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On digital love and the hawtness of elves and mages - Tactical Ninja

Aug. 2nd, 2012

10:31 am - On digital love and the hawtness of elves and mages

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So the sexing in Act 2 went ahead as planned. First Fenris, then Anders. *high fives self* They don't care about my bugs, bless their little pixellated hearts. Anyway, even though Fenris is far hotter IMO (love the tats and he also looks kind of like Dave), when push came to shove (euphemistically speaking) it was actually Anders that floated my boat.

Yes I am admitting to getting turned on by PG rated cartoon soft porn. Shut up.


It isn't just porn - in fact really, it isn't even porn, because all they do is kiss and shoot each other smouldering looks and then it fades and next thing they're fully dressed and whacking hurlocks again.

But what games do that porn doesn't is give you a chance to develop a relationship of sorts. You have to get to know the character and work at it and listen to their stories and say the right things, and Bioware does a really good job of letting that anticipation build until you (or at least I) actually do feel something when the love-interest suddenly shows up in your boudoir.

They are also quite good at building fantasy dream archetype characters. In the first game, they gave you more room to project your own fantasies onto the romance options - at least, the ones that were relationship material. You had two that you could shag and drop pretty easily, and two that were lovely but had not a lot of character of their own. They were a placeholder for your fantasies. Alistair is awesome and yes, slightly awkward sarcastic Englishmen are hot*, we've established that - but he's not got a lot of anything much going on behind that pretty digital face.

In DA2, the characters have more, well.. character. Disclaimer here: I am about 95% heterosexual so I only sex the female characters on the second playthrough to see how many beddings I can achieve in one game. Otherwise I'm not interested. However, the two male options in DA2, while both quite sexy in their way, are, um.. a little disturbing in their subtext.

First we have Fenris:



He's an elf warrior and has a bloody big sword *cough* and a giant chip on his shoulder. He's an escaped slave, you see. He was enslaved by mages using a ritual that gave him his lyrium tattoos and destroyed his memory. Since he escaped, he's been consumed by thoughts of vengeance and that's about where you come in. He hates mages with a passion which is interesting because I usually play a mage and yet I seem to be exempt from this hatred. Apparently in DA2 you can go either the Friendship or Rivalry option, and either way if you get it high enough you get to sex. I chose Friendship because I'm a sop. Anyway, after he decides he likes and trusts you, you get to flirt with him, then he turns up at your house all not meeting your eyes and goes "I can't stop thinking about you. If you command me to leave, I will." You of course do not, then there is smooching and you throw him up against the wall O.o and it fades to black.

Next morning, he's all angsty leaning on the fireplace with his bloody big sword on *cough* and going "This was all a terrible mistake" to which you're all WUT and it turns out your fantastic sexing made him remember his past but when you stopped sexing the past disappeared and he realises you can't sex all the time but he wants to remember and it's all very upsetting so now he's EMO AS BRO. He leaves, going "Forgive me." I'm told that after this you're somehow still in a relationship and you find out why he left in Act 3, but I saved at that point (for later elf-sexing) and started to pursue Anders.

This is Anders:



IMO not as hot as Fenris (with a way less cool name) but Sarcastic Englisman hello. Also, if you played Awakenings you get to know him a bit there and this adds to his backstory. Anyway, he's an apostate mage on the run from the Templars who want to round him up and lobotomise him. He's made a deal with the Spirit of Justice who is allowed to live inside his body (instead of inhabiting a corpse as he did in DAO:A). This is a nice wee flatting arrangement but Justice is, well, Just - and every now and then he's all "I SHALL HAVE JUSTICE what do you mean don't kill anyone Anders you puny mortal" and Anders gets shoved to the back and then he goes all electric and rampagey and justice-or-bust-ey. Which he is understandably not rapt about. So he has this giant violent streak that he can barely control and thus he's all angsty and "OH NOES I MIGHT HURT YOU" etc.

He's pretty easy to friendly-ise. I guess I could make him hate me by killing mages (he has a Thing) but hey, sop, remember. So for him, you talk him down from a Justice binge and he's all I'M LEEVING NAO I SUCK and you're all DON'T I WUV YOU and he's all ORLY? and kisses you. And it's actually kind of passionate. O.o like, unexpected physical reaction passionate**. Gosh.

So after this he turns up in your boudoir (god knows what your mother who's standing in the foyer thinks of this parade of men) and there's more kissing, more swelling music, more fade to black, more me going "WTF Bioware I got to see Liara's arse why not Anders'?" The next morning Anders is all "I love you can I move in?" and really if you want to relationship-ise the sexing you only have that option. And we all lived happily ever after. Or I saved the game and went to bed, anyway.

And that's the thing that disturbs me. Both of the heterosexual male romance options in DA2 are fundamentally broken. Fenris you can rescue by being all trustworthy and tolerating his mood swings and emotional distance, and by waiting for him even though the first time you got intimate he ran off afterwards as if you had leprosy and has ignored you ever since. He does apparently wear your insignia to show his dedication but you don't actually get to have a relationship while he decides if he can stand to be near you, and you only get him in the end by putting up with this shit.

Anders you can rescue by being understanding about his violent alter-ego and loving him even though he does some really questionable things when he loses control of himself. And when he realises you're prepared to do this, he wants to move in with you the minute you've done the wild thing. While I haven't played beyond this point, I'm told that if you put Fenris and Anders in the same group while you're in a relationship with him, he spends the rest of the game rubbing Fenris's nose in the fact that he got you. So, not a particularly nice guy, and somewhat of a control freak from the sounds of things.

Don't get me wrong, they are both hot as fuck and for me as an archetype-fantasy they are good fun. But I have three questions:

1. When is Bioware going to let me have a polyamourous relationship with both of the male love interests? They are different enough that they don't step on each other's toes and I'm a big girl. Why should I always have to choose?

2. Are these two men really a good example of the sort of relationship that we should be setting up as attractive for young girls playing this game? I read a couple of forums and it seems plenty of other women find this stuff hot too. I'm not sure how I feel about the possibility of these sort of expectations being internalised. Alistair might have been a bit vanilla, but at least he wasn't a Broken Man Waiting To Be Fixed By A Woman Willing To Put Up WIth His Shit.

3. The one who's a model for a decent man who develops a solid relationship with you based on respect and mutual trust (including having risked that trust a few times) is Varric, who isn't a romance option. Why is this?

* I bet they aren't all, but the ones I've known have been in the main - enough to establish Tats' Stereotype of Sarcastic Englishmen anyway.

** Yes this is me once again admitting to getting turned on by PG pixellated etc etc. Bite me. Some people write fanfic (as I discovered trying to find the right thing to say to Fenris OMG EW). Don't judge me.


Can you tell I've probably spent too much time playing Dragon Age 2 the last couple of days?

Over and above the Anders/Fenris thing, I'm really enjoying the game. I've heard other people liked it less than DA:O, but I'm enjoying it as much. I like the easy inventory administration, the way they've solved the farming/produce storage problem, and the simplification of the weapons distribution. Some people have complained there's a lack of plot, but I quite like the way it's panning out and I really don't miss the humungously long dungeon crawls (hello Deep Roads I'm looking at you) from DA:O). Playing on normal is about the same level of difficulty as Mass Effect on casual, though. What's up with that?

Comments:

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From:pixiebelle
Date:August 1st, 2012 10:56 pm (UTC)
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This really does sound like a game I'd like.... I haven't played but I read everything and it sounds like fun. Though yeah... Weird relationships with the guys, huh?
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From:tatjna
Date:August 1st, 2012 11:07 pm (UTC)
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I'm really liking the move towards including 'extracurricular' stuff as an option in games. Even back in Baldur's Gate times I really enjoyed the banter in the party and wished I could interact with them more. Now I can, it's cool.

And yeah, the Dragon Age series hits a nice mix of fantasy, medieval RPG and hack/slash monster-killing with plot, and without taking itself too seriously. I find them very immersive.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 1st, 2012 11:13 pm (UTC)
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I feel challenged to write/animate a solid polyamourous relationship with an insanely hot elf and a very passionat but slightly awkward sarcastic English mage that is based on respect and mutual trust and copious bonking, that is not boring*. I don't care if it's threatening (cos I already have a job).

Also, I'd be ok with continuing the PG-rated cutscenes to avoid the overclicking problem, but imagine the dialogue (trialogue?) possibilities! And the banter would be awesome. And every now and then there'd be NHE and VPBSASEM nekkidness cutscenes, just to remind everyone whose fantasy this is.

* The problem is, this sounds remarkably like fanfic. I now have an understanding why people write it, but I'd rather EA (who are kind of experts at this) put it in a game for me.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 1st, 2012 11:37 pm (UTC)
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THIS NEEDS TO HAPPEN.

How many game developers do we know?
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:August 1st, 2012 11:42 pm (UTC)
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Unfortunately that leads to the game be R rated and impacts their sales. Look at Fallout 3 being refused rating classification because of drug use.

But you know, killing and maiming people is fine. That's normal teenager stuff.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 2nd, 2012 12:48 am (UTC)
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I'm told Zev is in DA2 but haven't encountered him yet. We shall see. I can envision hot elf-on-elf action but I doubt it exists outside of fanfic.
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:August 1st, 2012 11:20 pm (UTC)
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Don't worry, the women are just as messed up. One worships demons and the other will betray you.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 1st, 2012 11:26 pm (UTC)
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The women are Merrill and Isabela?

Is it even possible to have a relationship with Isabela? I like her for her hack/slash capabilities and the way she teases all the other party members mercilessly, but I'd not consider her a relationship option.

Oh wait, is Aveline an option? I got a chance to flirt with her but she's my tank and I was busy eyeing Fenris at the time.

want some lyrium tattoos young man?
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From:laoke
Date:August 2nd, 2012 03:01 am (UTC)
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It's very possible to have a relationship with Isabella. It's been awhile,but I absolutely adored her line 'I like big boats and I can not lie'
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From:opheliastorn
Date:August 2nd, 2012 04:32 am (UTC)
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She's the best! I really need to boot up this game again ...
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From:tatjna
Date:August 2nd, 2012 11:22 am (UTC)
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I like how the whole game is full of pop culture references.

Also, is it actually a relationship with Isabela or just lots of shagging? She offered to bed me the first time I met her, but I never followed it up. Somehow I can't imagine her being all "Can I move in now?"
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From:laoke
Date:August 2nd, 2012 08:32 pm (UTC)
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It can be a relationship with her, but you've really got to work on it. Otherwise you're just one of her flings.

From memory it ended with me and my bonny pirate lass sailing off into the sunset together...
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From:tatjna
Date:August 2nd, 2012 08:35 pm (UTC)
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I probably should have shagged her before I crapped on her eh? Now she's gone. Ah well, it appears that Fenris has upped his game since she bailed and now I don't miss her hack/slash as much as I thought I would.

I do miss her guessing the colour of Fenris's underclothing though.
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From:richdrich
Date:August 1st, 2012 11:27 pm (UTC)
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At least you have Fenris, the elf warrior.

Rather than his brother, Nigel, the elf and safety officer.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 1st, 2012 11:30 pm (UTC)

Hee!

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Or Cousin Colin, who's an accountant. They don't talk about him much.
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From:bekitty
Date:August 2nd, 2012 02:01 am (UTC)
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There's also his nephew Cedric, who is a new age therapist specialising in elf-actualization. :)
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From:tatjna
Date:August 2nd, 2012 02:32 am (UTC)
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Oh bloody hell no wonder Fenris doesn't remember. He blocked it out after too much Yanni...
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From:opheliastorn
Date:August 2nd, 2012 04:24 am (UTC)
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I haven't read the other comments yet, so I may be repeating ideas here, but:

Basically, ALL the love interests in DA2 are screwed up. Spoilery spoilery badness in all directions, and definitely not limited to the male LIs.

I think the fact that the two most un-fucked-up companions in DA2 aren't available to romance is deliberate. Which I find an interesting choice for the writers to have made.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 2nd, 2012 11:25 am (UTC)
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Yeah. And I'm wondering when they're going to make committing to a relationship with X character worth it in terms of cutscene payoff. So far my efforts to get the Anders romance achievement have resulted in the scene described above and the occasional offhand declaration of support, but no more nooky or even a hungry look. WTF Anders? I know you're a fuckup but seriously, I almost blew the achievement by bonking Zevran cos can we say *yawn*...
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From:opheliastorn
Date:August 3rd, 2012 03:13 am (UTC)
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I've only played through the full game once - and it bugged, so I'm still not sure how the follow-up is meantanyone. Boo.). I hope the unbugged playthroughs are better!
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From:cynical_ghost
Date:August 2nd, 2012 12:53 pm (UTC)
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" Both of the heterosexual male romance options in DA2 are fundamentally broken" -- THIS. You know I had been thinking about this game since your last post about it and I couldn't put my finger on why the male romance characters in DA2 didn't connect with me and I think you have, right there. In DAO the two males you can romance aren't really broken. They have their "issues" but they're both functional, emotionally. I don't have one iota of a White Knight complex in me, so broken men don't appeal to me at all. I spent most of my DA2 time wishing I could romance the hell out of Varric or even Aveline.

Bioware seems to be pushing the envelope when it comes to have sexual/romantic equality in their games. I hope they continue that trend in future titles. I'm not poly but I think it would be pretty brilliant to have that option in their games for people who are, or want to explore that.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 2nd, 2012 08:44 pm (UTC)
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They seem to be quite good at incorporating feedback from fans, so here's hoping. I also agree that Varric* would be my choice of romance (although the way he looks reminds me of someone that puts me off) and that given how customisable the game is, more romance options would be good, including multiples.

I haven't finished the game yet but as it's playing out I'm enjoying the way it's tugging me backwards and forwards with various plot-related goings-on. In some respects the romance options are much more incorporated into the story. In DA:O, the romance was pretty much a dalliance on the side and didn't bring any Big Questions about loyalties, but in this one I'm finding myself getting further into the role playing aspect in that I'm asking myself what my character would choose based on her web of relationships. I know this is going to be tested (I've mostly avoided spoilers but you can see it coming a mile off) and that it'll probably be one of those gut-wrenching type choices where someone you love will be betrayed.

I like this aspect because it feels more immersive. Overall I'm giving the draw-you-in-ness of this game two thumbs up.

* The drama with Varric's brother would work really well as a romance/crisis/support thing. Even though he has his shit together emotionally he still needs your help without being an angst/ridden woe-is-me type, and could set up a cool relationship.. dropped the ball on that one Bioware.
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