Still haven’t finished Dragon Age yet–the world keeps hitting me with things like my day job, alas–but I’m most of the way through. I am, therefore, going to post about the broader topic the DA romance plots bring up, because I plan on rambling enough about that to make me need to split the other stuff about the game into its own post anyhow.
So, okay. You have three potential love interests in Dragon Age: two opposite-sex, one same-sex. There’s a Venn Diagram here, but for the sake of simplicity, I’ll just say that it involves bisexual elves and not!Frenchwomen* and move on. Already I’m liking this game. (I’d like it more if there was a non-buggy option whereby I could end up with both the knight and the assassin, but hey.) You also have a bunch of platonic companions, and you interact with pretty much everyone the same way: dialog options, gifts, and, in some cases, personal quests. Choosing certain dialog options will open up romance plot; you often don’t know what these options are, which is how I ended up hitting on half the characters in the game.**
First of all, I generally like that you can put just as much effort and time into developing the platonic relationships as you can into developing the romantic ones. I like my fictional romance, obviously, but I think friendship is just as important–and the moments when my character bonded with Sten or Wynne were pretty heartwarming.
Second, the combination of well-thought-out platonic relationships and the fact that your character can be either sex and any class creates a couple interesting dynamics, at least when you’re playing a female. Or, rather, it means that you don’t get the Standard Het Romance Character Interaction, with the power issues and the jealousy and the hey now. Often, though not always, heterosexual relationships in media come with the expectation that the man should be as badass if not more so than the woman, at least physically, that he should try to protect her, and that she shouldn’t be in a position of authority over him.
Not so much! CRPGs like this always subvert the position of authority anyhow–um, I’m the PC, therefore I’m the party leader, what’s up–but neither of the male love interests in DA has a problem with this, or switches to testing-my-power mode after the romance gets initiated. The standard dialog options have my character in the role of commander and friend, and the romance doesn’t subvert that at all. In fact, both of the guys in question explicitly state that they want me to be the authority figure here.
Which, not to get into black-leather-and-chains territory, is something I appreciate.
*As so many things should, really.
**Sorry, Leilana! I was just trying to be *nice*.