Corpse Camping the Dragon – Going Deep

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Warning: The following post is very likely to contain Dragon Age 2 (and possible Dragon Age: Origins) spoilers. Continue at your own risk.

Warning before going to the Deep Roads.

Still here? Okay then. After wrapping up all of the quests in Kirkwall I finally talked to the dwarf that was in charge of the expedition and told him that I’m ready to travel to the Deep Roads. The game then had me choose three party members who will accompany me on the journey. Not being able to take the whole army of companions with me seemed kinda stupid, but I’m sure the game knows best. I went with my standard setup of tanky chick, AoE pimp dwarf and Bethany. Here the worried mother appeared and pleaded I leave Bethany at home, which alerted me to the possibility of something bad happening to her. Especially because THE DAMN CUTSCENE GAVE IT ALL AWAY. Amazing storytelling there BioWare. Let’s have a shocking moment where one of the main characters dies, but let’s reveal it before it happens so it’s not really a surprise at all. Brilliant!

In any case, I took Bethany with me exactly because the game warned me not to. And because I can’t stand the new Anders. He looks like a child molester for beer’s sake. Finally, we’re off!

I was expecting a cutscene showing how the party makes their way underground, fighting darkspawn, undead and giant spiders all the way down, in lieu of an RPG story. But no, there was none of that. Take note BioWare: if you’re going to skip ahead in time, at least make it well documented so you give the player some sense of how much time has passed. Because if you don’t, the game becomes a set of instanced adventures that make little sense in the vacuum you create. But I’m sure you know that, having made some excellent RPGs. Shame this isn’t one of them.

Encountering first problems in Deep Roads.

The Deep Roads adventure begins when the party hits an obstacle, a pile of rocks is in the way. I feel like solving problems is the only reason I’ve been brought into the adventure in the first place. I’m a player-creature hibernating in a sarcophagus that’s being hauled by the NPCs, there just in case something goes wrong. If it doesn’t, I never get awakened and sleep through the whole thing, the NPCs completing the adventure by themselves. Just to save me the trouble of playing the game. Wonderful.

Admiring the underground sights.

Off I went in search of an alternative route, like a good boy that I am. I have to say that the initial impression of the Deep Roads is that they are amazing. Incredibly atmospheric and sufficiently “dwarfy”. Kudos to BioWare for not screwing that up. I was making my way around the linear (but cleverly disguised as open) course, massacring the darkspawn and admiring the surroundings. I encountered a mature dragon but it wasn’t much of a challenge this time around, so there was no need for kiting. Conveniently, the dragon had a nice piece of armor and a two handed mace in his pocket. With those two equipped and looking infinitely more cooler (the only factor that seems to matter in DA2) I was ready to slaugther a few hundred more of those beasties.

Donned in newly acquired armor and weapon.

The dragon was guarding treasure of course. Some kind of glowing idol that immediately caught the dwarf’s eyes. The expedition leader opted to take care of it while we explored a bit more, but that turned into a trap. He shut us in the room and left us for dead. Morale of the story? Never trust a dwarf with your valuables.

As in any other mainstream narrative, there was another door at the back that led out of the room. Why bother shutting someone somewhere if there’s another door in there? Bah, futile.

Varric realising his brother betrayed him.

Making my way out of the prison, the surroundings drastically changed and I encountered a new kind of enemies. Seemingly they were animated rock made out of awesome, because they hurt like hell. Luckily though, we had pimp AoE with us (not a play on words) and that took care of it. At one point a hunger demon asked me to stop killing the rocky things and offered to help me find a way out in return. Since I don’t negotiate with terrorists demons, I killed it (which was surprisingly easy, considering he was threatening me) and marched out of the room.

Conversation with the hunger demon possessed rock being.

I didn’t get far though. The big brother of all the rocky things I’ve been killing was angered by the slaughter. Which meant that I had to either endure a spanking or kill it. I opted for the latter (it was a spur of the moment thing). The fight itself was quite something, with the boss seemingly having three separate phases, with different abilities in each. The first was the normal tanky-spanky phase where he would sometimes curl into a ball and roll into a pillar, which made it look like we’re fighting Sonic the Stoned Hedgehog. He would also start absorbing energy and start pulling everything towards him, where the combatants would take continuous damage. I have no idea if that actually recharged his hitpoints, though. In the second phase he would shrink, start gathering energy and then emit quills of light or something in that vein. The third phase was him being exhausted, falling to the floor and having multiple rocky things come help him out.

Killingblow cutscene on the rock boss.

I quickly figured all of this out (because I’m an intelligent person, unlike WoW players) and killed him on my first try by positioning the party members, evading the abilities, hiding behind the pillars to evade his AoE and controlling the adds. It wasn’t a particularly hard fight, but it was an entertaning one and it felt like I had to put some effort into the kill. Unlike most boss fights in DA2 so far, I’ve actually enjoyed this one. I’m not sure I’d enjoy it on the nightmare difficulty setting though.

Behind the boss there were shinies, which I gathered and headed for the exit. I was disappointed with the loot I got because none of it could be used by my warrior, but that’s random loot for you. The other thing that disappointed me was the length. I expected the Deep Roads expedition to be at least twice as long. It felt like a quick stroll through the deeps instead of a prolonged expedition which apparently took weeks. For comparison, the Deep Roads part in DA:O felt something like three times as long, and probably three times less linear. But I could forget the linearity if only there was more to do! Throw in a quest hub, have the expedition run into an underground settlement, or have them get imprisoned under the earth by an earthquake and dig their way out. Anything but this fleeting affair.

Twoshotting darkspawn.

I have to admit, the slaughter resulting from slicing into a darkspawn group and using whirlwind is quite satisfying.

And of course, there’s the cutscene at the end when Bethany dies from contracting the darkspawn disease from thin air. *GASP!* The whole thing depressed me because I knew I lost the good one of the two healers I had, which meant that I would need to suffer the company of Anders and because I knew the game would make a big deal out of it, further diminishing any kind of remorse I felt for her dying. Which is to say, none, especially after the game outright told me it would happen before I even travelled to the Deep Roads. Complete shambles.

Bethany's last words.So that was it for the Deep Roads. The game did another one of those schizophrenic time jumps that completely destroy any semblance of narrative and further diminish any sense of a timeline. Game, you are not a movie or a book! You can’t expect to use the same method of breaking up the narrative if you don’t include the player interaction. I have no idea how that would work, but not including the player doesn’t work at all. I might just go watch a movie instead. (That was a short rant on the modern games in general. A lot of games are toying with the same time jumping and heavy cutscene usage, which makes the player feel like they are playing an interactive movie, rather than a game. Developers stop it!)

Mayor asking the hero for help with the Qunari.

I was then told the treasure yielded enough money to buy back the family estate and that I had achieved a higher status because I now had money (or something like that). The mayor needed my help with the Qunari, but I really didn’t feel like playing anymore so I quit.

So with the part of the game I was most looking forward to gone, only one question remains. Will the game do more stupid stuff as I soldier on or will I lose interest before that happens? Stay tuned to find out.

PS: The mean part of me wishes the new title sounds even naughtier. :P

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3 thoughts on “Corpse Camping the Dragon – Going Deep

  1. You know this, I’m sure, but Betty doesn’t have to die. There are actually three possible outcomes from that whole Deep Roads/Sibling situation. Your decision of who to take is relevant to the story.

    That saaaaid… It’s the only occasion I can think of where your decision actually is relevant in regards to the unfolding of the story. Thinking about it, on the grand scheme of things, it is only relevant to a point. It only decides how restricted you are on certain subjects.

    You know, they keep saying they’re revolutionary, bringing story-telling and decision-making as foundation pillars in their games but I can think of quite a few games off the top of my head where the story was much more intricate and your decisions and actions mattered a whole lot more. What kind of game you played or what ending you got could be decided as early as the first few minutes.

    I finished DA2. I finished it twice. Mainly because the battles were entertaining enough for me. Like a moth to a flame, I’m enamored with shiny lights and flashy moves.

    • Oh and if you wanted that title to sound naughty… I’m really scared by you right now. I can only hope your line of work doesn’t involve morgues or funeral homes.

    • Yeah, you can find good story in games like, I don’t know, maybe DA:O? Damn BioWare. Also, The Witcher was good on that front, but only to a point. I guess it’s true when they say that game narrative hasn’t really evolved yet and that we are still far from an interactive experience as intricate and immersive as good books or movies (good ones).

      DA2 is very much all fluff (combat) with no real substance. It’s entertaining enough for me to play through it, but I don’t think I’ll want to have another go after I’m finished. Maybe a few months after.

      The title doesn’t sound naughty to me. I thought Zizlak may find it naughty, since he had issues with the previous title. And no, I don’t work in a morgue or a funeral home, stop being mean. :P

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