Dragon Age, Choices, and Railroading

I’ve been getting into Dragon Age after Act and other friends recced it. I played Origins a little while ago, and recently finished Dragon Age 2. But for all the talk of the excellent writing and the meaningful choices the game offers, I found myself extremely disappointed and frustrated with just how little freedom I actually had, especially in DA2. There’s a really baffling disjunct between which characters you are and aren’t allowed to kill or save, and which choices are respected and which get quietly retconned or ignored.

(mega spoilers for both games, fair warning) (more…)

Monster, and False Advertising

So I recently took a look at the anime Monster (commonly referred to as “Naoki Urasawa’s Monster” to help you distinguish it from the pages of porn you’ll get by searching “monster anime”). When I saw the pitch, it sounded right up my alley: a talented doctor sacrifices his career to save a young boy over a politician, but later discovers the boy has grown up to become a serial killer. Sounds like a deeply philosophical piece about personal responsibility and the value of human life, right? I’m all about that stuff.

Turns out, that’s not what it’s about in the slightest. What it’s actually about is an absurdly convoluted mystery about the serial killer, who was actually serial killing even as a kid because of a convoluted secret evil government conspiracy to make him into a supersoldier, but he was ~so awesome~ he killed everyone in the facility and struck out on his own, and also there’s another evil government conspiracy in there somewhere. I don’t know exactly, I stopped watching after 10 episodes.

Because that’s simply not what I signed on for. The real story is nothing at all like the prologue; the doctor character actually resigns from his job so he can investigate Villain Sue, and his doctor skills are reduced to a tangential quirk as we focus mainly on other characters doing their own investigations, all of whom are equally bland and uninteresting.

This all makes me think about the purpose of plot twists, and when they’re valid and when they feel cheap. This isn’t a bait-and-switch exactly; it’s not even just a twist for the sake of a twist. But it still feels dishonest. The real premise of the story isn’t what you’re sold in the beginning. If you had told me from the start that this would be a detective novel about a giant conspiracy, I would have been better able to judge whether it aligned with my interests and adjust my expectations going in. But that’s not what I was told the story would be about, so instead I’m just annoyed it won’t engage with the things I picked it up for.

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