The Difficulty of RPGs, as Told Through Revisiting Dragon Age
Recently, I got sick after coming back from travel, which is the worst. What was awful about the cold I had though was how it didn’t have too many symptoms (sure, slight sore throat, little congested, whatever) except for an absolute exhaustion that rendered me completely useless. In addition to that exhaustion was just a need to ignore everything else going on and a deep desire to do something comforting, entertaining, and familiar. (Much as David was feeling recently.)
And so I booted up Dragon Age: Origins and started a new character.
Now, seeing as I was so desperately seeking comfort from the game, I found myself playing it in the way I always do; same character origin (Female Human Noble), same class (Rogue), same romance (Alistair FTW, obvi) and same end game decisions (spoilers yo). I was incredibly sick, the kind of sick where your brain hardly functions and you find yourself watching children’s TV or really bad reality TV (essentially the only way I’ll watch anything akin to the Kardashians). Playing a game in a familiar way was, actually, a better version of that for me. And somehow it encouraged me to keep myself hydrated because I was sitting up and focusing on something. Bonus.
My fave new crossover meme, via Pinterest
I quickly finished DA:O, seeing as I was so familiar with it all, and moved onto Dragon Age 2. I was starting to feel a bit better at this point, and not wanting to fall into the same trap as I had with the first game, I tried playing it slightly differently. Normally when I play RPGs, I’m a straight up Chaotic Good character. It’s just how I play. Starting DA2, I decided to try a character arc, starting off Chaotic Neutral, because let’s face it Hawke has a lot on her plate and just wants to survive, and gradually turning into a Neutral/Chaotic Good character.
It was certainly eye opening to my style of play. I had to work way harder at some of the relationships with characters because they kept disapproving my actions as I took a more Chaotic Neutral approach. For example, blackmailing a templar with the captain of the guard in your party is not the best idea if you want to be friends. Normally when playing DA2 I strive to be friendly with my companions. This playthrough I almost straight up surrounded myself with only rivals, save for Varric and miraculously, Aveline. I forced myself to choose a new romance, which was easier this time around (Fenris being voiced by Gideon Emery? Yeah I’m game). I’m not sure I’ve played this all the way through since the first time, really, but I went from normally liking Anders to definitely thinking he’s crazy and choosing someone else. Different style of playthrough: accomplished.
And so now I’ve started (and restarted several times to my frustration and Captain America’s amusement) Dragon Age: Inquisition and I must say I’m struggling to play it differently. So many of the characters annoy me; Vivienne is uninspiring and disapproves of everything I do because I’m all for mage freedom, Sera is annoying and literally Tumblr personified, Josephine is meh, and Solas drives me up the wall with his emo habit of needing to talk with you while also pushing you away constantly.
In the two playthroughs I’ve done, the first where I rushed through to finish the story and one where I went for as much completionism as I could, I’ve been a human mage who romanced Cullen and was sarcastically Chaotic Good. My Hawke and Grey Warden 2.0, basically. [Editor’s note: 3.0?] This time I’m stoically pushing through with a Dalish mage and romancing Solas, trying to get as much of the story and exposition as I can, because in a weird way it seems best set up for this character build. You certainly get more information about the Fade this way.
Speaking of character build, too, whose idea was it to have us do Character Creation in dark green lighting in the Fade? Part of the reason I’ve had to start over a few times this playthrough is because my character ended up looking so cartoonish once out of the Fade and interacting in scenes that I literally could not stand to look at them. And why is everyone’s hair, especially the Inquisitor’s, so shiny? The other reason I’ve had to start over is because I accidentally started romancing Cullen. Old habits die hard apparently.
Capt America just asked me how many times I've played the #DragonAge games…
— Julia ✒ (@jkcoxy) January 18, 2017
That’s just the thing, too. RPGs are so great because you get to put yourself into the character’s shoes and make choices the way you would if you were in that situation. There’s great comfort in being able to live out the story in your own way, especially the way the Dragon Age games (and others, of course) work where your decisions actually impact the story so much. That creates its own problem though with wanting to replay RPGs; at what point are you just playing the same game over because each time you play it through you play the same way? Honestly, the appeal of RPGs is also the hardest part of replaying them. If you want to feel like you’ve affected the game and its outcome, on later playthroughs, don’t you need to try something new and feel the weight of different choices from previous games?
If you need me, I’ll be slowly pushing my way through another DA:I playthrough (oh no, the Orlesian Ball *sobs*).