Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dragon Age: Choice and Consequence

Last week I promised to write up something about choice and consequence in Dragon Age and have yet to follow through. That’s largely because I’m still not sure I have a grasp on the scope of these things in the game. I’m about 30-40 hours in, have only completed about 30% of the game, and I still don’t have a very good handle on the full scope of the game and how your decision making affects the world.

I find that very impressive. (With regards to Bioware, not myself. I’m never impressed with myself. Well, I looked damn good as Indiana Jones on Halloween, but that’s pretty much it.)

I will say that I like the extent to which the localized characters react to the events around them. This was a huge problem for me in Fallout 3 because too often critical events would occur and characters would go on like nothing had changed. (The town sheriff in Megaton comes to mind. If he dies only his son seems to notice.) This is not the case in Dragon Age.

***Begin Vague Spoilers***

There is a sequence at one point in the game where I attempted to rally the locals to fight in a dangerous battle. When it was done, several of the townspeople, including one prominent figure there, were dead. I was never able to fight this battle without losing these characters, but my impression is that it is possible for them to survive. Afterward, a cut scene began in which bodies were being sent out on boats to be lit on fire and the local chantry priestess noted the name of the one major town NPC who had died. Judging from the rather rough cut in audio dialog, I’m pretty sure this list can vary based on how many more (or less) you lose.

In one of the boats was the body of another whom had fallen. When I later went to place where he ran a business, one of his employees had taken over and there was an in depth conversation about her decision to stay in town rather than leave. In another area of this plot thread a brother and sister who had lended to me a family heirloom insisted that I keep it, a fairly routine sort of occurrence in an RPG. What made it unique was that I had options for how to respond that included just accepting it and choosing to give them variable amounts of money for it. The amount given directly affected what they would decide to do next. (I think I could have still refused it too, but my memory is hazy.)

***End Vague Spoilers***

I love this aspect of the game. The jury is still very much out on how some decisions affect long term events in the game, but certainly the sense is that in each of the major quest lines there are multiple ways for it to unfold and that your choices there will directly affect the end game. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out because there are choices I’ve made where I was genuinely trying to do the just and noble thing and those choices do include the possibility of generating less than ideal results in the end. I hope that’s the case because more games need to do that.

These sorts of games shouldn’t consistently reward you for endeavoring to take the virtuous path. Sometimes you should be penalized for doing so because trying to “do the right thing” should result in you having to walk a more difficult road; a road that is more disadvantageous to you as a player. I’m really hoping that when I do reach the end game (sometime before the end of the world in 2012) that my attempts to play the ethical character have mixed results. Say, less overall individual power to work with, but perhaps more allies.