In praise of Dog

Notes on Dragon Age: Origins #5 — Companions are the best, except when they’re not.

Dog has been a regular member of my Dragon Age combat party since I rescued him back in Ostagar, but after leaving Redcliffe, I ran into Zevron’s band of assassins on the way to Denerim and promptly died.

I mean, I died hard. Like, I was worried about traveling anywhere. But I put on my big boy pants and looked up an online list of a recommended order in which locations should be visited.

And see? Easy enough. I had tried to jump to a late stage location before I was ready and the game was warning me off. No harm, no foul. I loaded up again and headed off to Circle Tower.

And ran into the assassins again.

This time, everyone fell but Dog, but Dog held on alone and took down the last archers. I will now never go anywhere without Dog. Sorry everyone else, but one slot in my combat party is now permanently taken.

I accepted Zevron into my party — because why would I not accept another party member ?— earning me yet another -10 from Alistair.

What a killjoy that guy is. Is it batshit crazy to accept the leader of the group who just tried to murder you into your camp? Absolutely, but has Alistair never played a BioWare game before? Once Zevron is in your group, there’s no real way for his presence to have significantly negative consequences.

You know, it would almost be more interesting if there were such a possibility. A betrayal mechanic! Or, say, if I couldn’t enter Denerim with a known assassin in my party, and the game made me assemble a new party to gain access.

Or, you know, if I could stab Alistair. He’s mean to my dog.

Blood looks good on him

I feel like I should have more to say about my return to the Mages’ Circle. It’s hard to imagine siding with the Chantry. (Kill all the mages? Really? Sure, yeah, let’s go for that.)

Maybe that’s my big indictment of “choice” in Dragon Age: Origins so far — so much of it seems. . . arbitrary or only artificially impactful? Would the Chantry really go on a purge of the mages? I could go back and find out, but it feels like even that would reduce the impact somehow. Like there aren’t really choices, just calling the game’s bluff.

There’s part of me that wants to do a “burn everything to the ground” playthrough some time in the future. Kill everyone the game offers me the opportunity to kill, make every choice in the manner that seems like it would have the worst impact on the most people. Refuse to help anyone.

What would the game even be like? So much of what I’ve enjoyed in BioWare games is how they reward players for exploring every corner and having every conversation. The world is richer later on when you interact with people. They show up again and thank you, or offer further complications in small but enjoyable ways.

Dragon Age: Origins seems to offer the option to empty the world as you go, not just to decline storylines but to cut them off forever.

But playing in an extended world is a matter of constantly reinvesting interest. I have a hard time imagining maintaining that investement while tearing that world to shreds. It could be an interesting experiement. But maybe not 120+ hours interesting.

Oh, and I actually did give Dog a name. I stuck with the default name for the player character, but not Dog. He’s Halph. And I’m keeping him around, even if the rest of the world burns.

Originally published 3/31/15 on Medium