal with a demon what would your bargain be?

  30. Hopes for Dragon Age 3

sarasa_cat: (DOA-Alistair-SwoopingIsBad)

[personal profile] sarasa_cat 2012-01-02 10:42 pm (UTC)(link)
Perfect timing on this meme! :)

Given that I haven't yet started DA2, is it possible for you to say something about how the game deconstructs the fantasy and heroic tropes without slapping me with huge spoilers?

Regarding DA:O's treatment of the hero and playing it straight vs deconstructing it: given the world's grey-on-black morality and the need to "do whatever it takes to stop the blight," the player's Warden could be a horrific bastard yet still go down in history as The Hero of Ferelden. So, it's probably fair to say that DA:O's sliding scale of morality edges into deconstruction of The Hero, depending on how the player plays it and how the player interprets dis/approval from each of the party characters.

As for the Grey Wardens, yes, their entire history and lore is really interesting. After one complete DA:O play through plus a few hours of Awakening, I still feel as that there is so much about the Wardens that I either haven't uncovered or I haven't applied enough fridge brilliance to have the correct "ah-ha" moment to piece bits together.

So, here's the thing that is bugging me: can a person truly stop being a Grey Warden? After all (strange research aside, such as what Avernus is looking into), once a person lives through the joining ritual, they have been permanently changed through the taint and, in a sense, is a ticking time bomb on the way to ghouldom. It isn't like you can say, "oh, sorry, I don't feel like being a warden any longer." This is the primary reason why I didn't support Alistair during the landsmeet (my warden, on the other hand, had a mix of reasons). The taint issue coupled with the political lack of neutrality in putting a warden on the throne makes me feel all sorts of grumbling weirdness about DA:O's end-game storyline. Admittedly, if you put Alistair on the throne and refuse Morrigan, Alistair's reasons for taking the final blow are, IMHO, absolutely correct, but I just do not feel that that from Arl Eamon's early support for Alistair onward that the game's characters delved into a proper exploration of the consequences of Ferelden having a GW king. Even Alistair himself doesn't say enough about it! I wanted to kick him because of it. Thus, I found this whole issue the one annoyingly weak part in the whole story because it felt, at least to me, like the writers themselves were very all enamored with the idea of King Alistair playing the "bastard-prince becomes good king" trope very straight without dealing with the problem of who Alistair had become. The only way I can explain any of Alistair's support (and his grudging semi-willingness) for taking the crown is that those who want to see Alistair on the throne are ignorant about what a GW really is (and I, the player with the codex, have a much better idea). So, what am I missing here???
sarasa_cat: (dao-alistair-lamppost)

[personal profile] sarasa_cat 2012-01-03 04:06 am (UTC)(link)
The Hero, Anti Hero, and Deconstructed Hero: Oh yes, I fully see where you are going with DA:O and what you mean by DA:O's warden sitting somewhere slide scale of the hero to anti hero depending on how you choose to role play the character. Given my love for deconstructed heroes, I'm now itching to start DA2 although not until I finish awakenings first. Second and third full play-throughs of DA:O are just going to have to wait. ;)

Can person truly stop being a Grey Warden?

I think I rambled too much above without getting directly to my point. First, I really like how Eamon was written as a character--very believable, especially since I did the Return to Ostagar mission before Redcliffe, which gave me (and my warden) additional political perspective.

The problem I had was this-- during my play through both me and my Warden became Very Annoyed with Alistair (or the way Alistair was written) from Redcliffe until the end of Landsmeet because much larger issues that were not options for discussion. Namely: should a person with the taint be put on the throne at all. Add in the backstory of how political tensions regarding the wardens and governance and ... I was grumpy that my play though never gave me options to ask the questions of Alistair I really needed to ask. To me, it is more than can he have an heir that continues the Theirin succession but what are the larger political consequences of a warden on the throne. Despite being in a romance with him, the issue of an heir either never came up in dialogue or was a passing minor bit. Nothing about his early death came up and the political issues of putting a warden on the throne all came from other characters.

Thus, I came away feeling like the game wanted me to push me into tossing Alistair on the throne without considering the large political implications beyond how to make sure Alistair might spawn a little Theirin asap. Thankfully, my warden was grilled Anora (alone) and Alistair (alone, multiple times) to get their general feelings about being married off to each other as a political arrangement and, finally, my Landsmeet turned into a wonderful disaster after I though it a good idea to let Alistiar duel Loghain and, after winning fairly, he just suddenly beheaded the man (my one big holy shit moment) which tossed the game into me making Anora versus Alistair defend their individual cases for the throne. Alistair ended up looking like a sputtering fool after running through the many dialogue options so the decision was easy: Anora wants to be Queen, Alistair want to be be a Warden who fights Darkspawn (confirmed privately and publicly), and my warden knows that putting a warden on the throne is a potentially bad idea so, done deal. You each get what you want and we'll let Anora worry on her own how succession will be handled (or not, as it turned out).

All of that said, I really like how the game was written. I just feel that a few places in the game had romantic (or arranged) relationships seriously trump big picture politics. Perhaps it is a personal taste issue.

Edited to say: once I got a feel for the political situation and personal feelings, I never finalized brokering a marriage between Alistair and Anora because neither seemed to want it and Alistair appeared (rightfully) hurt by the idea. The only reason my Warden explored that route was to elicit a wealth of information from either of them that, apparently, couldn't be gotten otherwise. :)
Edited (add-on and spelling fix) 2012-01-03 04:13 (UTC)
sarasa_cat: (Default)

[personal profile] sarasa_cat 2012-01-03 06:51 am (UTC)(link)
Pardon the rest of my circular response here but, er, circular response is circular. ;)

Given that I'm far more of a role player that someone who games the game, once I got a feel for the world my Warden was in, I role played as "in character" as possible within the limits of the dialogue options presented. Thus, hardening Alistair was never in cards once, after finishing the game, I later looked up how to harden Alistair. When playing, I never selected dialogue options that my warden would not say and if that lopped of dialogue trees forever or left dialogue options unsaid, so be it. ^^ My goal was to run through one play of the game while constantly staying in character for one character and *NEVER* reloading to redo outcomes.

...Warden neutrality (although the last becomes less of an issue if Alistair officially quits the order)...

THAT! That right there! Yes, so, that's the question NOTHING in the game could answer. Can a person officially resign from the Order of Wardens without political consequences haunting them after they took up their name and title? Completely glossed over, at least, to my eyes. The political quandaries that my warden was having were, perhaps, caused by a small spot of weak writing in the story?? Also, the whole matter of one warden pushing another warden onto the throne seemed very wrong, as confirmed by other characters (not Eamon, of course!!). By the way, my Warden thought Eamon was only interested in the game of politics. That also biased her.

There's just the conversation I mentioned in my comment, and that only happens after the decision to put Alistair on the throne has been made.

MMMM. That's why I didn't see it because my warden was playing a devil's advocate negotiator role rather than seriously promoting Alistair.

And I agree, when you put it that way -- it should have been dealt with in a better way than Alistair shying away from the topic whenever it comes up, until the Landsmeet is upon him and suddenly he can't put it off any more.

In retrospect, I cannot tell if I (the player) like or dislike this lack of information. My Warden was on the verge of becoming furious with Alistair's silence and wishy-washy responses, although, as a negotiator, she did her best to never blow up at him. Literally. With a fireball. At least twice I looked for the option "kick Alistair" but with no avail. ;)

I the player, on the other hand, really appreciated how well unhardened Alistair was written. He felt absolutely lost in a bucket of confused contradictions regarding his conflicting sense of duty and the things he wanted out of life. I firmly believed that every single time my warden poked him to see if he had anything to say, all Alistair wanted to do was go to a pub and get a drink. ;) He actually came off a goodly bit frightened of the entire situation like he just wanted it to all go away, which, if I remember correctly, was part of his response to someone (party banter? with morrigan?) when asked why he hid his parentage from the party. Thus, his silence is in character. It felt very frustratingly real although I (the player) am still not sure if that makes for good game play or not.

Now that I've played through once, I'm thinking about the kind of warden I could play who would naturally, in character, say what it takes to harden Alistair just because I want to see that side of him too. :)

But, back to this recent play through-- in it, my warden learned a lot about Anora as a person while having a private conversation with her. When the option of talking to her about a political marriage came up, her response was not enthusiastic and she was well aware of my warden's "joined at the hip" relationship with Alistair, which she mentioned at least twice so, while she eventually admitted that a marriage was a useful political alliance, she appeared to have very reasonable doubts and she worried Alistair would be too much like Cailan. By then, my warden knew far too much about her relationship with Cailan and given that my warden (who fancied herself as a neutral negotiator*) appeared to be getting along with Anora pretty well on a girl-to-girl level, my warden just didn't see benefit in actually brokering the marriage. Also, many people liked her as queen and the whole brokered marriage talk was purely academic, just to get Anora talking and to learn more about her.

Meanwhile, Alistair, in private conversation, appeared Not Amused by the things Anora said to him (while my warden was not there) and on the verge of being horrified by the entire idea once my warden confirmed that she and Anora had considered the possibility. So, in my game play, the whole option of a brokered marriage looked like a miserable situation and, even without Anora in the picture, my warden thought that King Alistair was a stupid decision for Ferelden and for Alistair.

(* by neutral negotiator, I mean that my warden attempted to get people within a conflict to air their sides through talking while she helped them make the best decision that they could comfortably agree on. Needless to say, this approach failed spectacularly in a few situations but, all in all, reduced bloodshed whenever possible).
sarasa_cat: (Default)

[personal profile] sarasa_cat 2012-01-03 07:30 am (UTC)(link)
In high school and undergrad I was a hard core tabletop role playing gamer and I am extremely impressed at how well DA:O captured the feeling of those kinds of games. While the game was never able to give me the "kick Alistair" option that I so dearly wanted, I was impressed with how different most of the dialogue options felt. Of course, unless I figure out a way to look at the underlying logic of the entire dialogue system, I'll never know how much is an illusion and how much is really multi-branched writing but--wow--I'm impressed!

I want to do a hate run where my warden is a machiavellian asshole because I am hoping that gives me a deeply different view of the characters. I might need to metagame a wee bit to pick out the best possible origin story for that play through, but once the origin is selected, metagaming ends.

And I want to do a hardened Alistair romance run.

I also want to play a deeply skeptical, jaded Elf. Not sure if s/he will be a city elf or a dalish.

All that said, I sort of suspect that my first warden will forever color my understanding of the game? Or maybe she won't but I just love her so much as a character that I am not *yet* ready to imagine another warden being as much fun. >_<

sarasa_cat: (Default)

[personal profile] sarasa_cat 2012-01-03 07:16 am (UTC)(link)
My warden was a well-intentioned blundering idiot with absolutely everything regarding the dwarves. Even some of the random little side subquests ended a bit oddly. It made for awesome game play but my warden was clearly feeling Extremely Stupid. :)

I'll write more about my warden when we get to the question on day 6. I had far far far far far too much fun creating her.
sarasa_cat: (Default)

Random question - your Anora as sole queen play through

[personal profile] sarasa_cat 2012-01-03 08:22 am (UTC)(link)
Random question: when you did your first game as a female noble with an unhardened Alistair and Anora as sole queen, was there ever a threat of Anora wanting to execute Alistair?

The reason I ask is because I just read something about this on a forum thread but in my play through never once did Anora express real political malice/fear toward Alistair. She appeared to look at him as incompetent choice for a ruler but nothing triggered her to look at him as a dangerous threat. Other than Alistair blatantly ignoring rules of duel (and my warden quickly smoothing things over with Anora after THAT happened), everything else was rather cordial. (Except for Loghain, but I assume that's just how Loghain is going to be.)
sarasa_cat: (DOA-Alistair-SwoopingIsBad)

Re: Random question - your Anora as sole queen play through

[personal profile] sarasa_cat 2012-01-03 09:05 am (UTC)(link)
OOOooooooh. Wow. This makes sense, actually. As long as Loghain is alive, Alistair will want him dead. Given Loghain's position and title, Alistair might be tempted to take the throne from Anora (at the landsmeet or some time in the future) purely to get his revenge on Loghain. Of course, this is why Eamon (if I remember correctly) proclaimed Alistair king the moment Loghain's severed head hit the floor--legal cover for terrible misconduct during a duel.

Once Loghain is dead, Anora would be more willing to accept that Alistair is telling the truth when he says he doesn't want to be king and formally renounces any claim to the title.

(Of course, there may also be the game's story mechanics issue needing some male grey warden alive so Morrigan can attempt her dark rite -- and, yes, I know that Loghain is recruitable via some mechanism at the Landsmeet although that story option was clearly lopped off with Loghain's head.)

Interesting how much variability there is!!!!

I've noticed a lot of fandom referring to Anora as a bitch who betrays you and never once did my warden see that side of her.