I’m starting to feel a real kinship towards my party members in Dragon Age II. Some recent developments in the game have helped me appreciate to what nuanced degree their awesomeness has been implemented in this game.
We all remember (well, I do at least) that your party members in Dragon Age: Origins would routinely agree or disagree with the choices you made during the game, earning you approval points or resulting in a party member’s disapproval score going up. This would be dependent on their alignment, the particular dialog choice or action you took and, most importantly, whether or not they were in your party at the time. The most significant example of this to happen to Kailan, my City Elf rogue, was during the Circle of Magi quest. Wynne had joined my party while I was ascending the tower, and served as my primary healer for the bulk of the (short-lived) partnership. Near the very top of the tower – just outside the final chamber, to be exact – Wynne had seen enough of my risky behavior; she was apparently at odds with the morality or purity of my actions to that point, and she decided to abandon me on the spot. I was left in a troubling situation: a major boss at hand, and a party short a healer. *Gulp*
Even though it most definitely sucked to have lost a character for good for the rest of the game, this sequence of events drove the point home clearer than anything else could have: my actions carried significance, they mattered.
Fast-foward to Dragon Age II. My party members still show support or opposition for my choices, same as they always did. But one feature that’s really got me excited, now that I’ve used it a few times, is that I can give one of my companions the floor during certain encounters or conversations. Case in point: During the Wayward Son quest, I traversed the Wounded Coast and ultimately found and entered the slaver’s cave. Several standard battles followed, and you’d think that freeing the boy would be a case of killing the boss. Not so. Upon arriving in front of the slaver boss, he put a sword to his captive’s throat, attempting to keep me at bay. Not a drop of blood was shed though. During the dialog between the slaver and Hawke, I was able to throw the conversation to Varric for a bit, who took over and undermined the slaver’s assurance of victory. In the end, not only did the slaver relinquish his prized possession to me, he also paid me handsomely for my trouble, then retreated into the shadows with his band of goons. I was able to leave the cave unaccosted.
Another, even more impressive, moment came when I stood facing Idunna in her room at the Blooming Rose during Enemies Among Us. After some brief back-and-forth banter, Idunna grew tired of me and used a blood-magic spell to force me to divulge the identity of my informant against my will. Worse, she then compelled me to raise my own blade up to my throat, and commanded me to cut my throat. Being a warrior, I abstain from using any type of magic myself. However, Lady Luck smiled upon me, in the form of kind-hearted Anders. Desperately, I croaked a panicked plea for him to use his magic, and he intervened at the last possible instant, shattering Idunna’s blood-magic hold over me and turning the tables to my advantage. I interrogated her to gain further information on her motives, and finally turned the blood mage over to the Templars – let them mete out proper justice; it’s not my place to interfere in these affairs. I had what I was after: a new destination to pursue my quest further!
These opportunities for my companions to use their innate talents in the course of the storyline really give the story some flexibility – how would my showdown in the slaver’s den have ended without Varric by my side? Would I have stood a chance to best Idunna’s powerful mind-control, or would I have slashed my throat to ribbons right there in full view of my friends? I am more motivated now to try out different party combinations all the time, as you never know what personalities will be useful in a given situation.
Now if you’ll excuse me – I have a covenant of blood mages to root out…