Why Dragon Age 2 is the best game ever… and why it took me 5 months to realize that.

Kirkwall by waterAlthough swindling for the last 10 years, I have been an avid gamer for the most of my life. And although I could enjoy the range of FPS games, from the earliest Wolfenstein 3D, my passion mostly started out with the early Sierra ‘Quest’ Adventures and RPG’s.

I have been a game reviewer for about 4 years, although I have to admit; playing a game for fun is a lot more fun than playing a game for work. But still, I enjoyed being published in a magazine and reviewing iconic games like Quake and Ultima.

But life, and love, hit and my priorities changed and I abandoned the game world completely for a couple of years, until I had to buy a new top-notch computer about 4 years ago. And to test it out, I walked into the EB-Games store and simply asked for the most stunning game there was for a PC. And the adolescent guy, grinning under his breath seeing a 32-year-old buying a ‘game’… But, with The Elder Scrolls IV he did deliver me an astounding experience – for that time. Games had caught up with time, and increased a lot in length, depth and enjoyment. And the old software houses from yesteryear definitely had been replaced with companies like Bethesda. Although companies like BioWare and Blizzard had been around, and big, for a long time already.

I always shunned BioWare in the ‘old’ days. Although I liked the story lines, it never drew me in. Which is why I stayed away from BioWare for a while. Until, at one good Friday night, I thought to get a new game, and decided simply to go with whatever GameSpot would tell me which was the best RPG game to date yet. I expected again The Elder Scrolls to show up, but lo and behold… there was this game called Dragon Age. Huge ratings, positive reviews… I decided to give it a try; even though it was BioWare after all.

And I cannot deny, DA is one of the best cames I have ever experienced in my life. Excellent story telling, good graphics, and it immediately drew me into this make-believe world. Maybe not with the ‘freedom’ as The Elder Scrolls could deliver, but still… I enjoyed it even more. I got engaged then into BioWare’s world; The Mass Effect series, and, awaited with great expectations… Dragon Age 2.

As a kid waiting for his presents for Christmas, I awaited my pre-ordered copy of this game to arrive. But, reading the first reviews before it came out were lukewarm at best. Here and there were some good things, but it was by far not the kind of ratings as DA, or Mass Effect 2 reaped in (get it? Reaped?…No? Sigh….)

And to be honest, when I started playing it, I was disappointed too. It looked amazing, it sounded amazing, but, something was missing; the story. Or so I thought. I finished the game, enjoyed playing it, but it felt not even as close to the vicinity of the rating I would give its predecessor.

So, this is all a couple of months ago. I haven’t played so much since while working on other projects, but somehow, when I think back on it, and check all the storylines of the games, I cannot help that in my gut I appreciated the Dragon Age 2 game much more than all the others combined. Why? Ahhh… there is what this posting is about, and why it is here on my IT blog.

Unlike any other kind of story line I know, Dragon Age 2 is an extremely solid tale of a normal person, a fugitive, who has seen his/her family partially murdered, and flees to a hostile city to build his/her life anew. And it follows this story, over time, seeing this person grow in personality and power. The backdrop story is subtle, political, but very engaging. But it still is about this one person. Not about saving the world, not about massive armies in exotic locations, disaster everywhere. No. It is much smaller… it is about you. And no matter what kind of decisions you make, some people are happy with you, some hate you, lovers might come or go… it is simply balancing your own little world, with consequences, rewards and disappointments.

It maybe not be about you as the hero you want to be, but it becomes so personal, that you do not always appreciate the detail, the care, that went into this. It became personal. And just like many things you might forget, or might remember, DA2 also simply was there; a good experience, but revealing a lot about yourself.

This is what I think should be the next level of anything in IT; making things personal. We have the technology and know-how to make things automatically, dynamically personal. So, although I am now talking about a game, it can easily be applied to websites, applications, environments… whatever it is. Don’t try to understand every single user, try to understand what makes any kind of user special… because in the end, we are all users and are all not even so much different.

I think we can learn a lot about the story development and the execution of the personal experience of Dragon Age 2. With it even that I can say, that personally, I think Dragon Age 2 is the best game that ever has been built… even though I realized that only about 5 months after finishing it.

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2 thoughts on “Why Dragon Age 2 is the best game ever… and why it took me 5 months to realize that.

  1. I’m sorry man. I know you love the game, but I had the opposite experience. I came into the game riding the hype train. Hell, I was in first class. I had my own room in a hype sleeper car. I was ordering hype champagne from the passing hype stewardesses.

    Needless to say, I was hyped.

    This hype rode me through about 10 hours of the game, at which point I realized, “Wait a minute… NOTHING HAS HAPPENED.” Literally no plot advancement, no significant character development, not even a hint at what my goal was. I was wandering aimlessly in a sea of exposition. It was at this point that I started to realize other things. Reused environments littered the gamescape. The fights showed no sign of being thought out to be tactically challenging. Indeed, I could mindlessly hack my way through pretty much the entire game. It had all the signs of EA’s grubby little hands pushing out a rushed development to rake in more money.

    Considering Dragon Age: Origins may very well be the best game I have ever played, this was a crushing disappointment for me. It put a massive dent in my once gleaming view of Bioware, and after the Mass Effect 3 ending (Another massacre of my hopes and dreams, although the game was very good), I’m afraid that EA may be destroying Bioware.

    Please let me be wrong.

  2. I’m waaaay late to this party, but let me say that I agree with you. With all of its warts – and there are many – DA2 was nevertheless a very satisfying experience for me. As you noted, it’s the personal nature of the story that makes it so. I never quite understand why the DA2haters think DAO’s kill-the-big-dragon plot was so great. Or why they think DAO’s combat was so much more “tactical.” Bah. Don’t get me wrong, DAO was a fine game, but DA2’s story was much more fulfilling.

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