Moral Shades of Gray

A lot has been written about Dragon Age II.  There are good blog posts and reviews that discuss the overall game, but I haven't seen much said about my favorite design choice.

In past Bioware games there has always been a good/evil scale that your character gets placed on.  The more you say and do good things the more you slide towards the good side of the scale.  Do dastardly deeds and verbally eviscerate others and you'll slide towards the evil end.

Dragon Age II does away with this moral scale.  It's unbelievably liberating.  I can choose whichever dialog option I think fits the situation instead of feeling like I have to make my character play a part.  I love the smart-ass answers, but it's something I wouldn't have explored in the Mass Effect series because my Shepard is a good guy.  He doesn't give flippant answers.  That wouldn't be nice.

My Hawke, on the other hand, is a smart-ass with a tough exterior but a heart of gold.  He's forceful and threatening when necessary, but inside he wants the best outcome for everyone.  Also, he doesn't like to get fucked with and his temper will flare if someone is trying to lie to him.  He is a fully realized character with a diversity of emotions and reactions.  He has depth that I've rarely seen in other Bioware offerings.

In comparison, my Shepard from Mass Effect is fairly one dimensional.  He's a good guy who does the right thing.  That's about it.  I guess he also has sex with other characters from time to time, but that doesn't really add depth, it just adds sex.  As a side note, some day Bioware is going to have to add meaningful relationships to their games and not just sex.

With the ever present moral scale being thrown out the window I feel completely free to shape my Hawke in interesting ways.  I want Bioware to recognize how awesome this is and implement it in all of their games moving forward.


  1. I actually thought that Dragon Age: Origins did a good job of this as well - there was no good/evil scale to measure yourself on, and so it was possible to simply pick the choices that best suited your character.

    While Mass Effect did have a scale, if you ignored it I found that your Shepherd could be quite fleshed out. Mine ended both games pretty much even between renegade/paragon because he had overall good intentions, but sometimes picked suspect methods to achieve those ends.

    If you want to play a superb moral-choices game, give The Witcher a try. I was blown away by the nuance and complexity that you could give Geralt as he navigated his way through a gritty world full of morally gray scenarios.


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