I had two somewhat profound blog ideas that I was going to use today. They were pretty cool and you’ll be seeing some version of them later. You’re probably wondering why I’m not going with those blog ideas. That’s a valid question with a simple answer. The latest installment in my most favorite video game franchise comes out tomorrow. That’s why today is going to be devoted to my love of games and, more specifically, my love of the Dragon Age franchise. There will be some spoilers.

It Begins

I know I’ve talked about video games before. There’s a list of my favorite games and I talked about video games in this blog post. That said, I haven’t spent as much time discussing them as I’ve spent talking about other things. It’s about time I got around to rectifying that.

As I’ve established before, I’m primarily a PC gamer. We’ve always had computers in my house and I’ve always had games for them. Before the Internet, I spent most of my time on computers playing games and doing school work, of course. My brother and I played a bit of everything. It was helpful that we had similar gaming interests. It was especially helpful when we ran into some sort of problem in the game that we couldn’t solve. We were always there to lend a helping hand. To this day, I’ve had my brother help me through particularly difficult bits of games when he comes by to visit.

My mother wouldn’t let us have a video game console while I was growing up. I know I’ve mentioned that before, but it’s not something I ever truly noticed the lack of until I got older. I was content with the games I had on the computer and the stories they told me. I loved unraveling the slow mystery of Myst and getting freaked out by The 7th Guest. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized I’d never adventured with Link or spent an inordinate amount of time helping Mario through pipes.

There’s a huge chunk of games out there that I’ve just never played. Sometimes, my friends will wax nostalgic over the games of their youth. They’ll dust off their old consoles and pick up their controllers as if greeting an old friend. I’ve watched them play with a small measure of envy. Many of the games I played when I was younger can’t be played any more. Fortunately, some of them have been re-released in recent years. So, that’s been pretty awesome.

Games are still one of my favorite ways to unwind after a rough day. Though I don’t devote nearly as much time to gaming as I used to, it’s still a big part of my life. I mean, I sing in the choir of the Washington Metropolitan Gamer Symphony Orchestra, after all. Brief aside here, the WMGSO has s couple of concerts coming up on December 13th and 20th. The concert on the 13th is in Herndon, VA and the one on the 20th is in Rockville, MD. I’ll be plugging them more as we get closer, but plugging them now can’t hurt. Anyway! Yes. Gaming is still a huge part of my life.

Dragon Age

Honestly? For as much as I love the Dragon Age franchise, I can’t remember when I first bought Dragon Age: Origins and started playing it. I’d heard a lot about it and I think I ended up snagging it in a Steam sale, as I’ve snagged so many games before and since. I do recall that my first playthrough was as a human noble. I’m not ashamed to admit that I got a little verklempt during that origin story. Sure, the others are almost equally as rough beginnings, but that one has always stuck with me.

I remember being absorbed into the story of hard decisions being made during difficult times, of heroes rising out of the ashes surrounding them, and of battling a huge freakin’ dragon. I loved how large and complicated the world of Thedas was. What made the experience even more entertaining was the cast of NPCs that the Warden got to interact with, particularly the companions.  Dragon Age: Origins was also my first introduction to the kinds of stories that Bioware told. Needless to say, I was hooked.

Now, my friend, Gary, ragequit Origins during the Joining ritual where the playable character joins the enigmatic Grey Wardens. He wrote a lengthy post about it on Facebook. I feel this is worth mentioning because he did have some valid criticisms. I’ve told him that he should try Dragon Age II someday just to see if it rubs him the wrong way. If he reads this, maybe he’ll tell you guys in the comments about why he deleted the game off of his computer.

See, you can be friends with people who hate the stuff you love and it’s okay.

Back to Origins, though, one of the things that I loved about it was the sense that you were really a part of creating this epic tale. Not only that, but it felt incredibly personal as well. My Cousland was avenging her parents’ demise and honoring their memory by living as well as possible. She romanced Alistair, the blushing ex-Templar, and helped him reclaim his roots as the heir to Ferelden’s throne. She may have also married him to rule beside him. I couldn’t help it, what girl doesn’t want to be a queen, right?

I’ve played through the game a few times. I’ll be the first to admit that, like the first Mass Effect, playing through Origins can feel a lot like work. When they announced its sequel, I was so excited. I pre-ordered Dragon Age II and eagerly awaited its arrival. It was after EA had acquired Bioware and there were some rumors that they were hoping to cash in on the lucrative franchise by nudging it out of the door before it was done. Whatever the truth is, it’s generally agreed that Dragon Age II could have used some more time before its release.

While there are a number of things that could have been improved upon in Dragon Age II, I still enjoyed the game. I loved how they streamlined combat and made Mages look so badass. Seriously, I love playing a Mage in Dragon Age II. Now, they reused a bunch of maps. You’ll play through the same map over and over again. While I’d have loved variety, I will admit to liking the fact that I didn’t get lost as much while wandering. I’m directionally challenged, you see.

The other criticism lobbed at the game was at its ending. There was no easy win or truly happy ending in the conflict between the Mages and the Chantry. They did a good job of laying out that groundwork. I get how frustrating that can be for people, but diametrically opposed sides have a hard time of finding a middle in which to meet.

After Dragon Age: Origins, I never thought I’d find a love interest who’d make me swoon as much as Alistair or Zevran. Then, my Hawke met broody Fenris. Oh man. That voice. His voice just does Things. Wonderful things. They also introduced the idea of being able to romance a character as a friend or as a rival. If you’ve never rival-manced Fenris, you’re missing out.

They joke a lot about how the Dragon Age franchise is just a dating sim disguised as a role-playing game. I just like to think of it as Bioware offering a bit of variety for every kind of gamer. You can kill things and kiss folks. There’s something for everyone. The Dragon Age franchise is also one of the more inclusive ones, particularly when it comes to sexuality. Check out David Gaider vs. The Straight Male Gamer. That confrontation will go down in History.

So, tomorrow, after I get home from work, I am going to install Dragon Age: Inquisition. People will be lucky if they hear from me after that. I am ridiculously excited.

Last Word

This isn’t going to be gaming related. This is just me announcing that the Just Tegan Patreon Page is live. Go there and support us so we can bring you some even more awesome things.