The Science of Changing Everything: Dragon Age II

Dragon Age II is almost upon us and you can color me excited. I adore the first game, it’s easily one of the best I’ve ever played and the prospect of more time in its world is just too appealing to me to pass up.

And yet there is some apprehension. You can liken it to being a Democrat sitting in a room of screaming Republicans. At the end of the day you’ll probably still believe what you believed, but you’ll be hard-pressed not to walk away without some nagging doubts.

Suffice it to say that months of fairly angry fan diatribe has me a bit anxious even as I fantasize about all the nasty things the game will let me do. Admit it, you killed Connor too.

To an extent you can’t really blame people for being a bit peeved. The first look we were given at the game looked like a huge departure from the original. Not to mention there have been some stupid decisions from where I sit. I can appreciate the new art style, but why the hell do the Qunari have horns now? Also, why must the battle animations look like they came from Devil May Cry? One of the things I loved the most about the original was how real the combat looked. It doesn’t matter how much of a bad ass you are; if you’re lobbing around a two-handed great sword you’re not going you’re not going to possess and abundance of grace. It has weight and you should look like you’re fighting with something heavy.

But I digress. Most of the complaints have been ill founded and more along the lines of “They’re changing everything!” Anyone who’s played the demo for all of ten minutes would know that’s not true. They’ve made modifications certainly, but the gameplay is essentially the same thing it was in Dragon Age. It’s faster and more exciting, but it’s still challenging, smart and fun. I can sympathize a bit more with people (like my wife) who wanted to see more of the Warden’s story and are upset over the sequel following a new character, but there still comes a point when you just need to let it go and enjoy what the new game will actually be rather than pine over what it won’t.

That is my intention, and one made easy by the fact that I simply trust Bioware. Looking at their library there’s a streak of excellence that’s hard to match. I haven’t played a single game of theirs without enjoying it. Moreover, the enthusiasm of the developers themselves gives me confidence. I had the opportunity recently to profile Bioware for the February issue of GamePro, and speaking with Mike Laidlaw there was just a tangible sense of someone proud of what he and his team were accomplishing.

Which isn’t to say Dragon Age II will be flawless. But even without having played it I have a feeling it will be good. And if its differences from the first game don’t contribute to that, whatever. Change, especially tempered change, which believe it or not is what has been exhibited with Dragon Age II, is generally a good thing. Stagnancy, doing the same old thing just for the sake of pleasing fans, is not. It’s that devotion to sameness has summarily killed the Zelda games for me over the years. And it’s that devotion to pushing forward that makes Bioware a great developer.

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