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This console generation has brought many innovations. One that has been overlooked is the evolution of dog companions in this generation's role-playing games. They play fetch, dig for loot, and treat monsters like chew toys. Three games have brought these beloved animals to the forefront. Fable II explored the emotional connection between man and dog. Fallout 3 tasked your pup with helping you survive. And today's must-play release, Dragon Age: Origins, unlocks the beast in man's best friend. Which of these companions makes the best travel partner, tugs at your heart strings the most, and displays the most realistic behavior?
Having played all three games, the answers for all three of these questions falls onto one pup. Before I deliver the answer, I figure in the spirit of ESPN 2 dog show competitions, I would list the pros and cons for all three pups. As a side note, I am limiting the competition to these three games, as I do not feel the dogs in Tale of Vesperia, Persona, or other games fill the same role.
Fable IIThis frisky little guy loves to play. As the game goes along, you can purchase and find additional abilities for your dog, such as play dead, beg, wave, bunny hop, backflip, roll over, chase tail, and my favorite, target urination. This dog also has one hell of a snout. As you explore the world of Albion, he will lead you to buried treasure. As adorable and useful as he may be, he can also be a big pain in the ass. When enemies attack, there's a good chance he'll sustain significant injury, which requires mending from you. I don't like admitting this, but I would often leave him behind as a casualty of war, as tending to his needs slowed my progress through the game.
In terms of nostalgic significance, Fallout 3's pup, Dogmeat, brings a smile to my face. Outside of this, this canine drives me nuts. He spends most of his time on his own, aimlessly wandering the wastes of Washington D.C. When he does seek companionship, he usually dies minutes later. He also looks cross-eyed (perhaps from radiation?). Let's just rule Dogmeat out of this competition, shall we? He strikes a nostalgic chord, and nothing more. Go die somewhere, you worthless mutt.
Dragon Age: Origins
I honestly didn't know Dragon Age: Origins had a dog until I started playing it. As a human warrior, he is gifted to you in the first mission (though all characters can get him eventually). While the interaction with him seems minimal at first, this war dog becomes a party member, meaning you can play as him, level him up, and select his abilities. In the first zone, I killed 29 enemies. My dog, which the computer controlled in this zone, racked up 28 kills. As the game goes on, story-based choices are tied to your dog. He's a killer, he doesn't stupidly get himself killed, and to be frank, he scares the living crap out of me.
By landslide, my vote for best role-playing pooch goes to Dragon Age: Origins' killing machine. Having a dog that can dish out just as much damage as you can creates a bond that speaks to gamers. Plus, you can buy all kinds of awesome warpaint for him (as seen above). Sure, I love the interaction that Fable II's dog brings, but I'd much rather have a pup that can hold his own, and that's exactly what this war dog does.
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