When you grab a video game off the shelves, finding love is probably not your end goal. Most games focus on letting the player shoot guys, order other guys to shoot guys, or build houses. Mass Effect 2 comes closer than most titles to offering virtual romance, but the relationships are shallow and strictly heterosexual. I found whoring my way around the Normandy much more satisfying as a gameplay option than developing an emotional connection to another character.
Dragon Age: Origins was one of the first AAA games to allow players to pursue homosexual relationships, male or female. Two of the love options swung both ways, and would even go inter-species, but the relationships still felt shallow and solely sexual, designed as fantasies for lonely nerds. But Dragon Age 2 is different. All four of the potential love interests in the standard version of the game are bisexual (Kirkwall sounds like a party), with only DLC character Sebastian being strictly heterosexual (and kind of a jerk to boot).
What makes this game important in the evolution of video games is the way the relationships play out. Like real human relationships, the players start off by flirting, are forged through shared experiences, and consummated in romantic rendezvous.
Unlike other video games, the relationships don't end after sex. Some of the love interests will want to move in with you after you bed them. Some won't. If you play your cards right, all will run away with you into the sunset at the end of the game, but some are harder to woo than others.
What's fascinating about these virtual relationships is the realism. The players are driven by more than just sex—they also crave an emotional connection and matrimony. The game allows players to pursue such relationships with whichever love interest they choose, whatever the player's real or role-playing sexual orientation is. For perhaps the first time, video games have actually moved beyond the curve of social progress, and it's a welcome step for any progressive gamer.
Explaining how to pursue to completion each of the game's given possible relationships is a herculean task, one few on the web have taken up with comprehensive success. So I conclude by offering you a collection of useful tips about the romance system, as well as some links to more detailed sources.
- Pursuing Anders and/or Merrill after you start pursuing Isabela will end your romance with her. You can pursue and even get busy with Merrill if you do so before you start pursuing Isabela and tell Merrill you aren't interested in talking about love afterward. Col' blooded.
- Fenris and Isabela will never move in with you. If you want a roommate, look elsewhere. No, it's not a bug.
- You MUST reach 100% friendship or rivalry with your chosen mate before the start of the final mission 'The Last Straw' to get their relationship ending and achievement/trophy.
- I've said it before and will say it one more time in case you didn't understand: Sebastian sucks. The cost of pursuing his romance to end is stupendously high. Unless you're playing a female and think he is the most charming man ever, and will accept no other mate but he, stay away. You'll thank me during the last mission.
- For further info, check out the Dragon Age Wiki Romance Page, this excellent BioWare forum post summarizing the love info from the strategy guide, and this extremely detailed guide to Isabela, including all her romance options. (Pirates are sexy.)