Dragon Age 2 and I have a weird relationship. It's a game that I love very much, but understand at the same time how terrible it is in comparison to its predecessor, Dragon Age: Origins. I've played through it nearly three times (2.5 times, to be exact), and even as I'm writing, I'm considering yet another playthrough. Now, I've read every possible review and critique of this game that exists on the internet, as well as perused a considerable number of forums which all talk about Dragon Age 2. It doesn't take much of this kind of research to discover that while a minority exists that really love the game, most agree that it is either a terrible game on its own, or an even worse game when seen in the shadow of Dragon Age: Origins. Many people respect how it tries to inject new ideas into the franchise, but the fact remains that even the slightest mention of the game often raises bile in the back of many a disgruntled fans throat. That is, if they are still even fans at this point, what with Dragon Age 2 turning them into cynical husks of their former selves, and not even the promises of Dragon Age Inquisition being able to turn them back to the franchise.
And I still like the bloody game, for reasons barely known to myself.
I suspect a large part of my affinity for Dragon Age 2 is the fact that it was my first Bioware RPG. It was also the first game where I could actively make choices which would affect later parts of the game. Even now some of you are probably remembering DA2 and asking "what choices?" The fact remains, it was my first video game experience which really asked me to, more or less, drive the engine of the story. I went on to play the Mass Effect Trilogy and Dragon Age: Origins, as well as other video games which asked for the player to actively shape the story through dialogue choices, but Dragon Age 2 remains my most-played Bioware game. It's a strange and irrational relationship that I have with Dragon Age 2, but it brings up an important point. DA2, though held in the ire of many, still accomplished what I believe it set out to do, delivering the Bioware formula in what was hoped to be a new and improved manner. It did so in a messy way, but when I first played it, it seemed like pure gold. A lot of gamers still love the experience it offers, and I don't think the characters will be easily forgotten.
The overarching goal of this bit of writing is to highlight the often cited subjectivity of video games. When we play a game which introduces us to a whole new array of experiences, it can be an enriching experience even if the video game is a complete mess in the eyes of a reviewer and/or a lot of players. So don't be afraid to play games which might not have a Metascore of 98, because there are possibilities just waiting to be unlocked by a terrible game. DA2 might not have been the best introduction to Bioware for me, just like Halo Wars probably isn't the best introduction for anyone wanting to play the Halo series. Of course, you could argue that I am wasting my time with continued playthroughs of DA2, and that you only need to play bad games once to get moving on to better games, but I think it speaks volumes for video games that we as players can be captivated by a less than perfect product. Whether it reveals good or bad things about the nature of video games, well, that's up to you to decide.