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Monday, May 26, 2014

This Post is Totally About Writing

Haha, no it isn't. It's about video games. But I'll bring it around to storytelling, I promise.

So I'm taking my little writing break. I read some books I wanted to read, and I've finally embarked on playing Dragon Age: Origins. From what I've heard from friends and the internet in general is that Origins and Dragon Age 2 (which I loved) are different enough in style that whichever you play first, you'll like that one better.

Truth be told, I'm not finding them to be THAT different style-wise and gameplay-wise. Then again, I heard a lot of people complained about the changes in battle controls between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, and I found them virtually identical. As I don't consider myself a hardcore gamer, maybe there's just some nuance there that's above my head. Either way, I'm getting by, and after spending a year making my way through the ME series, returning to the DA universe was a pleasant change of pace. Also, in DA, the screenshot function exists!

This is what my butt looks like when I stab an ogre in the eye.
I'm not done with the game yet (my rough estimate has me around halfway to two thirds through, not including the extra content), so I reserve the right to change my mind, of course. Right now, I think it's a great game, highly entertaining and difficult to put down. That said, I don't totally love it yet, and I've been trying to put my finger on why.

The universe is as detailed and complex as one would expect to find in a Bioware game, and I always have to marvel at the sheer amount of effort that went into worldbuilding. Also, there are a lot of innovative things going on with the plot that I really enjoyed. One section involves navigating through a dream-like world and having to shapeshift into different forms to complete the maze of puzzles, and while it was pretty trippy a la Alice in Wonderland, I thought that part was fantastic. Then there's a forest that has werewolves and sentient trees (most of which try to attack you). Currently, I'm exploring the dwarf kingdoms.

This tree asked a favor of me. Also, it only speaks in rhyme.
I've realized, though, that where the game is falling short for me is the characters, unfortunately. I'm not saying that they're bad or poorly-conceived. They're just not really doing anything for me. I LOVED the companions in DA2 (LOVED), some right off the bat and some with time. For example, I was kind of meh on Aveline for a while, but by the end of my first playthrough (and in subsequent playthroughs), I really grew to appreciate her. And while I spend 99% of the time wanting to slap Merrill across her stupid naive face, she's still got some great lines. (And wanting to slap someone is some form of emotional attachment, right?) The DAO cast isn't inspiring strong feelings in me either way. Most of them are just kind of...there.

And then there's the romance. When a friend of mine played the game a while ago, she told me that she wasn't really crazy about any of the romance options and she just went with the most obvious choice. I've wound up doing the same. It's cute and there are some sweet and funny dialogue exchanges, but again, I'm just not feeling the passion there (unlike with Anders my DA2 boyfriend ;) ).

You think I'm pretty? Eh, good enough.
In tying this into the writing process (aha! I told you I'd get there!), what it really boils down to is that characters can really make or break a story. You can have the most fantastic plot in a rich tapestry of a universe, but unless you have a fabulous cast to act it out, there's going to be a little something missing. Obviously this is subjective, and I know everyone has their own preferences in whatever media entertains them. But even as I think of my favorite books that are classified as more plot-driven than character-driven, they still have those complex characters to shape the story.

The number of times I used the word "character" in the above paragraph should indicate just how important they are. Crucial, even!


  1. Man, I thought this was going to be about writing....oh hey, characters count! They do! ;)

    I LOVED Dragon Age 2. Dragon Age: Origins was unfortunately a flop for me (other than the scene with Flemeth and the one companion calling Flemeth's daughter whose name I forget a "sneaky witch-thief"). The game play was fun, the stories neat, and then the difficulty went over 9000 for no reason and wasn't fun anymore.

    DA 2 I played more than once. DA Inquisition I have very high hopes for indeed. But I just can't make it through origins.

  2. Wow! That looks exciting! I wish I was really into gaming sometimes. I feel like I miss so much. Given how bad I am at them though, after a while the fun turns into frustration and cursing at the game for not be easy enough to beat in one sitting. Lol! Seriously, I need a guy to get through each level. I made it through about 10 levels of Tomb Raider once. Then my game cartridge was lost. I wasn't internet savvy back then so I couldn't find it anywhere. I got the newest one (at the time), but I didn't have a guide for that and I liked the other one better, so after a couple of weeks I gave up and went back to Spyro the Dragon. ^_^ I couldn't beat the boss at the end, but at least I didn't need a guide to play it. Lol!

    You know what, I am totally 100% into characters. I would say just about every single story I've ever written that is any good is character driven. It's just what I'm good at, probably because I love it so much and keep doing it over and over and over again. So I agree. I don't care how exciting the plot is, if the characters suck, I'm just not going to be satisfied.