dragon age 2 review: characters

Earlier, I wrote up a few impressions of the story from Dragon Age 2. As a writer, one of the other things that most interested me in the game was its characters. Unlike with Origins, you can't choose your character's background. Hawke's family has roots in Kirkwall, but it's a deeply troubled city. As Hawke tries to make a name for herself and a home for her family, she faces constant tension between competing factions. She can side with the city's existing order, follow her own ideals, or just try to grab as much coin as she can in the chaos.

Hawke gathers adventuring companions who, to me, are the best part of the game. They offer advice, banter among themselves, and each have their own issues that they'll want Hawke's help with. Their stories are well-written, though one of them annoyed me a little because she was such an obvious trainwreck waiting to happen.

My Hawke got along best with an elven warrior named Fenris, who enjoys brooding, oppressing mages, and crushing the beating hearts of his enemies inside their ribcages (no, seriously). He's a fun guy, though:

Fenris is one of the four companion characters that Hawke can romance. Unlike with Origins, all of the base-game romances are available whether you're playing Hawke as a male or female. Starting a romance doesn't affect the overall plot in a major way, but it definitely adds to the story. You get some additional background details on Hawke's love interest, and there are a couple of PG-13 scenes and occasional comments about your shenanigans during the story. In my game, for example, Fenris backed down a flirty NPC. It was kind of adorable.

The other companions are a crusading mage, a dwarven storyteller, a devoted guard, a saucy pirate, and an elf practicing forbidden magic. Hawke also adventures with one of her siblings, a mage sister or warrior brother depending on which class you play. One additional character is already available as a add-on that's sold separately (for everyone who didn't pre-order the game a few months early).

Their personal quest lines range from good to great, but overall, the companion chats were a bit of a let down. In Origins, you could have frequent, in-depth conversations with most everyone you traveled with, it was fantastic for both world-building details and characterization. In Dragon Age 2, those talks are a lot rarer. I still enjoyed the companions, but I didn't get to know them as well. It's easily my biggest disappointment with the game, partly because these companions were more entertaining to me than many of their Origins counterparts. I was happy to see the appearances of several Origins characters, though, including my two favorite older companions.

Since party members talk among themselves while you're walking around, I always felt motivated to switch up who I had with me. Some of the companions get along well, but it's often more entertaining to keep your party stocked with the ones who clash. Spending hours patrolling the city between a snarky magic-hater and an outspoken advocate of mages' rights was probably a headache for Hawke, but it was a blast for me.

Your choices during the game will influence your relationship with your companions, earning either their friendship or their rivalry. Friends and rivals treat Hawke a little differently, though if Hawke builds up a strong enough relationship, even her rivals will usually respect her enough to stand by her side.

The strength of the characters makes this a game worth playing, I'd encourage even people who aren't gamers to give it a try. I'll be making make one more post about the gameplay sometime soon.

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