Tuesday, August 13, 2013

End of Act 2, part 2: Things Matter

I totally watched the shit out of the trailer for DA2, but I didn't think it was more than a typical, if well-made, trailer for a sequel to a popular franchise.  No need to explain what the game is like, just show off some general badassery to keep up fan excitement.  All I learned about the game was that Jenny will have a really big boss battle with a Qunari.  And there would be sexy pirate lady.  Neither of these things seemed like important giveaways. 

And when I first started DA2, I rolled my eyes a little at the way it began.  Along with the "EA Presents A Bioware Production," title sequence, the framing story felt like a case of cinema-envy.  As if the game were trying to get taken seriously by mimicking a medium with more cultural respect.  I didn't think it was bad, just a little forced and unnecessary.

Except, as I played, I noticed that the frame story adds weight to otherwise small-seeming events and helps create a sense of anticipation.  If the events unfolding weren't relevant to the end, why would the inquisitor care?

Now I find that the trailer, too, is an important part of DA2 storytelling.  Knowing that Jenny will have an important battle against a giant Qunari is, actually, giving away something significant because so much of the plot and world development in the first two acts revolves around the presence of Qunari in Kirkwall.  And yet, giving away the boss fight acts less like a spoiler and more like foreshadowing.  In the same way that the frame story changes the way I view the game, knowing that the situation with the Qunari will—no matter what—erupt in bloodshed adds tension to all of the events preceding the attack.  Every time Jenny pleads with those around her to be tolerant of the Qunari, part of me is thinking, The zealots are right.  The Arishok will not remain peaceful.  And no amount of action or persuasion on Jenny's part can change that.

Hey Viscount, I've seen the trailer, and it doesn't go well for you.  Maybe you should rethink your strategy.

And now that I am working up towards that big boss fight with the Arishok, I am realizing that what happens afterwards is a complete blank.  The big, climatic, battle shown in the trailer is only the end of Act 2.  (At least, I'm assuming it is.  Since the Qunari are rampaging the city, and I don't think I'm going to be able to talk the Arishok into letting me go nicely into Act 3.)  By giving me a piece of foreshadowing, the trailer focused me on that aspect of the plot, gave me something to anticipate, which meant I haven't been thinking about what happens next.  Having something in my field of view made it less obvious to me how little else I could see.  Obviously, the situation between mages and templars will come to a conflict, but I can't guess the nature of the conflict.  And who will be the big bad?  Meredith?  Some mage under the influence of the deep roads artifact?  Something the artifact becomes?  Will there be a battle, like Denerim, or one-on-one, the way Hawke is shown in the trailer?

I know that there is a voice actor for Danerius, and there have been clues left about Tevinter interest in Kirkwall, so maybe Jenny will defend Kirkwall against the Imperium?  (Obviously, she and Fenris will encounter Danerius, for his sake, but maybe that will actually be part of the main plot as well.)

And as I'm awaiting more plot developments, I've been looking at criticisms of DA2, and a lot of them say things like:

A thin, unfocused series of things happening that had no dramatic weight and failed to keep my attention. 

The story fluctuates between being completely uninteresting and being simply generically mediocre.

Did I mention that there is absolutely no story here? A bunch of random fetch quest with no real purpose.

For some reason, BioWare thought that dropping a character into a city and watching them meddle in quasi-political affairs while cooling their heels for a decade would be just as entertaining as going on an epic adventure. Surprise—it's not. There's just no overarching goal; no purpose to the story. 

They also complain a lot about the graphics and re-used locations, which I agree with, although I have a hard time understanding how a game could be unfun because it looks 5 years out of date.  I mean, I was playing games five years ago, and somehow managed to have fun even without photo-realistic graphics.  But all the complaining about the plot, the assertion that it's not possible to have an epic adventure without crossing physical distances, I keep wondering what game they're playing.  I mean, it sure isn't the game I'm playing.

The most frustrating thing for me is watching while characters (including Jenny) say the stupidest things about, and to, the Qunari.  Seriously.  I want to shake all of them.  Especially Aveline, who has also gotten very unpleasantly slut-shamey these days.  Dear Aveline: knock it off.

No comments: