If you were disappointed with the ‘romances’ in the original campaign and the complete lack thereof in Shadows of Undrentide, I’ve got good news for you. BioWare has decided to make an effort and produce some decent romance content, more along the lines of what was available in Baldur’s Gate II instead (well, mostly) of the “let’s just see what happens later” from the OC. Once again, male characters have more options than female ones, being able to choose between Nathyrra and Aribeth (again with the elven fetish, BW!), but that doesn’t bother me too much, since the single option for female characters just so happens to be really good this time around. Unlike Anomen or Aarin. In fact, I would say it’s actually better than both of the options for male characters.

Nathyrra: The better and more harmoniously developed of the two romance options for a male character, although I’m surprised at how…tame it all is. Even if she is now Good, Nathyrra is still a drow and retains some of the typical female drow dominance, especially in her response to early flirting attempts. She even has cheeky innuendo at her command and states that she has had many partners before, in accordance with typical drow promiscuity. And yet…she never even kisses the protagonist. I kid you not: all he gets is a hug, and that only because she’s feeling cold. The culmination of the romance is sweet, but would it have really killed the writers to put a bit more passion into it? It almost seems out of character. Nathyrra is strong, self-assured and has a bit of a temper on her: where does that all go? I understand that the circumstances of Chapter 3 are rather distressing and conducive to her focussing on her past and her regrets, but it all feels strangely half-hearted. Nathyrra acknowledges it herself, and it’s nowhere near as bad as, say, Aerie, but there is a big difference between her initial self and her Chapter 3 self. There is something you can do about it, however…Anyway, it’s not a bad romance (ra-ra-ra-a-aaahh), especially by comparison with Aribeth and the OC options, but I can’t help feeling that it could have been better with a little more effort.

Aribeth: Ugh…Why? Why did the writers feel obliged to saddle us not only with this character, but with yet another half-arsed attempt at a ‘romance’ with her? Understanding that her situation with Fenthick probably made things a little bit too awkward in the OC, they decided to invent a justification: at Mephistopheles’ prompting, Aribeth realised that she never really loved him. Well, isn’t that just incredibly convenient? Apparently, she never much fancied the OC protagonist either, because there’s no mention of him at all, if your character did romance her. Girl, you certainly get around. Heck, your protagonist can even end up with both her and Nathyrra if he’s persuasive enough. In spite of all that and due to being available very late in the expansion, Aribeth has very little content, and even less of it romance-specific. You can basically acknowledge mutual attraction (either lust if she’s Evil or the possibility of love at some point down the line if she’s Good) and…that’s it. No one wonders whether she’ll be able to regain corporeality and, if not, what kind of future your protagonist can have with her. I mean…does no one find that it strains credibility to be able to romance a ghost? No? Just me? I mean, just imagine the frustration. If you were going to bring her back, at least make the effort of fleshing some content out for her (pun fully intended).

Valen: Ladies, you’re in for a treat. Valen was written by the same author as Dragon Age II’s Fenris, and it definitely shows, but, overall, he feels like a better-rounded character to me. Yes, he has broody tendencies, but he actually comes from a different plane of existence and has had trouble adjusting to how things work on Toril, with some unfortunate consequences. Moreover, his demonic blood isn’t mentioned just for ‘mysterious tormented stranger’ points, but is an actual liability beyond his control. And yet, all things considered, he’s remarkably well-adjusted, for someone who has undergone both slavery and torture, and has to make constant efforts to keep his primal impulses down (grr…). And there’s a much happier, gentler character underneath all that, should you find a way to remove the taint. Valen starts out gruff and suspicious, but all it takes is a few well-placed flirts – which make him adorably flustered – and good will in helping the Seer to get him to mellow out. Despite his intimidating appearance and his difficult past, Valen is a real gentleman and even has a well-hidden cheeky side. Obviously, BW couldn’t help themselves and gave him a backstory whereby the woman he loved met an untimely demise at the hands of his demonic master. Still, despite that, he comes to care deeply for your protagonist, has a particularly heartfelt confession scene, and his romance has a more natural progression than the other two.

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