I really wish Dragon Age fans would understand that “Moral Greyness” can be JUST as contrived and convoluted as regular “Black and White” and “Happy Ending.”
Just look at the Mage/Templar Conflict. The devs have tried their darnedest across three and a half games to present the conflict as 100% balanced with both sides equally sympathetic, and they’ve failed each time. The devs have said they felt they made the mages look “too sympathetic” in the first game. For the second game they realized too late that making the player character come from a family of apostates and have two mage companions but no Templars made Templars look bad; and they fully admitted that Leandra getting killed by a crazy blood mage serial killer was an attempt to vindicate a pro-Templar playthrough. DAI? Well, we all know about THAT… (Retconning the Dalish to have a “three mages max” rule just to make Circles look better by comparison?) All to make a flimsy, “See? Both sides are equally flawed” argument that’s as sturdy as cardboard; blow on it, and it falls over.
Just look at The Masked Empire verses Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts. In the book, the human nobles are all completely despicable, racist, genocidal asses, while Briala (and Felassan to a lesser extent) is the most sympathetic and likable character. Briala is a straight-up hero who struggles to help her people despite knowing they won’t thank her for it, and being shit on by everyone she meets right and left.
In DAI, the devs flat-out hid the many crimes and character flaws of Celene and Gaspard, and hid many of the virtues and character strengths of Briala. Why? To create a flimsy and false “All three choices are equally morally gray!” so-called “choice.”
Just look at the Qunari. You can tell the devs have been trying their damnedest from game one to depict Qunari culture as rather alien and incomprehensible to outsiders and vice-versa, but still a good system with its balances of virtues and flaws like any other. And it never works.
And any time players complain about an aspect of their culture, they try to fix it next game. Sten said “women don’t fight”? In DA2 they’re like, “JK! Since the Priesthood allows both genders, we just made up this secret spy division of the Ben’Hassrath that allows female assassins. Please love our Qunari.“ When that didn’t work, in DAI they went overtime trying to make Iron Bull THE most likable character they could, then had him lend his charisma to explain away Qunari societal faults. Plus the whole “transgender acceptance” and “free love” and “Tamassran are still like family” thing, and the sudden, “Oh, the Qunari don’t REALLY keep women from fighting. If a woman is discovered to be good in combat, they just decide he’s a man who happens to look like a woman and let “him” fight. Please love our Qunari!”
And it’s NEVER WORKED. I mean, some small minority of weirdos like Qunari despite their flaws (myself included), but MOST players just find these flimsy attempts at “MORAL GREYNESS!!!” to be just that: flimsy.
So whenever I talk about a plot hole or character failing in the series, I’m so sick to death of seeing that go-to, knee-jerk, catch-all “moral grayness” excuse.
Yes. Sometimes, when written well, a morally grey conflict can be very engaging. But sometimes some characters or divisions naturally come across as more sympathetic than another. I’m not saying “one side is innocent and perfect and other other guilty and evil,” but sometimes one side comes across as a lighter shade of grey than another; it happens. If the devs would just embrace that and run with it and tell emotionally engaging stories, instead of spending so much time and energy trying to constantly backpedal or force a square peg in a round hole just for the sake of that original vision that just isn’t coming through.
- You can’t make a conflict where one heavily tyrannical and abusive faction holds complete power over another as a perfectly 50/50 “morally grey conflict” where “both sides are equally at fault.”
- You can’t take the freedom-fighting victim of horrific systematic abuse by two perpetrators of that horrific system and try to act like she’s “just as bad” or “on the same footing” as those abusers.
You can’t take a culture that thrives on robbing individuality, stripping free will, brainwashing resisters, and severely limiting the roles of its citizens based on their gender, magical ability, etc. and expect our modern freedom- and individuality-loving society to find them anything but restrictive and tyrannical.
“Moral Grey” can be just as CONTRIVED as any attempt at “black and white” or “happily-ever-after.” Because they’re still trying to force something that doesn’t fit.