And you are right - it's easier to portray extreemes. But they did a good job in DA:O, why have they frakked it up so much?
You had Connor -a child that almost destroyed an entire town - that was an excellent example of the danger mages present. Yeah, power-hungry mages that abuse blood-magic left and right ARE a danger and problen, but the bigger danger comes from normal, good mages, since they can abuse their power, fall to temptation or possesion too. That is what DA2 failed to show properly.
It also failed to show abominations as dangerous.
Also, DA:O had a better portrayl of templars too. Gregoir was good example of a fair templar, even if he did call for Annulment.
To be fair, Dragon Age 2 was basically made by one developer who was kidnapped, locked in a basement, and told to make a 60-hour RPG in the span of one weekend or his family gets thrown into the wood chipper (essentially the same conditions in which the Mass Effect 3 ending was developed after the the Dark Energy leak). Given the extreme development crunch it was under, it's a miracle it came out as well as it did. It genuinely has some cool ideas in it and, for what it's worth, it could have easily been way, way worse.
Now that I'm done being a Bioware apologist, I'd like to derail the thread to talk about something only tangentially related: I think Inquisitor has a really interesting interpretation of the idea of playing an "evil" PC.
(For those who haven't played it, Inquisitor's an interesting game. It has a lot of rough spots but it's a game made by people with incredible passion for old school RPGs, and when it fails it does so because it tries something radically different that just doesn't work. Noble failures, as it were. I can't in good faith say that it's a good
game, but I can say that it's a unique
game. Personally, I ate it up, but it's definitely not for everyone.)
In Inquisitor the world is ending due to a demonic invasion that people believe is caused by the rise of Heresy. You, the player, are part of the Inquisition and your job is to find, torture, and execute any heretics you can find to turn people back to the Faith.
However, the game makes it perfectly clear right out of the gate that the demonic invasion has absolutely nothing to do with heresy and your nominal job is completely and utterly pointless. Furthermore, even if it wasn't pointless, doing your job correctly is impossible because everyone accuses their enemies of Heresy for their own gain, and there's usually no evidence as to who's actually a demon-worshiper and who isn't except the accuser's say so.
The thing is the game lets you defy this and be a legitimate good guy. You're forced into the role of Inquisitor by circumstance and thus don't necessarily have any loyalty to the cause, so this is a perfectly valid way to play. Except that the game actively rewards being a bad guy.
And not in the stupid Bethesda puppy-kicking way, either. In this world when someone sees a person trying to help them, they react with either suspicion or opportunism. If you try to go around helping people, they will
take advantage of your kindness, compassion, and generosity for their own gain at your expense. On the other hand, using violence, extortion, and blackmail to get people to do what you want usually works out pretty well for you with no real downsides. Arresting people you know to be innocent just so you can torture useful information out of them is not only a valid tactic in this game, but it's rewarded.
This dynamic is reinforced everywhere in the game, even in the very first conversation you have with an NPC: The guards outside the first town will refuse to let you in unless you go on a stupid quest to kill 5 bats outside the city walls, unless you just threaten to kill them in which case they'll open the gates with no further argument. (You should go kill the bats anyway though cause you'll need every drop of XP you can get: Yep, it's THAT kind of game...)
Everything about the game points to one thing: Existential dread. You're a worthless, faceless, nameless nobody doing a futile, pointless, impossible task to try to save a world that neither wants nor deserves salvation. It lets you explore the mind of a cold, thoroughly evil sociopath from within because it temporarily makes you become
one: You start to see the NPCs (who are actually really well-written and flavorful) as things
you can manipulate rather than people. It's not even the fun
kind of sociopathy where you run around mass-murdering random people like in Grand Theft Auto or something, at best it's depressing and at worst it's so overwhelming as to be emotionally numbing. And when you step away from the game you walk away with not only a deeper understanding of human nature but also a deeper understanding of yourself.
And more relevantly it made me rethink the nature of "evil" choices in video games: The problem isn't that they aren't "nuanced" enough or that they're too cartoonish or whatever. The problem is most games don't bother to properly contextualize the choices they present and give them meaning. Take the (particularly bad) example of Neverwinter Nights 2: You can play a Chaotic Evil character in that game, but at far as the narrative is concerned you're Lawful Good (until the very end where you can side with the King of Shadows for the lulz) in terms of actions, Chaotic Evil characters just get to throw a tantrum now and then which accomplishes nothing but have a powerful NPC slap down the rails on you. The developers were clearly not thinking of what the choices they presented actually meant or the kinds of conflicts they set up in the mind of the player, they just put them in because, hey, this is a D&D game and D&D has alignment, so we have to put this in here because the players expect it. It's choice for choice's sake at the expense of ludonarrative coherence. (That the story is crayon-and-drool-on-construction-paper quality even when you do
make the Lawful Good choices the designers assumed you would make doesn't help matters.)