Dragon Age 2 is a game about hope. It is a game about despair.
But, mostly, it is a game about hope.
The very beginning of the tutorial has you in your fanciest armor, and your sibling beside you in the armor of a Grey Warden. You are packed to the gills with high level spells. Enemies melt beneath you. In this moment, you aren't worried about your mother, or your other sibling, or Aveline's husband. You don't even know these people. You're just a hero.
It lasts for a minute. Then they rip the whole fantasy away. The game pulls out a knife and tells you it's cutting the bullshit. Reality is grey and brown, you are level one, you have crap for armor and crap for a weapon, and your sibling is going to die. And your mother is going to die. And something very bad has happened, and it is your fault.
This is your story. The game tells you this will end badly, and you say, I know, but I'm going to play anyway.
This is what hope is all about.
Sometimes, hope is not about a happy ending. Sometimes hope is about damage control. It's accepting the inevitable, but hoping that you can find brightness in the middle. The world of Dragon Age is brutal in fears that are immediate and realistic. Peel away the mages and elves and demons and you are left with the fear of poverty, and war, and illness. You are left with the fear that something terrible will happen to the people you love.
You are left with the certainty of these things. You will lose your family. You will watch your friends lose theirs. The game will beat you down, act by act. There is no way to keep your sibling with you. You cannot stop a war with the Qunari. You cannot stop Anders from blowing up the church, not by loving him or hating him, not by refusing to help him, not by helping him unquestioningly.
This is how it is. There is no world in which I was not raped. There is no world in which the mutual friends I shared with the man who raped me were less shitty. It happened, it is in the past tense, so it is inevitable. I only get to control the rest of the story.
This is how the world works. You are damned. You are doomed. You get up every day and try anyway, not because there is a playthrough where you can save everyone, but because there is a playthrough where you can do a little better. You help your friends more. You save a few more lives. There's a world where the hope for goodness can be good enough. That the hope can be in the trying. That trying is plenty. That trying is enough.