by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Back to the Age of Dragons
Dragon Age: Origins was one of the best CRPGs of the recent years and it is therefore no wonder that everyone is holding their breaths for the upcoming sequel. Even though I was personally not that taken by Awakenings, I’m hopeful that Dragon Age II will return us to the strong storytelling that was the crowning point of the first game.
As things stand it should be on our desktops early next year and the next six months or so will certainly be filled with exciting news and tidings of the story and gameplay of Dragon Age II. However, nothing can stop us from putting on paper some of the things that we already know.
The developers have clearly been paying attention to storytelling and mention classics like Princess Pride as some of the inspiration for what they are doing. In short, the story will span an entire decade, relating the important events and turning points in the life of a person known as Hawke who became to be known as the Champion of Kirkwall. The story is told from future perspective and introduced by a dwarf storyteller, who is somewhat prone to exaggeration.
Delving behind the exaggerated stories, the player will be introduced to who Hawke really was and the decisions that the player makes will shape the character – and the future – as the game progresses. The unique storytelling perspective allows the gamer to see the long-term effects of his or her decisions as they are made, bringing the morality play into sharper focus than it was in Dragon Age: Origins. Even though we know that Hawke will be known as the Champion of Kirkwall, it remains the player’s choice whose champion he or she (male pronoun will be used from this point on) will really be.
Even though Dragon Age II tells the story of a completely new character, there will be enough familiar themes – and even characters – to make the world feel familiar to Dragon Age: Origins veterans. One of the major examples of this is naturally the return of Flemeth and we can already hear her (voiced again by Kate Mulgrew) in the narration of the released teaser trailers. Also the beginning of the story is set to overlap the events of Dragon Age: Origins, as Hawke escapes the destruction of Lothering with his family after which he makes his way to Kirkwall in the Free Marches, which lies north of Ferelden.
Perhaps one of the most surprising features of the sequel is the new dialogue wheel system. Familiar from ‘that other’ Bioware title, this wheel will have up to 5 choice options which are marked by symbols to illustrate the tone of the responses (aggressive, peaceful, romantic etc.), that takes into account your past decisions. This means that even though you will always have access to all dialogue options from benevolent to malevolent, your past decisions affect the way these lines of dialogue are voiced. For example, if you have acted politely and honourably in the past, any polite and honourable dialogue options that you choose will sound sincere. However, if you have been a bad boy or girl, your attempts at politeness will sound more insincere.