In many role-playing games, townspeople instantly recognize you as a hero, even if they don't know you. It can be nice, living in a world where everybody thinks you're the coolest and needs your help -- but Dragon Age 2 takes it a little too far.
I ran into a dwarf last night who said to me, "You look like you're just what a man needs!" He wasn't hitting on me. He was trying to get me to track down some gunpowder for him. I'd never met this dwarf before. I didn't even initiate the conversation; I never said hello. I just happened to run into him, and he offered me a quest that he promised would make us both rich.
Later, I ran into a man who owned a mine and he did the same thing. He made some off-color remarks about my hometown first, but he still offered me a job within thirty seconds. I got the impression that it wouldn't have mattered much what I said to him. He was going to offer me a job no matter what. I could feel free to turn the job down, but he was always going to make the offer.
Around when a frazzled young lady ran up to me and screamed that her brother had gone missing, I started getting annoyed. Was she asking everyone for help finding her brother? What is it about my face that says, "Ask me to find your brother"? When I walked by a man and an elf woman fighting, the man called out to me and said, "Stranger, please calm her down!" What the hell, dude? Don't get me involved!
I did know these characters would try to talk to me. I saw the shimmery gold arrows above their heads, which indicated that they were going to try to rope me into something. I could always refuse the quests they offer me, or I could accept them with no intention of finishing them. But no matter whether I refuse every quest, or blow off all the current quests I've accepted, it still seems like everyone everywhere will still continue to trust me with their most prized possessions as soon as they set eyes on me.
BioWare has a huge number of writers to contend with their dialogue-heavy games (Dragon Age, Mass Effect, etc), and the amount of work they've done here is staggering. Every conversation offers you three response personalities: namby-pamby, snarky, or downright cruel. The words you select change the other characters' responses, as well as their feelings about you. The more times you pick the cruel response, the more people will fear you. If you're snarky, you'll be more hit-or-miss in terms of getting along with people. If you're nice, prepare to play the most boring game of your life. But no matter how you behave, everybody's still going to offer you the exact same quests.
I don't mind that 90% of these quests are filler, because most of them are optional. It'd be far more annoying if the game required you to find every lost letter and negotiate every minor dispute. At this point, BioWare feels like they have to give gamers their money's worth, since people will complain if the game's not long enough. It baffles me that adding in extra lost-and-found quests makes anyone feel like they're getting their money's worth, but that's an argument for another day.
Dragon Age 2 endeavors to give you an entire world that feels chock full of realistic and diverse characters. Each of these characters is definitely distinct -- but none of them feel real, precisely. It's realistic that every single person you meet has some sort of problem, but it's completely unrealistic that all of these problems are solvable by you. It's even more weird that you're apparently the go-to problem-solver no matter where you go, no matter how small or large the problem, no matter whether people know you're the Champion or not.
Can't any of these people solve their problems on their own? And if they can't, then how can they tell that I'm the perfect person for the job? For goodness sake, why me?
I wonder what Dragon Age 2 would be like if I tried to make my hero completely incompetent. Would anyone in the game take notice?