My last camping of the corpse of a generic dragon ended with Qunari deciding to purge the city. You can imagine that was bad news for Kirkwall, but luckily there was me and my ragged band of companions, ready to save the day. After a short cut scene where the Qunari were quite rudely showering us with spears, we find ourselves outside their compound with the city on fire and the hairless stoics slaughtering anything in sight. I can’t say I hesitated before charging into them.
Warning: The following post is very likely to contain Dragon Age 2 (and possible Dragon Age: Origins) spoilers. Continue at your own risk.
Not because I have a grudge with them or because I didn’t want them destroying the city I came to hate, but rather because combat in DA2 is satisfying, especially when I take control of a rogue or a mage in my party. I don’t particularly enjoy playing my warrior character, which I’ll explain while the party is busy running around and killing every Qunari in Kirkwall. There’s not much to say about that anyway.
Whining about class design ahead. Skippable.
You see, the warrior class has a major design flaw, which is the fact that they only regain a small amount of stamina on a killing blow. This design decision is extremely awkward, especially considering how rogues regain stamina on each hit and how mages continuously regain mana. Both systems work well, the tried and true mana bar and the on-hit regeneration that synergises wonderfully with the rogues mobility (the rogue can almost always be hitting someone) and skills that increase attack speed.
Now warriors need to get the actual killing blow on the enemy to get any stamina at all. Which means that protection oriented warriors will be struggling because of not having enough damage to land killing blows before rogues or mages and damage warriors because of a certain blunder in the specialisation design, which I’ll talk about a bit later. They do have several stamina regeneration skills but most of them are shit. There’s one where you can regain a tiny portion of stamina for the price of using a global cooldown (sort of) and not auto-attacking and the other will refill your stamina bar but has a monstrous cooldown. Couple that with the fact that defensive warriors will be running multiple sustained abilities which will shrink their stamina pool to a fraction of a full one and the damage warrior, well having to live with a useless specialisation.
I’m talking about the Berserker specialisation tree which, at least on paper, looks like it should produce the largest amount of sustained damage, but is in truth more suited for short skirmishes. This is because the main sustained ability in the tree, that increases damage by the amount of stamina you have left, also drains stamina with every auto-attack. Basing the damage increase on a berserker (warriors who fight “in a nearly uncontrollable, trance-like fury” — Wikipedia) skill on the amount of stamina left is retarded in itself, but having it drain stamina aswell? Madness. The end result is that a dps warrior is doomed to either spec Berserker, drink stamina potions like beer, pray for his regeneration abilities to come off cooldown and rush around frantically trying to find weak targets that he can finish off or spec Reaver and have sub-par dps.
Now admittedly, things get easier later in the game when you can grab most of the abilities that help with stamina, but the core problem remains. In larger and tougher battles you’re much more useless than a rogue or a mage and if you are a tank you’ll be struggling to dish out any damage at all if you want to use any of those mitigation abilities. Just bleh.
End of whining about class design.
Back to the game though, I met a couple of Grey Wardens who gave me a ring and told me to piss off because they have more important stuff to do. Fair enough, but I liked the game more when I was the hero. I then met Sten and killed him (again, I first killed him when retrieving the relic), after which an irritable woman called Meredith appeared. She claimed she was a Knight Commander and everyone except me seemed to take her word for it. If you ask me she looked a bit too much like Flemeth and witches are never to be trusted, never.
She wanted me to help her liberate the city, as if I weren’t already doing that. Slaughtering some more Qunari I encountered Sten (again) and killed him (again), after which I met an elf claiming to be the First Enchanter. Seriously, where were all these important people before? Am I supposed to just blindly believe anyone who proclaims himself to be the next coming of the dwarven god of beer? Bah, BioWare. If you wanted to create an impression that I’m fighting alongside powerful allies you should have made it clear that they are powerful beforehand. As it is I’m simply fighting alongside a bunch of imposters who can’t even win their own battles.
Apparently the Qunari have taken hostages and are holed up in the keep. I devise a cunning plan that would allow us to slip in through the back while the others attack the front as a distraction. Well that’s what I thought will happen anyways. What really happened was the important mage guy hurling some fireballs at the entrance, drawing away the handful of guards and us casually strolling in. One doesn’t simply walk into the Viscount’s Keep! So much for my plan.
After making my way through several contingents of Qunari troops and killing Sten a few more times (that guy just won’t die), I enter the throne room. There’s a handful of hostages and a whole lot of Qunari inside. The Arishok demands the relic, which I don’t have, and a conflict seems to be inevitable. Luckily Isabela chooses this as the perfect moment for dropping by with that damn book. Oh well, at least we were able to resolve this without fighting, right? Wrong. The Arishok wants to take Isabela with him to that dreadful island of his, but because I like rogues I don’t let him (I really should have let him have her, she’s crossed me twice now, the conniving bitch), after which he challenges me to a duel. Sure, I’ll duel the guy, it can’t be much harder than dueling Loghain in DA:O.
Wrong again. It turns out the Arishok could clean out Kirkwall singlehandedly with a blindfold over his eyes, wielding only a cauliflower. After several attempts at killing him, which consisted mostly of me kiting the horned guy around pillars, slipping in a few hits during his meditation/fly swatting and giving up after the third time he drinks a health potion, I consulted the world wide web. It turns out that warriors have the hardest time with killing him because he’s unbeatable in melee. Coincidentally, warriors can only attack in melee range. The only way to beat him is kiting around pillars for about 20 minutes. Well screw that. I want the game to be fun, so today we toss aside our honor, refuse the duel, fight them outnumbered and teabag them when they fall. So we did.
And now for something completely different — a transition into three years later. Hooray Dragon Age 2 story telling, a triumph of game narrative that will shine as an example for years to come. An example in how to not tell a story in an RPG. Complete shambles.
Hopefully the next post in the series will also be the last one, as I can see everyone is getting a bit tired of this, including me.
Look for the new issue of Blaq Whines About DA2 at your local article retailer sometime next week.
Edit: Apparently “Sten” isn’t just the name of the Qunari character from DA:O, it’s a name for a rank inside the Qunari society. Which is why there are so many of them. I fail.