Dragon Age II: The Ten Year Story
Dragon Age II story is a two part system. Its a tale about how things became the way they are while you the player, play Hawke a central figure into how it got there. So one your playing a character that you shape through out the game but at the same time its not exactly about you but more about your involvement in the world. The game really expands the lore of Dragon Age by diving deeper into some of the complex issues. Dealing with a foreign culture and seeing how it effects people and lets not forget the ever going struggle of the mages versus the templars. In the 10 year story of Hawke told by Varic about his/her involvment in the events that caused the whole world to change, you get to see these issues first hand and it up to you the player to tailor their Hawke to how they feel or the role they want them to play.
The story starts off explaining how the Champion got to Kirkwall and the unusual circumstances surrounding it. As you arrive in Kirkwall you quickly learn that all is not what it seems to be and you have work hard and do some shady things just for the bare minimum. That involves some shady work and questionable ethics of a would be hero. As you transition to act one you make a small name for yourself and are looking at ways to get more money to improve your situation. Thus you try to invest on a trip to the Deep Roads as a all or nothing scheme to make it rich. As you work on acquiring the money to invest in the trip you make all of your companions and start a relationship with them. This is where you meet a lot a reoccurring characters that may show up again over the course of the game that shows off one of the main advantages of the 10 year story which is to show the player the consequences of their actions in the game instead of a sequel. Act I is about the starting point of the story and is necessary to build up whats going to happen later on in the game as well as provide a few unexpected consequences down the line. In Act 2 you move forward a couple of years. The expedition was successful your standing has improved and you finally where you should have been at the beginning of the game although with some close at home losses for Hawke it can be somewhat bittersweet.
This portion of the story is mostly about politics and operating a fine line when you don’t have the resources to solve a problem out right. It deals with a outside force that disturbing the balance of power somewhat and causing a crisis. The Qunari in Kirkwall are effecting the balance of Kirkwall. Qunari are a race of big burly giants with a unique religion. Since they are known to conquer everything this causes uproar in the city because obviously people think they are next on the chopping block. If you played Origins you know their is much more to the giants than meets the eye. The Qunari are very strict race and follow a strict code called the Qun. The Qun values the community more than the individual so the Qunari don’t have names per say, they go by their station and each one acts within that role. So this leaves individualism at the side and contradicts what humans are use to so people find them strange to deal and misunderstandings are created. Just by prejudice alone they cause a mass fear among the people and its up to the power at be the Viscount to walk a fine line as to not incite war with the Qunari because they don’t have the resources to deal with them effectively. Hawke is smack dab in the middle of it all, giving the player a unique opportunity to learn about both sides, the good and the bad of each.
There are a lot of ins and outs surrounding the relic that the Qunari seek with a few of your companions involved in the conflict. At the end of the day shit hits the fan and the Qunari end up invading Kirkwall and you are tasked to dealing with it. Upon defeating them you become the Champion of Kirkwall but unfortunately the Viscount is lost and in the resulting power vacuum the final problem is brought to the forefront the ever going struggle between the Circle and the Templars. As a result of Act II the Templar hold a considerable amount of power and with the backbone of the society the Chanty being neutral the tensions are high in the city with no resolution in sight as the templars abuse their power causing the mages to become desperate and fight back and turn towards the ultimate evil blood magic. Throughout the game with your dealings with your companions and stances to all the various quests you get to experience the good and bad of both sides being particular effective at creating a very grey situation with no true right answer. Its up to the player to make a final decision that deep cause and effects leading to Varric to tell the story of Hawke to Cassandra the Chantry Seeker.
The ten year story in the way Bioware has written succeeds more about telling the story of their lore than just about Hawke themselves. A lot of people feel the story is subpar because they feel that they aren’t able to connect with the character because it isn’t exactly a hero’s tale. Even though Hawke plays is very important in whats going on they ultimately take a back seat to the events that happen in the game even though Hawke is kinda solely responsible for what happens indirectly and directly. The story skips around a bit and you don’t see some of the things you would want to feel that connection such as Hawke having a ceremony when he becomes champion or a elaborate cutscene when they come back from the Deep Roads and you see Hawke elevating his status with all the proceeds. Additional cutscenes dealing more about their personal lives and companions relationships.
Their are definite advantages to telling this story. You have a lot of carry over from one part to the next. you have reoccurring characters that offer more quests and gives you more of a insight into the world instead of having a bunch of quests where essentially give you a peak here and there. You learn over time about a variety of characters and how you decisions affected them and where they are later on in life. You get to see how situations evolve over time such as with Arianni and her apostate son Fenryial. At first you are told to find him since he ran away and he needs help learning magic whether that be from the Circle or somewhere else. Depending on your decisions that can carry over with him still struggling to the point where you have to intervene again and help him further to the point where he can leave forever to find someplace to master it or you end up killing him depending on the decisions you make. These storylines can really draw you in because of the carry over you can see how decisions impact you over time layer upon layer.
Another new concept is that your companion’s interactions with each other change over time. You can see and hear how Aveline and Isabella hate each other but come to a mutual understanding over time. Another case such as Varric and Isabella exchanging talking about some of the stories he’s told or talking about events that have happen in The Hanged Man(tavern). Resulting in giving additional depth to the characters that one on one interactions can’t fit in. Through all the positives the major one is the replayability. All the quests have their own unique consequences, you companions treat and talk to you differently depending on your standing with them. You can literally play a dozen times.
Though they are some shortages and some things Bioware didn’t take to its full advantage. Being a story told by a series of past events. I had a hard connecting to the fact that I was a Champion because it didn’t really build on it. It was more like here’s how you became champion now a few years later and I didn’t feel as empowered though I was in a very high position during Act III. Quite a few people pointed this out to be a flaw in the story. You need to understand the purpose of the story is the telling of the events that caused the current situation, Hawke just happened to be a main component of it and a lot of players wanted or felt it should close to a hero’s tale and it isn’t. I felt they could have done a bit more with your companions. Even with the interactions with each other, their personal quests and banter I feel like with their unique stances they could have been more involved in the story itself instead of giving a reaction to your choices. Overall I really enjoyed the story and the subtle way they told the story with your character not exactly being a central figure but the events being the gold. They successful created a game where the reoccurring mini-quests and all the little decisions you make cause you to have a closer meaning to whats going on the small and the big throughout the game giving a heap on replayability.