Dragon Age Anxiety

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Nov 4, 2009

Filed under: Video Games 106 comments

So a couple of Dragon Age characters are appearing in Maxim along with the real-world models on which they were based. Maxim? Really, BioWare? It’s like… it’s like I don’t know who you are anymore.

I’ve been observing the strange, oversexed marketing campaign for Dragon Age and I played around with the puddle-deep character designer. I have to admit I wonder where they’re going with all of this. It’s possible this is an effort to reach out to the less nerdy demographic and get them into some RPG-esque games. That would be fine. But the other, more cynical way to look at it is that perhaps they noticed that Mass Effect – despite being their most shallow and character-thin story in a decade – has outsold their earlier, deeper titles. Maybe they noticed that, and decided they needed less roleplay and more sexay.

On the other hand, Susan Arendt over at the Escapist had nice things to say about it in her Twitter feed.

Really Shamus? Are you really pinning your hopes for an entire company on a slightly favorable remark in someone’s TWITTER FEED?

Yeah… Look, I don’t know. I’m just trying to read the signs here. We don’t have a lot to go on. Russ Pitts gave the thing decent marks at the Escapist, but I haven’t really calibrated myself against his reviews yet.

I really don’t want to believe that BioWare is just abandoning their branching RPG format for interactive Sex In the City on rails. Where else will we look for our next KOTOR? Is this the direction they’re going, or is this just a feint by marketing? Consider this infamous trailer: (Warning: Contains gore, nudity, swearing, and lack of character interactions aside from aforementioned gore, nudity, etc.)

Link (YouTube)

I don’t really object to them aiming a game at grownups. I’m not going to flip out if they decide that they need lots of particle-effects blood and bare polygonal asses to sell the thing. Just as long as they keep what has always made their titles great: Compelling settings, interesting characters, meaningful choices. Rutskarn makes a very convincing case that we shouldn’t get our hopes up for Dragon Age in this regard.

It comes out today. I guess we’ll find out soon. Dragon Age will probably be my next target, after Borderlands.


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106 thoughts on “Dragon Age Anxiety

  1. [d20]thegrinner says:

    First, and least important: typo in last sentance. “comer” should be “come”

    On to my main point (hopefully without any major spoilers)…

    I have to admit to enjoying it. Yes, there is a bit more railroading (Joining the Wardens is the perfect example. No matter what you say, someone dies. You see it in the Violence trailer).
    Still, this is somewhat expected from a prologue, and from what I’ve seen in attempting to recruit the Dalish Elves, doesn’t have quite as tight a grip later (it is still there however).

    Yes, the origin stories are somewhat disappointing. They are rather limited, especially in the human and dwarf choices (Noble or Mage, Noble or Commoner).
    But I still get to choose how I act. I went City Elf, and there are a few sidequests that give you options – not just the evil asshole and good saint option, but at least one in between. Several dialogue trees do give you at least a few choices in how you respond to the marriage – maybe your character is excited, or you might have played through like me and decided “I’m not at happy with this, where’s my freedom going? Who decided this shit anyway?”

    What I find rather annoying is the sidequests. I’m doing many of them for the money and experience and absolutely nothing else. Kill some bears? Sure! Murder some bandit gangs? Why not? Some kids mother is dead, lost in the wilds north of town? Yeah, I’ll loot that body for you and bring back an heirloom. Maybe one in four or five of these sidequests is at all meaningful – who wouldn’t give medicine which you can now make at that point to the elder? I’ve really only encountered two that seem to have any meaning so far – one in the origin involving a family being evicted, and one in Lotharing involving a merchant.

    Still, I spent something like seven solid hours playing last night and I’m only 6% through, and I approve overall. The one thing I’m waiting on to make a definite choice as to how I feel about DA is whether any older quests influence what I do later in a noticeable way. I look forward to seeing your take on it however. Same with Rutskarn. It’ll be interesting.

  2. Nick says:

    The marketing for this has been horrible, however I did hear an interesting point about it. They’re not marketing it to you or me, they don’t need to; they’re marketing it at the kids who like Halo or whatever the latest greatest thing is. That it comes across as hateful and strange is unfortunate but it hasn’t put me off pre-ordering so it’s sort of done it’s job.

    If you’re looking for other reviews, PCG UK gave it a big thumbs up, the review is online at CVG.

  3. Jonathan says:

    That trailer makes me NOT want to play DA. I don’t mind a little blood, but that’s excessive enough to make me go “ick” and not want to play. If I want to see blood sprayed all over the place I’ll go help some friends kill and process chickens (dinner!). I also prefer my games without any softcore porn, which is what it looks like it’s getting pretty close to.

  4. Hugh says:

    Pararelevant Disclaimer: The only Bioware game I’ve spent any great length of time with was the first Neverwinter Nights game and its expansions, all of which left me unimpressed to the very core of my being. What little time I had with Baldur’s Gate was spent playing the German language translation. Weil Deutsch kein Muttersprache fuer mich ist, I can’t really speak for the quality of the writing or voice acting other than to say that I hope it was a lot better auf Englisch.

    Actual Point of Comment: Despite not having seen the fabled brilliance of their writing ever shine through, I do think that, in the past at least, the flexibility of Bioware’s tech has been hard to fault. The Infinity and Aurora engines, though museum pieces in this day and age, are nonetheless quite impressive feats of gaming architecture. If nothing else, I’m interesting in seeing what the mod community does with DA:O.

  5. SolkaTruesilver says:

    When will we see soldiers fight in an intelligent way – in formation?

    Instead of going Stupid Spartian and charging up like uncivilised barbarians…

  6. Vladius says:

    That trailer is literally one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. This, truly, will be BioWare’s eventual downfall.

  7. Frank says:

    Yes, well, I’ll let you know how I get on with it when the damn thing is finally released in the UK! It’s frustrating that the whole thing is sitting on my harddisc in encrypted form until Friday night, because the suits who make these decisions still haven’t realised how the world with internet works.

    Same with TV shows, movies, CDs, etc. In a world where global communication is instant, there simply is no place for separate release dates. Unless you positively want to encourage piracy, that is.

    I know, patience is a virtue. But this wait is brought on by all the wrong reasons.

  8. Alex says:

    People from other countries often express bemusement at Americans’ seeming preference for gore and violence over sexy content in their entertainment, and I kind of tend to agree with them. This trailer is a case in point – in two minutes and change, we get about 10 seconds of suggested foreplay, and 90+ seconds of impalements and splattering blood – and it’s the former that’s more controversial. I know which of those things I would rather look at – and which one I’d be more upset about if my 3-year-old son happened to walk into the room and see it.

  9. Tan says:

    This trailer, and the whole marketing around the game in general, doesn’t represent the game at all. It simply seems like the Marketing Dept realized that anyone who would care about this game (basically, people who love RPGs) already know about it. So instead of wasting their time seducing us a second time, they probably decided to try and lure in a completely new audience.

    Played it a fair bit (games says I’ve completed about 12%), it’ll feel different from past Bioware’s game due to the new system they use, but otherwise it still feels like it was made by them.

    (The blood splatter can be ridiculous, but at least you can still disable the gore option.)

  10. Gahazakul says:

    The sexy in game portions equate to Characters in their underwear cuddling. It is tamer than Mass Effect in the showing department. Also the models appearing in Maxim are the real ladies that they model the characters after and it’s it was less of Bioware throwing them out there, EA were the ones that sent them to Maxim.

    The RPG in this one is deep, as the spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate it feels right.

  11. Eric(Ninjews) says:

    I like Bioware, but I’ve always felt that their games never left me feeling like my choices actually impacted the world around me, dragon age seems no different. I’ll wait till this is $20, then pick it up.

  12. lebkin says:

    There are two built-in kinds of people who will buy Dragon Age.

    There are Bioware fans (such as myself) who will buy anything they produce. They simply do not make terrible games, and even their worst (Sonic RPG) was worth playing. These people do not need ads.

    The second group are old school tactical PC RPG players (which I am also one of). People who grew up playing the gold box games, and then Infinity Engine games. This game feeds right into the legacy left by Baldur’s Gate and Planescape. These people are generally smarter, pickier consumers. They possess the ability to look beyond the ads, and see the actual real gameplay behind. For example, this Giantbomb quick look sells the game to these people far better than any ad (http://www.giantbomb.com/quick-look-dragon-age-origins/17-1477/).

    So rather than cater to these built-in audience, the advertising is focused on people who wouldn’t give the game a second glance normally. It focuses on the things that get peoples attention, sex and violence, and uses it to great effect. This game has gotten more media coverage because of it, keeping that name in the headlines of the Joystiqs of the internet. We’ll see if that translates into sales.

    As for the game itself, it is fantastic. I sat down last night after work and played for six hours straight, eating dinner at my desk in order to keep playing (As an aside, my wife allowed me to do this because she was playing it as well on her computer. I am a very lucky man). Definitely recommended for anyone with a half-way decent PC.

  13. ehlijen says:

    I guess the free press time they got out of the blue butt in Mass effect really made an impact on the bottom line and now they’re going for a repeat success. Actually saying anything worthwile about the product is unfortunately completely optional…

  14. B.J. says:

    I believe the ‘sex and violence’ ad campaign was mostly EA’s doing, it is not exactly indicative of the game experience so far (I am 8 or so hours in). The game definitely has a Baldur’s Gate vibe with some Kotor features thrown in.

    It’s also quite challenging. I’m playing on normal and I’ve been dying quite a bit. Part of the problem seems to be a lack of healing magic early on; your first mage doesn’t start with any healing spells. It has a tactics system which works like FF12’s gambits, so you can set up decent AI routines like auto-potion use but you’ll burn through your supplies very quickly.

    Some other comments;
    -Questgiver NPCs have giant exclamation marks over their heads? Whaa? I thought this was a serious fantasy epic, not kill-ten-boars-and-bring-me-their-hooves-which-they-may-or-may-not-drop.

    -There’s no karma meter but there are plenty of moral choices. Without a definite good/bad reward for your actions I have no idea how I’m supposed to resolve anything! :)

    -Your party members have approval ratings ala Kotor 2’s influence system. Messed up an made someone hate you? You can still bribe them with gifts.

    -Characters who drop in battle are revived afterwards with a critical injury of some sort (broken bone, fractured skull, etc) that penalizes their stats. My characters often end up with 2-3 of these each.

  15. Matt K says:

    @ B.J. sounds interesting (although not $50 interesting). I may consider picking it up once the price drops to like $20.

    Does anyone know if this game requires online activation because that’ll kill any interest I have in the game?

  16. lebkin says:

    @Matt K.

    The retail copy of Dragon Age Origins has only a disc check. EA is appearing to learn from their mistakes with Spore. This is the second major release (the first was Sim 3), that uses a simple disc check. Good sign of things to come.

  17. B.J. says:

    There’s no online activation, however it has a bunch of strange online features which require you to open an account with EA/Bioware’s flimsy gamer-social-networking BS. It lets you upload stats and screenshots from your progress through the game, which is sorta pointless to me.

    That Rutskarn article, wherein he bashes a game he’s never played, is (shockingly!) way off base. He complains that the origin stories didn’t appeal to him; fair enough, but surely six choices is better than zero choices? Most RPGs either foist a single pre-determined background onto you (Kotor, Jade Empire) or are generic enough where your background never matters (Neverwinter Nights). Dragon Age attempts to add options which are missing from 99% of the other games in the genre.

    He also states the game has no social stats, which is incorrect. There is a ‘coercion’ skill which allows you to either persuade people using your cunning stat or intimidate people using your strength stat. Hardly deep or complex, but it’s about the same as NWN’s diplomacy/intimidate/bluff.

  18. Sheer_FALACY says:

    You can cure injuries with healing items (not the basic one, though).

    And as for the trailer… yeah, the game is pretty bloody. You won’t notice it in combat so much, but any time you have a conversation after a battle it’s pretty noticeable because your characters will be splattered with blood.

    It seems like a pretty cool game. And Rutskarn’s review misses stuff – you do get to pick abilities/skills when you make a character, there is a persuasion skill, etc.

    As for the backgrounds… what were people expecting? They made 6 backgrounds, all pretty different. Anyone hoping for ultimate customization and the ability to make their character anything they want before they even start won’t find that in a videogame. You only get one choice as a mage because there’s only one reasonable choice, given the setting. It’d take some pretty ridiculous stretches for a non-circle mage to become a grey warden.

  19. LintMan says:

    The DA marketing has been atrocious and seems to be aimed at the “Madden ’09 frat-boy Xbox 360” crowd. Over at Rock Paper Shotgun, a ton of people have been horrified by the videos and and were voicing the same concerns as Shamus does above. But if you look at the DA web site materials on the characters, setting, etc, it’s all quite RPG-standard – no sign of the rockin’ Marilyn Manson, sexed-up, super violent game of the trailers.

    As for “teh sexay”, I don’t mind some adult content (maybe even welcome it), as long as it’s handled in a mature, non-puerile fashion. While I haven’t played Mass Effect, I don’t think that was an issue there. Bioware hasn’t let me down yet, so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

    Right now, I have the game loaded on Steam, but I’m still playing Torchlight, and I had wanted to run through the Dragon Age: Journeys web game to get some of the freebies there first, so it’ll probably be a few more days before I can get to it.

    And of course, my copy of Borderlands finally arrived in the middle of all this. Why do all the good games have to come out in the span of one month?

  20. nilus says:

    I think this is less Bioware designing the game and more EA’s marketing department selling the game. My theory is some exec figured out that when all the stupid “controversy” over Mass Effects lesbian relationship angle it actually helped sales. So now they are gonna push Dragon Age as an ultra violent sex fantasy.

    Don’t get me wrong Dragon Age does come off as a very mature dark Fantasy game, similiar to say Planescape Torment. The marketing campaign is making it more sexy to sell games to teenage boys and “manly” gamers who don’t usually play silly RPGs.

  21. Picador says:

    As for “teh sexay”, I don't mind some adult content (maybe even welcome it), as long as it's handled in a mature, non-puerile fashion. While I haven't played Mass Effect, I don't think that was an issue there. Bioware hasn't let me down yet, so I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

    Ditto. I’m actually pretty tired of games ignoring this rather important feature of the dramatic narrative tradition. I understand why they do, of course, but it’s time for the industry to grow up a little, weather the storm of puritanical outrage, and then move ahead.

    I actually differ with Shamus in that I even liked the way this was handled in The Witcher. Hell, I liked the way pretty much everything was handled in that game (other than the loading times). I’m finding more and more that PC games out of Europe are much more to my tastes, on average, than those out of the US: Beyond Good and Evil, Indigo Prophecy, The Witcher, and the Penumbra series are all near the top of my list of most interesting (I won’t say “best” necessarily) games ever, and they’re all European productions. I suspect that part of this is their increased focus on psychological drama, social relationships, and compelling characters, as well as their (frankly) more grown-up attitude toward sex and sexuality (e.g. their depiction of female characters).

  22. Dan says:

    I have played through 6-7% of the game (two character origins interested me and I couldn’t decide). As a mage if you create a character from scratch you can pick your spells. I chose heal as one of them. I was an elf, not sure if that affected my choices. My other origin/character was human noble warrior.

    As I haven’t gone through much of the game I don’t know whether my background will pop up later. I hope so considering the fact that they left some things unresolved (particularly with the human noble).

    Overall there are a lot of dialog choices, in some cases I feel there are too many. Especially with Bioware’s track record (in Mass Effect) of giving you dialog options that end up garnering the same answer.

    As for depth…I am always amused when depth is mentioned in relation to game plots. I played Baldur’s Gate, etc and I don’t recall being particularly impressed by the story’s depth. Length? Yes! Number of sidequests? Yes! Deep meaningful story that I connected with and didn’t want to end? NO!

    Get over the nostalgia and judge the game for what it is, not for what all the other games were.
    With that said Dragon Age is okay, too early to tell. I need to stop feeling the locomotive pushing me up the hills.

  23. Robyrt says:

    First, it’s not all EA’s fault. Baldur’s Gate didn’t have blood spatter or a romance subplot.

    Second, this demographic is EXACTLY who you want to market to. Think about what types of gamers there are:
    Rock Band gamers are out, they’d never finish an 80-hour RPG.
    Madden/FIFA gamers aren’t interested in a nerdy game, but they’re fine with a long and repetitive one.
    Call of Duty gamers aren’t interested in a long and boring game, but tangible benefits could keep them playing for 80 hours.
    RPG gamers are already aware of your game and they are going to buy anything Bioware puts out regardless.

    So you want an ad campaign that makes your long, repetitive, generic fantasy epic into an exciting, adrenaline-fueled thrill ride of blood, sex and violence. You can’t mention stats or dialogue trees because it will scare off Call of Duty types, and you can’t mention world-building or moral dilemmas because it will alienate FIFA types. So they added some hard rock, played up the blood spatter, and called it a day.

  24. Girl Gamer says:

    I really want to play DA, but I don’t know where I’ll find the time. I just recently played through two long rpgs and as much as I enjoyed it, I’d forgotten what a time committment it can be. There are more games in the queue ahead of DA already too.

    It’s sad they’re marketing it so poorly, because it does look like a pretty epic fantasy experience. KOTOR is the only BioWare title I think I’ve played, and I really liked it. I’ll be interested to hear your take on their new offering, Shamus.

  25. eri says:

    The big issue I have with Dragon Age’s marketing is that it seems to be targeting a group of people who have no interest in RPGs whatsoever. The violence and sex in the game is actually only a very small part of it (about on par with something like Knights of the Old Republic), yet it’s made out to be a very bloody action game. I have a feeling a lot of people are going to buy it and be disappointed when they realise it’s actually an extremely dialogue-heavy, tactical, difficult and nerd-fetish-appeasing role-playing game. There is no “new shit”; the marketing is totally divorced from the game itself. You won’t hear a single power chord ever, and the sex, reportedly, only comes in very late in the game, and only if you have certain people like you enough (which is harder to manage than you’d think).

    That said, I got my copy yesterday (preordered the collector’s edition) and the game is fucking excellent so far. I know some people have reservations about BioWare due to their tendency to repeat common themes and character archetypes, and they also have a habit of “but thou musting” the player into submission. Dragon Age doesn’t seem to change too much of that, and it follows the classic “linear intro segment, then several objectives to be completed in the order of your choosing” formula, but the game world is far more compelling than anything I’ve seen BioWare do in a while. Yes, it is horribly cliche in places and the amount of choice the player has doesn’t approach that of a truly open-world game, but for a story-based RPG it’s pretty damn well done.

    My biggest praise so far as been the dialogue and voice-acting. Every single line save for the player character’s is fully voiced (which would be impossible to do given the number of possible combinations, not to mention that the player can name him or herself). The writing is absolutely excellent, and is far better than anything in previous BioWare games; moreover it’s also acted on a level that exceeds their previous games. There’s none of that focusing on the main characters above all others – almost every single person in the entire game, down to the most inconsequential of merchant NPCs, has a fairly significant dialogue tree, and both the writing and acting for them is more or less just as good as the best of it in the game. It’s truly massive, too – to put things in perspective, Deus Ex has 80,000 lines of dialogue; Dragon Age has about 800,000.

    Some people might be tired of the old fantasy cliches, and it’s true there are some, but BioWare also seems to subvert and invert some of them. They aren’t looking to reinvent things, but rather to cast them in a new light. To that end they have almost completely got rid of the whole binary good and evil that plagues most role-playing titles. There are definitely moments where you can be a pompous ass if you want to, but the situations are much less clear-cut and being a goody-two-shoes will quite often come back to bite you in the ass. Having no moral compass means that your actions stand alone, and the reactions of other characters to them feels extremely unpredictable at times and exceedingly natural.

    The combat, I mentioned, is quite difficult, even the more mundane battles. There’s very little in the way of hand-holding – sometimes, the dice will hate you, and sometimes you’ll have to reconsider your strategy a half-dozen times over before it works properly. If you mess up in developing your characters, then you’re going to have to live with it. The interface for both combat and the game in general is fantastic and I couldn’t imagine playing the game without a mouse and keyboard – it really has been designed around the PC and I feel sorry for those who have to compromise by playing on consoles.

    Overall, if you have some appreciation for BioWare’s games, you’re probably going to enjoy their newest offering. It’s huge, it’s well-written, and engrossing. The lore, in fact, is as deep if not deeper than in any other role-playing game I’ve played, so if you’re a fan of really immersing yourself in a universe, Dragon Age totally delivers. At the same time it does have some of those old BioWare trademarks (or blights, as some would call them), both in terms of game design and story. If you can get past them (or enjoy them), I’m not sure if I would hesitate to call it my game of the year pick – and yes, this is before some of the bigger games like Assassin’s Creed 2 and Modern Warfare 2 come out. Frankly I’m not sure how they can even compete – they might have better production values, but they just can`t compare with the amount of depth Dragon Age has on offer.

  26. Rutskarn says:

    @Sheer–I tried for like five minutes to select one, and when I gave up it didn’t say you have points left to assign or any crap like that.

    Maybe I’m a moron, maybe I missed something, or maybe (and this would be baffling) the demo didn’t have as many first-level customization options. If so…what the hell? What are they playing at?

  27. Picador says:

    To that end they have almost completely got rid of the whole binary good and evil that plagues most role-playing titles. There are definitely moments where you can be a pompous ass if you want to, but the situations are much less clear-cut and being a goody-two-shoes will quite often come back to bite you in the ass. Having no moral compass means that your actions stand alone, and the reactions of other characters to them feels extremely unpredictable at times and exceedingly natural.

    Not to sound like a broken record, but this is another thing I really liked about The Witcher: despite having a very specific feel and a specific main character, I actually felt that it forced you to make difficult and complex choices that really ended up defining your “character” in the original sense of the word. I’ve seen few other games that confronted the player with these kinds of choices — Deus Ex had one at the very end, where it didn’t make any difference, but I can’t think of any other than The Witcher that presented these choices early enough to make a difference to the world and the story.

    I think I’m hung up on The Witcher in this thread because everything I’ve read about the world in DA sounds like they decided to directly rip off the feel of the world in The Witcher: elves languishing in urban ghettos or fighting for freedom in the disappearing wilderness, dwarves alienated from a human culture covetous of their wealth, and various other “gritty” elements seem lifted directly from TW. Not that there’s anything wrong with stealing, mind you — I would love to see more games steal elements from the best.

  28. JimminyJoJo says:

    I’m enjoying the game so far. I thought that of all the origin stories, the Dwarf Commoner would be the worst, so I decided to play that one first… and I was pleasantly surprised. In the pre-release character creator you couldn’t choose skills, talents or really any spells, but you can inthe actual game, which is a big relief.

    The origin prologue and the battle at Ostagar are pretty much prologues and so they are sort of railroaded in the sense that you are going to become a Grey Warden no matter what, but the conversations have lots of options to roleplay your character, there are good sidequests, detailed areas to explore, interesting NPCs, and, lets be honest… the battles can get pretty epic.

    I do not count being totally splattered with blood after killing a huge evil demon a bad thing. So far the characters seem a lot more alive than in Mass Effect. (And there are no insanely long elevator rides either.)

    I’m very pleased with this game. Bought the collector’s edition for PC and it came with a quality cloth map, complete with bloodstains on the corners.

  29. gaspar says:

    The game is fun, who cares how they market it?

  30. neothoron says:

    Well, players care how they market it because these marketing materials will affect how ordinary people view the game – as a depraved refuge for sex and violence.

    Anyway, I did not read the comments in detail, haven’t played the game either, but I will only react to:

    Just as long as they keep what has always made their titles great: Compelling settings, interesting characters, meaningful choices.

    The NWN original campaign had none of those. I believe that, after the initial rush and possible disappointment, DA’s main point of interest will be its module builder, in a possible repeat of how things went for NWN.

    Anyway, I don’t need to care about reviews/critics; I’ve already decided to get this game. I’ll see for myself whether DA is as disappointing as some people have predicted.

  31. Rosseloh says:

    From what I’ve heard, the choices are in fact deeper than some of their past games. A review talked about many of them being “a lesser evil”, rather than a straight up good/bad cut.

    So basically, they saw how good The Witcher did and decided to do something similar. (The Witcher, incidentally, is fighting with NWN1 for the “Best RPG” spot in my mental roster)

    Anyway, regardless of what the issues are…I’ll probably play this. Even if your review craps all over it, Shamus. Now to find a job so I can afford it…Unless they decide to release Brutal Legend for PC, in which case I’ll probably just play that.

  32. gaspar says:

    @ 30 good points, all.

  33. Scourge says:

    NWN1’s defining stuff was about the Multiplayer and persistant worlds.

    That said, it had some people developer more classes/Spells/feats, also known as the PRC pack.
    They aimed to do it for NWN 2 too, but the way it was changed was to horrible for them to bear and they went back to NWN 1.. that is until DAO comes out.
    They said, back when I read it, that they would get to modding Dragon Age, add more classes, spells, feats, everything you could possibly want.
    This already makes me think that a game that has a fanbase that will get ready to mod it as soon as it comes out, or even before, is bound for some good stuff. No matter how it is market. Others may perceive it the way it is market, but does that matter to the ones who buy it and enjoy it?

    I personally will aim to make my own opinion on it, games others found shambly and boring I enjoyed, others that people found exciting I found plain boring (I am looking at you Counterstrike!).

    But in either case, the game looks great, and I can’t possibly wait for the modders get onto it and make new content for it.

  34. Monkeyboy says:

    @23 Robyrt:

    I agree, this isn’t the campaign directed at RPG players. gamertrailers.com does show some of the other, more traditional ones.

    Interesting enough I was a FPS guy until I picked up a cheap copy of KOTOR because it was describes as “the best Star Wars movie since Empire Strikes Back”. I fell in love, and mostly left the shooters for both KOTORs, NWN 1 and 2, Vampires Bloodlines with the Witcher and Dragon Age on my “to get list”. This may bring more fans into RPGs.

    I too was underwhelmed by the character creation, I’m glad you have more options in game.

  35. Jaedar says:

    Having played Dragon Age, I have only two thing to say. It is just as good (or bad) as previous BioWare games. And the ramped up gore just looks laughable most of the time.

  36. JKjoker says:

    well, the problem is that the game wants to be “dark and edgier” not “laughable”, looking at some screenshots of your characters talking while covered with blood i can imagine the classic Bioware scene of a character nagging you for “romance” but this time while covered with fresh gore, ewww

  37. Alexis says:

    I’ve only played through the mage origin and a little beyond so far, but I’m enjoying it. The moral choice you have to make there isn’t your standard old Bioware good/jerk choice. The world building around the tension between the mages and the church is very well done, and I like the setup there in general. I know some people are turned off by the “generic” elf and dwarf races, but the way magic works seems pretty original.

    A few notes regarding some of the comments above:

    Exclamation points: Yeah this is annoying, fortunately you can turn it off. It seems like a reasonable feature for the crowd looking for an action RPG, but I’m going to talk to everyone anyway, so I don’t need the quest givers labeled.

    Blood splatter: You can turn this off too. So far I haven’t though, and I’m not sure I will. In any rpg like this you are going to do a lot of fighting, and I’m not sure it makes sense to come back from a war looking all shiny.

    Romances in BG: Well BG1 didn’t have any romances, but BG2 sure did. I ended up married and she was carrying my child by the end.

  38. acronix says:

    @ 26 Rutskarn:
    You got it right. The character creator in the game let´s you personalize your character a bit more. It has some of its limits, though. Depending on your background you get certain skills. For instance, human and dwarven nobles get two skill point to put whenever you want. But you ALWAYS get one, which you cannot move, in “shield bash”(or whatver that skill was called). Also, you start with predefined stats, and are given 7 or so to alter them but you can´t make your character worse in a stat to favor others (unless you used those 7 points, that´s it).

    On regard of the backgrounds, they always put the character in a “you must leave, or leave” situation, ussually leaving your character with a missing friend or an enemy that could potentially come back later on. I haven´t played enough (my computer has a crappy graphic card and the game lags a lot at some poins) but it would be quite awesome if they did that.

    What I´m disliking right now about the game is the fact that the plot has too many resemblances to Mass Effect. So far, which is only the initial areas and a couple of hours after the background sub-plots:

    1) You have a race of highly violent and incivilized creatures that weren´t seen since long ago, but are now coming to the surface again to OMGRAZE everything. (Geths/darkspawns)
    2) You have a faction whose actions are far the authority of any king/organization, and the PC becomes a member (Spectres/Grey Wardens)
    3) There´s an old empire who angered the local god and now they are gone (Proteans/forgot the name in DA).

    Really, Bioware needs to tell his apparently only writer to be more creative.

  39. Eldiran says:

    I feel like I’d seen Bioware’s ad campaign when I saw the comic they had the guys at Penny Arcade make, and now I’m seeing EA’s ad campaign. Or perhaps that’s just wishful thinking.

  40. JKjoker says:

    @acronix: mass effect was a lot like kotor and kotor was a lot like nwn’s first expansion, and nwn’s xp1 was a lot like the nwn oc … do you see the trend here ?

  41. N Cowan says:

    First off, my all time favorite game is the Baldur’s Gate Trilogy. Between the story, the memorable characters, the fairly creative/interesting quests (especially BG2) and the length and replayability of the game make it second to none for me.

    That being said, i’ve now logged a few hours in Dragon Age. So far….it may replace BG as my favorite all time game. It’s got the strategy, the great character creation options, the fleshed out NPCs, and brilliant character interactions. I have yet to see how good the story is or how long the game is. But so far, this game just “feels” spot on as the true spiritual successor to BG.

  42. Eric(Ninjews) says:

    @@acronix: That sounds like it’s the result of the rule system they are using.

  43. Jabor says:

    Damnit, the game isn’t released until Friday here, and I’m fairly sure I’m not getting any release-day shipping. So it won’t be until Monday that I can actually play.

    You could probably add this sort of thing to your “reasons people pirate games”. I’m fairly sure the pirates will have broken it long before my preordered copy arrives.

    I am hyped, though. It’s good to see a game world without elves who are elitist jerks.

  44. MuonDecay says:

    Marketing is usually the publisher’s domain… and EA’s domain is the lowest common denominator. Beat people over the head with weapons, breasts, and blood to a hard rock soundtrack.

    EA would have made videos for Dreamfall: The Longest Journey that focused on the protagonists’ breasts jiggling in combat.

    It showcases the most irrelevant things possible, and that’s exactly what EA does.

    This is when EA doesn’t even do a one-up on that and actually just corrupt the game itself into some sad, tortured cripple. Look what those dicks did to Spore. No wonder Will Wright turned his back on them.

  45. O.G.N says:

    This is actually not the first time Bioware has advertised in Maxim.

  46. mark says:

    The audio sync in the trailer you embedded is COMPLETELY fucked. This one is much better, by which I mean “makes sense and comes with the option of HD”:

  47. Shamus, I can tell you as a fan of Baldur’s Gate, Kotor, and all that is holy, that this game has absolutly nothing to do with the Rock and Roll trailers we have seen. Dragon Age is awesome.

    I bought the collectors edition as soon as it was put on the shelf at best buy, and I have been loving this game. If the rest of the game is as great as the first 10 hours, then it will be my RPG of the decade.

  48. Aufero says:

    I found the marketing campaign offensive, and the gore is pointless and a bit silly – it’s just red spattered on everything. Still, it’s a Bioware RPG, so I was going to buy it anyway. I guess there was no need to market it to me.

    I’m eight hours into it now, and I’m enjoying it so far. I have a few quibbles, (You finally wrote a better NPC AI system, but you’re making me choose between that and new combat abilities when I level up? Really?) but it’s still fun.

  49. bobisimo says:

    Personal opinions aside, BioWare has been in Maxim before. They put together a sexy picture of a nymph for Maxim, I think, to advertise Neverwinter Nights.

  50. Rutskarn says:

    Okay, so here’s the question I have for all y’all:

    Social persuasion. Does it exist? How robust/useful is it? Because ever since KotOR, I don’t have a ton of use for a game where I can’t talk my way out of situations.

  51. Eric(Ninjews) says:

    @ Rutskarn: I haven’t seen it.

  52. Steve says:

    Dear me, that’s a trailer? That? Really? I pre-ordered on faith and hope, and other material I’ve seen I feel counter balances this video.
    Also, Lack of character creation options should mean a more precisely crafted experience, as with only 6 start points the game can be made a lot more fun. And really, that’s what it’s about. Amazing graphics, absurd levels of character customisation or several thousand other humans playing in the same world don’t make a game good. Fun makes a game good. See Torchlight for my favourite current example!

  53. acronix says:

    I have seen a bunch of dialogue options with “Persuade” on them. It seems to be connected to Coertion. Unfortunately, I haven´t played that much due to the lag, but the times I used it it solved me the hassle of killing. If you can´t persuade somebody, the game will let you know by not putting a “Persuade” in brackets. You still get options to try, though. If (a big IF) I manage to survive the lag and get farther, I´ll start to complain to the four winds if all those skill points in coertion are useless or not.

    But, personally, I just got it because I have a toolset mania, and the Aurora (of Bioware´s doing) was really neat. DAs toolset looks like it…too bad they haven´t released it yet.

  54. eri says:

    @ Rutskarn: It seems to depend on certain class-specific skills. I’ve seen plenty of [Intimidate] and [Persuade] options come up in dialogue, though I’m not sure if there’s a check to pass them or if they only show up if you already do pass the checks. Either way, they seem pretty effective when they do. On one or two occasions I’ve finished quests with them, and sometimes they can mean the difference between a battle and everyone walking away peacefully. Typically, [Intimidate] options are a bit more aggressive, threatening and are more likely to (but don’t always) be in your own self-interest (i.e. you can intimidate bandits asking for a “bridge toll” to pay you what they’ve collected). Again, there’s no moral judgments made, unless specific characters in your party choose to approve or disapprove, so it really comes down to what you want to do, not “what is going to push the moral compass in the direction I prefer”.

  55. Danel says:

    To explain the starting skills thing – from a Character Creation video I’ve seen and descriptions I’ve heard, you get to select 1 skill and 2 talents at the start; you also get 2 skills and 1 talent preselected based on your choice of class, race and origin – it might help to think of these as equivalent to ‘bonus feats’ or similar.

    For some reason, the ones you choose are only in the full game, not the character creator/demo, with the predictable result that plenty of people assumed that the bonus skills were the only ones you got at the start. I can only assume that they meant the creator demo to be used mainly to design your character’s appearance, since that’s the part that people would have to fiddle with.

    The other thing is that stats grow throughout the game – you get three points to assign to stats at each level up. By the time you’re level twenty, a ’10’ stat would be low indeed; apparently, there’s gear which requires a strength in the 40s.

  56. T-Boy says:

    I don't really object to them aiming a game at grownups.

    Filling a game with tits and ass and gore does not a grown-up game make.

  57. DaveJ says:

    Is this really a shock, that they would advertise a game for someone that isn’t Shamus Young? Get over yourself. Of course there are people who play games that look for something different to what you do.

    1. Shamus says:

      DaveJ: Thanks for the comment. Next time leave a comment that is in some way a response to what I wrote.

      I was concerned that the marketing was indicative of the content of the game. This is a perfectly valid starting point for a conversation. If this offends you so deeply that you feel the need to insult me, then you are on the wrong website and need to go away.

  58. DaveJ wins the “best comment” award!

    I have to agree with the “They’re expanding the audience” idea.

    I read “this is the spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate, by Bioware” and pre-ordered immediately. I actually avoided any publicity, just because I had it, and didn’t want to bias my opinion (my current opinion is it’s a great game, if a bit formulaic in places, as all rpgs tend to be).

    Course, I saw the dragon killing trailer on XBox Live, and went “OMG I WANT IT NOW!”

  59. MuonDecay says:

    I only thought of this now, but with all the gratuitous bloodshed in this video it occurs to me that games don’t ever have seemed to even get blood “right”.

    I’ve studied forensics, I’ve seen real bloody messes before, I’ve also dressed nasty wounds before. Blood is not bright red water, it just doesn’t act like someone turned on a garden hose full of bright red food coloring.

    Honestly, I say if you’re going to go all out and make a big deal of focusing on blood, you should at least do the stuff justice and portray it right.

    A big part of what makes it so damned frightening to see a huge bloody mess is the fact that it takes extreme violence to get something like blood to spread out both widely and evenly.

  60. Sidenote: You can turn off the blood – there’s an option called “Enable Persistent Gore.”

    I thought the blood spatters were so silly, I turned it off almost immediately.

  61. Hawk says:

    Looks good — I’m bothered by neither gore nor skin, but would probably turn the blood spigot down a bit anyway.

    My quandry is which version to pick up. I like isometric tactical games, so would prefer that game play I think, but my computer is just barely above the minimum requirements (heck, I’ll have to clear 20 GB of disk space), so I’m not sure if it wouldn’t just be easier to get the XBox version.

    I’ve played most of my RPGs on the PC, but did do Mass Effect and Oblivion on the Xbox and didn’t have any real issues with those adaptations.

    Any recommendations?

  62. GTB says:

    So far i’ve enjoyed it. That being said this is no Mass Effect, and it’s certainly no Balder’s Gate 2. The story so far has been pretty good, but the character system is way too simplistic for me. The skill trees LOOK pretty varied at first glance, but each one requires a certain level, a certain stat value, and most require that you have another previous skill as well. Which means that each level you end up with maybe 1 or 2 options for character advancement, and at least in my clase, none of them have been worth spending points on.

    For instance, I have a two-weapon fighter. That means that I’m not going to spend any points on the sword/shield abilities, or the two-handed weapon abilities. So that limits me to the 2-weapon skills and the basic warrior skills. That’s four options each level, basically. Except that each of those four skill paths requires that my level be X and/or I have X in a certain stat in order to take the skill, which further lowers me to about two options every level. Now add in the fact that at least one of those two options is useless (most of the warrior stance abilities I don’t want) which lowers me to one. I have one option every level. At that point, why bother giving me a choice in abilities?

    Essentially they over-simplified the character progression, probably to appeal to the WoW crowd. I’m not saying that D&D is perfect (And if they had gone that route, they would be using 4th ed, which is probably almost as bad as they system they in-housed!) but my favorite part of CRPGs aside from the story is the character progression. Dragon Age doesn’t feature much.

    On the other hand, I can’t WAIT to get my hands on the editor.

    I’m running the game on a single core AMD FX-57 with a 7800 256mb Nvidia graphics card. (I’m also running XP) I get 40-60fps/s with everything set on medium and the post processing shit turned off (which I generally turn off regardless of FPS gain, because I hate bloom) So i’m sure you can run it if I can.

    The social stuff does exist and is based on your Coercion as well as your strength/Cunning scores. I’ve used it several times now, and have yet to fail. I don’t know exactly what the mechanics of it are, but I have only put a few points in it. Generally during a conversation, “[Intimidate] Text” or “[Persuade] Text” show up as options.

  63. MuonDecay says:

    WoW actually gave you a few different viable options for a warrior depending on what role you wanted to fill (or did when I quit in early 2006), so if anything the WoW crowd is used to more complexity than you describe in DA.

    Maybe they’re reaching out early to the Chutes ‘n Ladders or Candyland crowd.

  64. ClearWater says:

    @46: That version does make more sense. In the one Shamus embedded, at the start of the sex scene, the guy seems to say “Let’s make it quick.” Then again. It lasted only 5 seconds.

  65. Scourge says:

    I think I just remembered something called Girls of Gaming, starring Various Heroine’s from various games in various sexy poses in a Maxim.
    There was some text too, like an interview of some sorts, but no one really read that I think.

    So, its not the first time time something like those Maxim commercial stuff happens.
    Still, it is a low for the industry.

  66. Felblood says:

    This Maxim bullcrap doesn’t phase me. Soul Caliber 2 is my all time favorite game, and it’s girls had a run in Playboy.

    Has Bioware ever given us multiple background choices, like people are asking for from this?

    The only background you got to pick in KOTOR was Soldier, Scout or Scoundrel, and then they went and erased whatever background you had given your character with the twist. You could only define the PC’s actions and their destiny, not their past.

    –and that was the best one, if we’re judging these games based on background customization.

    Jade Empire? Your origins and history are all spelled out. You don’t have a “chosen one” checkbox at character creation, but the character is still fun to play, and their final destiny is entirely in your hands.

    Baldur’s Gate? Ditto.

    To the people who played this game, and read Dragon age (of which I have done neither) I posit a question:

    Do the background available represent the sorts of people you would expect to be playing in a Dragon Age game, is is the absence of common born rogues a major omission, for the franchise?

  67. Zaxares says:

    @Ergonomic Cat: Thank goodness! I have nothing against blood and gore, but the amount shown in trailers was just excessive. Kill Bill excessive. It was just getting corny. I’m not sure if there’s a sliding scale to turn down the amount of blood and gore, but if not, I’ll just turn it off.

  68. PowerofGeorge says:

    Sigh… When I first saw the game’s trailer, I thought: “Christ, it looks like Lord of the Rings Uncut! Since we’ve got our generic epic rpg rolling, why don’t we include some sex and blood to make it an epic generic rpg with movie trappings while we are at it?”

    Ok, that sounds harsh, and coming from someone who loved Baldur’s Gate a bit hypocritical perhaps. But really, the game has done nothing to impress me. With previous Bioware games there has been something looking forward to. Not this one though.

    Someone might say “Bioware can’t make bad games!” Oh they can I tell you. Every big company can make bad games. Nintendo and Sega did. Even Bioware did (Neverwinter Nights).

    Now I’m not saying that Dragon Age will necessarily be a bad game. (I’m talking in future tense because the game will be released in Europe tomorrow) I’m suspicious though from the lack of any excitement from it. Ι was excited for Neverwinter Nights and THAT isn’t a good sign.

    And I don’t really think that this campaign will reel in more people necessarily. Contrary to popular belief, the controversy surrounding Mass Effect didn’t suddenly explode the game’s sales (If I am to believe VGChartz) so eh…

  69. Jenx says:

    To be honest, I feel kind of insulted that this game decides to sell itself to me (because, they are trying to sell it to ME. And if you are watching it, they are trying to sell it to you, and so on.) in such a fashion. I don’t mind gore. I don’t mind porn. I like both…that is why I watch gory movies and I watch porn movies. However, if I go play a Bio Ware game I really wish I’d be playing a Bio Ware game with interesting story, setting and character development, not just tits and blood.

    In any case, after seeing this trailer one thing is for sure – any interest I might have had for this game is gone. To me this is just some generic, piece of crap modern day RPG that is nowhere close to the experiences I had playing the old fallout, baldur’s gate and such series.

  70. Danath says:

    The voice acting is good, the story is ok so far for me… MY NPC PARTNERS CAN GO DIE IN A BURNING HELLFIRE!1

    Seriously, it’s the stupid “gambit” system, but you only start with three slots, so my NPC buddies like to run off and do retarded things and die/get me killed… I play on Nightmare, cause thats how I am (hardest difficulty), and it’s frustrating to lose due to retarded AI.

    In addition, your character has NO voice acting, which was something nice in mass effect, it added more personality, and however you make your character for human noble, you are treated the same. My old man keeps being called “son”, “young man”, and “pup”. Awwwwkwaaaard.

    But by far the biggest weakness is combat, you can’t attack if you move… at all, so you basically get close, hit attack, and sit there and hit cooldowns and hope your enemy doesn’t move, causing you to miss. I hate micromanaging my party too, although I hear that gets better once I get more “combat tactics” slots, which I desperately hope is true.

    However, other than those particularly glaring bits, no VA for player character, stupid NPCs, lack of customization for your NPC’s stupid brains for a while, and archaic combat system, but the game is still decently fun. Those trailers really don’t do the game justice, it’s impossible to take them seriously.

    Not the best RPG ever, it’s decent, it’s involved, but I don’t really know what they were thinking with the marketing, and with some of the design decisions. Voicework is for the most part excellent, I feel like I should emphasis that so far.

    Oh yes, gore is hilariously excessive. HILARIOUSLY.

  71. Sean Riley says:

    I don’t care so much about the marketing as the fact that it’s becoming incredibly apparent that, having left licensed properties behind for the most part, that Bioware has no fucking clue how to make an interesting visual style. I liked Mass Effect, but it’s a painfully generic sci-fi universe, and Dragon Age mostly fits the bill as a painfully generic fantasy universe, too. (I do like the touch of the elves, the City Elves at least, being less ethereal sages and more gypsy thieves.)

    Also, this is one of the ugliest games I’ve seen in a long time.

    Can we get a Double Fine/Bioware collaboration, sometime? Let Tim Schafer do the concept, art design and dialogue, let Bioware do the gameplay and story? Best of both worlds?

  72. Sheer_FALACY says:

    Your character has voice acting, just not much. They’ll sometimes talk when you ask them to open chests, for example, or when you select them.

    And again with the background complaints. You picked a background that says you’re someone’s kid. You then made a character that doesn’t look like someone’s kid. Is that their fault? Should they have made it impossible to make someone who looked old for the Human Noble background?

    Not being able to attack while moving and having trouble meleeing a moving target is annoying. It seems like the combat system was designed around the zoomed out (Baldur’s Gate-like) view and clicking to move, and the WSAD and third person stuff was added in because it looks better and feels more natural.

    And the “gambit” system… FFXII did it much better. It started out simple and grew and grew and grew (though having HP < 70% and HP < 50% but not yet having gotten HP < 60% was pretty dumb). This one starts out fully featured, and generally you're only going to be using the very basic ones, like "self: any" that pretty much every character will be using to keep a stance up. On the bright side the predefined ones do pretty much exactly what I want.

    And as for the looks… I guess I haven't kept up with where next gen gaming is at, because this looks pretty damn good. Possibly they had to sacrifice something for the ultra zoomed out view.

  73. DaveJ says:

    Well Shamus Young I’m sorry I hurt your feelings with my brusque comment.

    Yes you said you were concerned about the advertising, I said that they are advertising to someone that wasn’t you. I’m saying that you shouldn’t be worried by the advertising.

  74. BlackBloc says:

    Without a definite good/bad reward for your actions I have no idea how I'm supposed to resolve anything!

    Welcome to the real world, where there isn’t a Good/Evil meter. (Some of us would claim there is no good/evil either, but that’s philosophically controversial. :P) You do get a ‘companion approval’ meter though.

    This game is GOTY material IMO. The only thing that may keep it from being so is if it’s voted down by the graphics whore demographic. But I’m a Wii owner, my computer is out of date, and I bought an X360 just for this game. I have a hard time seeing all the graphics issues that the Crysis set is complaining about.

  75. James Pope says:

    I dunno, I didn’t see any trailers before I bought it, only a bit of investigation to decide whether or not I wanted to buy the PC or the Xbox360 version, and I’m liking it quite a bit. It’s a welcome change from the Champions Online stuff really.

  76. Blackbird71 says:

    @DaveJ (73)

    So are you saying that advertising shouldn’t reflect the content of the product? Because that was Shamus’ concern as I understand it, not that the advertising didn’t appeal to him, but rather that if the advertising is to believed, then the game is not what it was originally built up as.

    Personally, this advertising has put me off from the game, at least until it hits the $20 price mark. Yes, I’ve read all the comments stating that the ads don’t reflect the game, and that the campaign is targetted at the non-RPGers, but that’s exactly why I’m avoiding DA. If they want to run a dirty (as in misleading, deceptive) ad campaign, then I choose to punish their lack of ethics by witholding my money. That’s just who I am, I try not to do business with companies that aren’t up front about what they’re selling.

  77. Magnus says:

    @ Danath (71):
    “In addition, your character has NO voice acting, which was something nice in mass effect, it added more personality, and however you make your character for human noble, you are treated the same. My old man keeps being called “son”, “young man”, and “pup”. Awwwwkwaaaard.”

    I prefer my PC to have no voice, since there’s no way it would sound like me anyway. One of my minor annoyances with ME was the PC voice, since you only had the choice of male/female.

    BG2 is still my favourite voice acting compromise, with some text voiced and longer parts not.

    I’m of the opinion that voice acting constricts immersion as it (perhaps up to now) reduces the amount said, and the voice may not tally with how you perceive the character from visual information.

    On the difficulty, I did hear from PC Gamer that even on “easy” there are some stupidly difficult parts, so perhaps your choice of difficulty is a touch ambitious! Mind you, kudos if you do manage to complete it on the hardest setting. I wonder if they will offer some sort of new game plus thing for it (did they do that for ME? I only played through it once…).

  78. Danath says:


    True, the no VA for your character is pretty minor to me, but it would have been a nice option, I just thought I would mention it. The being called “son and pup” was most grating.

    And to be honest, the difficulty isnt in the… well difficulty, it’s in getting your characters to behave in a non-stupid fashion. I recently ran into a bug where my characters won’t move, unless I manually move them, and ended up having to go back 2 hours (repeating a series of fights) just to fix it.

    NPC’s is the biggest complaint, unlockable tactics slots are annoying, should just be able to customize my NPC buddies so they do what I want right from the get go.

    This isn’t to say Nightmare is NOT brutal, as I found my butt handed to me on a silver platter very frequently, “partial” pulling is essential to survive, because even with a tank early on, you’ll be fighting groups that simply will outdamage your healing. I won’t even get into the first boss, which is a luck based battle depending ENTIRELY on how often he does his knockdown attacks. And if/when he picks you up and beats you to death (fully armored warrior at 100% health died in a few seconds).

  79. Ergonomic Cat says:

    I would point out that the trailer in question is only one piece of an entire campaign. In fact, I had seen a number of trailers, the Penny Arcade strip, the char creator and the web game, but never that trailer until Shamus linked it.

    So it’s not as though their entire campaign was like that. Just a piece.

  80. Magnus says:


    I think I’ll be playing on “easy”, I’m not one for that sort of punishment!

    Not sure why they decided on those tactic slots, will have to see them in game to fully appreciate their (lack of) usefulness. I had imagined it would be similar to the AI options in NWN2, only that selecting options would actually make a perceptible difference.

  81. Danath says:


    It is, theres different AI behaviors you can tell them to do, but they only apply if none of the characters AI tactics apply. Which leads to hilariously broken things like an enemy running into a group of enemies, and my tank, who is in “Defender” behavior, which says “do not chase”, but turning on attack the “nearest visible enemy” and instead of not chasing, he chases… thus resulting in my almost dead group fighting ANOTHER group, and dieing. So don’t attack nearest you say? Well then you end up in the hilarious situation where he wont attack *anything* unless it hits him first, which means he cant get agro, which means *nothing hits him*. Assist me? Ok, but then he’s not helping fight the other mobs on the healer… and if I accidently click an enemy far far away, they go running off to their doom… cause there is no way to unclick!

    I encountered all this in basically the tutorial. Like saying cautious personality means your character won’t fight in melee, and “run” and try to use ranged. But he won’t try to STAY far away. Ranged personality? Well then you run into situations where they too end up trying to chase… and when they start using melee, they use none of their melee abilities… and even if they DO, like STUN, they will KEEP MELEEING instead of running and shooting.

    Ranttastic! My friends were laughing at me as my rants about my NPCs got more incoherent the longer I played.

  82. pneuma08 says:

    That trailer is actually quite old as well, and there was a huge backlash over it. Later trailers, while still appealing to a similar demographic, are MUCH better. And that’s to say nothing about the rest of the marketing campaign that Ergonomic Cat (#79) mentioned.

    I really think the marketing was screwed up by EA this time around. They’re trying to make it appeal to people who have no business around Bioware games, while alienating their core base (see Shamus’s post, above).

    As an aside, did you know there’s going to be a Dragon Age tabletop RPG by Green Ronin? My interest is piqued, but I can’t seem to get a price point anywhere…

    @Danath (#78): How would they manage to not call you by pet names and the like? That’s the real problem with voice acting – I mean, there’s only so much skirting you can do. They got around it in Mass Effect by calling you by your unchangeable last name, but a fantasy RPG, not so much.

    Moreover, the “characters not moving” thing – I ran into something similar back at the beginning of the game, only to find out I had inadvertently told them to “wait” – the default key is H, I believe, and there wasn’t a clear visual or audial clue as what happened when I pressed it.

    As for the boss battle, I saw it mentioned in the Codex or whatever they call the knowledge base thing that the way to prevent your characters from being raped by the pick-up-and-beat-you-to-death attack (which takes 100% of your health on normal too) is to stun the guy (which of course is resistible, but it is possible for everyone to survive that battle).

    A couple other things:
    I do remember there being something about when you play around with the custom behaviors it turns off the default behaviors, so that might be some of what you’re seeing. Moreover, you can cancel actions, most notably by just giving the guy a new command (which can be done pseudo-instantaneously through pausing).

    That said, I *am* the micromanaging type and I’m playing on Normal so I both don’t know the full depth of the battle tactics system and have a lot more “wiggle room” for the AI quirks (some of which I have seen, but I’ve mostly written them off because I haven’t really configured their gamb- er, battle tactics).

    Some battles are a lot harder than others, though. Archers are a huge pain.

  83. Danath says:


    Damn? H, crap, well I already deleted those saves. And normally I wouldn’t mind it, it hasn’t been an issue since the very start, but being called “pup” when my guy looks older than my “father” is just awkwardly out of place. It was funny, but again, this is a minor issue, not really harping on it.

    And this is on NIGHTMARE, he is nearly immune to any stun any time, if I landed 1 stun in an entire fight, that would be lucky in my several attempts it took to beat the boss. Not to mention his NORMAL hits are brutal and about 50-90% of his attacks would be “knockdowns”. I DID win with all characters surviving, but it was half luck since he didnt choose to beat one or two characters to death instantly (if he goes after the circle mage, that mage is dead, 2-3 hits tops).

    Also the giving another command thing only works if theres something to interrupt it with, you cant interrupt charging with a command, because they take it as “do the command on that opponent”. Custom behaviors act in synergy with default behaviors, there’s behaviors that are acted upon if none of your tactics apply, you can’t mess with those, but frequently your tactics will override the behaviors, while not having certain options available that your behaviors DOES have, or if you apply the behavior using tactics, you result in an character who won’t move 2 feet to attack an enemy.

    A big problem for me is getting my characters to stop attacking and come BACK to me, issueing other commands doesn’t help. Like I said earlier, partial pulling is ESSENTIAL to save yourself on health potions and not death.

  84. gaspar says:

    So this may be off topic, but I just reached a quest where the quest giver asked me to give EA some money so I could download the quest. The whole DLC is not foreign to me, but it was pretty surprising that it was integrated into the game like this. Felt icky.

    1. Shamus says:

      gaspar: I remember when Fable 2 did much the same thing. I agree that it was… unseemly.

  85. Danath says:

    It’s the Warden’s Keep DLC… I myself will get it… when it’s free… from either bioware, or pirates, I care not which, since I already bought the game.

  86. Desert Rat says:

    What did you expect? It’s hardly surprising that EA is destroying yet another formerly great independent game publishing house. The trail of the last 20 years is littered with the skeletons of the design studios EA has bought, hollowed out, and tossed the remains over their shoulders like an empty beer can.

    On the other hand, It’s comforting knowing that I won’t be missing much by not having a machine good enough to run Dragon Age on.

  87. Avilan the Grey says:

    Desert Rat:

    Where are you coming from with that comment? What exactly made you decide not to buy the game?

    So far I have not seen anything in any review or trailer that turned me off the game. I started playing it this morning and so far it feels great being back in that lovely place that was BGII. Even though the system is different, the controls are similar, the space-bar of love is there (I micromanage, so I pause about 10 times a battle, at least, just like in the BG and Torment games).

    I also happily discovered that I can run the game on max settings (I have quite low max resolution, 1440×900 which helps). My laptop hits the recommended system pretty spot on except a slightly better graphic card).

  88. GTB says:

    The DLC thing kind of made me feel.. unsettled, when i got to it. I knew it was coming, but even so, it was, I dunno, I felt like I had been shortchanged or something.

  89. Cody says:

    The loading times in this game are horrific, I actually timed it at one point and the results were just under SIX FUCKING MINUTES. Six minutes to load an area that I could even explore yet and had to turn around immediately and load another 6 minutes back into the town from whence I came. other than that and some minor nitpicks I’m having a pretty good time with it, I haven’t gotten very far into the game though so I haven’t really formed a solid opinion of it yet.

    On another note, I didn’t really like my first character so I decided to go with a female elf mage. I was at the point in the character creation where I pick her voice and I was pretty sure I was going to go with sultry. When I heard the voice I immediately recognized it as a character from the Rugrats cartoon. It’s a good thing I noticed it right away or else whenever my “sultry” elf spoke I would have conjured up the image of a 3 year old in my mind, which would have been disturbing to say the least.

  90. Avilan the Grey says:

    Cody: I can understand that :)

    Personally I find that I am stuck on “Violent” although I prefer the tone of “Experienced” better for my female warrior. The problem with “Experienced” is that I don’t think the accent that voice has fits for a noblewoman.

    For my next character Sultry is the way to go. Of course I never saw Rugrats. :)

    As for loading times, so far I find it better than NWN2 / Witcher, but way longer than FO3 / Oblivion.

  91. Eric(Ninjews) says:

    It seems to me that what rutskarn wants is a tabletop rpg for the computer. I don’t ever see that happening.

  92. I’ve been playing Dragon Age pretty much non-stop since it came out three days ago, and I’m sincerely enjoying it so far. The combat is quite entertaining, the story thus far has been awesome, the NPC’s are great to talk with and listen to.

    My only real quibble is that I believe my favorite NPC is not romanceable–and the actual romances are kind of lame from what I’ve seen. The job board quests are pretty much only there for grinding if you’re into that thing, but it’s the sort of thing that will nag a completist who might not really care for that type of quest. But you can ignore them completely if you like.

    I won’t know what I think overall until I finish the game, though. I’ve been enjoying following the setting (I’m actually running a tabletop campaign in it as we speak), but much of what’s happened in the game thus far seems slightly off or out-of-character, so I’m waiting rather impatiently for this to be explained. Almost all of my guesses have been correct–but this isn’t a bad thing. I’m a writer myself, and if you CAN’T see stuff coming, then there’s often a logical continuity problem. Bioware’s been doing pretty well about giving out enough information for you to form inferences.

    And Rustkarn has no idea what he’s talking about. Bioware even said that they were sticking with the “traditional” races *intentionally* in order to make the setting feel familiar-but-not-familiar. Dragon Age is, in many ways, an Old School game, up to and including the combat which kicks your ass if you get into a bad tactical position. This may not be a game you’ll love if your idea of a perfect game was Mass Effect or KotOR, but if you liked Baldur’s Gate II or the combat in the Icewind Dale games, you’ll like Dragon Age.

  93. it was… unseemly

    That sort of thing ruins games for me.

    So do “romance” interests that are not attractive. Reminds me of Wing Commander Prophecy where you played a young pilot and one of the two romance interests was (played by an aging porn star, which the advertisements played up) the older pilot’s ex-wife. Just what I want, a superior officer’s ex-wife cougar coming on to me. Made for icky moments.

    On the other hand, being able to turn the gore off is a good thing.

    If the rest of the game is as great as the first 10 hours, then it will be my RPG of the decade.

    I’m hoping for more reviews, thanks.

  94. Miral says:

    I somehow missed most of the pre-release advertising/hype around this game; my sole exposure to it was a 15-minute hands-on play (basically just one of the origin stories) at a convention. Based on that (mostly the dialogue depth and humour), plus the BioWare name, I was sold. (And pre-ordered.)

    (I did, incidentally, also pick up the Warden’s Keep DLC; it was reasonably fun but felt a bit short. Although the vendors and party chest you get at the end are quite handy, if difficult to access when needed.)

    The trailers (which I saw afterwards) I actually thought were a bit adventurous (EA is choosing that as their theme tune for a major release?) — it’s all cutscene stuff, though, which I immediately discount as having nothing to do with gameplay anyway, bar a bit of theming.

    In game, the persistent gore surprised me a bit when I first saw it, but it does kinda make sense when you think about it so I leave it on. Doesn’t really bother me.

    In terms of direct violence, I normally use tactical view (zoomed out overhead) during battles so I don’t really see much of it (though there’s a section I’m playing now where my main is solo in the Fade; I seem to be playing those zoomed in more, so I’m seeing a bit of that now). It’s pretty tame.

    The combat tactics slots are admittedly fairly weak. As mentioned earlier, you don’t get all that many of them, and the ones you get aren’t particularly configurable (you can’t say things like “enemy targeting any ally”; you have to name a specific character). Also, when you first get a party member they’ll have some default tactics in their Custom 1 slot that can’t be saved and get lost if you switch to any other slot, and sometimes even contain conditions that you can’t actually set yourself. So the tactics slots are definitely the weakest part of the game.

    Overall though I totally love this game. The world is great, the dialogue is awesome, the combat is reasonably fun. There are the odd bits of weirdness in the plot, and of course some of it is stretched a bit thin because you don’t really have time constraints and can play things “out of order”, but it’s easily forgiven.

    I think I’ve put ~20 hours into it already (and it only arrived on Friday). And I’m only ~15% of the way through the game. I love it.

  95. Sheer_FALACY says:

    I was definitely annoyed by the combat tactics you can’t set yourself (enemy surrounded by X allies, for example – I think “enemy clustered with at least X allies” is supposed to do the same thing but that only lets choose a limited subset of spells for some reason – you can pick cone of cold but not blizzard, for example). But I’m pretty sure you can do “enemy targeting any ally” by “Enemy attacking using attack type”… which only lets you pick 2/3 types, admittedly.

  96. Danath says:

    Also the tactics are BROKEN.

    I have my healer set to cast rejuvenate on Hero only if stamina is below 10%, and self if mana is below 50%. She cast it on Morrigan… who was at 100% mana. I won’t even get how they’ll cast spells in the wrong priority, like my tank is about to die, even though heal is the #1 priority spell when hero is below 50%, she’ll cast Regeneration… no help at all.

    Game is still fun, but the touted customization of party mechanics just isn’t there. If your micromanaging mostly (which I end up doing most of the time now, out of necessity), it’s really a non issue, but those times where you can’t watch them, they do something stupid… and the time spent trying to get the tactics to WORK right just isn’t worth it.

    Everything else in the game is good.

  97. jubuttib says:

    The combat can be fiddly since the tactics are broken and you have to do everything yourself (I wish it was turn based as a result) but apart from that… I love it. I love the story, I love the style they have, I love the party members as characters, I LOVE that the enemies don’t keep respawning (no grinding in the depths of a forest, hooray!) and I especially love the amount and quality of the discussions. They voice acting is spot on (though I’ve only playd around 25 hours, progress is at 30%, can’t say for every character) and I’ve apparently started more conversations than killed monsters. And I haven’t been bored once during that time. There is some railroading, yes, but as soon as I noticed that it’s not a completely freeform sandbox game and there are pretty harsh limits to exploring the places (invisible walls everywhere) I knew it was going to happen so I stopped worrying. In my experience there are multiple solutions (and often they don’t even necessarily involve fighting) to just about anything, and they’re not always so clear cut in the good/bad scale. The main story is very dark indeed and the world is not a happy place, but some of the party members are hilarious, so it’s a good balance.

    But yeah, I really do like the game to bits. I might be exaggerating, and I probably am, but at this point in time these are the feelings I have for the game.

  98. scaj says:

    this game is brilliant, ill try not to sound to much like a megafan but this is the best rpg i have ever played, i was very worried about the trailers and now im worried that ea never played or even looked at the game before making commercials for it, its an incredibly deep game, the only bad things i can think of are the whole romantic part, i can only get it on whit the young females, not the wise older lady or the males, and that i wasted 5 euro on nothing, i bought the full version of the game but for some reason i cant download it and they wont let me make an (new, because you need 3 accounts on different sites to get costumer support) account so i can get the two expansions packs.

  99. Aufero says:

    Returning to this thread a few days later:

    I’m about 20 hours into it now, and it’s been consistently good. Some sections (To avoid spoilers, I’ll just say the Circle of Mages quests) are already well worth what I paid for the game.

    It’s much, much better than the advertising would have you believe.

  100. Gildan Bladeborn says:

    I started playing Dragon Age the day after (the North American) release and I have been constantly sleep deprived from my inability to stop playing the darn game unless I literally have to get up from my computer for something (food/job/etc). According to the Heroic Accomplishments tracker I’ve been playing for something in the neighborhood of 82 hours now and I’ve only JUST arrived at the 49% completion mark(!).

    The AI at times does some strange things, but I haven’t really noticed or minded since I’m playing on Easy and I never bothered to monkey with the tactics after I realized that was far more work than I wanted to do when I would inevitably just pause the game and queue up some orders anyways. Even on Easy it’s still a very difficult game, though I’ve never had a total party wipe (came VERY close in some nerve-wracking battles – like when both warriors went down leaving a mage and rogue to finish off a very angry high dragon).

    The companions, AI concerns notwithstanding, are FREAKING AWESOME and they actually feel like real people (especially when they gossip/bicker/joke around with each other), the combat is fun (but flawed sometimes), and the main story quests have been bloody amazing (the sidequests not so much, but most of those are just things you do while you are going about more important work rather than stuff you focus on).

    I cannot recommend this game enough, provided you are warned up front that it will demolish your social life utterly. I am sitting here at work right now twitching because I have to wait 4 more hours until I can start playing some more, and I just know that as soon as I’ve finished my initial play through I’ll be going back through it again as another origin making different choices. I pity all the other game developers hoping to compete for my attention now that Dragon Age is here.

    Oh, be sure to get the Digital Deluxe Edition (read: Complete Edition) if you’d like to avoid immersion breaking, DLC-hawking quest givers.

    @Aufero: Yeah, the Circle of Mages was VERY cool – I was enjoying myself well enough just working my way through the different levels, but then that [thing I won’t mention because it will spoil stuff] arrived and it went from quality hack and slash to sublime – probably my favorite segment so far.

  101. Miral says:

    You might want to update your link to 1e46Z7iFljk; looks like hNvwWjCwWQc has been removed for some dumb reason.

    Also: if you have the collector’s edition, don’t forget to check out the bloopers reel on the bonus disc. There’s some really funny stuff in there.

  102. Sean Riley says:

    Thread necromancy, I know, but I will argue a strong point for the Warden’s Keep DLC — It has one of the most compelling moral quandaries posed by a game since Deus Ex.

    How it was introduced is a worthwhile criticism, but the content itself was excellent.

  103. Blork32 says:

    So does this mean that you’ll be working on a Dragon Age series after the Borderlands series is finished?

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