A Little Byte of Romance

In the last few months, I played through Dragon Age: Origins and its expansion Awakening and Mass Effect (all BioWare’s works) and started playing The Witcher, which was developed by Polish CDProjekt. Currently I’m following up with Mass Effect 2. All good games, no doubt there. But I’m not going to discuss the games’ quality per se… if you allow the pun, it will rather be "per sex". Be warned though, some character development spoilers will follow, but no major plot spoilers.

DA:O and the Witcher are considered "adult", while ME has a rating of 12, and ME2 of 15. The reasons for these ratings are the typical cursing (aka "strong language" haha), violence, blood and of course… naked skin!!! Very scary, if you’re American! ^_^

DA:O and both Mass Effect games allow you to pick your avatar’s gender, and be straight or gay. Need I even repeat that The Witcher was developed in Poland, while BioWare is Canadian? Hm. Figures. 😉 Granted, I play for the plot and gameplay etc., but I am a fan of well-written game romance, because it adds character depth.

The eponymous, and male by default, Witcher Geralt sometimes can decide between a traditional roleyplaying reward such as cash, or a night with the damsel in distress he just rescued. The resulting cutscenes are, well, foggy… and you collect a pin-up card to remind you of your conquests (some of that artwork is rather gross in my humble opinion – and no, I wouldn’t judge bloodied and disfigured male pin-ups differently). His dialogue choices on the way there are mostly either "not interested" or sexist, which led to me playing a rather ascetic Witcher. (I’m not far into the plot, so this is only a tentative opinion, no final judgement. It seems there is a more long-term love interest in store for Geralt, so I’ll see how "he will act".)

In DA:O, your avatar can pursue romances with certain party members, though you have to play much nicer to get anywhere. When you succeed, you are treated to totally non-foggy cutscenes with both of you wearing the infamous, but obviously popular with game devs, "grandma undies". (I think that wonderful quote is from Bethesda’s Morrowind forum back in the day, but I am uncertain. In any case, there was a Morrowind nudity mod mode [sic!] called "pubescent boy mode", which showed women naked and men in their underwear… which I found hilarious, but I digress). Similar to DA:O, you have to be nice to your romantic interest in ME, yet still can tease them, which led to a few superb dialogs. (If you want an example and don’t mind spoilers, look up "Alistair’s rose" in youtube; I haven’t yet tried to find some of ME’s wittiest Shepard – Kaidan dialogs but I bet they’re up there to). Another good example for game romances to mention would be, again of BioWare’s doing, Knights of the Old Republic (I played only Part 1, since 2 doesn’t run on my computer for some #@$&%! reason).

Unlike past times, when even BioWare treated us girlgamers to the ever boring paladin-type lovers (Anomen in BG2, Casavir in NWN2) and nobody would give us a male Viconia (a bitchy dark elf in BG2, who you eventually could convince to become good – if you were male and romanced her, that is) it seems we’re starting to be of concern to developers (not Polish ones, sadly – a female Witcher could make for a kickass heroine).

But I really wonder if there is a even just one woman writing romance dialogs for them!? I am betting money on a storybook male nerd making guesses about what GIRLS want, while forgetting that it’s mostly NERD GIRLS who will play their games. I’m exaggerating? Perhaps… prove me wrong next time, all you devs out there!  😉

As always, looking forward to comments from you! Also, did I miss any major RPG that has romances?

7 thoughts on “A Little Byte of Romance”

  1. I have yet to see a well-made romance “system” on a game. Until now, it seems to be nothing more than a simple gimmick that actually adds nothing to the story, and, from my point of view, very little to character depth.

    With that being said, I remember a funny “romance” scene -if you can call it like that- on Fallout 2 (spoiler ahead): while you are making out with a girl on certain town, her father breaks in with a shotgun aiming at you, and threatens to kill you unless you marry her. Of course you could also kill the man, but that was totally unromantic! If you married her, she would follow you around, and having no skills other than walking and running, she was pretty much useless. That was hilarious and can’t remember anything like that in any other games I’ve played.

    Anyway, I, as a male, miss character evolution as something more than a mere level increase and skill points; something that involves social skills, true dialogue consequences and changing the main story in some way. Romance is only one little part of it.

    Maybe it’s just asking for too much. But I’m pretty sure if they (devs) throwed as many resources and money to that aspect as they currently do to graphics or marketing, it could be achieved.


    1. Hey, thanks for the comment! It’s quite thought-provoking and I agree that there are no good “systems” for romances in games. I’m kinda glad about it, since romances are a complex, wonderfully irrational and non-systematic thing in Real Life! 😉

      But I do think it does add to it in Mass Effect. It may be the way I played and interpreted it, though. 😉 My FemShep was romancing Kaidan, and I felt really bad about sacrificing Ashley in ME1. My Shepard wouldn’t prefer her lover over her teammate for selfish reasons – she’s such a Paragon. 🙂 But I did. Playing her as Vanguard I didn’t really NEED Kaidan on the team. But I wanted to see how it would develop with the two.

      And then in ME2, when her team was dispersed and/or dead and the Council/Alliance denied the Reaper threat, I felt that Kaidan being estranged was my Shepard’s final motivation to take on the Suicide Mission. And then, before departing, not knowing if she’ll ever see him again, or even see the next day, she spends the night with her best buddy Garrus. As they say in the dialog, it’s stress relief. It REALLY didn’t feel romantic with Garrus, even though I prefer his character over Kaidan’s any time. After going through with it, I noticed Kaidan’s photo was no longer on Shep’s desk. I then felt sorry that Shepard betrayed him. It was like a grand Space Soap! With guns. 😉

      Yeah, I would love some kind of personal and social evolution. So far, it seems that only the tone of dialogs, reactions of people change, or that you get either one of two possible quests. I don’t feel that the hero/ines themselves change or grow through their choices, along the “Hero’s Journey” concept. That would be nice – but as you said – hard to accomplish, like all the worthy goals! 😀

      Did you play 1992’s Dune, by any chance? (this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dune_(video_game) ) I loved how Paul Atreides evolves in this game. He learns certain abilities through what feels like true personal growth, gaining charisma and wisdom, not gaining levels; and you could see his progress as the white of his eyes gradually turned blue from exposure to the Spice. I should see if I get it to run on my PC…. I thought it was superb!

  2. I quite enjoyed Dragon Age 2 in that regard. My first character being unbearably unbearably good, I started a new one with the intention of playing her as unlikely as I could get, so born was my foul-mooded apostate female mage who was totally  in favour of the circle and had a crush on Fenris, who hates mages.

    And although I started it as more of an experiment of how BioWare would cope with these weird choices, it made for the most interesting playthrough ever. And it really made Fenris grow on me. I didn’t like him at all on my first playthrough but romancing him gave him so much more depth and made for interesting dialogue. (“I’m an escaped slave and an elf, does that not bother you?” “And I’m an apostate refugee”)

    But I was especially blown away when he suddenly showed up at my house and said something along the lines of: “Order me to go and I will go” which was quite a thing to say for him, seeing as he’s usually very proud and all “You cannot order me around, I’m no slave!!!”. Seeing him that submissive bothered me extremely and I felt I only truly understood him as a character because of that moment as it added a vulnerability to him that wasn’t showing anywhere else in the game.

    I don’t know, it was really… weird. I think that made him my favourite male character of the game. And I’m usually not a fan of awkward game romance. But more stuff like that, and I’m genuinely going to enjoy romancing digital characters. 🙂

    Oh, and I found the Witcher 2 very lacking in that respect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *