Quote Originally Posted by Craft (Cheese) View Post
I disagree: The plot in DAO isn't exactly riveting or interesting, but it's not supposed to be.

DAO's plot was more of a roadtrip story than a heroic epic, even though it tried to sell itself as the latter (not the least of its marketing mistakes, so I hear). It's a set of Interesting Things for the audience to marvel at while the plot serves as little more than a device to shuffle the audience (in this case, the player) from one Interesting Thing to the next.
By the time I canned DA:O, I had seen:
1) Westeros Decaf Lite. I played the human noble, dwarf noble and dwarf commoner origins, and continued the human noble. That one came with one of the more unintentionally hilarious death scenes I've witnessed in a while, mostly because the pool of Eddard Stark's blood kept disappearing and reappearing between every camera cut. This could have been interesting.

2) Skim Milk with a shot of Real Imitation Tolkien Decaf Lite Flavor! Let's see: world under threat from ancient evil god? Check. Lots of corrupted evil beings? Check. Desperate last stand at a mountain fortress? Check. All this built around philosophical musings about the nature of divinity, evil and creation? No. Lots of yammering about blood though, so let's add pretentious metaphors lifted from Vampire the Masquerade to the list.

3) The set of a really low-budget episode of Xena. For a supposed military encampment, Helm's Deep sure felt like a soundstage after the extras budget had gotten axed. And the backgrounds really sucked. Halo had better distant landscapes than this. Also the art was godawful.

4) I see annoying people. Mostly I remember wanting to beat most of the NPCs to death with a mop. It would have been less soggy than keeping them around. I tend to find Bioware's companion characters so transparently pandering I can't take them seriously, and this lot were no exception. It was like a line-up of obvious tragic pasts and personal flaws just waiting for the healing touch of my special snowflake-ness. Also my special snowflake crotch, because only sex with a PC can really lead to emotional healing.

5) Should I fall asleep in battle. Combat was boring. There was too much of it, much of it serving no detectable narrative function. I'm OK with spending a lot of time in games killing things, but please make it fun, and change up the formula a bit, OK?

6) Fine grit sandpaper. So it's all dark and stuff, and there's metaphors about corrupt blood and the church is super-mean to mages but it's complex because the mages can turn into demons at any time also people are racist toward elves and... and everybody acts like a middle class American white guy with whom you'd have a slightly annoying conversation at Starbucks. Also you can still totally kill everybody who pisses you off in a dialog-tree approved fashion and feel awesome about it.

See, Dragon Age is the sort of fantasy I thought the world needed when I was like sixteen or eighteen. At some point in the preceding years I'd realized that people didn't take fantasy seriously because all the stuff I had liked up to that point was a way for the consumer to pretend to be a wizard for a few hours. So what fantasy clearly needed was to be all Dark and about Real Stuff, while of course still letting me pretend to be a wizard. Obviously if I wasn't pretending to be a wizard, I might as well go read boring real-world books.

I think of this as the 'Terry Goodkind doesn't suck' period of my life. Looking back on it it's quite embarrassing, but there you have it. The problem I have with this sort of thing is that the intersection of dark'n'gritty and wizard power fantasy doesn't really work very well. It's a lot easier to deal with special snowflake protagonists in a world that's clearly set up for fun adventure times. Soon as you turn on the grit though, the specialness of the protagonists goes from fun to slightly weird.

Basically go Witcher, go Drakensang, or go home. That is to say either do grit, do wizard adventure fantasy fun time, but please don't try to do both.


Think of it like The Odyssey, or Alice in Wonderland, or The Wizard of Oz: The plot in all three of these is simply that the main characters want to go home, but keep getting caught into obstacles that prevent them from doing so. It's not the process of overcoming these obstacles that makes these stories interesting, but rather what the obstacles themselves have to show us.

Now, whether or not the journey in DAO was Interesting enough to draw you in is a whole 'nother story, and I'm definitely not without criticisms for the game. Personally though, the world of Thedas was enough to keep me playing. There's plenty of interesting stuff there beneath the obvious Tolkien influences (which, really, are mostly satirical) if you take out the time to look.
So wait, your entire plot being about an ancient god trying to conquer the world with an army of corrupted creatures, while warping the minds of any who have contact with said god is Tolkien satire? What's it look like if you play Tolkien straight?

There are some worlds that I genuinely want to spend time in for their own sakes. They have to be considerably weirder though, because that thing where I journey to exotic locales to unite the people in a fantasy-land of elves and dwarves and men? I've done it. I've done it a lot. I can even still enjoy doing it, but I need a stronger atmosphere than what feels an awful lot like somebody's highschool D&D game from circa 1995.