Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
I don't want to talk about reused environments or mages running rampant or plot holes or spawning enemies or... I don't care. I want to talk about Kirkwall, more specifically how I really like Dragon Age II [official site] following up on another tedious 'roam the world saving it from ancient evil' fantasy gufffest to focus on one city over a few years. It's great that, isn't it? Pay attention, boring fantasy RPGs.
Dragon Age II is (mostly) set in and around the city of Kirkwall. You arrive as a refugee to stay with relatives, then over the years rise in fame and fortune to the lofty title of Champion of Kirkwall. You're based around the city, always returning though adventures may take you outside. You get to know its streets and people, and see them change over time. The game skips a few years between chapters, returning to reflect (a few) changes to your pals and other characters. The world carried on without your interaction, perhaps following lines you set it in but ultimately recognising you're only one person. From my pals falling in love and pursuing their own schemes to the growing threat of the Qunari, I enjoyed seeing the city and people I knew develop.
It could do a lot more with this time-skipping, but all the reused environments show that clearly the game was tight on development time and budget. It squanders the potential of the city and its history, but that's big-budget video games for you. Dragon Age II has a whole load of other problems I find too boring to get into, as that first sentence hints, but I was happy to live in and save a city. I'm sick of saving the whole world, and welcome further downscaling.