I’ve been doing a little experiment with Dragon Age. I picked it up last week, and I’ve been posting ephemeral thoughts on the thing into my Twitter as I play. I’ve read back through the feed now and I find it striking how most of these things are annoyances or trivialities that probably wouldn’t make it into one of my long-form reviews. I thought I’d go back through the feed and re-post each of the entries here, along with some additional commentary.
Stuff in bold is what I typed into Twitter. Keep in mind these are moment-to-moment thoughts, not impressions on the game overall. Also note that I’m playing the PC version, which is reportedly very different from the console versions. Do take this into consideration before correcting me on some aspect of the game, because it’s possible we’re playing very different games.
So begins my review:
I now own Dragon Age.
I got the game Wednesday Nov 25th, the night before (American) Thanksgiving.
Oh, hello Captain Janeway. #DragonAge
Flemeth (the so-called Witch of the Wilds) is voiced by Kate Mulgrew.
Aaaand #dragonage crashes like a chump when I alt-TAB. This could be an ongoing problem.
I’m not sure if it was just a one-time fluke or what, but after this crash I started playing in windowed mode. It wrecks immersion a bit, but it also lets me jump to Twitter and leave updates more easily.
This is how I play MMO games, and Dragon Age feels like a single-player MMO, so this make sense.
I keep expecting Duncan to send me to Jerusalem to knife somebody. #dragonage
The character Duncan is voiced by Peter Renaday, who also voiced head assassin Al Mualim in Assassin’s Creed.
New quest: BUY MOAR CONTENT FROM EA GAMES. Real classy, guys. #dragonage
The designers stuck a quest giver into your camp (a location you’ll visit often throughout the game) and he has the floating “I have a quest for you” icon over his head. So you have to put up with that through the whole game if you don’t want to pay for the premium content. I’m having trouble just getting through the bulk of the game so far, so I’m not really feeling a big urge to place even more detours between me and the endgame.
It’s obviously a dick move on the part of EA in an attempt to make you feel like you’re missing part of the game. Instead of selling you a few bonus pages to their book, they rip a few out of the middle and then let you wonder what you’re missing. Very cynical. It doesn’t ruin the game or anything, but you can see where this is going down the road.
Oh, hello Tuvok. #dragonage
The leader of the Dalish people is played by Tim Russ, who also played Tuvok in Star Trek Voyager.
Playing a Mage. Trying to decide if I should try another class before I go too far. 100 hours is a long time. #dragonage
I eventually did start over. As an Elf. Mage. I’d screwed up this character by mis-spending skill points, and I’d missed out on two possible companions.
Dear NPC: Thanks for the outfit. I’m sure the Darkspawn will be no match for my ass hanging out. #dragonage
People usually prefer a difficulty CURVE to a difficulty SAWTOOTH. #dragonage
Ten fights of more or less effortless combat, and then one fight that results in a TPK Game Over. This game is very strange when it comes to difficulty. I’ll revisit this issue later.
Dear Main Character: Stop talking smack to the containers I tell you to open. Thx. #dragonage
This has been going on since at least the original Neverwinter Nights. In this game they no longer challenge doors and boxes to a duel, but they still say inappropriate things when directed to (say) open a door. Odd.
Mages running laps around the tanks: Comically silly but very effective! #dragonage
I hate, hate, hate the fact that your area-of-effect magic spells do friendly fire damage. The casting range is way inside of the aggro range of most foes, the blast radius is so big, and the casting time is so long, that there is no time you can use the really big hitters without nuking your team. By the time you’re close enough to cast, the bad guys have spotted you and are rushing. And they will close the distance and interrupt your spell before you can activate it. You can fireball distant archers, but they’re always spaced out so you never really get more than a couple.
And if you do manage to get off that perfect shot at the perfect moment with the right timing and actually get to hit a bunch of guys with your nuke, the bad guys are going to head straight for you and chop your mage into little pieces, because for all the hassle they are to use, the big blast spells don’t really do that much damage. They just piss a lot of people off.
So then you have six guys who want to murder you, and one or two melee companions to try and pull them away. It can’t work. Which leads to running laps around the tanks. (Which works.)
They added all this stuff to make combat “realistic” and to keep it “balanced” and instead they traded “stupid but fun” for “stupid and tedious”.
And yes, I know that it doesn’t do this if you play on easy. I think the difficulty slider should modulate the challenge of the game, not the fun.
AoE spells should either be way easier to use or do way more damage. (I’d prefer the former. I wouldn’t mind if the spells didn’t kill everyone in the room, as long as I got the fun of using them on a regular basis.) As it is, they usually just aren’t worth the hassle and risk.
Hardest quest in the game: Locate a single person who isn’t a COMPLETE prick. #dragonage
I wrote this one after I ran into a string of NPC’s who were jerks to me for no good reason. The final straw was a guy running the docks leading to the Mage’s circle, who is a complete ass to you. The dialog tree drags his little patronizing act out for ages before it gets down to letting you persuade or intimidate your way past him. I was playing a neutral any-means-necessary character, and I was about six dialog lines past the point where I’d said, “Okay, I would have stabbed this idiot and dumped him in the lake by now if the game would let me.”
These characters usually frustrate me most when I’m trying to play evil. I’ll do a few quests where I drown some puppies for a handful of copper pieces, kick some beggars, and feed some children to the dragon for no good reason, but then I meet someone who gives my Evil Overlord some sass, and I can’t actually do anything to them.
This type of encounter is a staple of BioWare games. I’ll bet this never would have made it into a normal review, because this sort of small detail is usually forgotten a couple of minutes later. This game has hours and hours of dialog, and you usually remember the big discussion with main characters more than the brief exchanges with rude little piss-ants along the way.
Resident Evil 4
Who is this imbecile and why is he wandering around Europe unsupervised?
A look back at Star Trek, from the Original Series to the Abrams Reboot.
id Software Coding Style
When the source code for Doom 3 was released, we got a look at some of the style conventions used by the developers. Here I analyze this style and explain what it all means.
Silent Hill Origins
Here is a long look at a game that tries to live up to a big legacy and fails hilariously.
Silent Hill 2 Plot Analysis
A long-form analysis on one of the greatest horror games ever made.