“The members of his karataam were killed by Tal-Vashoth but their disposal leads only here, to Saarebas and you.”
Er…What? Look, you’re clearly speaking English, so why have you just randomly made up words there? I’ve been playing this game for 20 hours and I still don’t know what you’re talking about. Why not just say ‘group’, ‘rebels’ and ‘the mage’?
But there’s no dialogue option to point this out, because it’s Dragon Age 2 – where you can never do what you want to do. So with that level of quality established, here’s a list of some other dumb things that prove this game never should have had dialogue trees:
5. Choices matter! …Except the retconned ones
I distinctly remember killing elvish assassin Zevran for trying to kill me. I also distinctly remember importing my save from Dragon Age: Origins and having the decisions I made be referenced in this sequel.
So imagine my surprise when I bump into this very man I had distinctly killed, just hanging around in a cave. Apparently the game also retcons over possible fates of one other party member from the previous game. It doesn’t seem to be a bug, it’s just straight up Compilation’ing.
4. “Kill the villain later, I have conclusions to jump to!”
Quite often you will be speaking directly to an antagonist. Someone who, if killed – would leave their henchmen with no reason to fight you, would solve all your problems and would stop said antagonist from killing anyone else.
They’re not far away, they’re not on a balcony or anywhere untouchable. They are at lunging range. All Hawke would have to do is draw his knife and stab them. Not only is this option not present, but you will watch Hawke and co. allow the villain to run away, possibly multiple times.
While the rest of the game forces you into making decisions without allowing you to get the facts. It’s particularly bad in a story with so much magic that literally anything could happen with no internal logic.
The worst example is where you asked whether to kill a possibly innocent suspected serial killer or let him walk away free. There are no other options. Even if you have the captain of the city guard in your party!
3. Character sabotage
With the exception of Varric, the game soon ruined each of the seemingly likeable cast in the game, supplying reason after reason to hate every one of those monsters.
There’s the character that sends you on an infuriating, neverending fetch quest with cutscenes actively depicting boredom…Because this grown woman can’t talk to a man she like-likes.
You’ve got the two seemingly decent characters who are prone to evil demon magic. The former will disapprove any time you point out that demons might be bad, or destroy Evil Books of Evil. The latter turns out to be a terrorist who blows up lots of innocent people and starts a war.
Another character causes the deaths of many innocents and starts a different war with another completely pointless act that could’ve been avoided by…Killing one man. Which is what you do after all the death she causes.
2. The Qunari
You know what’s great in a game with an interactive story, a dialogue system and choices? A species whose only defining characteristic is that they never change their minds and you will never convince them of anything.
You know what makes that even better? When one third of the game’s story is built around them and their arbitrary societal rules.
1. The entire Templar/Mage struggle
One of the few interesting ideas in the Dragon Age story is how mages, with their potentially destructive, powerful magic abilities are confined to towers (that aren’t supposed to be like prisons) and guarded by Templars. They bring young mages to the towers and hunt down any rogue ones.
It all taps into a classic moral dilemma over security versus freedom. But because it’s Dragon Age, it never really does anything interesting with the idea.
The third act of Dragon Age 2 instead just takes it to the most idiotic extremes possible. Conflict escalates, tensions reach boiling point and you are eventually forced to make a decision.
Side with the psychopathic Aryan tyrant who wants to exterminate all the mages. Or fight for the freedom of all mages with a seemingly nice man – who turns out to be a demon worshipping moron who had a hand in the murder of your in-game mother.
There is no middle ground. Despite this all could’ve been solved with about three quick stabbings in the space of one conversation, or just replacing the tyrant with a nice Templar much earlier.
Oh, and no matter which ridiculous side you take, the game still forces you to have drawn out boss fights with both of the leaders from each side, in the same order, no less.
Why bother with dialogue trees at all?