Diecast #84: Team Fortress 2, Valve, Dragon Age

By Shamus
on Dec 15, 2014
Filed under:
Diecast


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Hosts: Josh,Chris, Mumbles, and Shamus.

Show notes:

1:00 Mumbles talks about the latest Team Fortress 2 update.

Also wrestling. BECAUSE OF COURSE SHE TALKS ABOUT WRESTLING.

7:00 What IS Valve doing these days?

No really. We want to know. Dear Gaben, please email me. We just want to know if you’re still making games.

17:00 Dragon Age

We start out talking about DA2, but end up talking about the series as a whole. I’m pretty sure this has spoilers for the first two games, but not for Inquisition.

38:00 MAILTIME!

Dear Diecast,

Thinking about the Alan Wake season. It’s interesting how in that season you talked about improving it’s game play and storytelling themes by removing 70%-90% of the enemies. While in The Last of Us season you mention making pretty much the same improvements by culling about 50%-60% of them. Do you think there is a quantifiable amount of combat/enemies that should be in a game? Also do other variables affect this number for you like the style of game play, type of narrative, or quality of the story (or if there is a story) being told?

All the best,
Ambitious Sloth

Here is the MrBtongue video we mentioned:


Link (YouTube)

But I think Chris makes some really good points that spatial simulations are just easier to do.

54:00 MORE MAILTIME!

Dear Diecast,

Earlier this year I played Shadowrun: Returns and the Dragonfall DLC. I liked both but I thought that Dragonfall was far better than the base game and I played it before they released the stand alone Dragonfall: Directors Cut which I’ve heard is even better.

My question is this, have any you ever played an expansion/DLC that you thought was better than the base game? If so, why do you think it was better?

Thanks,
-Kerr.

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From the Archives:

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Civilization has practically become the series in which the expansions are way better than the original.And its not that the vanilla games are bad,they are just average,but their expansions are stellar.

    Also alan wake is a dull game with an amazing expansion.

    • Primogenitor says:

      Not so much Civ V IMHO. Yes the main game is thin compared to previous ones, but I found the expansions to have poorly designed and implemented elements. E.g. individual missionary busywork for Gods & Kings, repeated trade route pop-ups on Brave New World. So I think its more that it’s the incremental patches that improve the game, rather than the expansions themselves.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Yeah,I didnt bother much with V,because the interface is atrocious and the ai is dumb.But still,the expansions seemed much better than the vanilla to me.

      • aldowyn says:

        Hmm, most of the people I’ve talked to have said pretty much the opposite – Civ V was pretty bare bones at start, and the expansions did a lot to flesh it out. Just something to note.

        Also, I’d point out that Civ V is unusual in that the expansions are completely integrated into the game, instead of being a different campaign like, for example, in most RPGs (including the one mentioned in the question, Shadowrun)

      • Felblood says:

        I have this weird relationship with Civ V. I kinda hate it, but my wife loves it.

        Coming from a heavily expanded to Civ IV to Vanilla Civ V felt like moving from a tropical resort to a desert island. The general shape of this was familiar, but you constantly felt all the nice things you were missing.

        At first, I thought it was just the Expanded to Vanilla transition, but vanilla Civ V is actually really stripped down compared to Vanilla Civ IV. In fact, Expanded Civ V feels about like Vanilla Civ IV.

        When we finally did get those missing mechanics back they didn’t feel like they had gotten the level of attention that would justify a full price expansion. Civ 5 Gods and Kings has less satisfying religion based play than Civ 4, for players who are trying to build a cool society, rather than scrub all the filthy heathens off the map.

        Thankfully, I’ve managed to kindle some interest in Warlock: Master of the Arcane. It’s the perfect fusion of Civ 5 and Master of Magic, and the Stronger Heroes DLC has some hilariously broken toys for players who have already mastered the game and just want to play around.

  2. Piflik says:

    I am currently playing through Dragon Age 2 (for the first time, even though I know it is not really a good game…) and the one thing that annoys me the most is not the ‘awesome button’, but the constantly spawning enemies. Every single encounter has at least two ‘waves’, with the second (and later) appearing out of thin air, in most cases right beside my spellcaster(s). That game would be so much better without any combat…

    • Eruanno says:

      Yes, this. Also the constant recycling of environments. I don’t actually mind the writing and I thought your party was in general pretty funny and interesting in DA2. It would have been nice if they hadn’t ended the story when it was about to get interesting…

      • IFS says:

        They had an awakening sized DLC planned for DA2 that would continue the story after the ending but it was sadly cut. Apparently plot elements from it did make it into Inquisition, but since we never got to see it its hard to say what those were. Especially sad in my opinion because I really liked the other pieces of DLC they released for DA2.

        • Zagzag says:

          Allegedly Dragon Age 2 was originally supposed to be an expansion for Origins in the first place, but it was stretched out into a full game and the combat was given an overhaul. I’m not completely sure if it’s true, but it seems like something EA might do.

          This would mean that Dragon Age 2 was only really supposed to be setting the scene for what eventually became Inquisition.

          • ehlijen says:

            I don’t know if it’s true, but given that bioware was stretched thin at the time making TOR, this would make sense. The corner cutting in DA2 is blatantly evident either way.

            Which is a shame, I really liked what this game was trying to be.

      • Henson says:

        Archengeia recently did a playthrough of DA2 where he counted each instance of a re-used environment. The ‘winner’ was the warehouse at around 18 instances.

        • Adam says:

          Still better than ME1, where there are a grand total of TWO interior environments for non-story or DLC missions.

          • guy says:

            On the other hand, DA2 botched the reuse on a technical level. The actual layouts were changed by having locked doors and such, but that was not clearly indicated on the map.

          • Henson says:

            I’m actually not as bothered by this. The game takes place in the largely unsettled sections of the galaxy (Attican Traverse, Skyllian Verge), so it makes sense that most colonies in these areas would use pre-fabricated bunkers and whatnot, for easy deployment and quick turnaround. It’s still a bit annoying, but at least it’s supported by lore.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        The writing/storyline suffers from the same issue as ME2 (and I guess 3?). A lot of companion writing is good (with exceptions), a lot of party banter is fun, many smaller storylines or sidequests are at the very least fine… but it all falls apart in the main storyline.

    • Karthik says:

      Re: “awesome button”

      I think Shamus mentioned in his write-up on Saints Row that one problem with Dragon Age 2 was that the awesome button was not awesome enough. I agree. An awesome button in combat is supposed to have an awesome effect, but even the most powerful, flashy abilities in the game chipped 10-20% off an elite enemy’s HP bar, lending credence to the idea that the awesome button was just about posturing.

      Actually, may I rant about the combat/HP balance in DA2 for a bit? In making a mod for DA2, I dug deep into the XMLs and DAT files that controlled enemy health counts and level scaling. It was a phoned-in mess:

      1. There was no parity between the enemy’s health and your own. At level 20, an enemy mook had about 100-120 times as much health as a CON focused warrior Hawke (The PC). Proportionally, mooks did about 3-4 times as much damage to you health bar as you did to theirs with regular attacks.

      2. Bioware has never figured out how to add challenge as the player gains in power: Barring the addition of (physical) shields and snipers in ME3, their go-to solution (as you level up) is to give enemies a ridiculous health pool, reducing everything to boring, MMO-like battles of attrition. Ditto with raising the game difficulty. Enemy health actually went up by a whole digit for every level you gained–an exponential increase.

      3. Why was I making a mod for DA2? One of the later patches capped the damage you could do to in a single attack to 20% for bosses and 40% for lieutenants, because (as they put it when I asked) “Killing a boss in one or two hits is not the gameplay experience we intended”. So it didn’t matter if you were playing an assassin rogue geared for spike damage, you were going to fight a battle of attrition and watch DA2’s over-the-top animations play out ad nauseam.

      Phew. Sorry if this counts as littering on your site, Shamus. (Feel free to nuke this comment.)

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        People confuse bioware awesome button with saints row awesome button.Bioware awesome button is an idiotic “tie dozen functions to a single button” shtick,while saints row awesome button has only one function:To make whatever else you do awesome.The problem with bioware awesome button isnt that it doesnt give awesome results(well ok,it is one of the problems),but that it makes you fumble around like an idiot,doing one thing when you wanted to do something completely different(hugging the wall when you want to hack a console,for example).

        • Karthik says:

          We’re talking about the awesome button as advertised in the Dragon Age 2 promotional campaign. This one. I’m saying it failed on that simple count because of (among other things) Dragon Age 2’s broken combat.

          The problem you mention is specific to the Mass Effect series and basically unrelated.

      • Did you finish your mod, and do you have a link to it? That limitation seems pretty stupid, and I am I’m the midst of my DA2 play through.

      • guy says:

        Maybe it’s just that I’m a JRPG guy at heart, but I actually am entirely fine with enemy HP pools being much larger. The PCs are supposed to exploit their combat healing powers, which enemies don’t get to have very often because they’re somewhat frustrating to go up against. But I do despise the idea of that flat cap thing; if they want their bosses to stay up longer they can just give them more hitpoints. If that would cause it to take much longer for warriors than the cap makes it take for rogues, that sounds like a problem which should be fixed somewhere else.

        It can be an interesting enemy gimmick, but not a good idea for all bossfights.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Personally,I find fights between glass cannons much more exciting.Relying on your initiative and preparation buffs to carry you through rather than on health potions.

          • guy says:

            I like it when you have to manage your healing. The first two games had that with limited resources and potion cooldown timers, supplemented by mage healing spells. On normal difficulty in Inquisition, I was never really under enough pressure to actually worry about running out of healing potions. Then again, I was a Knight-Enchanter and used a respec amulet as soon as I got the specialization to put all my points into barrier-related abilities, at which point the difficulty curve promptly snapped in half.

            • aldowyn says:

              Knight enchanters are OP as HELL. Hard is much tougher so far, playing as an dual-wield rogue. I’m pretty fine with normal being pretty easy for a competent player, though.

        • ehlijen says:

          More hitpoints isn’t a solution. The player must feel as though they’re accomplishing something. Making the player do the same thing more often for the same final effect just makes the game longer, but not better or more interesting.

          The key is variety. Having enemies with different tactics and vulnerabilities and varied options to engage them goes a long way towards excusing what’d otherwise be a an unbelievable mook abundance.
          (See ME3: While Cerberus having such vast armies made no sense, they were varied enough to keep the gameplay somewhat fresh for far longer than it’d have been using ME1 combat.)

          Alan Wake’s problem was that every enemy was the same. Last of Us’ problem is that there are two types of enemies, and one is spammed too often. The odd setpiece level tries to address that, but random raiders are still far too numerous to be believable or even at least fun.

          • guy says:

            We assign enemies hitpoints instead of having them die instantly for a reason. More hitpoints doesn’t necessarily equal more interesting, but it’s hard to have an interesting bossfight if the boss dies in two hits and it’s easy to hit him. The boss should have enough HP to stay alive for as long as is interesting.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Human revolution dlc has a satisfying boss that goes down just as easy as any mook.The challenge comes from the layout of his level.

            • silver Harloe says:

              Deus Ex 1 had a very satisfying boss fight, where I snipe the boss with a single lethal headshot without ever engaging her. I’ve tried to resist the temptation and do it “right,” but I can’t help myself. Every single time I replay (pretty much an annual event, sometimes moreso), I snipe her. And it’s still satisfying :)

            • ehlijen says:

              And yet players who build a one-shot-kill character (which if you made the game right will come with costs, drawbacks and setup requirements) shouldn’t be forced to ‘play the game right’ just because this enemy has a name tag.

              But yes, there is a too few HP. But games rarely go there, most err on the side of far too many.

              • silver Harloe says:

                sadly, in Deus Ex, to use the sniper rifle effectively, you should put your skill points into Rifles instead of the other skills. But Rifles have the most-flexible for least-inventory-space weapons available, so the “drawback” is that you have to choose the best build :/

              • guy says:

                I certainly think that arbitrarily capping damage is not at all a good thing to do by default. I mean, it’s a great thing to have as some weird gimmick bossfight maybe twice in a 60+ hour game if all builds have some way of dealing with it, but not to be done normally. But if you have a build based on doing massive quantities of burst damage, that can easily still be a viable option against a boss who just has a big health bar, because your burst can cleave huge chunks off it.

                It does depend on the game. Dragon Age is designed as a game where combats tend to be sustained and relatively lengthy. Assassin’s Creed is designed to be a game where combats are very short and often decided by ambush. Assassin’s Creed should therefore not generally have a boss who can survive several knives to the kidney.

                • aldowyn says:

                  they’ve been moving towards shorter fights since Origins, where a single sword swing took like 5 seconds. Inquisition has gone in the ME3-style path of having several clearly delineated ‘classes’ of enemies (literally, actually, since there are now stealthy templars?), each requiring different tactics. A single standard encounter probably takes.. 1-2 minutes?

                  • SyrusRayne says:

                    Dragon Age 2 started the stealthy templars thing, I believe. Broadly speaking it would make sense for a group dedicated to the /hunting/ of apostate mages to have members capable of subtlety, that’s not something the Templars have ever shown, in any of the games, at any time.

        • Felblood says:

          It’s not a universally bad idea, but you’ve got to put some real effort into it, or it’s just a lazy hack.

          If you want a boss who can’t be killed in 1 hit, you need to pull out the multi-stage boss.

          These are a little bit more common in JRPGs, but that’s because JRPGs are bigger on long, dramatic boss fights. If WRPGs want to get in on that action, they need to pay the ante.

      • Jonathan says:

        2. Bioware has never figured out how to add challenge as the player gains in power: Barring the addition of (physical) shields and snipers in ME3, their go-to solution (as you level up) is to give enemies a ridiculous health pool, reducing everything to boring, MMO-like battles of attrition. Ditto with raising the game difficulty. Enemy health actually went up by a whole digit for every level you gained–an exponential increase.

        They did in Baldur’s Gate 2 and ToB. Overall, it was a fair rendition of Epic-level combat. You could get an ability that would block 2% of incoming damage per level (x 20-30 levels). Guess what, Abazigal has it too. Whirlwind (10 attacks per round), the capstone melee ability that destroys enemies quickly? I’m pretty sure I saw it on a few drow. Improved Invisibility? Yep, it’s why his son is even more annoying to fight. Time stop? Enemies get it before you do, although they do not get the over-powered Improved Alacrity (with the Robe of Vecna, a caster can dump 1/2 of their spells per day in a single Time Stop). However, there are at least two high-level enemies who look at your Time Stop, laugh, and then punch your mage in the face.
        Plus the random Elder Orbs, Slayer Shadows, and the nigh-unkillable Ravager.

        Epic D&D is Rocket Tag, and it works. But, that’s old Bioware…. BG2 is almost old enough to drive.

        • Piflik says:

          Loved the epic post-20 levels in ToB. I was playing as a Rogue and got the ability to use heavy weapons and armor without penalty and traps that did 20d6 damage (iirc…maybe it was even 20d10)…made short work of demi-liches and bhaal-spawn…an assassin’s sneak attack with a Paladin’s +5 two-handed sword is devastating…

          (Disclaimer: it’s been about 10+ years since I played ToB, so the above might contain inaccuracies and/or be complete fabrication)

          • Jonathan says:

            Yes, although the rogue is still not as good in straight-up combat.

            The fastest fight-ending I ever had was in the playthrough with 6 fighter-types (fighter/paladin/ranger). Greater Whirlwind x 6 = 60 attacks hitting in about 6 seconds for a total of about 1200 damage. You-know-who ended up back in the green column in one round each time.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Galaxy Gun,have you noticed how prominent sandwiches are in gotham?Can you shed some light on the larger bat universe and how it got all those ham sandwiches?

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Heh,Josh is such a pagan min.They even dress in similar fashion.

    As for vaas,you should really take a look at orphan black.Michael Mando isnt as crazy there as in far cry 3,but Tatiana Maslany(the lead actress)does an amazing job of playing dozens of characters in that show.

  5. tmtvl says:

    Steamboxes, prolly. I think that’s what they’re working on.

    • Alexander The 1st says:

      But how many programmers and graphic designers does it take to make a Steambox?

      Okay; it’s probably 3.

    • SpiritBearr says:

      Dota2 is skipping its Winter event and a badly needed patch or two so the game can be upped to Source 2 by April. I hope that’s not what all of valve has been working on for years but it does mean Source 2 is almost here.

      • Jarppi says:

        Yeah. Source 2. That is what they have been doing, I guess. The current version of the Source engine and it’s tools (I suppose we can call it “Source 1” now), are dated and need to be updated. Some of them already are and some hints form a larger update have been given. A new engine at this point would actually make a lot of sense since they would need a one for the new console generation anyway.

        They are also working on the Half-Life 3 and the Left 4 Dead 3, according to Jira leaks (1 and 2) last year. Notice how Source 2, HL3 and L4D3 groups expanded between those two leaks. This suggests that the silence on the game development part could be explained by people working on new games on new engine, both of which would for obvious reasons be kept as company secrets until they are finished.

  6. Alexander The 1st says:

    Re: the story mechanic for Dragon Age: Inquisition – it sounds like it’s similar to an issue I had with Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, where the game wouldn’t let me continue through the story and unlock new mechanics until I upgraded my ship enough, which required me to do more and very specific ship battles to get certain materials to upgrade the stuff. Until then, it blocked me from going to the next story quest.

    In case it wasn’t obvious, I didn’t really like the ship combat in that game – it *sounds* like it should be fun, but unless you’re boarding the enemy ship, it felt very muted; that is, I couldn’t really tell when I was supposed to figure out when to get everyone to brace for impacts and when impacts happened when you did brace.

    But apparently I had to do a lot of it just to advance through the story components.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Then why were you playing black flag?It was literally the only interesting thing of that game.The rest was verbatim what previous asscreeds did.Heck,that game even messed with the overarching story of the series,so even if by any chance(a small chance)you like that,you wouldnt have anything for you to be invested in black flag.

      • Alexander The 1st says:

        Well I was hoping the ship combat would be actually fun, and not require constantly questioning the feedback that waiting to be hit by an enemy when the volume literally drops down to <25% and not knowing when the bracing will end – and more importantly, if I wouldn't un-brace just as the opponent launches their shot.

        Besides, I never said the ship stealthing mechanics weren't fun.

        The ship combat grinding for more materials were not nearly as fun as the "do the climbing puzzles to get the best armor ever!" grinding you did in AC2, but I was hoping it would be. Instead, it was like every other ship-combat portion of a game I've ever played.

  7. I just realized something at around the 24 minute mark. The statement about DA2 sort of leading in to DA:I.
    I wonder if DA2 was supposed to be the start of DA:I, and they just “split” it (conceptually), they did a um. LoTR or Hobbit movie splitting I guess?.

    Which makes me wonder what they have planned for DA4 (whatever that title will be). DA:I kind of ends on a cliffhanger thus setting up DA4 I’m sure; is this a trilogy split across 4 games or is it an actual quadrilogy now?

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Which makes me wonder what they have planned for DA4”

      More sex options with companions.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        Of all the problems I have with the Dragon Age series, this one is -probably unreasonably -the one that drives me craziest. Aveline is my favorite character in part because she is the only one who is not a potential love interest.

        I am very interested in love stories incorporated into games that mesh with the larger narrative (somewhat like Aveline’s and Donnic’s, for example). These sex side-quests feel only one or two steps removed from H-games and Hot Coffee (which was dropped from GTA for altogether good reasons).

        • Well, with Josephine it’s a budding romance than sex it’s rather tasteful.

          Here’s a interesting tidbit, the writer for Cassandra also was the writer behind the main plot and Dorian, Josephine had a dedicated writer and the same editor worked on bot Cassandra, main plot and Josephine.

          And ironically the writer that wrote Iron Bull also wrote Solas.

          More insider info here http://blog.bioware.com/2014/12/12/the-sound-and-the-fury-what-we-listened-to-while-writing-dragon-age-inquisition/

          When finally Dragonamus (aka Shamus the Ignoramus) finishes Dragon Age: Inquisition that post would probably provide some insight into how certain characters where written.

          BTW! For those curious, I see no spoilers at a quick glance so that post should be safe to read.

          • Eruanno says:

            I romanced Sera and I found her just kind of endearing and adorable once she drops her guard and starts telling you things. Also sometimes really hilarious.

          • aldowyn says:

            Patrick Weekes (who wrote Iron Bull, Solas, and Cole. Also Mordin, Tali, Jack, and the Rannoch/Tuchanka missions in ME3) and David Gaider (Cassandra, Dorian, lead on main plot in Inquisition) are both pretty awesome, IMO. I should read their dragon age books.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          I figured thats because bioware is much better at writing friendships than romances.For example,in mass effect friendships with garrus,tali,wrex and mordin seemed way better than romances,even with tali.

        • Joe Informatico says:

          Again, another interesting idea DA2 had that was executed poorly. The idea of romancing a companion and having them move into your house was interesting. But they didn’t do anything with it. (Yeah, you can do that in Skyrim and Fable and probably some other games as well, but those NPCs are soulless automatons.)

          • I loved that, I was almost hoping for a slight “day to day lives” micro-plot to unfold, sadly it never did (DA4 BioWare, do that in DA4 or ME4).

            In Dragon Age Inquisition the Inquisitor quarters are cool and you can upgrade/decorate some but you never really use it for anything. (can’t even sleep in the bed), feels incomplete somehow.

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          Here’s a thing, I actually really liked the romance options in most Bioware games up to a point (obviously YMMV), I liked them so much that my Shepard was straight, which is atypical with my PCs, for Jack. Then in ME3 my Shepard stayed faithful and I think my DA inquisitor may very well stay celibate. Maybe it’s a matter of fatigue but right now it feels too much like the characters are written with “romance option” first and the rest of the characterization second. Not to mention that in DA:I specifically the romance is introduced, for me, way to bluntly, way too early and way too clumsily. Don’t get me wrong, I like that sexuality is introduced, I like that we’re not blind to the spectrum ranging from post-traumatic romance to recreational sex but right now it’s just screaming “hey, you can bone this NPC” pretty much from the first dialogue wheel.

    • Otters34 says:

      Are you seriousing me, Mr. Hågensen? This huge, sprawling game ends on THAT?

      Say what you have to, lie if you must, but tell me that isn’t true, it’s too much to take!

      • guy says:

        It is sort of true.

        The plot as it has been followed through the game is indeed tied up and resolved. Then during the epilogue you learn that something odd is going on with the Grey Wardens and all contact with Wiesshaupt has been lost. And then there’s a post-credit teaser.

        • Yeah it started in DA:O (DA1), did not get that much focus in DA2 and now in DA3 it’s sort of continued… My guess is that DA4 will start with a new player character (ala DA1 and DA3) and the reason the Grey Wardens are now gone and why there is no contact with their HQ is that they all left, which would open up a new area of the land to explore etc, The North maybe? Where the Oxen folk and Necromancers are? (Iron Bulls people and Cassandras people) and Tevinter meddling obviously. This could get good.

          And without spoiling anything either Varric or Morrigan (or potentially both) will make appearances in DA4, they are both; story teller/traveler and explorer/knowledge seekers (respectively) and Morrigan does do the closing narration of DA:I.

          I got a feeling that Claudia Black scored herself a lifetime gig as Morrigan at BioWare :P

          I don’t mind this (besides liking the character) it’s nice to have a common world thread of sorts, it also allows unreliable narrator “retcons” like in “Oh you shouldn’t believe all you hear, I was there and it was a tad over-dramatized”; which is fine in my opinion.

          Dragon Age is BioWare’s Lord of The Rings, and Mass Effect is BioWare’s Star Wars.
          And I must say I like how these universes are unfolding / growing.

          • guy says:

            Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that’s not quite what will be happening. If they wanted a story not about the Wardens, they could just have done nothing and had the Wardens barely show up because the plot does not involve Darkspawn and so they have no reason to be involved. There’s still two Old Gods waiting to become Archdemons, so in the long term it’s pretty important to everyone that the Wardens stay around. I’m very much afraid they’ve been mind-controlled by something because sometimes it seems like everyone except Seekers can’t buy groceries without that happening.

            I would very much like to see some of the distant lands, though. It’d be pretty nice to at least visit the Tevinter-Qunari war, and the catacomb cities sound cool. I’m guessing we’ll see Wiesshaupt, it would be nice to finally visit the headquarters of the organization we joined in Origins

            • aldowyn says:

              (includes post-credits spoilers)A: how has no one mentioned the reveal with Solas at the end? And the thing with Flemeth? That seems like an ongoing arc rather than the focus of any one game? And I thought the reason the Wardens were disappearing was because of Corypheus’ artificial Calling, and shouldn’t that be over?

              • SyrusRayne says:

                (Dragon Age 2 Spoilers?) Definitely an ongoing arc. Flemeth gets an appearance in DA2, explaining both her survival and showing that Flemeth is known to the Dalish somehow, though they probably don’t know who she is. Whether it’s going to be the next game, or a DLC thing, it’s hard to say. They’ve set up a few strings here they could follow. They could be interrelated, but it’s too early to tell!

                • DA1,DA2,DA3 (DA4?) spoiler Morrigan and Flemeth are a tad confusing. at the end of DA3 one is left to wonder if Flemeth died or if she switched bodies into Solas. I also suspect that Flemeth is not just some old gal that merged with some Fade spirit. I think it all ties to the archdeamons/elder gods and Andraste, could Flemeth be Andraste? Could Solas be her husband (the one who betrayed her per the old lore). Also Corypheus (sp?) is not dead hes’ stuck inthe Fade somewhere so ofcourse he’ll be back. I predict Flemeth and Corypheus duking it out in DA4. As to Morrigan, well her elder god child is or is not an elder god depending on your choices in DA1. Also did anyone kind of feel the elder god child of Morrigan was tad similar to the child in ME3? Remember those Fade portals Morrigan found? Maybe one led to the ME universe. *laughs*

                  • guy says:

                    Solas was called the Dread Wolf. According to Daelish lore, he’s a trickster god who managed to talk all the other gods and their ancient enemies into locking themselves outside of the mortal plane. I really hope Corypheus is dead and dead for keeps. I killed his reincarnation mechanism, then disintegrated him and threw the dust into the Fade. He should be super dead. If they need more villains, there’s six Golden City Expedition members and two Old Gods unaccounted for.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            So dragon age is doing the same shtick as asscreed now?Start as a trilogy,then faff about in the sequel,pick up the main plot in 3,and then just drop it for something else in 4.

      • Without spoiling anything (because Shamus is lazy :P ) and others may yet be to finish DA:I I can say that Dragon Age: Inquisition ends the saga of The Herald of Andraste, so no worries there.

    • SyrusRayne says:

      I want to play both Hawke and my Inquisitor at the same time- if not having them both active at the same time, then as a two-PCs-duality-metaphor-thing. This would likely be prohibitively expensive for them to do, but I’d still enjoy it.

      • I suggested this once (I forgot where, might have been a public article/post directed at BioWare), I suggested that if there woud be multiple characters to play.

        You create/select/play character #1 and reach the end of the game.

        Then you create/select/play character #2, during this new playthrough some areas are common and you do cross paths with where #1 went through, and choices and effects due to #1 choices will impact what #2 can do and what options are available to them.

        Then you create/select/play character #3, during this new playthrough some areas are common and you do cross paths with where #1 and #2 went through, and choices and effects due to #1 and #2 choices will impact what #3 can do and what options are available to them.

        This may lead to one character indirectly causing the early death of another.
        It may lead to two of them “falling in love”, or even becoming enemies.
        In character #2 and #3 playthroughs they may end up facing character #1 (as a antagonist or rival?)

        If major areas/citiez and key areas are “recycled” but the rest varies then you would have a complex interwoven tapestry where 3 characters influence each others world.

        It may even be set up in chapters so that you play each chapter with each character before beginning on chapter 2.

        Very few game developers are able to handle this complexity and fewer writers still are able to juggle all this. I know some of the writers at BioWare are able to pull this off, another writer I know that can pull this off is Rutskarn.

        • guy says:

          This comment mysteriously vanished after posting, so I am reattempting.

          Suikoden III did that. Called the Trinity Sight system or something, there were three main characters with stories divided into multiple chapters, and at the end of each chapter you could switch off. The characters pass by and meet each other, you can see scenes where they interact from multiple perspectives, and you can recruit other members of the 108 Stars Of Destiny with any of the main characters.

          It’s a relatively fixed narrative, though, so while Chris has a complex interaction with the other main characters you don’t make much in the way of choices regarding how it plays out.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        Well, by DA4 we would have four main characters, so basically a full party. That said in my case it would be a party of four skinny, pale, redhead wizards* which may not be the most effective setup from the gameplay perspective.

        *Don’t judge me!

  8. Mumbles swearing double standard amuses me, saying the single word synonym for “Female Dog” once is a big no-no, but saying a famous single word synonym for intercourse/procreation multiple times during a sentence is fine.

    I’m pretty sure Mumbles could make a sailor blush. *laughs*

    • Mumbles says:

      I always get scandalized when people use the b-word. Every time.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        And yet you have no trouble with “motherfucker” which is more demeaning of an insult.

        • Zeta Kai says:

          I think that it’s an issue of safety-in-absurdity. Calling someone a bitch is an accessible insult: you are saying that they are an unpleasant woman, or a subjugated man, beneath you in either case. Calling someone a motherfucker is silly in its extremity: you are saying that they fuck a mother, presumably their own. It’s hard to be insulted when the feel-bad words are unlikely to apply to you.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Its interesting how something that a person can literally be is considered more absurd than something they can never literally become,even with all the modern surgical and genetic advances.

            Now taboos themselves and their history,thats the absurd thing to me.It sure puts a smile on my face.

            • Zeta Kai says:

              We’re not talk about a literally female dog. Nobody have meant that when they say bitch in decades, unless they are at an actually dog show. We are talking about the use of bitch in the sense of an unpleasant woman or a subjugated man, which are both a more common occurrence than a person who has had sexually intercourse with their own mother (at least where I live). If one insists upon the literal meaning, then one will come to the wrong conclusion. It’s like assuming that Person A calling Person B a faggot is somehow referring to a bundle of kindling.

              • Iv’e heard the word “bitch” been used as self-referential (positive?!) as well, as in “Oh honey, I’m a real nasty bitch, watch yourself!”
                For added effect add a sterotypical black woman ‘n’tha’hood type of voice to that line (sideways head bob and finger waving as well).

          • Disc says:

            I don’t really see a meaningful difference. It’s calling people names, the intent stays the same. If they’re not worth of not being called names, isn’t it actually a little hypocritical to get worked up over their feelings on the specific word you use?

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Thats basically where Im coming from.I can insult people by using nothing but compliments(“Great work genius!Your whole family must be so proud of your amazing accomplishment”).Its the intent that matters to me much more than the actual words.

          • Adam says:

            Technically, isn’t every biological man with his own biological children a motherfucker? I mean, for there to be kids, the guy would have had to have sex with their mother at least once.

        • Neil W says:

          I kind of have the impression that one cannot choose one’s gender and parentage, whether human or canine, but having intercourse with a parent is a matter of choice. So one is an insult aimed at someone’s innate qualities (unfair), the other at their actions (fair game).

          On the other hand parsing obscenities in this way probably makes me sound like a giant cock, so never mind.

        • Ithilanor says:

          “(mother)fucker” is a lot less gendered than “bitch”; it’s got sexual connotations, but it’s not nearly as sexist.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            No its not.Motherfucker is used mostly for men,or as a neutral buzzword.The same as bitch being used mostly for women,or as a neutral buzzword(“bitch,please”).

        • Zak McKracken says:

          The meaning of a word is mostly divorced from its lineage, especially when cursing.
          Swearwords come and go, some enter the list from the top (a bad insult even before it was frequently used), some acquire their meaning through the context it which they’re used. But most of them become blunt over time. At some point all the kids at school use some word, then they grow up, and by the time they’re parents and every self-respecting rapper has to build it into their lyrics, it becomes commonplace, and a while later it just completely loses its bite.
          To my ears “bitch” sounds pretty casual, while “motherfucker” would be … either said ironically or maybe better not at all. Whereas “fuck” is used so frequently it is dulling quickly these days.
          … for my ears, in my surroundings.

      • Steve C says:

        Then you can’t say “B-word” either. It’s the same thing. It’s not the letters and pronunciation that is a problem but the usage.

        Or it’s not a problem and you can just say “bitch” exactly how you did in the Diecast. But you can’t have it both ways motherfucker. If “bitch” has to go for you, so does “B-word”.

        • Mumbles says:

          Lol bros you’re all taking this too seriously. tho i agree with you when it comes to actual slurs i wont say.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Im not.Im just amused at how your circuitry works.Its not often that one gets to poke around the mainframe of a death dealing space station.

            • Tizzy says:

              This whole discussion drives the point home to me of exactly how arbitrary it is, which elements of language cause offense. If we could all agree on this and agree not to make a big deal out of it, we coud deal with a lot less bullshit.

              • I find it the weirdest when people say “the F-word” etc.
                Gordon Ramsey has/had a Food show called “The F-Word” where the F stood for Food obviously, but Ramsey is known to swear a bit so for some it would have a double meaning (which was probably the intention of naming that show).

                It’s worst when I hear somebody say “And then he called him the N-word” in cases like that it’s so sneaky, everyone knows that it’s meant to be “And then he called him Nigger”.
                “Nigger” and “the N-word” is equally racist (or not racist) in my eyes.
                The only difference is that “Nigger” get bleeped on TV now and “the N-word” goes past the censors.

                If George Carlin was still alive he’d probably do a bit on the N-word and F-word and B-word and T-word and, well you bet the point.
                Same thing with Battlestar, didn’t they say “Frack” instead of “Fuck” there?
                And Firefly/Serenity swears in Chinese I believe (not sure if it’s Mandarin or Cantonese though).

                If “Frack” is used because it’s part of the universe/story/social of that movie/series then that is fine, but if it’s done just as a synonym for Fuck to get past the sensors then I don’t see the point.

                Either use the intended swears or write around them. I think some rather inventive swears would be possible if you wrote them without the typical swear words.
                You’d have to be creative with language and sentences but it’s possible. Word smiths like Rutskarn would probably own most peoples posteriors (asses) though.

                Words are just words and do no harm on their own. And there is no such thing as racism, the issue is tolerance or rather the lack of it, intolerance. The majority of conflict/racism/hatred/vitriol/greed in the world is due to intolerance of others and differences.

                People are weird therefore languages are too.

          • Steve C says:

            Well not that serious. I did use ‘motherfucker’ as a term of endearment after all.

        • Neil W says:

          Context matters. As in, if Mumbles simply replaced “b-word” for the b-word in her speech, then it would be bad. But for the purposes of reference and explanation it would get over the meaning while defusing the immediacy of it.

          For example if I tell my Mum “You won’t like this film, it’s violent and they say the f-word a lot,” this gets across what I want to say without actually saying fuck to her, which would probably lead to a discussion that would distract from what I’m trying to tell her.

    • Hal says:

      Humans are abstruse and selective in their outrages. There’s nothing new about this. See, for example, the crimes you’re allowed to portray in video games. You can commit a virtual genocide, but so much as a hint of sexual violence will lead to scandal. The reasons why we do this aren’t important, because everyone will have different reasons, and different idiosyncratic outrages.

      See also: The Joker Meme.

  9. Corpital says:

    While pretty much all games from Piranha Bytes are riddled with problems, my favorite is still Gothic2 with its expansion Night of the Raven. It not just gave you a new area, but also changed a lot of the core game. New sidequests, new solutions and outcomes to existing stuff etc.

    It really felt like something made for the fans, because without previous knowledge from G1 and G2 you wouldn’t really notice a lot of the changes.

    Also shame on Chris. Sour cream on pizza is very acceptable.

  10. I kind of like how the Dragon Age games all have a new main/player character, but a world thread (and characters) that are sort of tying all the games together.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      I wish more sequels did that,not just in video games.Its far more interesting having the world be constant,but the characters changing,than probing a single set of people until they either become boring,or start contradicting themselves.

      • *nod* The Dragon Age game (per the lore that I can recall) takes place during the (duh) Dragon Age, I forgot which age was before it but…

        There’s a lot of lore in the Dragon Age games. I kind of wish that the same amount of lore would be in Mass Effect too (there are glimts at how other species live but to the extent as in Dragon Age).
        Then again Mass Effect is a RPG-light compared to Dragon Age.

        • aldowyn says:

          IIRC the previous age was the Blessed Age? Yeah, that’s right.

          Each age is 100 years, and is called by the Divine (pope analog) at the beginning of the century. The divine at the time was about to call some other age (dove or something silly) and then a dragon (previously thought extinct) showed up. So she instead called the Dragon Age, predicting an age of great upheaval.

          Inquisition is around 9:40 Dragon, I believe. DA2 ended in 9:37 and Origins is in the 20s? That may all be wrong, but close.

          Anyways, I *do* think it’s kind of odd how Thedas is just kind of collecting world-saving heroes, particularly if the Warden didn’t die. And that trend doesn’t look to be changing soon, and we can’t even hope for them to die off naturally since the setting is so time-constrained.

          And given that the dragon age games are *considerably* longer than the Mass Effect ones, I think ME does have a fair amount of lore. I think it’s less well integrated into the plot though, except for a few key exceptions.

      • Joe Informatico says:

        Well, if they’re going to insist the main character in an RPG remain a (mostly) blank slate, I’d prefer they change them up every game. It wasn’t as bad with Commander Shepard for most of two games, because they clearly presented Shepard as your cliched space marine with not much personality. It’s when all of sudden Shepard was supposed to give a shit about some kid who died that it fell flat.

        I noticed this with the Herald in DA:I–pretty early on, I’m being tormented by the bad guys: “You’re going to become a tyrant, the Inquisition’s going to turn out evil.” Well, the Herald isn’t even really a character yet, how is any of this supposed to mean anything to me on an emotional level? At least with Hawke, I felt responsible for my mother and sibling, and was given reasons to hate my asshole uncle, and my companions had their own reasons to hang around with me.

        I think it was last Die Cast where Rutskarn said he appreciated that Dragon Age: Origins let you play a “day in the life” as your character before the shit hit the fan. At least you can start to get a sense of who your character is, even though I personally only felt two, maybe three of the six origins had a compelling in-story reason to continue with the main quest after the disaster at Ostagar.

        In any event, Inquisition really could have used a bit of that at the beginning before throwing me into the main quest. If they still wanted to do their cold open, they could have done the Varric framing device concept from DA2, but made it work: Open with the explosion of the Temple of Sacred Ashes, have Cassandra interrogate you, then she demands your version of events. Cue flashback, you play the Herald during the Conclave, get to talk to Divine Justinia and some of the representatives, maybe get a hint of what’s to come maybe even build up Corypheus as a threat before his big reveal, get a sense of how the other delegates see you and where you fit in this world. Then blow up the Temple and resume the tutorial from there.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          Its puzzling to me that nobody has done that since Origins. For me, this was such an effective roleplaying tool and really encouraged me to approach each character differently. I’m not like some of you where I can craft really unique personalities for each run and this helps give me that spark.

          People complain that the Origins don’t get acknowledged much in the game but to me thats not the point. There’s just enough acknowledgement to keep me in character and for that, every single scene feels a little different because I’m looking at it through the eyes of a different character. I know, some of you can probably manage this with every self insert game but it hadn’t even occurred to me as someone new to CRPGs.

        • Actually the herald does have a backstory (dialog options let you reveal this), depending on your race and class you can actually be of noble birth (and related to the Grey Warden/Hero of Ferelden if they too was of noble birth).

          Make sure to talk to companions each time you go back to base/HQ/Haven/Skyhold, they may ask about the background of the Herald (and you can say nothing, lie or tell the truth).

          Why that stuff wasn’t part of the interrogation I don’t know, apparently the interrogation went on for some while instead of what 30 sec we see).
          You came tumbling out of the rift, was in bed for days (weeks?) as notes you find in Haven will tell you, and then you where put in interrogation when you where healthy enough (and chained for some reason), why Cassandra would do something that harsh to a survive I don’t understand.

          The interrogation etc is never really brought up again (that I’ve noticed), one would think the Herald would hold a grudge at least for a few days.

          “Herald: You like chaining people up after they recover from serious injuries?”
          “Cassandra: What? Oh. I apologize for that but we had no idea if you where a threat or not, we did not know who you where.”
          “Herald: (flirt option) What else did you do to me while I was unconscious and chained up, something I need to know? *grin*”
          “Cassandra: I..I did nothing, I…Oh. You are jesting. But still the answer would be No!, nothing you where treated and cleaned properly.”
          “Herald: (insight) Hmm *you sniff your own clothes*, who washed me while I was unconscious?”
          “Cassandra: Enough! We are changing the subject. *looks away*”
          “Herald: *cheesy grin*”

          I think DA:I would have been better if they had dialed down a lot of the “MMO running around” stuff and put more into Herald background and companion dialog (and the Big Bad build up etc).
          Scout Harding for example seems unfinished, no idea if she was supposed to be romancable or even befriendable even but at a certain point it ends. (she is still adorable though).

          Companion backgrounds are pretty good, only thing I’d improve there is perhaps more chances to talk/hang out with them otherwise at Skyhold, like the card game (a few of you know what I’m talking about).
          Sure it’s all in the middle of a war and stuff..

          Hopefully DA4 will start more slow.
          The ideal for me would be similar to DA:O where you start and the world seems fine, then you stumble unto something bigger.
          That allows for a smoother introduction and lets you flesh out your character much better.

          While I liked DA:I’s intro it was a tad too “cold opening” for me.
          It could have started a few hours before the DA:I opening, where you as a “person” are on your way to the location of the summit, during the travel there you would probably be traveling with someone or better yet meet one of the potential companions (stumbling into Varric would be awesome at that point), it would also be awesome if you could miss/not join up with him as well. This could let the interrogation scene play out differently (with Varric defending you for example and making Cassandra see reason).

          I hope DA4 will “steal”! some of my ideas here (anyone from BioWare taking notes? :)

          But I’m rambling on way too long now.

          • aldowyn says:

            I really wish we could have seen the Conclave, the Temple of Sacred Ashes, and Justinia (who is one of the most important, interesting dead characters I’ve seen in a long time. Do you meet her in Leliana’s Song before she becomes Divine?), not to mention the Breach erupting. The only reason the amnesia was relevant was to hide the identity of the main antagonist, and you could write around that.

    • Zoe M. says:

      After a while it gets hard making new characters. Especially if you tend to stick with a single gender – either you end up with snowclones of the same main character or you have to work at things to make a distinct set of stories and characters.

      So, for instance, my Warden-Commander started out as a (city elf) racial avenger, was mostly good, but also very very self-confident. She was basically played as “Yeah, we’re going to win this. I’m the best.” and didn’t take any guff.

      My Mage Hawke, meanwhile, was essentially halfway between sarcastic!Hawke and aggressive!Hawke – out for her own power, with sympathies with the mage rebellion, until (hey, it’s Spoiler Warning!) her love interest and sympathizer Anders betrayed her trust. She ended up as a tragic failure of a sort, the instigator of the Mage rebellion but conflicted as to the why of it.

      My Herald, so far, is essentially the Joan of Arc story – she starts out uncertain and innocent, then becomes convinced of her own story halfway through and decides to be that Savior Archetype.

      That she has to (again, spoiler warning!) interact with Hawke just makes the conflict between them more interesting. Hawke really comes off as penitent and regretful when you meet her in game 3, which fits my idea of the narrative even though most of her aggressive nature is missing.

      It was a lot easier, though, just having one Paragon Shepard to play with, though, rather than a bunch of characters who really shouldn’t be the same character three times over but it’s easy to fall into that trap if you aren’t trying.

  11. tmtvl says:

    Oh come now, Dead Money is far better than Old World Blues, DM allows sneak-focused characters to get through it, enemies in OWB just take too much damage, and there’s far too many of them.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Well if you [pretentious voice]play it the way new vegas should be played[/pretentious voice],meaning as a melee character,youll have no problems with the any of the enemies.

      Also,you get xp for breathing in old world blues.That alone makes it superior to anything ever.

    • Alex says:

      I have never finished Dead Money for one simple reason: Christine. When I found out she can’t come back with you to New Vegas I was so disappointed that I reloaded a save game from before I started the DLC, so that one day a mod might let me.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      For me, Old World Blues stands head and shoulders over the rest. It really shows how unique the Fallout setting is that each of the DLCs can have such a distinct flavor to them but they all still make sense in this setting.

    • I didn’t have a problem with OWB mostly because by the time I got to it, I had the Robotics Expert perk, some other perks involving VATS and energy weapons, and (most importantly) the Pulse Gun. I could pretty much one-shot any mechanical foe in the game, save for the Giant Roboscorpion. Even that one didn’t last too long.

    • Zukhramm says:

      I couldn’t stand the structure/pacing of OWB. You get dumped with a massive conversation at the start, then you go do whatever, then you get another giant conversation at the end. The other three were way better about that.

      (And yes before anyone points it out Lonesome Road had a basically a single giant conversation to end it and nothing else, but you picked up story stuff along the way.)

  12. Ambitious Sloth says:

    Oh gosh, they actually pulled out my question – and talked about it for 16 minutes! Okay, play it cool. Play it cool…

    Th-thank you for answering my question.

    Dang it.

    But seriously though, thanks for giving it so much time. I never would have anticipated you all would talk about for a quarter of a Diecast episode. It was very interesting to listen to as I hadn’t thought about it from the view-point that games need to be of a certain length to warrant their price point.

    Also I’m curious what the final idea in the MrBtongue video would appear as if it showed up in a AAA game. The first thing I can see might happen is we get a lot more one on one fights where our foe is built up to seem powerful by developer caveat. Which means we could end up with a whole bunch of Kai Lengs, and the whole endeavor just makes people more angry than anything else.

    • IFS says:

      On the other hand we could get a lot of fights like Daud from Dishonored, which would be really cool. Really though the only game I can think of that takes anything similar to the suggested approach is Shadow of the Colossus, which is just a series of one on one boss fights, though they aren’t built up narratively that much so I’m not sure it quite fits the intent of the idea.

  13. Abnaxis says:

    Haven’t listened yet so this might have been brought up. Isn’t NWN2 the usual go-to title brought into the discussion where the expansion is better than the original?

    I actually never made it through MotB. I had already played through the original campaign, and for me there was a difficulty spike when you start the expansion that I didn’t have the attention span to slog through. I can only play any particular game for so long before I get distracted by a shiny new one…

    Thinking back, though, the spike was weird, because I never had trouble in the base game, while IIRC Shamus had to save-scum his way through it.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      The first neverwinter nights is the same.Vanilla game is dull,the expansions are great.You get a kobold bard,you get to torture your companions,and you get to open an inn with your slave spouse and a giant devil as your maid.

      • Rob says:

        Neverwinter Nights is a weird beast. Vanilla NWN was extremely meh by RPG standards, let alone the Bioware standard of the time, yet it was released during what’s usually regarded as Bioware’s golden era (around the time of Baldur’s Gate II and Knights of the Old Republic).

        It was poorly plotted, filled with flat characters and obvious ‘twists’, and the gameplay was 90% filler. It was also hamstrung by a moronic party system where you could only bring a single uncontrollable NPC along with you. In a Bioware game. In a D&D game. Yeah, not sure how they thought that was a good idea…

        It felt like the original campaign only existed as a reference module implementation for the Aurora Toolkit, and to give customers something to play with until the vastly superior community content started coming out.

        The first expansion (Shadows of Uldrentide) was a huge improvement, but NWN didn’t really come into its own until the second expansion, Hordes of the Underdark. The writing in that one was so good it even managed to make Deekin likable.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Hey,dont talk like that about deekin.He is a lovable little dragon.

        • John says:

          I agree with everything you said, except for the parts about Deekin. For shame, sir.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          I feel like they should get credit for the toolset and the way that allowed so many others to turn their own adventures into expansions for the game. Especially NWN2. I know the original adventure for NWN2 was bog standard DnD but when I fired it up, I was craving bog standard DnD.

          • aldowyn says:

            I’m fairly certain NWN2 was my introduction to D&D, and it did a pretty fair job at it. I played Mask of the Betrayer last summer and.. hoo boy is that anything but bog-standard D&D. It dives pretty deep into the lore, for one.

            • Wide And Nerdy says:

              I don’t know about that. Try pulling that on your DnD group.

              We’re talking about a campaign that starts with you being a soul devouring monster and ends with either you unleashing that monster once again or consigning yourself to the Fugue Plane for eternity. I think most groups would throw their dice at you one at a time if you pulled that on them.

      • John says:

        I’ve heard the claim somewhere that the original campaign was supposed to be more of a demo for the Toolset. If that’s true, it’s a really long demo. What I think is interesting (design-wise) about the original campaign is that it’s clearly designed to support co-op play. At least that’s the impression I get from a lot of the quest journal entries. I’ve never done a co-op run, but I can see the appeal, given the terrible, terrible AI for many of the henchmen. (Sharwyn, I hate you so much.)

        The expansions have better henchman AI, but don’t fix everything. Spellcaster AI is still not very good. And as they updated the game, I think Bioware actually broke a few things. In v 1.69, once a henchman casts improved invisibility they effectively stop participating in combat until the spell wears off. It makes Nathyrra in Hordes of the Underdark, who is not a terribly effective combatant to begin with, absolutely useless. I don’t remember that happening in my early HoTD playthroughs.

        • Rob says:

          Wait, are you saying you don’t like it when Boddyknock launches a fireball at your warrior in melee, or when Linu casts Cure Critical Wounds on your 90+% HP character? That’s just how they show affection!

          At least Bioware knew henchmen were useless. Why else would they constantly throw such ridiculously broken magical items at you?

          • John says:

            True story: My 6-year-old likes to watch me play NWN and KOTOR because she likes to watch recognizable people (and monsters and aliens) do stuff. (Most of my other games are strategy games and are much less compelling to watch.) I played SoU for her, and then HotU. I even built her her own combat-less mini-module to play. But she wanted more, so I started the original campaign.

            To be nice, I let her pick my companion. WHAT WAS I THINKING? She of course picked Sharwyn because Sharwyn is the prettiest. I was playing a sorceror, so I really, really could have used a meatshield like Daelan or Grimgnaw. Even Linu would have been okay. Somehow, I managed to make it almost to the very end of the game where you fight the two enslaved dragons despite Sharwyn’s horrible spell selection, low HP, and tendency to die. Then I switched to Daelan. It was like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

    • Ithilanor says:

      MotB is somewhat hamstrung by the spirit-eating mechanic; while it’s tied to the storyline and themes, it’s a lot harder and more punishing than it needed to be.

      • guy says:

        It can be a bit problematic. Mostly it comes down to managing the Craving meter or just throwing caution to the winds and becoming the all-consuming. The big trick is that Suppress reduces your craving and gives back a small amount of hunger that goes up the more spirits are nearby. And you can perform one devour in a day without increasing your Craving meter. Alternately, if you get Devour Soul and Spirit Gorge, it’s easy to keep up with the drain even at max craving.

      • ehlijen says:

        Yeah, as soon as I got the tooltip explain that mechanic after beating up plumebear, I quit the game. I’d already been running around aimlessly trying to find something to do that wasn’t above my level weight, I wasn’t going to deal with a real time hunger mechanic on top of that.

        Plus, I liked the ridiculous humour of NWN2, and MotB lacking that wasn’t helping for me.

        • guy says:

          Plus, I liked the ridiculous humour of NWN2, and MotB lacking that wasn’t helping for me.

          “XP GRANTED FOR BECOMING JARL OF A CLAN OF FROST GIANTS AND IMMEDIATELY KICKING THEM ALL OUT OF THE CLAN”

          Yes, that is an actual quest completion message from MOTB.

          • aldowyn says:

            Ha, that was great, yeah. It *was* rare, though, and a lot of it was pretty relentlessly bleak compared to standard obsidian fare. (or certainly Bioware!) My favorite part was making the ending as hopeful as I could.

      • Otters34 says:

        I loved that mechanic, and how the spirit-eater thing coloured the rest of the game. It was a total pain in the ass, got really frustrating, and until I got Satiate put everything on a timer…but then that moment comes at the tree, where you can finally, FINALLY, after hours of this THING ruling you, and all but ordering how you play the game, it’s just that much under your control. I had loved the experience of wrestling with something that has its claws around your heart, struggling to play things right so it doesn’t just twist and kill you, and at last you have the power to openly defy your former master.

        I will readily grant that putting up with all that is kind of unreasonable and hampers the rest of the expansion, but I loved it to pieces.

  14. Karthik says:

    Better than the base game: Knife of Dunwall & Brigmore Witches, the Daud campaign for Dishonored.

    It was better on every level. In decreasing order of impact: It had a voiced character, a character arc, an expanded world, better designed, larger and more intricate levels, more creative powers with some interesting side-uses, and a revamped blink that let you pull off crazy moves you couldn’t in Dishonored.

    I even remember it having better voice acting on the whole, but I may be misremembering. (Or rather, better voice direction, which is Bethesda’s problem on the whole.)

    Unfortunately, it also had the Boresider, so it loses many points there. It would have been very cool if to Daud, the Outsider manifested as someone or something else entirely. Like if the outsider possessed random people around Daud and spoke through them, or if Daud just saw non-existant writing on the walls everywhere. It would have enriched the fiction while allowing a clean break from the terrible version of the trickster god from Dishonored.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      Better than the base game.

      Skyrim Dragonborn. You could see with each expansion they were figuring out things that hadn’t worked in the base game. IMO, Miraak is a better villain and better boss fight. Dungeon and quest line design were better (Also agree with Oblivion Shimmering Isles) Notable mention to Hearthfire for giving me a money sink and kids to give me some more investment.

      Dragon Age 2 Mark of the Assassin: Kind of anyway. By the time I got to it, I was craving something brighter and more cheerful than dreary Kirkwall. I could even forgive Felicia Day for her self insert character.

      Mass Effect 3 Leviathan and Citadel were better than the base game overall (though the Tuchunka/Mordin/Wrex stuff is better anything else).

  15. ooli says:

    Nice outro.

    And, I like the upbeat music.
    I suppose it’s a Shamus one, so you should erase the kevin mac leod shout out in the Diecast banner.

  16. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Its funny that they lead off with basically a 20 minute discussion about how Valve hasn’t finished anything in years followed by their Dragon Age segment being about Dragon Age 2 . . . because Shamus hasn’t finished playing a video game.

    Not beating up on you. I get that the game takes a while to play. I just thought it was a funny juxtaposition.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      A far better one is that he hasnt finished his game.And Rutskarn has finished his.Because kids these days are always in a hurry.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        Rustskarn had the right idea. I keep playing this game and its really just feeling like a waste of time. I’m only doing a second playthrough because I missed a lot of companion stuff the first time and the companion stuff is ok but not great.

        Like it had good moments but it also had some really meh moments and I can’t give it anything more than an “ok but not great.” Which I guess is . . . fine . . . sure . . .

        Beautiful landscapes sure, nice music, fun characters. None of them, and I mean none of them are particularly compelling. Sure some people are on about Dorian but its one of those things where he’s just scoring points because Bioware did it. When someone does a character like him, there’s always going to be a certain segment that automatically awards points for it.

        Iron Bull was fun but again not amazing. Lots of funny stuff with him but I also don’t like what he represents as far as Bioware’s backpedaling about the Qun.

        Sera is fingernails on chalkboard. There’s a version of this character that could have worked but they screwed it up. She’s a little too unbelievably goofy. There’s also the fact that she’s lil miss Occupy Wall Street (I am far from the first to notice) which goes over a lot better with some people than it does with me. But I can honestly say that my problems with her started before I noticed she was that character.

        And Vivienne. Whats the first thing she does? Bullies a guy for her own amusement. Yes the guy was going for his sword but she knows this guy is just some young whelp and no threat to me. And if I ask, she will murder the man quite casually in front of her guests. I ran through all three versions of that dialog to see what kind of character she was.

        I guess we’re not supposed to go into detail but the actual ending is underwhelming. Though the thing you do right before it is pretty interesting and it kind of feels like they should have just tacked the final battle onto that.

        But yeah. The balance of this experience is that when Bioware puts in the effort, like they did this time, they can churn out a substantial game but it utterly lacks spark. The team that gave us HK47 is long gone.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          I was actually talking about good robot and unrest.

          • Wide and Nerdy says:

            Oh ha. Coffee. Need coffee.

            • Wide And Nerdy says:

              Side note about weird juxtapositions. Dragon Age Inquisition ending spoiler.

              SPOILER

              [spoiler]People complain about your efforts not being reflected in the final battle. Its worse. So you get back home and you can have a last conversation with everybody before the final battle. Then you actually have to go to your war table and activate the “Corypheus catches me with my pants down” mission from your war table so that Corypheus can attack you at Skyhold when you suddenly inexplicably have none of your forces at Skyhold. And it can’t be because my forces aren’t there because in the previous battle I said “screw our forces, we’re going with the advance scout party.” What the hell our my forces doing?

              Not that it matters because its just Corypheus and a dragon and I have a dragon to cancel out his dragon so its just me and my squad against Corypheus. What were my rank and file troops going to contribute to this battle anyway? Yeah. It was pretty bad. [/spoiler]

              Sorry, i can’t figure out how to spoiler this.

              • Supahewok says:

                Try [strike], only instead of brackets, use ><.

              • guy says:

                Yeah, I was not thrilled by the final dungeon. Though actually I think I know why it turned out that way, and not purely from laziness.

                Actually, you can do any number of things between recruiting your pet dragon and initiating the final mission, which makes your forces not being at Skyhold even stranger. Then when you start the mission it has the cutscene, and then tears a castle that I’m pretty sure isn’t Skyhold itself out of the ground for a dramatic stage in which to have a massive final dungeon, and then you instantly start fighting Corypheus. And I think maybe three demons so that once you include the dragons the teams are of equal size.

                But actually, I think it’s because one of the big complaints about ME3, KOTOR, and some of the other Bioware games is that the final dungeon is a big slog. Personally, I think that’s a matter of taste; I actually like capping off the game with a gigantic final dungeon full of enemies before the final showdown, but lots of people don’t. And certainly making it fun requires more effort than just making a huge map and filling it with standard enemies.

                So Bioware ridiculously over-corrected and went from having a huge final dungeon to having it be just a boss arena.

                • Wide And Nerdy says:

                  I’m not concerned about whether or not its a huge battle. I just wanted something dramatic that tied into things better. Maybe a dialog about godhood.

                  The whole thing about having an attentive god vs an inattentive one could have used a lot more play. “I’m going to be god because the throne is empty and someone should fill it” is very compelling especially with what was already established in this series.

                  • guy says:

                    That could theoretically have fit in a different story, but not really this one. You’re obviously not going to let Corypheus become god. Potentially the Inquisitor could have tried to become god, but frankly at no point was I or my Inquisitor really convinced that the plan was going to work and quite sure the attempt would devastate the world as The Breach devoured the sky. And even if someone got to the Black City, the last time Corypheus did that he became one of the original Darkspawn.

                    • I found the lead up to the final battle a tad anemic, I was hoping to see armies clash even if only in the distance and in a in-game cutscene or similar. The largest I saw was just small lumps/groups scattered her and there. Sure DA:O had that too but the cutscene an the lead up to the boss fight had it feel like you where wading through a enemy army with your allies, sending a werewolves strike was fun etc.

                    • aldowyn says:

                      I was imagining more of a Morrowind style dialog. Yeah, you’re going to kill him, but can you imagine spending half an hour TALKING to him? He ends up being totally wasted because he has a couple interesting throwaway lines at Haven and that’s it. Also, I was really hoping to go to the Black City. Nothing saying something like the darkspawn being created would happen again. (assuming that IS what happened, since the game *still* leaves that up do debate. Somewhat.)

                    • Wide And Nerdy says:

                      I’m not talking about making it a choice. I’m talking about you having multiple encounters with him or his followers where this is discussed in more detail. It really could have been a more pervasive debate with allies and maybe even one or two friends turning.

                      How powerful would it be if say, Cullen, Lelianna, or Cassandra turned. Lelianna in particular seems well set up for it at the beginning of the game with her crisis of faith but you could easily make a case for Cullen too. Maybe the one that turns would be based on whether you went Mages or Templars.

                      Of course it would have to be a little less obvious that Corypheus is a monster. And his argument would need to be more compelling and elaborate, maybe with object lessons on how his active hand can have benevolent effects.

                      It would also potentially play into another underdeveloped theme, which is your Inquisition continuing to justify it’s existence after the initial crisis, i.e. the breach, passes.

                    • Zak McKracken says:

                      I haven’t really got anything to say but this thread just needs one more comment consisting entirely of striked (stricken? stroken? stroked?) text.

                • “recruiting your pet dragon” yeah, if you let Morrigan drink of the well you may not let her hear you call the dragon that :P

          • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

            HA!

            Oh, I haven’t laughed that much at a comment in years.

        • IFS says:

          I also like Iron Bull (and all the characters, though Solas felt a little bland to me for most of the game) but the backpedaling on the Qun is something I find interesting. After all our main basis for discussing it is Sten from the first game, who straight up says that he is not qualified to explain the Qun and that he is far from representative of the Qunari (To quote him: “you cannot summarize a people so easily as ‘the elves are a lithe pointy eared people that excel at poverty'”). Which definitely leaves room for expansion and alteration of how the Qun is portrayed to us. That said some of what Iron Bull says seems contradictory to what we’ve learned before, though that could be excused as him having been outside the Qun for a long time and having lost a lot of faith in it, so his views might be different from the Qun itself. If it is backpedaling then its at least an interesting case of it that could be taken multiple ways (until they retcon it completely, which won’t happen until we actually see visit Seheron or Parvollen or something in a later game).

          • Zoe M. says:

            I really like Blackwall. He’s not so uptight that he can’t get a little humor sometimes, and he has that whole lumbersexual thing going on… Mmmm, beards. :D

            Most of the characters are just a little too eclectic for their own good, though. Like they were trying to get Unique Characters without so much worrying about Believable Characters.

            (Cole, for instance… Yeah. He’s like Justice, but more quirky and less obviously alien. He just feels like a cartoon.)

            • IFS says:

              Blackwall also has my favorite personal mission of any of the characters, its twist is foreshadowed nicely if you’re paying attention and the choice in it is brilliant imo.

              • guy says:

                I haven’t actually done that quest. Let me check the wiki and- yeah, thought so. Honestly, I thought it was obvious enough I wanted to know why the characters didn’t figure it out and call him on it.

              • PlasmaPony says:

                I am actually in the process of doing his companion quest, but even without that I figured something was up with him after I dealt with the Grey Wardens. After all, he never spoke of hearing the calling. That was a big mental flag for me.

          • guy says:

            I got the impression that Iron Bull wasn’t exactly with the program when it came to the Qun, and he mostly just said, “eh, you’re doing okay without it for now.” Then again, I didn’t really talk to him enough to get him to make definitive statements about the actual doctrine.

            • Wide And Nerdy says:

              And Sten isn’t the only one we have to go off of. We have extensive conversations with the Arishok too.

              You have a philosophy that is presented as “Things are and there is no changing their nature so you don’t adhere to your nature then you fail. Oh and we’re going to tell you exactly what your nature is.” And you have multiple harsh severe characters. Sten murders a bunch of people because he lost his blade. The Arishok sits stewing for years because he lost a book and it pisses him off that everyone around him just kind of does whatever they want. Then that Qunari mage in the second game sets himself on fire because he’s supposed to.

              Everything about the Qun up to this point suggests a very severe and invariant way of thinking. Tallis is an exception sure, but she’s an elf who sought the Qun, presumably because she likes the certainty of it, so she’s struggling with her elf nature. But Iron Bull makes it all seem like its no big deal. “Yeah, we all serve a higher purpose and its cool and we mostly have things figured out and it all mostly just works.”

              It only makes sense if Iron Bull is lying to himself. I think at this point in his life, the Qun represents something familiar he can return to someday if the world beyond gets to be too much for him. And he’s kind of whitewashed it in his mind so that its all familiar and homey to him. Its like his coping mechanism as his more free-willed personality is emerging. So I made him go Tal-Vashoth. I think up to that point he’d failed to realize that the outside world became home for him at some point and he really wouldn’t be happy going back.

              • guy says:

                The way I like to think of it is that the Chantry and the Qun have very different answers to “what is my purpose in life, and what will I get?” The Chantry says you can find the purpose that suits you best and the Maker will reward you, so go forth and find your calling. The Qun says your purpose is to break rocks and your reward is a house and food, here is your pickaxe, food delivery is scheduled for noon.

                You can see why the Qun spreads so readily in the poorer quarters of Kirkwall, where people have very few possibilities open to them and would gladly trade all of them for a certainty in which they do not starve. But it is obviously less persuasive in areas where people can reasonably count on not starving and would like to be able to make choices.

                • Wide And Nerdy says:

                  Thats a good point. I had thought about how compelling the certainty of the Qun is. I hadn’t thought about how compelling the success of it would be to the down and out.

                  Side note because I can’t edit previous:
                  I think when I finally hit the “Oh come on!” point was when Iron Bull mentions “Yeah. And you can get sex whenever you need it. Its not even a big deal.”

                  Gaider is laying it on a little thick after the last game.

                  • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

                    One of the reasons I was initially interested in Dragon Age: Origins is because it looked like it took the idea of religion built into a society pretty seriously. The Chantry was integrated into the civil and political life of Thedas in ways very similar -at least on the surface -to that of medieval Christianity. The Fereldan Army wanted the blessings of the Chantry before going into battle. Chantries were central buildings in several towns. The Knight Commander of the Fereldan Templars refuses to move into the tower without the permission of the head of the Fereldan Chantry. When the Dwarf Kingdoms threatened a Dwarven Chantry, the Ferelden Chantry threatened them with an Exalted March, and the Princes and Teyrns were willing to follow it.

                    By Dragon Age 2, that had been dispensed with. The head of the Kirkwall Chantry should have been able to rein in both Meredith and Orsino, but didn’t. Meredith should have been terrified of invoking the Right of Annulment without the approval of the Divine in Val Reyoux, but wasn’t. While the Chantry didn’t appear to have the ability to excommunicate, the threat of a Exalted March against heretics and blasphemers in Kirkwall should have at least caused some hesitation.

                    Sounds like they’ve simply given up the ghost entirely on this, and religion in Thedas is now a thoroughly modern background phenomenon that no one gives much thought to.

                    • guy says:

                      I would not exactly say that happens in Inquisition. The Chantry itself is somewhat less relevant because its leadership kind of exploded, but the Inquisitor/Herald Of Andraste is rather relevant.

                      I got the sense in 2 that the Grand Cleric wasn’t quite up to the challenge of managing the situation. There’s much more to being in control than simply having a high rank. And honestly, the medieval Catholic Church wasn’t necessarily as powerful as it’s usually perceived. It depended on the Pope and kings of the time. Less than two centuries separated the First Crusade and the Avignon Papacy, and not too long before the Crusades Popes were appointed by emperors.

                      During DA2, Justinia V is a well-liked but weak Divine who lacks the will to force kings to kneel.

                    • IFS says:

                      Elthina (head of Kirkwall’s chantry) is shown to be too trusting of Meredith and Meredith herself is pretty far gone by the time she invokes the rite. While I don’t disagree that they took some more modern aspects of religion starting around DA2 I don’t think they ‘gave up the ghost’ entirely.

                    • guy says:

                      Actually, I think the Elthina/Meredith thing is an example of what made the Arishok go on his rampage. Elthina was in charge. She did offically have authority over Meredith. And yet, Meredith did things that conflicted with Elthina’s desires. This mortally offended the Arishok because it was flatly contradictory to the very basis of the Qun, that everyone has their purpose and must fulfill it.

                      Admittedly, before the Red Lyrium’s song destroyed her mind, Meredith was actually a reasonable person. Yes, she was the local Knight Commander and ran the confinement of the mages, but she vetoed the Tranquil plan, was willing to accept the return of mages who had become Apostates but not Maleficarum, and employed her training battling Saarebas during the battle. Also, her post was a pretty stressful one; if you track down some of the hidden lore bits you learn that Kirkwall has so much trouble with mages and demons because the place is cursed. It’s the site of massive blood sacrifices so vast the sewer system is specially designed to handle it and the old road layouts form mystical symbols as part of experiments by the Tevinter Magisters to weaken the veil.

                    • DA1 was about the Darkspawn/Blight (besides introducing people to the Dragon Age universe/world).
                      DA2 was about the mage uprising/conflict, it sort of began in DA1 but blew up in DA2.
                      In DA3 it’s about the Rift but also about the ramifications of what happen in DA2.

                      The Qun and Qunari are fleshed out more and more.
                      At the end of DA3 (not really a spoiler) a new Divine is chosen for The Chantry.
                      And the Mages Circle and the Templars and The Wardens are all in disarray.
                      Elven racism (against them) is still an issue and the isolationism of the Dwarves is still very high (or more so after DA1).
                      Tevinter slavery is still a issue. And rich/poor gap is huge in Orlais etc.

                      If anything there is a s much world issues in DA3 as in DA1. But you need to fully explore the companion story archs to get it all and still you may need to do a lot of side-quests to get more.
                      In DA1 you could get a lot of that info through your characters origin, you don’t in DA3.
                      And in DA2 your origin was pretty much fixed.

                    • aldowyn says:

                      I would *strongly* disagree. The chantry is sometimes weak, but the idea of it still a very important one, woven throughout all of Inquisition far more so than the previous games. The Chantry and the belief in it is central to several characters (Cassandra, Leliana, and Cullen, notably), the Inquisition is an inherently religious organization (the original Inquisition was the forerunners to the Seekers of Truth and the Templars, and it was called on the order of Justinia.), the antagonist’s simple existence is a comment on their teachings, and even the protagonist is seen as the ‘Herald of Andraste’.

                      I would go so far as to say the main ‘theme’ of the game, such as there can said to be one, is religious Faith.

                    • Alexander The 1st says:

                      @guy:

                      Wait – there’s a lore-relevant reason as to why they re-use the environments all the time?

                    • Attercap says:

                      @guy

                      The “lore” reason environments are re-used and waves of enemies pop out of nowhere is in the framing of the narrative–everything happening is Varric’s story to Cassandra. The dwarf doesn’t want to describe every single cavern and castle and he wants any battles to be overblown. It’s a bit of a lazy hand-wave of lore, but that’s the explanation.

              • Joe Informatico says:

                Well, Bull is a spy. It’s not really practical to expect him to remain a textbook follower of the Qun while gathering intelligence in lands where it doesn’t hold sway. The Qunari would have allow their agents in foreign lands some flexibility.

                • Thomas says:

                  Besides, Bull is lying to himself. He couldn’t accept the Qun and they had to brainwash him, then they set him out into the field, by his own admission because he was a little too awkward to keep around. He constantly disagrees with his supervisors but keeps place out of loyalty, and the first time that loyalty is questioned he immediately wants to break out of it.

                  One of his lines is “I like the Qun, but I like it better over there”

        • guy says:

          Ah, Vivienne. She did annoy me during the first meeting, mostly because someone had just opted to challenge me to an honor duel and I felt like taking him up on it because I’d been very carefully doing my best to be diplomatic to people who were insulting me and it was starting to try my patience right when someone tried to obligate me to kill him.

          But I was willing to deal with that and invite her back to base. Supposedly she’s very politically savvy. Either that’s a blatant lie or a trait she handily demonstrated by convincing me to deliberately shun her for the rest of the game in her very first in-base conversation. I asked her what she thought of the mage rebellion and she proceeded to deliver a lengthy insulting speech about how the Grand Enchanter was a naive idiot for deciding to vote for rebellion just because the Templars had imposed further restrictions after attempting to exterminate two Circles, not counting Ferelden’s, because the succession vote might upset people.

          I immediately decided that I didn’t like her and she clearly possessed no genuine political skill whatsoever if she botched her understanding of the motives of the involved parties that badly. And, since I was a Tal-Vashoth mage, if that was what she expected me to want to hear she was even more incompetent.

          • Thomas says:

            I don’t think she lacked political skills at all. Her summary of the events of the rebellion sound very reasonable to anyone who wants to be moderate “I agree the mages were often in bad situations, but rebelling now makes it sound like they support terrorism”, “there are some good circles and some bad circles”

            The problem is, you think she’s being honest to you. She’s not.

            She doesn’t care about the actual reasons for mages rebelling, she just wants to spread the idea that the status quo is okay and the people in charge didn’t screw up. And she’s doing that because 1)She was at the top in the status quo and 2)The people in charge will continue to want to be nice to her

            If she can make her main rival in the Mages out to be a reckless idiot, even better.

            Vivienne doesn’t believe the mages will _win_ and she’s not going to attach herself to a sinking ship. She believes Orlais will come out on top at the end of the day and the Inquisition will come out on top, so she attaches herself to those organisation and disengages herself from the fight.

            I’m pretty sure Vivienne is the one character whose never honest with you. Every word she tells you is a carefully crafted court lie. It might not work on the Inquisitor, but this is how you play the Game and you win at court.

            • guy says:

              Yeah well, if her political skills couldn’t tell her that a Tal’Vashoth mage* would not take kindly to that particular lie, they clearly aren’t very good. And she overplayed her position by ignoring the Annulments of the Kirkwall and Rivian Circles**. Even if she disagreed with the rebellion for strategic reasons, if she wants to present herself as a moderate she needs to convince people she at least comprehends the reason why the Mages made that decision.

              So either she’s incompetent or she’s very competent and was deliberately trying to anger the Inquisitor.

              *who by Circle standards is an Apostate and whose character bio said she fled Par Vollan to avoid getting her tongue cut out by her homeland’s mage control system

              ** Also potentially the Fereldan Circle, but a Pride Abomination had kidnapped the senior enchanters, the tower was full of demons with flesh growing from the walls, and most of the mages not imprisoned or mind-controlled had turned to Blood Magic even before the situation became dire. I could see the Knight-Commander’s point there.

        • aldowyn says:

          The ending (not counting the after-credits stinger) was *very* underwhelming.

          That said, Cassandra is my new favorite bioware character. I keep thinking ‘no, she can’t possibly be better than Garrus’ and then I play more and I love every line. Cole, Iron Bull (I’m not sure what you mean by ‘backpedaling’ regarding the Qun? He’s very much an outlier, and acknowledged as such), and Solas are also pretty great. And there were several moments in the main story I just loved.

          The moment-to-moment gameplay is just okay, enough to keep me playing for 80 hours, but the main story is waaaay better than either of the other dragon age games in my estimation.

          I guess I just like ‘new’ Bioware better. KotOR was really good, but man I love me some Mass Effect, and Inquisition was amazing.

  17. Nalyd says:

    Mumbles, what Anders was to you is who Isabella was to me. Not that I loved Anders either, but Isabella was the one that I reeeeally hated. She pissed me off so much that I gave her to the Arishok at the end of Act 2. She’s just so selfish and not giving a shit about anything worth giving a shit about. I mean, I get that she doesn’t blow up the chantry, but she could have prevented the entire Qunari presence in Kirkwall by just not stealing their fucking holy shit. Or just giving it back later. I got so angry when she told me that. Fuck Isabella. :|

    • Mumbles says:

      I get what you’re saying. To me, she was someone who meant well, but who fucked up for selfish reasons. I could forgive her for her fuck ups because I liked her and she came back to try and make shit right. I think Anders tried to do what he thought was right and Anders-apologists kind of say the same thing I say about Isa.

      • Vect says:

        From my experience, Anders’ problem is that he mostly comes off as kind of a hypocrite, and everyone hates hypocrites. He basically nags at everyone to care about the mages, even characters with little investment in the conflict (Varric and Isabela) yet generally treats them like shit when they make it clear that not everyone thinks exactly like him. He never really gives a shit about the problems of others and in the case of Fenris or Merrill he’ll just say “They deserve it”. While his problems are understandable, the fact that he and Justice/Vengeance is such a dick about it makes it hard to care for him from his perspective.

        • Mike S. says:

          Anders strikes me as a very plausible one-issue activist. “A fanatic is someone who can’t change his mind, and won’t change the subject.”
          Being that focused on one injustice often results in discounting explaining away others whose solutions conflict with one’s own, in my experience.

          I liked him, then was concerned and put off, and when his sudden but inevitable betrayal came I killed him for it. (Murdering hundreds of people and starting a multinational civil war in the hopes of getting a bunch of potential human WMDs the ability to operate entirely without limitation… yeah no. The way mages are treated is awful, but a just solution is a hard problem, and blowing up a cathedral isn’t going to make it easier.) But I thought he was a well-drawn character.

          Except maybe his acceptance of his death– I’d have expected him to spit defiance. But that may have been the justice spirit in him, recognizing that he had to pay for what he’d done even if he thought it was a righteous cause.

          • lurkey says:

            I have a theory that quite a lot of people hate Anders because he had too much agency for a NPC, and people playing heroic fantasy wish fulfillment games do not appreciate a limelight stealing NPC. In a way Anders is more DA2’s protagonist than Hawke is — him being proactive when Hawke is mostly reactive, single-handedly causing the most world-changing event in the game (regardless of Hawke’s input) and even doing small character building things like dumping the PC-in-romance over a moral issue.

            (He is also a really very good troll for a NPC, but that’s unrelated).

            • guy says:

              I am extremely put out with him because there is no option to kill him way back in Act 1 when you discover he is an Abomination. This is part of the hidden running theme of DA2, where Hawke is apparently a Disaster Demon and only has major accomplishments that end very badly. The most world-changing event in the game was recovering that cursed idol.

              • lurkey says:

                All the idol did was giving an utter bullshit excuse for the Big Bad becoming, well, bad instead of showing her downfall through characterization.

                And of course you cannot kill Anders before his story arc is concluded. He’s the protagonist. :)

                • guy says:

                  Meredith’s actions in the endgame were so obviously insane compared to her prior characterization as someone who was in any way reasonable that I doubt the transition could be explained in any other fashion short of an evil doppleganger. Not only was Anders never a member of the Kirkwall circle, the First Enchanter had been going directly into the blast radius until Meredith personally stopped him.

                  Also, Red Lyrium comes back in a big way for Inquisition.

                  • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

                    Anders is a peculiar combination of anarchist/nationalist that doesn’t make much sense to begin with and makes even less in context. When I try to give the game the benefit of the doubt, I imagine that the theme of the game is that when people are willing to destroy everything to get their way -which Meredith, Orsino, the Chantry Sisters, and the Arishaak are all willing to do -then they’ll destroy everything.

                    That’s already pretty banal, but I can let it slide because the Arishaak, at least, can explain why he would rather destroy everything -including himself -rather than compromise. The Qun orders his life. If he cannot live by the Qun, he would rather die by the Qun, but the Qun does not give him that right. So he ultimately tries to arrange circumstances where he will either die honorably or else be in a position to live his life the way he wants. Similarly, the Chantry Sisters are willing to provoke the Qunari rather than lose their power over Kirkwall (see my earlier comments about how little that makes sense, but I can live with it).

                    Anders, however, starts a religious war for no reason. He doesn’t intend to get his way -he surrenders immediately after -nor does he kill the person actually threatening him, or representing the person actually threatening him. He has no doctrinal point he wishes to vindicate, nor does he want to see his enemies consumed by war as revenge (that would at least be in character for Vengeance). He… just does it. I guess because he’s not getting his way and just wants to lash out.

                    Anders’ real-life counterpart is Gavrillo Princep. Except they wrote him as Charles Guiteau.

              • aldowyn says:

                I don’t think calling him an Abomination is quite fair. He still has partial control, and it’s left to interpretation to what degree Justice has turned to Vengeance.

            • ehlijen says:

              I thought he worked as intended. Passionate, but very badly misguided. And a bit dumb (blowing up the one person who might have helped reach a compromise but leaving the enemy fanatics alive? How was that going to help?).

              I think the dislike might be more because when he asks you to help him set up the bomb thing (making you gather ingredients, getting you to help him get into the chantry) but you can’t call him on what he’s up to if you figure it out (seriously, the stuff he has you gather is explosive and what would a mage with explosives want in a chantry unobserved?).

              You can refuse in which case he does it anyway, or you can blindly help him and that be ‘surprised’ by plot fiat. You can’t stop him or warn anyone. You are made complicit (unless you go the oblivious ‘sorry, no time, fetch quests to complete’ excuse) with no option to affect the outcome.

              • Mike S. says:

                “(blowing up the one person who might have helped reach a compromise but leaving the enemy fanatics alive? How was that going to help?)”

                Anders wanted a war, which he hoped to win. He emphatically didn’t want a compromise, which he saw as continued oppression for his people. (Which it would be– it’s not clear that it’s possible for both mages to be free from unjust restrictions and everyone else to be reasonably safe from abominations, blood mages, and flat out abuse of magical power.)

                So he tried to remove the possibility as far as he could. It’s a very honestly radical thing to do– if your cause is your top priority, and human lives aren’t. Which describes Anders in DA2 to a tee.

                • ehlijen says:

                  I guess. Orison (or whatever the spelling was) turning into an abomination boss no matter which side you pick was stupid, but I guess it set the tone for ‘mages are just abominations waiting to inevitably happpen’. Which in my opinion cheapens the setting and destroys the ambiguity the writers were going for :(

                  • guy says:

                    Well, in the setting mages totally can become abominations at basically any time if they feel like it, and might under sufficient pressure. Such as if a crazed commander has ordered the slaughter of everyone they know and refused a surrender on the basis that some completely unrelated guy killed a lot of people.

                    Though actually, technically I think Orsino was a Harvester, which is some sort of flesh golem monster and not an Abomination. No demons, just a very bad idea. Also it turns out that now Templars can turn into Horrors if they feel like it, so I seriously question why they should be allowed out of the Circle if mages aren’t

                    • aldowyn says:

                      That’s only with red lyrium, and those using it have denied the authority of the Chantry ANYWAY, so it’s a moot point.

                    • IFS says:

                      That only happens if they imbibe a specific substance which does similar things to anyone. So its not so much if they feel like it but rather if they drink a very dangerous thing, which also drives them insane with one notable exception.

                      As for Orsino that moment sort of works if you side with the Templars, but otherwise doesn’t work at all. The only justification ever really given is that he was desperate, but that’s still kind of cheap. That said I don’t feel it destroys the ambiguity of the setting as there are examples of good mages who don’t resort to such things. Bethany and Hawkes father are two examples (though you only see much of Hawkes father in the Legacy DLC), Merrill is also an interesting example as while she is a blood mage she is a very good person (if socially inept and naive) and while she makes mistakes and things go wrong related to her use of blood magic you can argue that it’s not necessarily her use of blood magic that leads to them but rather peoples fearful reactions over the use of that magic (which is sort of a theme in the game, that is peoples fear making problems worse). Hawke himself can also be an example of a good mage, even a good blood mage if you choose the specialization.

                • Sleeping Dragon says:

                  Exactly this. And we have to remember that spirits are by very nature extremists, they embody an ideal that they can’t compromise in the same way that a human can’t will himself to be less fleshy, maybe even more so. When Justice merged with Anders he got an intimate review and experience of his life of persecution, most likely filtered through how Anders remembere it, except as a spirit he did not have all the human coping mechanisms, he can’t bottle it, he can’t compromise…

                  Personally I always thought that NOT renaming Justice to Vengeance would better present how inhuman the spirits are, even the supposedly benign or friendly ones. Anders/Vengeance/Justice does this horrible, horrible thing because from his, inhumanly absolute, point of view it is better to start a war that will set Thedas on fire than tolerate the situation.

                  The main thing that I would change about this arc would make it more prominent and give the PC more agency in it. Maybe make Anders a prominent figure in the apostate/rebel mage movement with others being unaware of his exact plans? He could then either use the player as he would the apostates or he could succeed despite the player’s efforts to stop him (perhaps sacrificing himself, or his accomplices, in the process). For that matter he should probably destroy himself either way since he is doing a horrible, horrible thing that’s not really agreeable with either human sensibilities or his spiritual nature (it’s hardly Just to kill the Great Cleric who was really trying to better the mage’s lot, and it is an act that should be avenged if we go with Vengeance).

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        I just don’t like that type of oversexed character in general, guy or girl like they love it and they’re getting lots of it and thats mostly what they talk about because thats their life. The only time I like it is when its completely over the top like “You slept with the Overlord?”

        The only time it works for me is when its an awkward kind of geeky character where their urges are in conflict with their overall awkwardness. Like Traynor or even Oghren.

        Though I do find myself wishing Isabela had shown up just long enough in this game to sleep with the Inquisitor just so she could score the hat trick.

        And she does have her likable side too. She’s not nearly as annoying as Anders or (for me) Fenris

        • Greg says:

          I thought I was the only one who was massively annoyed by Fenris. Although in my case it’s kind of unfair. As a character he was just kind of bland to me, nothing to get angry or up in arms about; but he just seemed so tailor made to be “cool” that I couldn’t take him seriously, in everything from his backstory to his accent to his ridiculous tattooed bishi face. Just … every time he was on the screen it triggered my “you are playing a video game” sense and totally broke my immersion.

          I also enjoyed Isabela’s company … right up until it’s revealed what she stole. Then I was like “Okay, well, that was a dick move, I like you less now, but I’ll help you make it right, sure.” THEN she splits with it and leaves you to deal with the frickin’ war she caused, citing some BS reason “they’ll kill me if I don’t give it to them!” Lady, do you know just how many people we’ve killed?! It was obviously an excuse to just be incredibly selfish and screw everyone else over, and I would have killed her right there if I could have. When she showed up I absolutely turned her over to the Qunari with not a second thought, and was even more annoyed when it’s revealed she magically escapes (from a warship! in the middle of the ocean!). EDIT: Okay, not without a second thought, but since the choice was between turning her over for something that she absolutely did, and fighting a dude I respected to the death in order to defend her selfishness, it was not a hard decision.

          I also killed Anders for what he did, but I was less angry at him and more just “Yeah, I absolutely saw this coming, Anders has been pretty much irreparably broken for the entire game”. I was slightly annoyed that I couldn’t do anything to stop him (as it’s telegraphed VERY blatantly exactly what he’s going to do).

          Say what you will about DA:I’s characters, but none of them rubbed me the wrong way like this or had incredibly obvious bad things they do that you can’t stop. I didn’t like Vivienne as a person, but as a character she works just fine; I found Cole’s concept slightly interesting but was turned off by his magical memory erasing (because it would be super useful in the actual plot, or really in anything, but is never once utilized at all); I adored Sera, though I can see why she’d be off-putting to some; I found Solas standoffish but interesting; etc., etc. The one I was a bit disappointed in was Varric, as he seems to have been a bit neutered for this game, but he was still a pleasure to hang out with.

          • Mike S. says:

            To be fair, a lot of the telegraphy depends on knowledge Hawke may not have. (Like what you’d use saltpeter, sulfur, and charcoal to make. A Qunari would certainly have twigged right away.)

            That sort of terrorism also may be new to Thedas. (Though given that everything else horrible that anyone can imagine happens somewhere, maybe not.)

          • Vermander says:

            Ander and Fenris were definitely my least favorite characters. I think the problem was that both of them kept asking me to get involved in their personal causes, which I honestly didn’t care all that much about. They seemed like the kind of person who would be constantly trying to drag you to political rallies or asking you to come see their one man play.

            I really liked the other four characters though. My favorite part of the games was listening to their conversations while we walked around the streets. I liked how the game hinted that the rest of the party sometimes hangs out and does things together when you’re not around.

      • I like that. Characters are flawed, double morals, they feel “real”.
        DA2 started the rival/friend thing and while it was changed for DA3 it’s still there. I really hope they keep that for DA4, makes for interesting character dynamics.

  18. Blovsk says:

    El Mumblo’s comment on Handsome Jack (especially cf. Illusive [sic] Man) is absolutely perfect. Baldur’s Gate 2 and Half-Life 2 are both great examples of this. Villain who is at the centre of the plot, whom you are constantly engaged with.

    • Wide and Nerdy says:

      I got that experience with Irenicus but not Handsome jack. Maybe it was because I had the dialog volume set a bit low and had a binge watch of How I Met Your Mother running in the background my entire playthrough but the plot of borderlands 2 was sort of background noise. Jokes were underwhelming too but I think that’s partly because I came to this game having heard lots of praise for it’s comedy.

      But Irenicus gave his game weight. He was dramatic and compelling, and he did a lot of things to make me want to keep pursuing him. I wanted to make Irenicus rue the day he crossed Norm Macdonald (most satisflying character name ever)

  19. Wide and Nerdy says:

    Note shamus, actually Cassandra and Varric do bicker quite a bit. It sounds like you might have the party banter bug. You should be getting banter every 10 to 20 minutes in the field.

    Also, hell yeah mumbles, a shut the fuck up button in a bioware game would make every bioware game twice as good. I’d play every bioware game again just to use it. And I’d keep Sera and Vivienne in my party at all times in DAI.

    • IFS says:

      You also see a very direct confrontation between Cassandra and Varric, but it won’t occur until you progress the story past Haven so get on that Shamus. Just look for the missions with the green stuff hovering over them, those are the plot missions.

  20. Tychoxi says:

    I’m also a Dragon Age 2 defender. In the area of companions and choices it really excelled for me. The problems all stem from having a rushed development (combat, reutilization of assets and locales, etc).

    • Wide and Nerdy says:

      Agreed. Honestly story wise the only big misstep was explaining away Meredith with that artifact.

      • James says:

        actually yes i think that if she was just a zealot, it would have worked much better. and if they spent more time on parts 2 and 3 rather then the quite slow and rather underwhelming start, you work hard to earn 60 gold to go on a deep roads expedition to find a [PLOT DEVICE] and suddenly super rich noble!

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          Maybe that’s why they went that route. They realized they were running out of time and wouldn’t be able to really sell you on Meredith’s final acts of extremism. Then again, the red idol is what you find in the Deep Roads so. I dunno? Maybe they wanted to show that Meredith would never have quite taken it that far herself.

          I mean on the one hand, Anders did what he did. On the other hand, it should have been clear to Meredith that it was Anders. Even as extreme as she is, I don’t see her declaring Magepocalypse when she has the perpetrator right there. She could just take him into custody, maybe make him tranquil and then set about determining if he had collaborators.

          • guy says:

            I’m pretty sure they’d always been planning on having the Red Lyrium Idol come back in a big way. It’s the central MacGuffin of the first act, and it introduces itself by messing with the mind of a dwarf, when they’re known for Lyrium resistance. I frankly do not mind having an artifact of concentrated malevolence drive the main antagonist in my high fantasy game.

            • aldowyn says:

              Spoiler: It comes back. Although it’s still not really that important IMO :/ It ends up being an irrational moral event horizon where you go ‘if you’re using this stuff you’re OBVIOUSLY evil which is just boring’.

              • guy says:

                Bah. It isn’t so much a moral event horizon to use as a concentrated form of malevolence that destroys everything it comes in contact with. In the Bad Future you get to see helping the mages, it’s been spreading like crazy, filling the castle and slowly devouring the Grand Enchanter in the cells. It apparently even has the Darkspawn taint, although the timelines don’t quite work out so I’m not sure where it came from. It was usable as a rune crafting material and it always made me twitchy because collecting it meant someone had to touch the stuff.

                • Thomas says:

                  I really wished the rune crafting thing was taken into account by the game. I decided to always destroy any that I collected and to destroy any weapon with a corrupting rune (I mean it’s called a corrupting rune!)

                  It’s weird that you can power up Varrick’s bow with red lyrium

    • IFS says:

      Haven’t listened to the episode yet but I’d go so far as to say DA2 is my favorite of the series, I’m aware it’s extremely flawed and if you asked me what the best DA game is I’d say Origins, but I really loved the sort of charm the game had. Mostly I think it was how much personality they managed to put into the companions and into Hawke himself, yes the dialogue wheel is a step down from a list of options in general but they executed it really well in 2 and I didn’t mind it in part because Hawke felt a little like his own person as well as my character. As for the party conversations just about every mission I can think of has some moment where your party members will speak up about what’s happening, and many missions have spots where a specific party member can help out (off the top of my head I can think of a few missions where Varric can lie to people, Merril can test if a man is possessed, Fenris can say a few words in Qunlat to the Arishok and get information out of a slaver, etc.) not to mention the party has a lot of idle dialogue for each act which really ended up endearing them all to me (yes even Anders, Fenris and Isabella, the way Isabella interacts with Merril, Varric, and Aveline in particular I found great).

      So yeah I really like DA2, it is riddled with flaws of course I’m not denying that, but the companions have always been the best part of a Dragon Age game for me and DA2 did an excellent job of selling them. Of course it probably also helps that I like the combat, though it too has numerous issues (turning off the need to keep pressing the attack button helps though).

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      In theory, I like what Dragon Age 2 was trying to do. It strikes me, from the loading screens to the framing device, that DA2 is a game about Kirkwall, not Hawke. We’re watching a city tear itself apart, in a sense the opposite of DA:0. In Origins, people had problems, and once those problems were solved they came together to face the blight. In Kirkwall, they don’t have problems -they have agendas. Orsino wants weasel out from under Meredith, Meredith wants to control the city, the Qunari want to reorder the world. Their problems are a pretext for their power plays. Everyone in Kirkwall wants the wars that define the end of Act II and all of Act III. The only people who don’t are the Viscount and the Grand Cleric, and it is notable that their deaths are what lead to the war.

      Hawke and Varric are just normal people who wanted to live their lives in peace, but the city they lived in wouldn’t allow it.

      As I noted above, Anders is the game’s Gavrilo Princip. An angry man tormented by an injustice no one else sees who lashes out the authority figure who represents all he hates and despises -and in the action kills the last great voice for peace and triggers the dominoes that lead to The Great War. Hawke and Varric are caught up in the commotion.

      The problem with the narrative is that Anders’ action is nonsensical -his goal isn’t to eliminate the person who offends him, but to remove the brakes restraining the people who offend him. He attacks the wrong target for the wrong reasons. Immediately afterwards, everyone goes crazy, when the obvious thing for Hawke and Aveline to do (Aveline, who not 5 minutes earlier was griping about the Templars were dragooning her guardsmen) is send Meredith and the Mages back to neutral quarters while Anders is dealt with, and then send for the Divine to sort matters out.

      The sorting out of that mess could then fall apart in predictably tragic ways leading to the War. I think it is an interesting idea to show a city going mad. But the game needs to show the city going mad. The city spends the first 40 hours spinning the wheel, and then dives into crazy in the last 30 minutes. That’s story derailing.

      • The player character from DA1 is called “The Hero of Ferelden” (and sometimes “The Grey Warden” as he was seen as the leader of the Grey Wardens).
        In DA2 the player character is called “The Champion of Kirkwall”.
        And in DA3 “The Herald of Andraste”.

        That says something right there about areas.
        DA1 was about Ferleden, and DA2 about Kirkwall.

        DA3 is the departure here as it’s about Orlais and Ferelden (and other parts of Thedas like Kirkwall and Nevarra and a tiny bit Tevinter, through the wear room table.), but DA3 is also about The Inquisition (or the re-formation of it).

        I would not be surprised if DA4 started with a small area (like DA1) and then ends up covering not just one continent but two or more even.)

        Traveling large distances like that would also allow something I loved about DA2, passage of time. Travel can take weeks/months, and due to “adventures” along the way can stretch out to years.

        • aldowyn says:

          I would say that it might be fair to say that Inquisition is about the Chantry where Origins was Ferelden and 2 was Kirkwall.

          I’m expecting something big with the Qunari to happen in the next Dragon Age, so probably set further north. Maybe Nevarra or even Tevinter?

          • IFS says:

            They’ve also set up something going on with the Grey Wardens in the epilogue, which could potentially make use of the Architect (if he’s still alive) since they don’t bring him up at all in Inquisition. That said I’d love to see a game set in Tevinter, maybe showing more of their ongoing conflict with the Qunari.

            • Blovsk says:

              I dunno, I played the demo for DA 2 and I A) predicted all the lines evil dragon lady was going to say before she said them and B) got pissed off when I was given like four options all basically being LET’S GO END SLAVERY in slightly different tones when Dragon Age would have given you an actual choice. If the writing and level of choice in the demo is at all representative of the game I feel justified not getting it.

              (though frankly, now, my issue’s that I’d need Origin to run it so I’m not going to pick it up cheap on a Steam sale and I just generally don’t feel like Bioware should be getting my custom right now)

  21. Benjamin Hilton says:

    I fully understand Mumble’s Hometown hero Shtick. In my latest play through of Skyrim I role played as the Thane of Whiterun.
    I made it that far in the main quest then simply stopped and essentially made myself the sheriff, solving problem around town, and protecting my people. “whats that? the tree is sick? I’m on it!” “There are some shady mercs hanging around? Not in my town!”
    I just moved into town, got a house, adopted a daughter fixed the towns problems and we all lived happily ever after…..It made a good 20 our game just from that.

    • My first playthrough of Dragon Age: Inquisition was 114 hours (I think, not sure don’t feel like firingg up the game just to check the number); this included a lot of backtracking to older saves now and again so playtime is a lot more hours sunk into this than the game tells me).

      I’m close to halfway through a second time now and I’m expecting maybe 40 some hours total on that. I’m in a kind of slump now (started too close to ending the first playthrough), I’m ignoring most of the companion quests now and all the little annoying “MMO filler quests”.

      I might also do a third playthrough but that will probably be just the minimal main quest stuff and focus on one companion (ignoring the rest) and that might be a total of only 20 some hours playtime, we’ll see.

      I’m using a Cheat Engine table and stuff so I got power and blah blah points maxed easily and I use a system clock “cheat” to speed up the waroom missions, so I won’t have to waste a lot of time on the third playthrough.

      I wish DA3 was modable though. You can’t even extract the music for crfyig out loud. I kind of wanted the Bard songs ripped out since most of them rock. I also wanted the Dawn shall come singalong after Haven but before Skyhold as that song rocks, I know there is a CD album available but it seems the same song there is not exactly like the one ingame (a choir song instead the cutscene song).

      I also wanted to do custom eyeballs (instead of white eyeballs I wanted a different color), you can change the iris ring color in character creation but not the eyeball.

      • aldowyn says:

        those bard songs are quite good. Malukah did a cover of one of them I think. And the ‘Dawn Shall Come’ moment was possibly my favorite moment in the game, and certainly when I actively thought ‘yeah, this game is really good’

      • Thomas says:

        I want the bard songs too.

        Particularly Nightingale, I loved that one because I love Leliana. I’m just a little sad that I irrevocably screwed her up

  22. Ithilanor says:

    While Spec Ops needed a fair bit of combat to make its point, it probably could have used a little bit less, or at least made it more interesting and less generic.

    @DLCs: Paradox games’ DLCs are sort of like the Civ expansions in that they add a lot to the game, though most of the new/reworked mechanics come with the (free) patches associated with the DLCs.

  23. postinternetsyndrome says:

    You mentioned steam streaming in passing and said that it was probably for dota2 because what else could it be for, but in that you failed to remember that dota2 has an excellent spectator mode with full commentator integration to boot. It’s much better than watching streamed videos since the game is rendered by your own machine. I don’t play the game but that is one feature that I applaud it for and think everyone should adopt. Since steam streaming requires the steam client it’s strictly worse than the spectator mode in dota. I think it’s a more general move into the “sharing culture”.

  24. Zukhramm says:

    Having not listened I can say this: Valve clearly want to run a store more than they want to make games, so can we please stop complaining about a game not yet even really announced not being done? Because Valve is clearly not interested in making games.

    • SlothfulCobra says:

      But their games were so goooood. It makes me sad to think the well’s dried up.

      • A Half Life reboot would make more sense than Half Life 3 at this moment.

        I’m also guessing that Valve would make moire money making a TF3 (or some other game) and make it free or fremium and use it to attract more people to Steam.

        While a game makes most of the money in the start then you got this rapidly decreasing but very long tail (especially for the big/popular titles).
        With Steam they got constant cashflow that is somewhat consistent, after all new games are released almost daily on Steam and people keep buying and buying.

        Steam is a physical Retail store’s wet dream.

        Sure the is Origin and GoG, but one is mostly EA only platform (can a independent get their game on Origin?)

        And GoG is niche (and will hopefully remain so), their no-DRM and no junk/no fuzz install is awesome and I wish I had more money so I could buy more games from GoG just to show that they are awesome.
        The day GoG tries to directly be a “new steam” is the day they’ll fade away.

        Then there are the platform stores for Xbox and PlayStation. These compete more with Origin than they do with steam. I’d kind of call Origin a platform store in a way. Origin does have the potential to compete with steam though so Valve better keep their wits about them.

        GoG is more like a classy indie variant of Steam but with no bullshit stuff tied to it, I hope they stick around for a long time indeed.

        • Zak McKracken says:

          I’m not sure whether there are much more people that could be attracted to steam, especially by a game that would be pretty mainstream for the existing Steam customership.
          If valve wanted to get even moire people onboard they’d have to do something they haven’t done before.
          In my case that’s mean ditching DRM (haha, good joke), otherwise it’d mean moving to console territory (which they are with steambox), maybe having a client for mobile games (or have they got that already?) and doing games addressing different audiences (social, casual stuff, but in Valve AAA, high-profile fashion) … Some of those option are more probable than others.

          For me, I’ll stick to GOG and the occasional Humble Indie Bundle*. There is so much more stuff on there that I want to play but will never have enough time for, I can really do well without Steam.

          *Those were cool in the beginning but since every other game they sell is Steam-only … not so much any more.

    • RTBones says:

      I have also not listened to this yet, but sadly, you are probably right.

      Unfortunately, IMO, they are better at making games I enjoy than making a store I enjoy. Yes, Steam sales are popular. My problem is that somewhere, someone at Valve has bought off on the Amazon-esque marketing paradigm. Every time you browse the store, what your client ‘start page’ is, which forum feeds you follow, any trading cards you buy/sell, every second you play a title, every time you linger on a particular title in a store during a sale for more than a half second, every penny/pence/pfenning/lire/schilling/ringit/rupee/dinar/peso/etc you spend gets taken apart, analyzed, and sorted into metrics whose sole purpose is to develop a marketing profile that is you.

      I hate it. I absolutely hate it. With one exception immediately after the Smart Update came out – which was a) a sale, and b) a way for me to check out store mechanics that came with the update, I haven’t spent a dime at the Steam store (though I have elsewhere). I will continue to play the games in my library, but I won’t be spending any money on Steam while the store is in its current state.

      EDIT: I didn’t intend that to be a rant, and I apologize if it seems like I have just gone off my rocker into left field for no reason. I just detest invasive and intrusive marketing – which is what I feel the new Steam Storefront has become a platform for. Other than complaining (which will likely fall on deaf ears), the only other way I have to show Valve my discontent is to take my money elsewhere.

  25. kanodin says:

    Most of the evidence of what Valve’s up to comes through dota, so I’m not surprised ya’ll haven’t heard about it. http://blog.dota2.com/2014/12/future-changes-frostivus/ The point of that blog post is that they’re basically slow porting Dota 2 into their almost completed source 2 engine.

    So yeah I’d imagine most of Valve is working on either Source 2 itself or the games that will use it. Interestingly, the people who’ve been playing around with the early alpha Source 2 stuff in Dota have found that building custom maps is super easy and intuitive so it seems like one of the main goals of the new engine is making it efficient to make new stuff instead of the terror that is source 1.

  26. kanodin says:

    Aaaaand I’ve missed my edit window, anyway. I completely agree with galaxy gun that Dragon age has too much pointless crap in it. They built so many zones and so much stuff that there is just no need to have a go kill 10 rams quest or fetch this guy’s pet buffalo. This game did not need padding and the padding only serves to distract from the strong parts.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      I think it actually goes beyond that. Dragon Age has always had padding. Bioware heard feedback on how boring that was and their solution was to make it more fun (which IMO, they succeeded). The result is even if you want to plow through the story, you’re always getting lured away by intriguing looking keeps and caves and dragons and giants, and claiming land is fun and sometimes a quick detour leads to an entire questline, etc, etc.

      So you lose the thread on the main story because they got so much better at the filler that you get drawn away from the plot for too long and it wrecks the pacing, and its easy to forget little details. Ironically by getting better at something, Bioware undermined what they were already mostly doing right.

      Also, the abstraction undermines the central arc (much like in ME3). DAO: Why am I in the temple of sacred ashes? Because Arl Eamon needs a cure so that he can help me stop the Blight. How can he help? Well, the Arl has both armies and the political clout to call a landsmeet and end the civil war that’s undermining our efforts. And most of the other things you do in the game tie in well like that. You’re in the Deep Roads to find Paragon Branka because she can end the political stalemate between Bhelen and Harrowmont and put one of them on the Throne. Then they can send troops to help me battle the Blight.

      DAI: Why am I in the temple of the void? Well, I was out in the desert seeing if there were any rifts that needed closing because that way people like me more and I can amass something (influence? troops? favors?) and I saw a temple that was frozen in time and thought “Neato”.

      • Merlin says:

        This is a pretty beautiful breakdown, and it really is something they’ve struggled with for a long time. Someone really needs to pound it into their heads that “100 hours of gameplay!” reads more like a threat than a perk.

      • The DA:I “MMO stuff” would have worked better if you where “passing through” in a way.
        It would have felt more linear but less tedious (the game would also feel way longer too, but not as exhaustive).

        Hinterlands is weird. My first reaction when realizing how big it was and it had all these small quests was “fuck, I’m playing a single player MMO”. If BioWare took SWToR and edited the engine just enough to be playable as a single player/offline game then this is what it’d feel like.

        If they had split up the hinterlands into North, South, West, East areas and tied these to either character/companion quests or main plot quests or optional larger side-quests then that would have improved it.
        It would also have increased re-playability as it’s possible a player might not have gone to North Hinterlands in their first playthrough but they might in their second because Varric has a nephew up there or something.

        If they do something like this for DA4 it’s gonna be better than DA:I is currently (and last I heard DA:I is doing pretty good right now).

      • Thomas says:

        I was thinking about that. Everyone complains about DA:I’s fetch quests, but if you think about it, the majority of missions in DA:O were exactly the same fetch quests. They have 10-15 major quest, probably 10-15 sidequests that have meaning and then everything else in DA:O was a fetch quest.

        When you think about the game, the only time you were doing anything important was when it directly tied into the story or companion arcs

        • Hmm! Good point. Perhaps the difference is that DA:I is all points driven (XP and Skill/Attribute points, Inquisition points, Power points), while DA:O was just XP and skill/attribute points.

          With DA:I you feel like you gotta run out there and harvest points to unlock stuff, in DA:O things unlocked as your progressed through the story (maybe there was a level cap at places but I can’t recall that right now).

          Somebody said (Josh?) once that if you go for all the rifts and close them then you should be able to do just that and the main story line quest. Just pure mainlining of rift closing.

          Alternative is doing a whole bunch of side quests/fetch/deliver/find stuff?!

  27. Groboclown says:

    Valve did come out with Alien Swarm a few years ago (good lord – 4 years ago?). That seemed like Valve doing a bit of the small game stuff. They also did the playable tech demo for the bloom effects with Half Life Lost Coast. And it sounded like they wanted to do the small releases with the Half Life episodes.

    My guess is that, right now, their top priority is the Steam platform, because that’s how they’re making their money. However, that doesn’t use game engine programmers or (much) artists.

    As for the games, the diecast seems dead on with the comment about how they don’t want to fail. Valve’s comments about how they spent a really long time working on TF2 in order to get the team director working right. I’m guessing they’re experimenting with new game things that just aren’t working for them.

  28. tmtvl says:

    Haven’t played DA2 yet, after playing ME2 I’m embargoing Bioware.

  29. Groboclown says:

    Mumbles, I don’t know what kind of taco places are around you, but where I live we have Torchy’s Tacos, which could give deep dish a run for its money.

    • Supahewok says:

      Wow, googling them shows I live by them too! But in the suburbs.

      Maybe I can convince the friends I’m seeing next week to give it a try. Any recommendations of their menu?

      • Groboclown says:

        Hopefully, I’m not too late on a response.

        Their flavors are all over the place, so it really depends on what you like. I like their Republican and Chicken Fajita, but my wife likes the Trailer Park (extra trashy). The vegetarians near me seem to like the Fried Avocado and Independent.

  30. krellen says:

    Every episode with Mumbles is the best episode. That’s all I have to say.

  31. Tulgey Logger says:

    I tried to start listening to this while working on something, but the voices Mumbles did were too distractingly funny, so I had to stop. I heart Mumbles.

  32. thebob288 says:

    So on the subject of to many enemies in games I just want to say that unlike the spoiler warning cast I wanted MORE raiders in the last of us. The point of them making no sense in the context of the story is perfectly valid but I found the bandits mechanically immeasurably more fun to fight than the infected. In my eyes all the zombies in the game should be removed because they’re boring and frustrating to fight and things the player kills a hundred times aren’t particularly frightening. I think for me raiders are the equivalent to say draugr for shamus. Yes it makes no sense there’s a billion of them and they’re everywhere and they aren’t particularly interesting but I love shooting me some nameless raiders and it gives me an emotional break in between meaningful moments with Ellie and Joel. I guess I just wanted to speak out for all the gruff nameless and sociopathic to a fault raiders who went to so much trouble to let us shoot them in the face.

    • Thomas says:

      I agree shooting Raiders is super fun and way more fun than shooting zombies. Fighting an enemy in a game that can lose sight of you and can flank you and all that stuff is really interesting and barely any other game does it.

      I still think they didn’t need as much though. They could just cut down on the zombies too. I can replay the game when I want to fight raiders

  33. SlothfulCobra says:

    Half Life 2 was great, the episodes were great, Portal was great, and Left For Dead was great. I know Valve has great people who can make great games, and I appreciate all the sales that Steam runs, but I just wish they would put out some more games rather than mess around with virtual trading cards.

    It’s not like they’ve gone out of business; they’re thriving with Steam, but there’s nothing coming out, game-wise.

  34. muelnet says:

    If you look at the games valve has released they are pretty consistently releasing about 1 game per year, since 2008 with the exception of this year and 2010. The list looks like this
    2008: Left for Dead
    2009: Left for Dead 2
    2011: Portal 2
    2012: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
    2013: DoTA 2
    Reference

    But looking at that list the last game they made that the Diecast would care much about would be Portal 2 in 2011. The other thing is a large chunk of CS:GO was outsourced so who knows how much work they did on that.

    In Valve’s defense they are still technically just one studio. If you look at them that way most studios don’t put out games much more often than that.

    • Tizzy says:

      Printing all that money on that Steam machine must be busy work, too…

    • Thomas says:

      L4D 1 was essentially outsourced too. I believe they just bought a small studio that was already working on it and then that studio left soon after they finished working on it.

      Something kind of similar happened with Portal 1, and DOTA2 started by literally just replicating all the work another designer had made. Valve actually rarely make original games and they rarely make games that were started by developers who have been with the company a while

  35. Tizzy says:

    I can’t think of a single game that didn’t have too much combat for my taste. However I may have loved the game, if fighting was involved, it could always be improved by having fewer fights. Usually, at specific moments in the game.

    Surprisingly, HL 1 and 2 may be the ones that are the least offenders, maybe because of the variety. Worst offenders: Doom 3, Planescape: Torment, and Dragon Age, from the ones I played. The game might be able to get away with more combat if it has a smaller story footprint (Diablo, Icewind Dale)…

  36. Ivellius says:

    Shamus, your comment about movies trying to be Lord of the Rings and stretching plots out with needless filler is the exact problem The Desolation of Smaug had. There’s some poetry in that somewhere.

    • aldowyn says:

      I get so annoyed now whenever I even think about the hobbit movies. The first had quite a lot of good moments, the second a few, and from what I’ve heard about the final one it’s not going to be pretty.

    • John says:

      I have not watched any of the Hobbit movies and I refuse to watch any of the Hobbit movies. It’s a matter of principle. The Hobbit is a charming bedtime story for children, not a blood-drenched fantasy war epic. I don’t care how badly Peter Jackson wants to remake his LotR movies, he should have known better and shown a little $%@#$%# restraint.

  37. I get getting lost in Inquisition, it doesn’t fully explain everything. But I’ve no idea how you got that lost Shamus. The quests to advance the plot have glowy marks over them on the war table, its hard to not know what comes next.

    Also in regard to overabundance of combat I think what might play a part is the popular perception that combat is the only form of gameplay, direct conflict is the default method of interaction and not having that implies zero interactivity. Deadly Premonition for example has what feels like tacked on combat, remove it entirely and the game is much more enjoyable.

    • Mike S. says:

      I can’t speak for Shamus. But if I hadn’t had any outside input, I could see trying to play Inquisition like previous Bioware games, where you often want to do all the sidequests before doing anything to advance the plot, since that will make some or all of the current sidequests unavailable.

      The difference is that with the huge open world, you could spend an awfully long time trying to make that happen.

      (And you probably couldn’t– some areas are locked off till you get the right companion request or other condition, some of which I’m pretty sure won’t happen till you advance the main plot to a certain point. And some of it is effectively level-gated– go in one direction in the Hinterlands early in the game and the local fauna will make it very clear you don’t want to be heading this way just yet.)

      I’m in the mid-late game, and I’m still never entirely confident how “safe” it is to do one of the big events. I don’t want to accidentally press through to the endgame with my companion issues unresolved, or not having built everything up as far as possible. Which Bioware has been known to make tricky. (You can do as many companion quests as you like after your crew has been kidnapped in Mass Effect 2, but…)

  38. Axion741 says:

    I vote Xcom: Enemy Within for best add-on/dlc/expansion etc. Completely changed the game, made it worth playing through another 20 times :P

  39. Kind of amusing, I don’t think I’ve seen this much oker (!) yellow before on a page here.
    I can imagine Shamus popping in to check what people are commenting about and then seeing all the yellow marked text and going “Holy shit. You guys suck”.
    It’s like yellow, yellow, yellow, yellow, something something mumbles, yellow yellow yellow, valve, yellow, yellow yellow. :P

  40. Zak McKracken says:

    Hey Shamus, as someone who’s probably worked to a deadline or three in the past, you probably know the scenario of “oh dammit, just make it work, we don’t have time”

    … I think that is responsible for many games that are improved by their DLC. During the hot phase of making a game, some important and interesting details are dropped or mangled, or not even considered in the first place. Then, after the game is out, there are dozens of people who worked on the game who jump at the chance to be involved with DLC because that will let them re-do at least some of the things they wish they hadn’t done in such a hurry in the first iteration.

    … at least that’s how I feel with every single thing I’ve ever done for work, except the ones that are so ugly I don’t want to ever see them again.

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