One of the things that I like about DA:O is its moral ambiguity.
For example, many debates have surfaced in discussion forums about who to support in the Dwarven succession crisis. Harrowmont is morally upstanding but too weak and tradition-bound to be a good king, while Bhelen is a power-hungry autocrat who nonetheless understands what is necessary for his people's survival and even resurgence.
I feel that later additions to the franchise have done away with this moral ambiguity. In DA:II the player is forced to pick a side in the mage vs. templar conflict, but the choice is clumsily presented and not at all nuanced in its ramifications. We are continuously presented with either rapacious templars or fanatical mages, with few sympathetic characters and no appeal to reason.
Outside of the games, lead author David Gaider seems intent to paint everything black or white, with little room in between. The latest DA book makes no attempt to portray the templars as anything but evil (except for the one "good" templar who takes the mages' side). The upcoming comic calls Tevinter an "empire of evil mages", immediately manipulating the reader's views before he's even had a chance to meet the characters.
- Eh, Bioware never was into nuances, this Dwarven thing and possibly Genophage dilemma from ME series are, I think, their only successful attempts at ambiguity. And now, given how the new Bioware is turning up, expect even more Disneyish black and white. Dorquemada (talk) 12:42, August 6, 2012 (UTC)
It definitely could and should be more (not a lot more, necessarily, but a little more) gray-ish. It's easier to make caricatures than to make characters, and it's also easy to do it without meaning/wanting to--especially on a deadlilne. So, I would expect to see much more black and white in the DA universe, if they keep having to churn out games and books and whatnot instead being given the time and freedom to just make good stories--and more gray-ness usually results from a better or more believable story.
At the same time, I think painting the Tevinters or the Qunari generally as "bad guys" or "the enemy" helps heighten the emotional intensity when they cross out paths--just as seeing the darkspawn does--because we know we need to fight them, to defeat them, and there's great fun in that clarity, in that justification of our bloodlust. No, all the individuals in those groups aren't evil, just as all [insert favorite "typcially the bad guys in movies" group] aren't evil, but their prominent organizations usually are--or, at least, are constantly working towards goals that run contrary to your own. It's like sports: your team has a rival, and beating them is always much more satisfying than beating some other team. HELO (talk) 14:30, August 6, 2012 (UTC)
To be fair, the the Qunari and their decisions in DA2, although not exactly morally ambiguous, were well written and certainly not black and white. Their unyielding conviction in their Qun (Ketojen comes to mind) is thought provoking.
That said I do agree BW are not very good with grey morality. Specially when compared to the likes of Witcher series. I mean the second game is so wonderfully written that by the end, I was, like many others, surprised to find myself calmly walking away from the man who had caused so much havoc and had murdered so many in cold blood. When a game can do something like this, portray someone as a evil murderous villain, and then somewhere along the line make you see the entire thing from a different perspective, that, is awesome writing. Anyway, I should stop gushing about the Witcher. :P Diain (talk) 16:44, August 6, 2012 (UTC)
I want some truly dark and evil moral choices for the PC this time, there is never enough corruption for the PC to sink his teeth in. Why the hell do the NPC's get all the fun of being evil and crazy, i want a slice of that evil cake too. 18.104.22.168 (talk) 05:04, August 7, 2012 (UTC)Darkside
Funny you point out DA:O as being a good example of morally ambiguity, I've always found BioWare to be HORRID at moral grey areas, and consider Origins to be no exception. Sure, the dwarvish leader has less of a clear answer, but Conner's possession, the Mage Tower, Andraste's Ashes and the Werewolves vs Elves conflict all have "be a good guy and fix everything" solutions, which flies in defiance of that. Frankly, I'd rather they not bother even attempting the moral ambiguity, as I'd prefer a simple "hero fixes everything" that is done well, over a "no perfect answer" that routinely bumbles the attempt. RomeoReject (talk) 22:05, August 7, 2012 (UTC)
Frankly, DA:O was horrible about moral ambiguity. So many quests had clear cut "Good guy, save the day!" answers to them. Break the werewolf curse. Side with Good Guy Caridin over Branka, who fed her followers to the darkspawn. Get help from the Mages to save Connor. Save the Mages. Don't defile Andraste's Ashes. Even the main goal of the game was "Defeat the reskinned orcs and save the world!" There's no ambiguity there; no gray. The only thing that had any gray at all was the Harrowmont/Bhelen choice, and that's because the choice seemed to be utterly inconsequential.
DA2 did the ambiguity thing much better, because the mage/templar question has no clear Good Guy. Mages are practically enslaved just for being born that way, which is undoubtedly unjust. But Mages can also release horrible, horrible things when they're not even trying to do so. Look at what Connor did in DAO by trying to help. So they need to be controlled, for the good of the world. Are the Mages right to rebel? Is the injustice justified? Should they be imprisoned for what they might do? Each side can be the good guy, when looked at in the right light.
- Ambiguity of mages vs templars starts with DA:O and only there the whole thing is ambiguous. We get to know mages have factions, we discover some of them can travel more or less freely, we find out the Circles swap knowledge and people; we also see the Circle overrun by demons - the irresistible and almost invincible Sloth, the compelling and cunning Desire; and there's Uldred, a powerful mage turned abomination. Lets not also forget Revenants, dead husks possessed by demons - relatively rare, but rather memorable adversaries. And then there're Templars, who hesitate to commit mass murder even when there's enough evidence it might be justified and who award their crazy, murderous members with promotion to Backwardassville.
- Enter DA2 with its egregious multiple violations of "Show, don't tell" and ridiculous gameplay and story segregation. Revenants are reduced to mob lieutenants of the week and are complete pushovers. Blood mages run rampant without any explanation - there is kinda-sorta vague hypothesis hidden in the codex, but nowhere in the game the epidemic is explained somehow. And again, they don't even feel real - just another mob of mooks to mow down.
- As for ambiguity. Those few named and important crazy mages clearly were despised and ostracized by the rest of them - hence, they do not represent mages, but are rogues, criminals. The mage leader is willing to negotiate with templars to the end to avoid bloodshed - lets not account for the stunt he pulled later, because that piece of ultimate idiocy is there just to have another boss battle, as admitted by the writers. Now, templars. Where a rogue is the only good templar. Where the craziest templar in Ferelden becomes Knight-Commander's right hand. Where it's okay to lobotomize young girls for your, eh, special needs as long as you're quiet about that. Where the excuse to murder the Circle has nothing to do with the Circle. Where do you see ambiguity in that? At best, it's grey and black, and in no way it's grey and gray. Dorquemada (talk) 12:04, August 8, 2012 (UTC)
- Have to jump in and disagree that Caridin/Branka was a clear-cut decision. In my first playthrough I spent literally hours on that particular dilemma - sure, Branka is a complete loon, but dangling the possibility of saving the entire Dwarven race certainly made me think twice. And thrice. And four times. And....--Duranic (talk) 13:21, August 8, 2012 (UTC)
- @Duranic, agreed! Well for me I ALWAYS choose Branka because without golems, the dwarves likely face genocide. The consequences of siding with Branka (abuse of power) pale in comparison to the consequences of siding with Caridin (genocide). Correct me if I am wrong, but is there not a scenario when the anvil is not abused? I think it requires Harrowmont on the throne, but there is more to it than that. However, the fact that we all have such different ideas of "the obvious choice" proves your point :) I Still think Bhelen or Harrowmont was the most difficult choice. Being the pragmatic fellow that I am, I always choose Bhelen (except for dwarven noble wardens). Ccg08 (talk) 14:27, August 8, 2012 (UTC)
- Funnily enough, it's my non-Aeducan Wardens that tend to favour Harrowmont - they couldn't know that he'd be a useless king (and mostly they wouldn't care), whereas I imagine Bhelen's brother to have a fair idea of that much-needed reform agenda to help Orzammar in the long run.--Duranic (talk) 03:46, August 9, 2012 (UTC)
- Actually they're talking about a scenario where there is no right/wrong. Diain (talk) 16:11, August 8, 2012 (UTC)
- Branka vs. Caridin is one of my favorite choices in DA. If you side with Caridin you can destroy the Anvil which will almost certainly be abused and prevent countless dwarves from being turned into mindless slaves. Or you can side with Branka who will create golems and make your life easier when you fight the Archdemon.--CouslandRogue (talk) 18:03, August 8, 2012 (UTC)
- That's not ambiguity at all, though. Moral ambiguity is when you've got two solutions and neither is "good" or "evil". The choice you're talking about here is just "Do I let them golemize all those people to make my life easier?" It might be a hard question, but it's not morally ambiguous.22.214.171.124 (talk) 22:48, August 8, 2012 (UTC)
Problem with both the Mage/Templar and Branka/Caridan choices in DA:O, is that there is no negative consequence what-so-ever to simply picking the "good guy" option and going. In the Tower, if you invoke the Right of Annulment, mages all die and the demons are destroyed. If you side with the mages... Everyone (Templar included) lives and the demons are destroyed. Plus you get assisted later on as well. Plus you get the awesome Mages against the Darkspawn. Our other choice, Caridan and Branka? Caridan prevents more dwarves from being forced into it, the dwarves continue on just fine according to the epilogue, psychopath is dead... Literally the only "negative consequence" we face is that we don't get the assistance of four golems in the final battle. Side with Branka? Psychopath lives, Dwarves forced in to golems, Dwarves still live. The only benefit is a personal one, which goes back to "Good versus evil". Very cut and dry. RomeoReject (talk) 19:25, August 8, 2012 (UTC)
- Siding with Branka is a lot bigger than getting a few Golems to make your job easier (unless playing an extremely cynical Warden), as a few sentences in the epilogue don't really tell much of the story - Dwarves were never in danger of being overrun in the immediate future, but having Golems would make a bigger and bigger difference with every passing year and generation. Besides, I think it's a bit disingenuous to be making in-world decisions based on one's knowledge of the potential epilogue screens. Agreed on Circle Tower though, Annulment is the preserve of a very nasty piece of work or the truly magophobic; what might've worked better is if after saving the Mages, a desperate messenger from the Circle arrives a little later in the game begging you to help because Abominations have returned.
- Back onto the original topic of moral ambiguity, and I'd also have to agree that Bioware tend towards the heavy-handed and their dilemmas on the whole could do with more grey shading. The Mage/Templar conflict is a perfect example of this - the situation itself is intriguing and contains some pertinent real-world parallels, as finding the balance between freedom and defence is a dilemma facing many governments today, and abuses of power in the name of protection are a real concern. But instead of chewing into some meaty ambiguity we get presented with generic evil madness ("the idol made me do it"? come on....) and charicatured desperation ("Templars are bastards - I know, I'll become a terrorist/Harvester!"). The other thing that undercuts some of the potentially ambiguous choices is to throw in a cop-out option. To use a previous poster's example, the Redcliffe question holds a lot more weight if there isn't the possibility of calling in the Circle Tower to save everyone. --Duranic (talk) 04:54, August 9, 2012 (UTC)
- It's like that with absolutely every BioWare title though. Trying to get them to do subtleties is simply going to end in disaster, let them stick to the "good guy saves everyone" routine they know well. As for the nameless post above yours, I think you misinterpret my point: I'm not saying I chose that choice based upon prior knowledge (As my very first playthrough went to Caridan), my point is that BioWare doesn't know how to do moral grey area. There's absolutely no negative consequences to being "the good guy". You never see a situation where a man has been left behind and you need to honestly consider whether or not to save him - because there's going to be no downside to saving him. You aren't going to incur further losses or anything. Again, BioWare has an almost naive optimism when it comes to morality. Pushing them outside that comfort zone isn't going to work - they wont know how to handle it. RomeoReject (talk) 07:55, August 9, 2012 (UTC)
- Sorry, the nameless post was also mine, stuffed up the formatting (fixed it now). You're right that Bioware's only story seems to be "the hero's journey, with room to be a bastard" but I guess I'm a bit more generous in seeing subtleties within the world itself. As I say, more grey would certainly be nice, but I think the biggest weakness is more the lack of consequences that you mention. Taking a ground-level view of the situations generally makes for an enjoyable role-playing character conundrum; it's the creeping temptation to think "no worries, Bioware never punish you for being the good guy" that usually (for me, anyway) detracts from the gravitas of decision-making. --Duranic (talk) 16:15, August 9, 2012 (UTC)
@duranic, in fact in da2 I wanted to be able to say: you know what? f*** this, I quit. it's always Hawke this, Hawke that, and now you want to kill each other for no real reason. I should have left nine years ago, and now I'm finally gonna do it. Goodbye Kirkwall, I'm not gonna miss you!
- One, sign your posts. Two, I like to pretend that for certain parts (read: most everything after the prolouge) of making DA2, the writing team is either really incompetent, or were at Oghren levels of drunk. Those are the only reasons I can think of that Hawke didn't have a "**** this option".
- As for the origional topic, I used to do Redcliffe's questline before the mages (before I knew about the "sunshine, puppies and rainbows" option), and I personally found the "Isolde or Connor" choice well done. Eithe kill a kid/abomination and spare Isolde, or rid the world of that horrifyingly overdone accent and save the kid. Avg Man (talk) 22:53, August 11, 2012 (UTC)
While I think some morally unambiguous situations should remain (otherwise the setting gets depressing enough to inspire apathy), I definitely agree that Bioware don't really seem to be good at the whole grey-and-grey thing. I think they could learn a lot from, say, Obsidian or Bethseda - New Vegas managed to really make me think as it put two options that are pretty definitely good (NCR and Independent Vegas) in opposition to each other, so you had to choose between screwing over one good group or the other, and The Imperial/Stormcloak plot in Skyrim has spawned it's fair share of discussions - most polls on who is nicer show up at about 50/50. Essentially, Bioware needs to mostly move away from Principles VS Pragmatism choices (as previous posters said, you can generally get through the game without whatever benefits Pragmatism provides just fine) to One Good Group vs Other Good Group choices. TheTeaMustFlow (talk) 12:23, August 12, 2012 (UTC)
Is everyone forgetting Loghain? He is a testament to Bioware's ability to create a convincing gray character/situation when they actually decide to put forth some effort. Aleksandr the Great (talk) 17:08, August 12, 2012 (UTC)
Because Loghain's aspirations are still regarded as "evil" in BioWare's eyes. He's a poor example of an anti-villian in that respect. He's another example of BioWare saying "No, his reasoning and logic mean nothing, we want him to be a bad guy." RomeoReject (talk) 17:21, August 12, 2012 (UTC)
The Loghain thing, RomeoReject has a point with. BioWare was trying to push him HARD as a bad guy, logic be damned. IMHO, the only good grey character BioWare has done in since the DA/ME series' started is ME2s Illusive Man. People admit he's not a saint, but he's trying to do some good in helping you. I know, and I'm not trying to derail the thread with this, but again, it's an opinion. Avg Man (talk) 19:26, August 12, 2012 (UTC)
I really liked TIM.... that was until Bioware decided to turn him into the stereotypical mustache-twirling villain in ME3. I always had a feeling Cerberus was going to turn on you eventually but half of their actions in ME3 were just evil without benefit. Aleksandr the Great (talk) 01:01, August 13, 2012 (UTC)
Yeah, BioWare REALLY dropped the ball with TIM. And I just imagined TIM with one of those stereotypical twitly mustaches. Day is made, and thread is slightly derailed. Avg Man (talk) 03:24, August 13, 2012 (UTC)
Funny you mention that about the Illusive Man, I always regarded him as a psychopath and traitor at best. Now the Shadow Broker on the other hand, I thought had huge potential, until they turned him in to a retarded monster in Mass Effect 2. RomeoReject (talk) 04:20, August 13, 2012 (UTC)