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November 9, 2009 1:38 PM   Subscribe

When it comes to roleplaying games, there are your run-of-the-mill CRPGs and then there are Bioware CRPGs. Last week saw the release of the next Bioware CRPG, Dragon Age: Origins. The game has received the expected universal acclaim.

Bioware has intentionally produced on a mature-themed game, including the expected copious amounts of violence. The game also allows for inter-character romances of straight, gay and lesbian orientations, one of the few major mainstream titles to do so.

The game is not without criticism, some centred around launch-day downloadable content, although Bioware insists that it was not intended to rip-off players.
posted by WinnipegDragon (184 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Once again, I've become a Bioware widower.
posted by kmz at 1:41 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've become a Dalish Elf Rogue!
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:41 PM on November 9, 2009


It was intended to rip-off players.
posted by vanar sena at 1:42 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm as big a Bioware fanboy as anybody, but this chart is pretty spot-on.
posted by EarBucket at 1:43 PM on November 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'll pay extra for the DLC as long as the game as a whole makes up for the cavalcade of disappointment that was KOTOR 2.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:44 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I say that as a fan of Bioware. The Mass Effect securerom fiasco could have been waved away as a one-off for a company that never used to do shit like this, but this is too hard to ignore.
posted by vanar sena at 1:45 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


And even once she finishes Dragon Age, she still has to finish her 3rd run-through of Mass Effect to prep her save file for Mass Effect 2 coming out in January. At least ME2 won't be coming out until shortly after the honeymoon. *g*
posted by kmz at 1:45 PM on November 9, 2009


I'd be more excited about it if Mass Effect 2 weren't coming out in two months. I need time to properly enjoy a good Bioware RPG, and being that scifi > fantasy, Dragon Age is getting waitlisted.
posted by Oktober at 1:45 PM on November 9, 2009


That chart is great. Bioware responds (about 6 or 7 comments down).
posted by HumanComplex at 1:46 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


This post would not be complete without linking to the comic Penny Arcade did as promotion. They also love this game.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:47 PM on November 9, 2009


This post would not be complete without linking to the comic Penny Arcade did as promotion. They also love this game.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:47 PM on November 9 [+] [!]


Yup, forgot it. Thanks!
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:47 PM on November 9, 2009


I can't be the only one who watched the trailer and would have preferred something more period/thematically consistent, or honestly, anything, to some generic metal swearing at me over and over and over and over until I gave up on the damned thing.
posted by paisley henosis at 1:50 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I downloaded this on Friday night (from Steam) and it has absolutely consumed my existence. I don't play many RPGs - and, in fact, this is my first BioWare game - so perhaps some of the cliches are lost on me, but seriously I looked up at the clock and I was like, "Wow, oh, it's 3 AM. How did that happen?"

I love the story, I love the gameplay, I love just about every single component there is to love.

I really dig on the combat, too. I like being able to pause the thing - while the game is devilishly hard at points, I love the way this enables you to work on strategy and combine spells to awesome effect.

My level 9 human noble warrior (with BERSERKER specialization!) spits on you.

SPITS!
posted by kbanas at 1:53 PM on November 9, 2009


Bioware responds

Geez. A little thin-skinned there.
posted by EarBucket at 1:56 PM on November 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


Hot hot dwarf on elf on human sexy sex. That's why I got the game. And let me tell you how upset I am that (start orgy) isn't an option on every trite dialog tree in the game.

Hugely. That's how upset.
posted by boo_radley at 2:01 PM on November 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


The launch-day DLC was a clear indicator to me that I should wait for the inevitable Game of the Year edition.
posted by Prospero at 2:03 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've been playing it all weekend and I think I haven't spent that much time with uninterrupted, sleep-depriving gaming since the worst days of World of Warcraft raiding.

Agreed, the story might not be the most innovative tale ever told, but once you get sucked into it, that doesn't even matter - because DA:O tells it very well. It's also no Oblivion in terms of open game world or graphics, but the gameplay is fantastic, it has exactly the right balance between strategy and action.The characters are likable and interesting and the party banter is entertaining, there's epic quest lines and you get to kill fuckin' huge DRAGONS!

And now excuse me, I have a kingdom to save and about 2.4 billion side quests to finish.
posted by starzero at 2:05 PM on November 9, 2009


Once again, I've become a Bioware widower.

Baldur's Gate, in addition to being one (or three, depending on how you count) of the best games ever, is also fantastic for co-op play.

Finding out that Dragon Age wouldn't have co-op play was disappointing, to put it mildly.
posted by roystgnr at 2:06 PM on November 9, 2009


starzero: "And now excuse me, I have a kingdom to save and about 2.4 billion side quests to finish."

Ah, so you've reinstalled Oblivion. Good call.
posted by boo_radley at 2:07 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


EarBucket: Geez. A little thin-skinned there.

We snark because we love it, and because we'll spend our cash and hours of time chasing down NPCs and running a half-dozen FedEx quests.

On the other hand, I do agree that the chart is stretching in places.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:08 PM on November 9, 2009


I want to play this game. Unfortunately, my barely accessed Windows 7 Beta partition (on my Mac) has apparently expired.

Also... I stupidly bought a Wii instead of a decent console.

Hi, I'm a Mac user and I was wrong :(
posted by vectr at 2:08 PM on November 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


It's worth noting that BioWare's parent company, Electronic Arts, performed the first in a series of layoffs today that will ultimately reduce headcount by 1500 people by April 2010. This mirrors a 10% reduction from this time a year ago. BioWare does not appear to be significantly affected by this round, but layoffs of this size usually end up affecting every EA studio eventually.

Consider buying several copies of Dragon Age and building a fort out of them in your living room this holiday season.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 2:11 PM on November 9, 2009


Ah, so you've reinstalled Oblivion. Good call.

One does not simply install Oblivion. Copying the high-res texture packs alone takes like 2 days.
posted by starzero at 2:13 PM on November 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


The wife's loving it, and I'm enjoying it, myself. I'll put it this way: haven't touched Brutal Legend or Borderlands since Dragon Age came out. They can wait.
posted by owtytrof at 2:15 PM on November 9, 2009


I am completely sick of Tolkien fantasy, but this game subverts expectations enough to be extremely enjoyable. What's truly remarkable about it is how completely differently the game can play in every playthrough, depending on what characters you take, what decisions you make, and what order you complete the storyline.

As an example, you have a whiny douche of a best friend in the Mage origin story, but the game gives you many, many opportunities to stab him in the back, kill him, or help him, depending on how much he annoys you, and your decisions will come back to haunt you... repeatedly.

My only complaint is that Mage is totally overpowered.
posted by mek at 2:17 PM on November 9, 2009


Just wait until concerned citizens hear about the marriage options within the game. Violence is natural, but the Orlais are scandalous!
posted by filthy light thief at 2:18 PM on November 9, 2009


Ah, so you've reinstalled Oblivion. Good call.

I loved Morrowind but couldn't really get into Oblivion. I think the implementation of monster scaling in the game worked against playing to character strengths, and trying to play with NPCs was practically difficult, forcing me to either choose between waiting for them to get pounded into the dust, or shooting them in the back to get them out of my way.

Bioware henchmen are still tactical idiots, but like a virtual chatty cathy, they at least make the game seem a bit less cold.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:19 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love the Western RPG genre so much I that hate it. Let me explain:

Years upon years ago during the Dark Ages (junior high), I methodically played Baldur's Gate II from start to finish. And I mean methodically. No part of a dialog tree was left unread, no dark area of a map was left unseen, no quest was left uncompleted. Every location I visited meant more tasks piled into the to-do list. I would not rest until I cleared out my journal and checked every barrel for loot. I would not rest until I, to misuse a catchphrase, caught 'em all.

I was lost in the game 15 hours a day for a week straight. This was spring break during grade eight in a small town, so there was nothing else to do but eat, sleep, and play. When I finally reached the end of the quest, I closed the game and never touched it again.

A few months later I borrowed the expansion (actually the third game in the trilogy) from a friend and imported my trusty elven archer from my previous save. I just couldn't play. There was nothing about the quality of the game that was poor, but rather something in my brain that prevented me from enjoying it. Burnout.

I took a break from the genre for a long time. I dabbled with Morrowind but didn't get very far in the main quest line, as I kept trying to do everything the game world presented me and couldn't keep up. I did enjoy KOTOR because of the tighter focus, but I don't think I ever actually completed the game. I only put 5 or 6 hours into Mass Effect (a good chunk spent reading the in-game lore database) before reaching the first major planet, driving around for a few minutes, and deciding to take a break for a few hours. I never started the game again. I made it to level 7 or 8 in Fallout 3 before my "to-do" list got too long to fit in memory and started feeling more like a job than a quest log.

I lost myself in Oblivion for a few days, but it quickly overwhelmed me. A year and a half ago I reinstalled it, along with a cornucopia of mods the community had cooked up to polish the base game's flaws. I completed the main quest line, but that was about it. Knowing there was an entire additional continent waiting for me in the expansion pack was enough to stop me from booting the game up after that. The game files collected virtual dust on my hard disk for a year just in case I ever got the urge to play again, but I never did. It remains the WRPG that came closest to defeating my genre burnout.

Dragon Age may be great, but I'm afraid I'm going to be sitting this one out.
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 2:19 PM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


By chance, I just got through with a post about this game elsewhere. Here are my thoughts:

DAO is a very good game with, despite the expected bitching you always get for a complicated game like this, a lot of greatness in it. It also has some significant problems. The good news is that none of the problems are inherent to the game and would be easy to avoid in future DLC or full expansions/sequels.

Let me first (to repurpose Dostoevsky) say that great games are all alike; every poor game is poor in its own way. So the fact that I'm talking about problems more than praise is because everyone knows and can point to the great things in DAO. The characters, the storytelling, much of the world, most of the voice acting, etc. Lets take that as a given.

I hope the devs take the following as it is meant, as how I think a very good game with the potential for greatness could have met that potential. Here are four issues in ascending order of importance and difficulty to fix:

First, a minor matter of preference. If you're going to make difficulties called "hard" and "nightmare", you really have to make them difficult. I realize that not everyone has the same skill level so I'll even allow "hard" to be easier than I feel it should be. But "nightmare"? Really, this needs to be made a lot more difficult.

Second, moving forward with games not using the DnD license was the right decision. It allows a great deal more freedom and control. But you have to balance things better. The good part of using the DND license as in Neverwinter Nights 2 is that they've done most of the balancing for you. But in DAO, some supposed prestige classes are useless, like Shapeshifting. Specializations should make you more powerful. Using Shapeshifting is actually greatly detrimental. Which is too bad, because it's a great idea. You need to make sure that all these things work at least moderately well.

The next two are the most important.

Third, social skills and party member stats are not used nearly enough in dialogue with NPCs or quest events, which is a step backwards from NWN2 and expansions. Right now the great majority of dialogue and so forth is the same whether or not you are a stupid brute who cant do anything but swing a sword or a brilliant mage who knows everything there is about survival and herbalism. Your stats and skills (and party members) should open or close far, far more dialogue options. You see it occasionally but much too rarely.

Lastly, Bioware has clearly internalized how important a diverse group of interesting characters in your party are. The stories of your companions are very well done. HOWEVER, it is way, way, way, way too easy to get their attitudes towards you very high, very quickly, and far, far, far, far too easy to avoid upsetting them. The affinity increases from gifts and camp dialogue are far too high and happen far too quickly. Decreases from dialogue are too low and too easy to avoid. The affinity increases and decreases from actual, you know, actions in the world are far too rare and far too low.

In other words, you can find a companion and plop them in your camp and basically never take them out of camp, and yet they can pretty easily be turned into someone who will share their biggest secrets and dreams with you, and who is willing to die for you or declare you their soulmate. Which is ridiculous. In order to reach that state you should have to bring them with you almost everywhere for almost as long as they are available in your party. There should be a lot more +/- responses to your actual actions and those should be of greater magnitude.

For example, Leilana is in love with my character and yet if I hire an "escort" in a brothel all that happens is -1 from her? Really? Hey, I'm glad there was at least something since I half expected no response but it should be more like -10. Nobody cared one way or the other than I killed an honorable knight in a "duel"? Nobody cared one way or the other how I handled the end of the werewolf/elf war? Nobody cares one way or the other about far too many things.

On first glance this might seem trivial, but it is not. The interactions between party members is of paramount importance in a game like this, and has been so since Planescape: Torment through NWN2 and expansions. Making it so easy to unlock all the party dialogue and romances and quests and such while it is almost impossible to annoy them defeats much of the purpose of this party system and turns what should be the games greatest strength into a neutral at best.

In the future, affinity increases from gifts and most dialogue need to be much less, some of that dialogue should have stat/skill pre-requisites, and affinity increases/decreases from actions should be much more frequent and of greater magnitude.

You want this sort of thing to be something that builds and flows naturally through the game, not something tacked on where you can just throw some items at the character and blindly click through their dialogue while never taking them out of camp. I'd point to Dak'kon in Torment and much of the stuff in NWN2 as good examples. If NWN2 was like DAO, you could have gotten both Bishop and Elanee to be your staunch companions at the same time just by chatting them up during camp.

It really is that important.

As I said, this should not be taken to mean I don't think DAO is a very good game. Just that the ways it is good are obvious and true of most very good games while the ways it needs to be improved are specific to its faults.
posted by Justinian at 2:20 PM on November 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


I was so pissed when I saw the commercials for this; After the last red-ringing on my Xbox 360, I swore off that console and decided that I'd get a PS3 to replace it. Of course, I see this coming out and the ads only list the PC and 360 versions. And I freakin' loved Baldur's Gate so this felt especially cruel as I haven't played a really good RPG in ages.

But according to Metacritic, there is going to be a good day for me in the not too distant future!

Now I just have to, you know, actually go and buy the PS3 so I can start doing stuff with it...
posted by quin at 2:22 PM on November 9, 2009


It's amazing how many subtle choices there are that can dramatically change the way the game plays out. I'm cruising along with the story and hopped into a Steam chat with a buddy to compare what we've done so far - it's almost like we're playing two separate games.

I'll put it this way: haven't touched Brutal Legend or Borderlands since Dragon Age came out.

3 out of our 4-man Borderlands group picked up DA - poor Crazy Earl, left alone to face a horde of ravenous skags.
posted by Zaximus at 2:23 PM on November 9, 2009


Bah. If there are not dice and character sheets involved, it's not a real RPG.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:24 PM on November 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


Baldur's Gate, in addition to being one (or three, depending on how you count) of the best games ever, is also fantastic for co-op play.

I've been thinking for a while now that it'd be fun to round up a group of six Mefites and play through Baldur's Gate online, maybe meeting once or twice a week to play. If anyone would be interested, drop me a line via MeFi mail.
posted by EarBucket at 2:24 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now I just have to, you know, actually go and buy the PS3 so I can start doing stuff with it...

Just so you know, Bioware games are almost always best on PC. Dark Age Origins is no exception and the PC version is the definitive one and, by far, the better version.
posted by Justinian at 2:27 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thirty hours into the story as a city elf rogue and the game crashes when I try to visit the docks by the lake near the Circle of Mages. So the main quest line is broken. Epic fail. Is anyone else having this problem? I'm not on Xbox Live. I hope there's a patch I can burn to disc to fix this, cuz I'd hate to lose thirty hours of gameplay.

And Fluffy, my mabari warhound, is AWESOME.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:33 PM on November 9, 2009


I'll pay extra for the DLC as long as the game as a whole makes up for the cavalcade of disappointment that was KOTOR 2.

To be fair to Bioware, KOTOR2 was actually by Obsidian. Bioware was busy with Jade Empire. And I believe a lot of the issues with KOTOR2 was due to a rushed deadline from LucasArts.
posted by kmz at 2:37 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


My warhound is Kibbles, but he's been removed for Shale at the moment. Hard to pass up a slightly lispy Golem with severe emotional problems.

Also to the earlier comment about henchmen being tactical morons, the new tactics system in DAO is really, really, good. Really good.

The PC version does appear to be the best, but I'm on the PS3 and enjoying it. I'm a PC gamer at heart, but my rig needs an update.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 2:39 PM on November 9, 2009


Just so you know, Bioware games are almost always best on PC. Dark Age Origins is no exception and the PC version is the definitive one and, by far, the better version.

Amen.

Apparently the PC version is the only version in which you can *zoom out* to a more isometric-like viewpoint. On the PS3/360 I understand that you're locked into the too-close-for-comfort default view. I would find this to be extremely frustrating, especially in combat when it's important to get a kind of eagle's eye point of view of the situation to plan out moves and such.

Also, I've read several reviews that document the fact that the console versions have a host of frame-rate/graphical artifacts/pop-up issues. Of course, you can have these issues too if you've got a shitty PC. I started out playing on my MacBook Pro under Bootcamp, and I had to throttle all the settings down to low for it to be playable - I moved over to my i7 desktop, and have been much happier.

And in fact, just to share a bit of geeky joy, I will tell you this story - I was bouncing back between my laptop and my desktop, both with the game installed, and obviously this involved a really irritating procedure wherein I had to keep copying my character over to a USB stick and ferry him back and forth between the machines.

The problem was, I didn't want to settle on just one gaming station and I didn't want to keep going through the whole USB stick thing every time I wanted to play. So, I copied the contents of my character data up onto my home server and made symbolic links on both my desktop and laptop up to that data, and now everything works in glorious harmony.

Woo!
posted by kbanas at 2:43 PM on November 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Also, my girlfriend and I recently got a new puppy named Molly.

We both started Dragon Age on Friday night and went through the initial creation process. I thought it was fairly hilarious that when we compared notes later, we both had named our warhounds MOLLY.

Roar!
posted by kbanas at 2:45 PM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Pepsi
                    ___====-_  _-====___ 
              __--^^^      //     \\     ^^^--_
             _-^         // (    ) \\         ^-_
            -           //  |\^^/|  \\           -
          _/           //   (0::0)   \\            \_
         /            ((     \\//     ))             \ 
       -               \\    (oo)    //               -
      -                 \\  / \/ \  //                 -
     -                   \\/      \//                   -
   / /|           /\      (        )      /\           |\ \
   |/ | /\_/\_/\_/  \_/\  (   /\   )  /\_/  \_/\_/\_/\ | \|
   `  |/  V  V  `    V  \_(| |  | |)_/  V    '  V  V  \|  '
      `   `  `       `   / | |  | | \   '       '  '   '
                       <>             
                      <>           
                      ^^^^ ^^^  ^^^ ^^^^
ROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

Stolen from here, because I can't ASCII for shite.
posted by Decimask at 2:56 PM on November 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


I just started playing. The DLC thing is ridiculous. I didn't buy any DLC, and yet my first gameplay "experience" was entering 48 random alphanumerics to convince it to download the free content I was entitled to. Then I was treated to a noninteractive movie, complete with stuttering playback. None of the graphics are particularly smooth on the Xbox, but it got a bit better when I copied everything to the hard drive.

Whinging aside I'm a total sucker for Bioware style RPGs. No one else is doing this level of interactive writing anymore. I'm less clear how I feel about the combat. It's so real time that I don't even try to control anyone but myself, which isn't working out very well so far.
posted by Nelson at 3:02 PM on November 9, 2009


You mean I've been spending all this time wooing Alastair and I can't even get his saucy mouth into my bed? THANKS FOR THE SPOILERS JERKS.
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:07 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've not heard many good things about the 360 version. Choppy framerates, game-stopping bugs, poor graphics, and a great deal of difficulty in managing larger battles - not that they're especially hard, just that it's a pain to get your characters to do what you want them to do for longer than a few seconds because of rubbish AI. I was really looking forward to this but I'm going to wait and see if the inevitable patch fixes most of the problems. I have to say that the idea of launch day DLC strikes me as incredibly unfriendly and cynical.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:08 PM on November 9, 2009


I havent played a game since Ultima 3, but I sure could use some distraction right now. Let me ask a dumb question: do I need a joystick to play this?
posted by shothotbot at 3:20 PM on November 9, 2009


Let me first (to repurpose Dostoevsky) say that great games are all alike; every poor game is poor in its own way

Er, that's actually Tolstoy, no?

So, if I'm more familiar with KOTOR and Mass Effect than Baldur's Gate, will I like this game?
posted by Rangeboy at 3:29 PM on November 9, 2009


Yeah, it's Tolstoy. From Anna Karenina. I dunno how I made that thinko except to say that all those Russians look alike.

It has a lot of similarities to KOTOR. If you liked KOTOR and KOTOR2 you'd probably like this.
posted by Justinian at 3:41 PM on November 9, 2009


I havent played a game since Ultima 3, but I sure could use some distraction right now. Let me ask a dumb question: do I need a joystick to play this?

Nope and I don't think you'd want to. Mouse and keyboard!
posted by kbanas at 4:06 PM on November 9, 2009




So, if I'm more familiar with KOTOR and Mass Effect than Baldur's Gate, will I like this game?


I haven't played it yet, but asked my son about it today. The first thing he asked me was if I had ever played KotR, because it is much like that.
posted by keli at 4:10 PM on November 9, 2009


Yeah, you don't use joysticks anymore. In fact, a lot of gamers probably don't even have a clue what a "joystick" is these days. Consoles haven't used joysticks since the Atari and the last time PC games called for a joystick was in the heyday of flight simulators like Falcon 3.0.
posted by Justinian at 4:13 PM on November 9, 2009


Shothotbot, I'd check how your system measures up to the game's requirements first. It's a deep dark pool of WTF if you're not familiar with that kind of thing.

Here are the official requirements:

Windows XP Minimum Specifications

OS: Windows XP with SP3
CPU: Intel Core 2 (or equivalent) running at 1.4Ghz or greater
AMD X2 (or equivalent) running at 1.8Ghz or greater
RAM: 1GB or more
Video: ATI Radeon X850 128MB or greater
NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT 128MB or greater
DVD ROM (Physical copy)
20 GB HD space

Windows Vista Minimum Specifications

OS: Windows Vista with SP1
CPU: Intel Core 2 (or equivalent) running at 1.6Ghz or greater
AMD X2 (or equivalent) running at 2.2GHZ or greater
RAM: 1.5 GB or more
Video: ATI Radeon X1550 256MB or greater
NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT 256MB or greater
DVD ROM (Physical copy) 20 GB HD space

Recommended Specifications

CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad 2.4Ghz Processor or equivalent
RAM: 4 GB (Vista) or 2 GB (XP)
Video: ATI 3850 512 MB or greater
NVIDIA 8800GTS 512 MB or greater
DVD ROM (Physical copy)
20 GB HD space
posted by Sebmojo at 4:33 PM on November 9, 2009


The game has received the expected universal acclaim.

What, better than the Gold Box games?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:46 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


System Requirements Lab is a site that can scan what you have to compare against game minimum requirements.
posted by keli at 4:50 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's interesting to see people comparing it to KOTOR. While it is similar, I find it has a lot more in common with Mass Effect.

Frankly, being compared to either should give you an idea of the quality of the overall experience.

Sorry, I'm not trying to actively shill for the game, but in my opinion, it's pretty freaking great.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 4:51 PM on November 9, 2009


I don't think the best comparison is with KotOR or Mass Effect. I think the best comparison is with Neverwinter Nights 2 sans DnD license and with added problems with the character affinity stuff.
posted by Justinian at 4:53 PM on November 9, 2009



It's interesting to see people comparing it to KOTOR. While it is similar, I find it has a lot more in common with Mass Effect.


Steam had Mass Effect on sale this weekend. And again, I asked a friend what Mass Effect was like and he described it by saying it was like KotOR because they are third person shooters.
posted by keli at 5:09 PM on November 9, 2009


The combat system closely mirrors BioWare’s Baldur’s Gate,


And I get to screw a dude? Okay SOLD

I have not played a Bioware game since Baldur's Gate Two. I really liked that game but didn't like that I couldn't date Keldorn. Also now is the only time in my life I have a computer that can actually play modern games and not just 5-year old games with much clipping. Also Also also
posted by The Whelk at 5:11 PM on November 9, 2009


And again, I asked a friend what Mass Effect was like and he described it by saying it was like KotOR because they are third person shooters.

Kill me now. Neither is a third person shooter.
posted by Justinian at 5:15 PM on November 9, 2009


The Whelk: I really liked that game but didn't like that I couldn't date Keldorn.
  1. Re-install BG2 (and patch, mod, etc.)
  2. Make a female character.
  3. Download and install Shadowkeeper.
  4. Change your character's avatar to male.
  5. Seek out the man-on-grizzled-he-paladin action you crave.
posted by Decimask at 5:39 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Okay. I. adore. RPGs. I love the final fantasy series (tho understand it's particular set of flaws, most stemming from the fact it is uber-japanese themed and in storytelling) I particularly loved Oblivion and Fallout 3.

I've played the KOTOR series and thought they were also pretty good. Lacking some organic qualities but good. Then again I tend overvalue

So I was very excited for Mass Effect... and very disappointing. I seriously have no understanding of how it got that kind of love. It's exceedingly repetitive, ESPECIALLY in it's look. Every cave, every planet, every mine, they're all the exact same. It's paint by numbers. I could tell you ever story beat right before it happens. That chart is completely accurate. I'm sorry, but it's true. Yeah guess what? I know and understand Cambellian analysis just like everyone else whose been in high school. It's great and is responsible for so many great stories. Yet with this generation it's become the most lazy storytelling exercise in the world, because they just make a beat for beat version of star wars. There's virtually no distinction in HOW you emphasize those story telling points anymore and it Mass Effect was the best example. I understood how much it took to build something so big in scope, but when it came to subtle execution in giving each little corner it's own distinction, all we get is long paragraphs written about the planet or a charcter's background explained to you in the most boring story ever. It's a lazy, lazy game.

Compare it to the Final Fantasy series where the whole thing strings along in a fluid series of vignettes and starkly different looking environments and goals, and methods of story telling (some people don't dig it and I understand, but the last thing you can accuse the story telling of being is lazy).

Look I get it's a matter of taste and what not, but COME ON. Bioware just keeps making the same-ish game. Hell Fallout used the same exact engine as Oblivion and it felt exceedingly different, because of the nuance of detail. Even recent shooters like COD4 and Bioshock felt more like interesting stories, because they were organic, fluid, and detailed. Anytime a RPG gets shown up by a shooter is a big warning flag to me.

And look i'll eat my hat if ME 2 improves on any of the repetitive qualities and the entire game was excuse to build an engine, but seriously. I don't get it.

The ability to say something sarcastic in every dialogue option, does not a great game make.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 5:46 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Whelk: I really liked that game but didn't like that I couldn't date Keldorn.

1. Re-install BG2 (and patch, mod, etc.)
2. Make a female character.
3. Download and install Shadowkeeper.
4. Change your character's avatar to male.
5. Seek out the man-on-grizzled-he-paladin action you crave.



Truly the internet makes anything possible.
posted by The Whelk at 5:51 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]



And again, I asked a friend what Mass Effect was like and he described it by saying it was like KotOR because they are third person shooters.

Kill me now. Neither is a third person shooter.
posted by Justinian at 5:15 PM on November 9 [+] [!]


I would qualify ME as a 3rd person shooter? at least the action is in that format. Is there something i'm missing in the definition? (seriously, i'm not being sarcastic I'm just confused)
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 5:52 PM on November 9, 2009


also, that gravely voice and heroic backstory and hint of grey in the chin did NOTHING for you? Shit. Half my sexual indenity is built around Baldur's Gate cause I realized what I really wanted was to fuck the living shit out of Keldorn Firecam deapite the pushing towards others..
posted by The Whelk at 5:56 PM on November 9, 2009


A shooter is primarily an action game like Half-Life, Counterstrike, Quake, Doom, Crysis, Call of Duty, and the like. Mass Effect and, to an extent, KotOR are action-RPGs. ME is further towards the action end of the spectrum than KotOR (and, frankly, further towards the action end than I prefer) but it's clearly an RPG and not a shooter.
posted by Justinian at 5:57 PM on November 9, 2009


I've been debating whether to buy this -- can I get a consensus on whether the XBOX version is worth buying?

(Xbox people that bought it-- give me a thumbs or or thumbs down, and how many hours you've been playing it -- i've heard that combat gets completely unmanageable later in the game)
posted by empath at 5:59 PM on November 9, 2009


Actually, The Whelk, that won't work after all--Keldorn, if I'm reading up on him correctly (it's been a long time), is married in the game, and has no romances.

I've just been poking around Gibberlings 3 some of the other places where Infinity Engine mods are hosted, and no one has ever coded a Keldorm romance mod. A gay mod has been written, but I don't think you'll like it: "The Corruption of Keldorn".

I know about the gender swap trick because I'm a dirty cheater, and because I was 16 when BG1 came out: lesbian RPG relationships where la hot.

I'm not ashamed. No, really I'm not--I played female characters most of the time because I figured if I was going to be staring at a sprite for 60-80 hours, it might as well be a female one. Now I just flip a coin. It's just kinda sad in hindsight.
posted by Decimask at 6:05 PM on November 9, 2009


Whelk, Re: Keldorn hotness - I can see the appeal. His pic has a total sly "come hither" look to it which I never noticed before. I hardly ever had him in my party though. He DOES NOT mix well with Viconia.
posted by Decimask at 6:10 PM on November 9, 2009


I've been stuck in this game every single waking moment since I got it. Cannot break free from its Siren-like call. It has a lot of rough spots, especially where archery is concerned as it seems like they made the entire game first and then the night before it went gold someone said "Hey maybe we should add some bows and arrows and such..."
Otherwise though, it is great stuff. Seriously difficult in many areas, and that's a good thing. I haven't been this challenged by a game in a long time. The Tactics system? Sheer brilliance, and if we don't see this feature in every single new game that has NPC allies then something is seriously wrong with the world.
posted by nightchrome at 6:27 PM on November 9, 2009


This game made me switch to Ubuntu. It was consuming me (together with the modding awesomeness that is Torchlight) and I need/ed to *do stuff*. Now I'm somewhat productive again and I have to reboot to play (which is enough to control the basic 'let's just play for a while' impulse).


PS: 2H Warrior, Dwarf Commoner.
posted by Memo at 6:41 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


So I was very excited for Mass Effect... and very disappointing. I seriously have no understanding of how it got that kind of love. It's exceedingly repetitive, ESPECIALLY in it's look. Every cave, every planet, every mine, they're all the exact same. It's paint by numbers. I could tell you ever story beat right before it happens. That chart is completely accurate. I'm sorry, but it's true. Yeah guess what? I know and understand Cambellian analysis just like everyone else whose been in high school. It's great and is responsible for so many great stories. Yet with this generation it's become the most lazy storytelling exercise in the world, because they just make a beat for beat version of star wars. There's virtually no distinction in HOW you emphasize those story telling points anymore and it Mass Effect was the best example. I understood how much it took to build something so big in scope, but when it came to subtle execution in giving each little corner it's own distinction, all we get is long paragraphs written about the planet or a charcter's background explained to you in the most boring story ever. It's a lazy, lazy game.

Yeah, but you get to fuck a blue girl! ... sorry, couldn't resist
posted by MegoSteve at 6:41 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mass Effect was so incredibly repetitious. Go to planet X, find main building, kill alien bots in building, rinse, shag a blue chick, repeat.

Dragon Age started off really bad. The voice acting (and OMG the hair!) of the elves in the initial city tutorial storyline was just seriously, seriously bad (Mass Effect had MUCH better character animation, voice acting and a fair better plot).

Dragon Age is much much less repetitious. SOme of the side quests are a bit so-so (go here, kill x). But the mainline quests/dungeons are really good. (Small Spoiler) Esp. Haven. Have was a LOT of fun. Well the big puzzle was annoying.

However the save game mechanism is seriously broken. I don't mind having to re-fight a seriously tough brawl. But having to fight 3 separate encounters (in 3 separate side-quests) because I forgot to save is bull.

Also difficulty of the game is completely based on your part make up. Initially I got hammered with a lot of fights. Then my PC learnt to craft health potions and my party guzzle those back like they're going out of style. Then once I got a good balanced party I could kick butt most of the time. The NPC Mage does seem overpowered - but I think that's really a side effect of the tactical benefits the spells give you. (e.g. bottling bad guys up around doorways then cone of colding them)

Really, party balance is key, I'm trying a new configuration and once more am getting my arse kicked.

It is a very KOTOR-ish game. And that's a good thing. I love tactical rpgs.
posted by schwa at 6:58 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


However the save game mechanism is seriously broken. I don't mind having to re-fight a seriously tough brawl. But having to fight 3 separate encounters (in 3 separate side-quests) because I forgot to save is bull.

Um. How is this broken? If you don't save the game and you die you have to reload. That's how virtually every PC game has been since the beginning of time.
posted by Justinian at 7:08 PM on November 9, 2009


I'm not excited for ME2 at all. We can hope it will have learned the lessons of the original, but I can't see it being nearly as much fun as Dragon Age. Especially since the teasers I've seen seem... uninspired, at best. Oh look, a room full of boxes and geth!

It seems like ME is doomed to be Bioware's half-hearted Halo-clone. (Which puts it half a heart ahead of Halo...)
posted by mek at 7:16 PM on November 9, 2009


BTW, in case it's not obvious: the reason for the free downloadable content is to undermine the used game market. There's two bits of launch-day DLC. Warden's Keep is for pay, which is obnoxious. But Stone Prisoner and Blood Armour are free. To the original purchaser of the game, that is: presumably the 16 digit DLC code is not reusable. Which means anyone who buys the game used will miss out on the DLC or else have to buy it themselves. It's a clever way for the game publishers to try to devalue the used game market, we'll see if it works. (It doesn't really devalue stolen copies, since presumably you can steal the DLC too.)
posted by Nelson at 7:24 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


He DOES NOT mix well with Viconia.

Oh but that's the challenge isn't it? I play games wrong. I can admit that.

posted by The Whelk at 7:30 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


God DAMNIT! I don't HAVE TIME FOR THIS GAME PEOPLE!

*pulls out wallet, heads to Best Buy*
posted by Bageena at 7:37 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Um. How is this broken? If you don't save the game and you die you have to reload. That's how virtually every PC game has been since the beginning of time."

Sometimes it'll autosave. Sometimes it won't.

It seems only the mainline quests autosave you and even then at odd times. Consistency is the key (to not pissing off your users). It ought to save the game automatically between every major map traversal (maybe there's an option for that - will check).
posted by schwa at 7:40 PM on November 9, 2009


It's worth noting that BioWare's parent company, Electronic Arts, performed the first in a series of layoffs today that will ultimately reduce headcount by 1500 people by April 2010. This mirrors a 10% reduction from this time a year ago.

Gossip has it that a number of silivalley companies are doing lay-offs this week. Seems like 10% in November is becoming a tradition (or I'm just becoming aware of it).

*grips roller-coaster safety bar tightly, hopes the screws haven't come loose*

\derail
posted by treepour at 7:43 PM on November 9, 2009


If there's a thing that sets DA:O apart form the rest of the Nu Western RPG canon, it's how well integrated it is. I can't tell you how many times a decision I made 4, 5, 10 hours ago comes back to affect the world. Characters I forgot about suddenly appear because I left them live. Or I find myself worse off because I failed to show mercy to someone. Or I find the whole world worse off because I was too soft to make a hard call. It's really fascinating to see how your decisions have visible reprocussions on the world you adventure in.
posted by GilloD at 7:43 PM on November 9, 2009


"I can't tell you how many times a decision I made 4, 5, 10 hours ago comes back to affect the world."

Not really seeing much of that. Once a character's problems are resolved they're gone. Maybe they hang around with one more final dialog tree but that's mostly that. And you can also seem to easily undo your decisions later - at least for most quest. I've gone back on a couple of major quests with a "changed my mind, I'm going to kill you instead", etc.
posted by schwa at 7:58 PM on November 9, 2009


This is the reason I haven't seen my boyfriend in over a week.

I'd love to play (though we discuss the game and he shares screenshots), but don't own a 360 and my PC isn't quite up to snuff at the moment. I will play when I upgrade.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:04 PM on November 9, 2009


Mass Effect was so incredibly repetitious.

I just thought it was stupid. They do this whole build up to you being a bad-ass elite warrior that the whole galaxy is in fear of, then you have a conversation something like this:

Me: "I'm investigating some immensely important case for very important people and i'm looking for this guy."

Middle manager Douchebag: "Okay, but first, you need to get a garage pass..."

Me: "Okay..."

Are you shitting me? This pissant little beaurocrat is going to make me run errands for him? I popped the disk out and stopped the game and never went back. It was kind of the last straw for that game for me.

It didn't help that I found the game to be incredibly boring. If I'm just going to click every fucking option in every conversation tree, and every option is either to "Be a nice guy" or "be an asshole", then why not let me just click the "be an asshole" button once and show me the whole conversation without pretending that there is any interactivity.

Anyway, it's just a terrible, awful game on every level and I can't believe that anybody actually enjoyed it. If I wanted to read a cheesy space-opera, I could just buy a Star Wars book. I wanted to play a game, and there wasn't much game to Mass Effect, at least in the 8 hours or so that I played it.

It's like the exact opposite of Borderlands. Borderlands barely pretends to have a story, but it's non stop fun from beginning to end, just as a game.
posted by empath at 8:07 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


btw, i totally know how to spell bureaucrat, i don't know what I was doing there.
posted by empath at 8:08 PM on November 9, 2009


If there's a thing that sets DA:O apart form the rest of the Nu Western RPG canon, it's how well integrated it is. I can't tell you how many times a decision I made 4, 5, 10 hours ago comes back to affect the world.

I thought fable 2 did that pretty well, too.
posted by empath at 8:09 PM on November 9, 2009


First, a minor matter of preference. If you're going to make difficulties called "hard" and "nightmare", you really have to make them difficult. I realize that not everyone has the same skill level so I'll even allow "hard" to be easier than I feel it should be. But "nightmare"? Really, this needs to be made a lot more difficult.

I strongly suspect your main character is a mage, or you're not playing on PC. (The console version is apparently easier.) On the PC, the game is very difficult even on "Normal" for melee classes. You have to, basically, get a perfect build or you'll get your ass kicked, and with that sea of options, there's no real way to know what works without experience, and the only way to get experience is to buy a non-refundable talent. A number of them, as you observe, are fairly useless, while others are devastating without being obviously so in the talent tree.

An example is the first frost talent in the mage tree, which means it's immediately available. It does a lot of damage to a single target, can freeze that target in place (usually will for most creatures, usually doesn't for "yellow" or "orange" creatures, which are tougher), recycles VERY quickly, and doesn't cost much mana. Further, it stacks with the second-tier ability in Earth, "Rock Fist" or something like that... if you throw a rock fist at a frozen enemy, it will usually shatter, killing it instantly. But neither talent looks all that great in the descriptions.

As another example of difficulty issues: at level 15 or so, there's a fixed fight with about 15 enemies, including an orange warrior. The first couple times I tried that fight, I got instantly annihilated. I ended up retreating and kind of bugging out the encounter, so that I fought just the orange lieutenant and a couple of white guards that died almost immediately.

So then, for about TEN MINUTES, I beat on that warrior. My main character was a pretty stacked rogue, with lots of runes on a pair of daggers, so very high armor penetration. My second DPS class was an archer with most of the skills and an excellent bow. My tank was loaded for bear, with every tank talent in the tree, Eamon's Shield, and the DLC content Dragon Armor, which is VERY strong.

And that lieutenant could kill my tank in THREE HITS. Swat, swat, swat, dead, about ten seconds. So the entire fight I was pouring everything I had into him in terms of healing; I'd previously made over 60 midrange healing potions, expecting them to last for a good chunk of the game, and I chugged through at least 20 in that fight alone, with a dedicated healer sitting behind him pouring every point of mana she could into him, limited only by her cooldowns. (I also had made 60 mana potions). That lieutenant, as far as I can tell, had at least five thousand hit points, maybe ten, where my characters had maybe 250. My characters could have been level 100 and not been that tough, and she's supposedly a human guard. Yeah, right.

Further, I was supposed to be able to kill her AND about twelve guards AND a mage, all at the same time, with just four characters, any one of which would last maybe two hits if the lieutenant got loose.

If my main toon had been a mage, I suspect I'd have probably still had to bug the fight by retreating, but I would cleaned her up a lot faster, and I MIGHT have been able to handle the big fight by AOE while my rogue killed the mage. But with only melee classes, it was like trying to kill a god in human form.

I don't understand why they didn't just send her in to kill the Blight army by herself, because she was more than capable.
posted by Malor at 8:42 PM on November 9, 2009


(Xbox people that bought it-- give me a thumbs or or thumbs down, and how many hours you've been playing it -- i've heard that combat gets completely unmanageable later in the game)

I'm buying the PC version after trying the xbox version. The xbox version has no zoomed-out isometric view that is familiar to me from their other games. And each character only has six quick slots which fill up quickly with potions, spells, swap weapons, and the paltry squad commands set.

You are still given access to the tactics bits, which allow for a kind of scripting of each playable character in combat. However, the combat feels awkward without being able to see the whole battlefield, and the graphics are amped way down to deal with the below minimum spec hardware that the xbox has to offer.

Basically, Fallout 3 has a better immersive game environment. But the writing and voice acting of this game (almost all Bioware games) are still great. The story takes time to pick up, but it does.

My thoughts are get the PC version.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 8:46 PM on November 9, 2009


Malor: Of course I'm playing on PC. But my main character at present is a mage. Morrigan and my guy tear the place up.
posted by Justinian at 9:30 PM on November 9, 2009


I've been playing it on hard as a Mage, and it's definitely easier than other classes. Like I said, Mage is pretty overpowered. Nonetheless I still die every hour or so and therefore I save religiously. I don't have Force Field, though, which I'm told is an iwinbutton.

The one complaint I have not seen with this game anywhere else is "hard is too easy".
posted by mek at 9:38 PM on November 9, 2009


Yeah, well, they're just behind the curve. Hard is too easy.
posted by Justinian at 9:57 PM on November 9, 2009


Thanks, everyone, for convincing me to spend money I don't really have on a game I don't have time to play. Damnit, c'mon Steam! Download faster!
posted by threetoed at 10:11 PM on November 9, 2009


Is it possible to play without voice acting during dialogues? I'm the kind of person that prefers to read the text in RPGs (and imagine the voices in my head) rather than have it read out to me, no matter how good the voice acting is. However in many recent RPGs if you turn off voice acting, it turns off all voices, including stuff like battle cries and the character speaking when you select them; I just want to turn off the voices when dialogue is going on.

Pet peeve about RPGS: I don't really like how nowadays most RPGs (and other games) try to move towards making their game as "movie-like" as possible, treating Hollywood blockbusters as the ideal form of storytelling. I'd really much prefer if they aim to make their games as immersive as a good book. But I'm pretty sure most people disagree with this sentiment.
posted by destrius at 10:33 PM on November 9, 2009


Justinian: I found your comments about interactions with characters in the party really interesting. One of the things that made KOTOR so immersive were the interactions with your party. I remember them being very well-developed and complex, such that you weren't always sure how a certain statement would affect your relationship. I also remember that, when playing through on the "dark" side, I felt like I had really betrayed Carth and the other good guys.

Mass Effect felt like a real letdown in that arena. I didn't really care about the other characters, I was just pushing buttons trying to get to the end of the dialogue tree and "complete" my relationship. That and the repetitive design of the planets and other locales were the major failings of that game.

DAO seems cool, but it'll have to wait. I finally just bought a used copy of Fallout 3 and have been playing that for a while. I'm enjoying it a great deal, but it has some storyline problems. I just get out of the Vault and go to Megaton, and my first dialogue choices in my first conversation display all sorts of knowledge that my character shouldn't have yet. I mean, if I grew up in a sealed, underground bunker, how is it that the first thing I'm saying to someone is, "So, tell me about this rumor about an android with free will?" or whatever. And of course, it has the usual RPG problem of stores in places where they absolutely shouldn't be. I find a secret society of reclusive blood-drinkers, and they have a store? What kind of foot traffic exactly is that guy getting? And after Fallout 3, I've still got GTAIV to finish, and I want to get Borderlands, Halo:ODST, Demon Soul's...
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:43 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


"One of the things that made KOTOR so immersive *WAS*"

Gah.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:45 PM on November 9, 2009


Bioware: also home of the cringingly bad dialogue. Check out this trailer for Mass Effect 2:
http://www.gametrailers.com/video/afterlife-gameplay-mass-effect/58765

Has there ever been a game or movie (or fourteen-year-old boy) so totally pleased with itself for using the word ‘fuck’?

“No, really Mass Effect 2. You’re cool. You are. Don't listen to that guy. You’re totally badass. Seriously. Everybody thinks so.”

And how about those blood splatters in Dragon Age?
posted by straight at 10:46 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Honestly, give the DA voice acting a shot. It has a bunch of actual actors doing the voice work. (Keep a geeky ear open for Captain Janeway...and Aeryn Sun... and Tuvok!) If you really hate it, just mute the voice slider and enable subtitles.

There are some side-plot low points, for sure. But overall it's the best voice acting in a video game since Star Control 2.
posted by mek at 11:13 PM on November 9, 2009


And of course, it has the usual RPG problem of stores in places where they absolutely shouldn't be.

Wait till you play the Mothership Zeta xpac. "We're stuck on this weird alien ship surrounded by hostile extra terrestrials! Wait, what's that? You need me to repair your gear so you can kill every alien you see, take over the ship, and ultimately get us back to Earth, thus saving the day? That'll be 500 caps, friend."
posted by threetoed at 11:22 PM on November 9, 2009


Mass Effect felt like a real letdown in that arena. I didn't really care about the other characters, I was just pushing buttons trying to get to the end of the dialogue tree and "complete" my relationship.

There's some of that. I think a bunch of the characters are done well but I definitely get the "keep clicking just to get to the end of the tree" feeling at times.

Nobody has done it as well as Torment did with, for example, the Dak'kon interactions. And it didn't even have an affinity system per se! They did it all with naturally flowing dialogue and such.

But it seems that's not what sells. What sells are blood and chicks in scanty armor.
posted by Justinian at 11:33 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Finding out that Dragon Age wouldn't have co-op play was disappointing, to put it mildly.

That's exactly the first thing I searched the website for. It was down in Section 7 of the FAQ or something. Sad news. Games like this, RPGs that emphasize party building and cooperation anyway, are obvious co-op opportunities. It's just natural. I'm sort of surprised there hasn't been a definitive "D&D" style open-ended game to take over the group-of-six-people market, even if just to capture WoW burnouts with something for couples or smaller groups who are geographically dispersed.

Other than the old Baldur's Gate / Neverwinter games and the Dungeon Sieges, what decent co-op RPG games are out there? I haven't found any for the last several years.

(Correction: Saints Row 2 works pretty well as a co-op, but it's a one time through story.)
posted by rokusan at 12:56 AM on November 10, 2009


Something I don't understand: I agree with pretty much all of the complaints about mass effect, except somehow I loved it.

This is probably due to not playing many video games any more, so I just enjoyed having an NPC suddenly start levitating some guy I was shooting at a second ago. That was fun.
posted by flaterik at 12:57 AM on November 10, 2009


But it seems that's not what sells. What sells are blood and chicks in scanty armor.

Yeah, but some of us like to use videogames as an escape from that usual weekday grind.
posted by rokusan at 12:57 AM on November 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


"If I grew up in a sealed, underground bunker, how is it that the first thing I'm saying to someone is, "So, tell me about this rumor about an android with free will?"

Because you picked up one of the little holotapes that introduces that storyline. (There's one right behind Moira's counter, probably the one you grabbed.) The game assumes that you actually listened to it, but the act of adding it to your inventory is what opens up the android storyline. The game does do a good job with that storyline, actually, since you can start it, do it, and finish about 30 different ways at different times.

But overall, yeah, that game has some crazy storyline problems. It definitely needed some basic "How many days have I been out of the Vault?" and other "What do I know by now?" checks before doing or displaying most things. It also shoves you through the main quest storyline way, way too fast, and since that quest includes at least three big "no going back now" points, it's quite cruel and counter to the "open-ended" game it's supposed to be.

Your best bet is to deliberately ignore the main story (fuck you, Dad) until you've explored and done just about everything else there is to do. Many of the game's best scenes and set pieces aren't related to the main story at all and it's too easy to finish the game without ever seeing them or realizing that they exist.

And yeah, that store you mention is stupid. There aren't too many like that in the game, though. Most are believable people/situations.

Fallout 1 and 2 had a better system, I think: everyone is a store. Every character, whether they're a guy standing behind a booth in a market or just a beggar on the street, will barter with you for whatever they have. Easier that way.

Yeah I have been replaying lately. Does it show?
posted by rokusan at 1:28 AM on November 10, 2009


Many of the game's best scenes and set pieces aren't related to the main story at all and it's too easy to finish the game without ever seeing them or realizing that they exist.

The exception, of course, is Liberty Prime at end-game.
posted by threetoed at 1:35 AM on November 10, 2009


Just wanted to say that The Lurkers Support Me in Email's experience with RPGs is fairly similar to my own. Used to devour them, but now it is very difficult to work up the enthusiasm to tackle another one unless it is a roguelike or there is something else different about them. Because of this, I'm probably not going to get into Dragon Age... even if I had a computer that could run it.

Also wanted to say that The Lurkers Support Me in Email has an awesome handle.
posted by JHarris at 1:47 AM on November 10, 2009


As Malor said, as much as I love Dragon Age's setting and characters (Shale is like HK-47 except with a decidedly camp English accent and a vicious golemic hatred towards pigeons, it's great) the balance is completely whacked out on the PC version, with magic infinitely outclassing the other classes and of that one or two spells absolutely essential. Practically every outdoors plot or major sidequest battle in the game is dramatically stacked against you, with 12 or more enemies in perfect setup against your wandering group of AI Morons. I've basically come close to quitting it in disgust - and that's even before you factor in the ridiculous ease with which the game will happily lock you into unwinnable situations.

(Very mild situational spoilers follow.)

I like thieves. I rolled a thief, a backstabber specialist. High str, high dex, low con, the idea being that the tank would use his shiny aggro management skills in an MMO-like fashion to grab all the enemy attention and I would, being in direct control of my character, be better able to worm myself around the enemy and actively micromanage stabbing people in the back. I trundled around with a pure shield tank, an archer, and the healer. Uncertain how to spec everyone specifically speaking, I let the computer decide my NPC levelups on the basis that, well, surely it should make appropriate choices for the character.

Unfortunately, the aggro management skills are, er, crap. Even with every version of threaten available to the tank running, and every 'reduce hostility' item I can get stuck on me, enemies still allow me little to no time before they turn around. Thus, being kind of paper-thin, I went through a lot of healing packs early on until I noticed that none of the shops were actually ever regenerating their stocks of healing items. This might be a problem, I thought, hastily crafting some stuff - except then I ran out of healing crafting items in the shops, too. Then I got locked in the Circle of Mages' Tower, which didn't even have any shops or any way out, and that was fun. For further hilarity the game decided it would be fun to take away my entire party, leaving me without support to go through a dangerous section of the game where, while healing is available, it's only any good if you can survive a single combat.

Coming back from that location, extremely low on healing and kind of smarting at the game, I get set upon by ye olde traditional assassin by being forcibly led into a canyon so I start in the most disadvantageous position possible. A half-dozen meleers and about eight archers together with a name, my tank rushes forwards to take the melee flak and gets instantly killed while my character was stunned thanks to some effect or other for the entire duration. Death swiftly followed, and again as I reloaded, and again, and again. (Because random encounters aren't, in Dragon Age, if there's plot to resolve.) Sick and tired of it I switched to Easy and... won without a scratch.

Similarly, for a few levels I couldn't take the healer anywhere. If you get far enough in her character plot - easy to do at low-level if you're diligent, get her first, and give her appropriate gifts and responses - then whenever you travel with her you're guaranteed to get into a battle with a mage on a hill and the requisite army of minions. At level 10 - and for some time afterwards - all that mage had to do was wave his hand and cast Chain Lightning then Fireball and my party were dead (or nearly dead, and surrounded by minions) before getting more than a couple of shots off.

All of this is even after the 1.01 patch which lowered difficulty a little. I eventually shrugged, gave up, and have been playing it in easy since, as I'd rather do that than rely on a ridiculously game-breaking skill.
posted by stelas at 2:15 AM on November 10, 2009


"All of this is even after the 1.01 patch which lowered difficulty a little. I eventually shrugged, gave up, and have been playing it in easy since, as I'd rather do that than rely on a ridiculously game-breaking skill."

I started the game the same as you. Backstabby rogue (oops I mean rouge). And got my ass whipped a lot. But something happened and that stopped. I think it was gaining access to potion crafting and the presence of a mage in my team.

(Spoiler) You can get all the healing potion ingredients you want at the elven forest camp.

I agree with you about the Circle of Magi. Very tough. But you are warned: "we'll lock the door on you on the way in. we wont let you out until you've solved the big problem". If nothing else it would be worth doing a named save game at that point.
posted by schwa at 6:03 AM on November 10, 2009


So do I understand correctly that I can get some kind of battle-capable hound to accompany me? Excellent. I shall name him Boo the Space Hamster.

FULL PLATE! AND PACKING STEEL!
posted by shmegegge at 6:41 AM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


GO FOR THE EYES, BOO! GOOOO FOR THE EYES!
posted by EarBucket at 6:59 AM on November 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


After another night playing on the Xbox, I think I'm going to double down and get the PC version. The graphics really feel sort of 2007 on the Xbox, textures are very limited. But the thing that really frustrates me is the difficulty controlling more than one character in combat. There aren't many games left that are actually better experiences on the PC, this may be one of the last.
posted by Nelson at 7:41 AM on November 10, 2009


I'll put it this way: haven't touched Brutal Legend or Borderlands since Dragon Age came out. They can wait.

What??!!

Strip the flesh! Salt the wound!
posted by Foosnark at 7:47 AM on November 10, 2009


I note that a lot of people are talking about Tank/DPS/AOE, etc... are all RPGs using the WoW model now for combat tactics? Is it possible that people are trying to force a way of playing into the game that it wasn't intended to support?
posted by empath at 11:13 AM on November 10, 2009


And of course, it has the usual RPG problem of stores in places where they absolutely shouldn't be. I find a secret society of reclusive blood-drinkers, and they have a store? What kind of foot traffic exactly is that guy getting?

If that kinda stuff bugs you, you would hate borderlands. It doesn't even pretend to make sense.
posted by empath at 11:16 AM on November 10, 2009


A lot of people complaining about the AI: Are you using and modifying the tactics options?

Big hint, the default ones suck. Alistair should be modified to Taunt when Ally -> Attacked in Melee and also Self -> under 50% health -> use Poultice.

Congrats, your tank now tanks properly.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 11:37 AM on November 10, 2009


Oh, one interesting frissony (its a perfectly cromulent word) for me happened early in the game. The name I used for my mage is usually Corvus (or, sometimes, "Stormcrow"). DAO is no exception. So when I ran into a sarcastic, raven-haired witch who calls herself Morrigan, well, I knew it was fated to be.

Now I think she's manipulating me for her own ends but, hey, she talks like Aeryn Sun so I don't care.
posted by Justinian at 11:46 AM on November 10, 2009


I note that a lot of people are talking about Tank/DPS/AOE

It's a thin line that separates playing a good tactical RPG from crunching numbers in a spreadsheet. And for me that kind mechanics-oriented WoW jargon (also: aggro, proc, toon, debuff, etc.) really drags a game over to the wrong side of the line.

Also, I can't figure out why so many people would play an RPG like this the day it comes out when they know that 6 months from now it's going to be

1. a lot less expensive
2. modded and patched into a much better game.
posted by straight at 12:44 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just another vote for the "I am loving Dragon Age" camp. It has more or less consumed my existence since it went live. Don't go anywhere near the XBOX version though, I've heard nothing but bad things.

Mass Effect... I seriously have no understanding of how it got that kind of love.

Console gamers seem to be blown away by anything which even approaches mediocrity in certain genres. I will admit there are games which play better on the console. CRPGs, FPSs, and RTSs are not those games. Must be some kind of disconnect from the console gaming experience, as I also failed to see anything interesting in Modern Warfare or Halo that had not been surpassed years ago on the PC. I played a few hours of Mass Effect and watched a friend play more, I thought it was almost depressingly bad. I thought KoTR1 was fairly good, 2 not so much. I'm surprised Neverwinter Nights has not been mentioned more frequently, it is definitely the closest recent precursor to Dragon Age, although not without its own flaws.

A note about difficulty, the XBOX and PS3 versions are fundamentally different games than the PC version. You cannot compare "Hard" on XBOX to "Hard" on the PC. The encounters have less enemies, the AI scripting is different, the interface is different, it is all-around geared to be played more as an action game and does require the tactical approach of the PC. If you try playing the PC version on Normal or above without pausing the game to issue movement and action commands every few seconds during combat, you are not going to make it very far at all.
posted by sophist at 12:52 PM on November 10, 2009


I've decided I hate this thread, because my PC is a laptop that struggled with WoW on the lowest settings. When I tried running the character creator for DA:O just to get a taste, my speakers barked with the laughter of a strangled undead steed: "You're ****ing kidding me, ri-i-i-i-ight?"
posted by Decimask at 1:07 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I note that a lot of people are talking about Tank/DPS/AOE, etc... are all RPGs using the WoW model now for combat tactics? Is it possible that people are trying to force a way of playing into the game that it wasn't intended to support?

I will say I find myself thinking in MMG terms frequently when playing this game, to the point that I actually realized I was doing it before you brought it up. Perhaps it a result of how much time I have put into MMGs over the last 10 years or so, but when controlling a party of 4 people, these roles seem to naturally spring out. You need someone to take the hits, especially on tougher enemies. You need someone to heal everyone else. You need people to do damage and control the situation, and particularly when fighting large groups you want want to be able to AOE and CC difficult targets. While you might be able to get away with bringing 4 mages to a tabletop RPG, in a balanced computer RPG or MMO it just doesn't seem to work out over the long run. And the distinction of a Necromancer to a Sorceror or a Ranger to a Thief seems more like roleplay flavor and situational benefits than core role difference. The four main archetypes from which all else springs of Fighter, Healer, Mage, and Scout have been more or less codified at this point, which might seem obvious today but even 5 or 10 years ago I think each of the D&D classes had their own niche and new RPGs developed unique classes. To be fair, the specific breakdown you speak of goes back much further than WoW, at least to early MUDs and to some extent I feel like it is a natural extension of these player types.
posted by sophist at 1:16 PM on November 10, 2009


I would actually be interested to hear if anyone is playing without a "tank", and how this is working out for you. I was talking to someone on the Bioware forums who said they were playing with 3 mages and a rogue, and that they would just use the rogue to pull the enemies to the mages (sometimes with a trap in place) then stealth out and unleash massive aoe dmg from the mages. I could see other variations of pure damage strategies working, I'm just not sure they would ever be that much more effective than a balanced party. And it seems like you would end up using a lot of potions.
posted by sophist at 1:35 PM on November 10, 2009


Interesting idea. You'd have enough CC for the console versions, but I thnk the PC version would wipe the 3 mage party out fairly regularly. I have no idea how you would get by the boss in the Ostragar tower, either?
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:47 PM on November 10, 2009


Instead, I'm going to start a 14x14 Farmville crop pattern homage to the game. But make no mistake... I till with spite.

Seeing as I didn't have the nerve to post my own "more neighbours welcome, MeMail me" early in the Zynga thread, I'll do so now and never again.
posted by Decimask at 1:51 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bah. If there are not dice and character sheets involved, it's not a real RPG.

You're not really playing a roll if you need paper and toys, are you?
posted by Evilspork at 1:51 PM on November 10, 2009


*role, got my acting and dice lobes mixed up.
posted by Evilspork at 1:52 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


WinnipegDragon: I think you have to wait until later in the game to implement such a strategy. You don't even access to 3 mages at that point. I was also curious about boss fights, but my guess is that if your magic score is high enough you might be able to keep them incapacitated long enough to unleash enough damage. Still, a risky strategy to say the least.
posted by sophist at 1:58 PM on November 10, 2009


Interesting idea. You'd have enough CC for the console versions, but I thnk the PC version would wipe the 3 mage party out fairly regularly. I have no idea how you would get by the boss in the Ostragar tower, either?

You'd think this, but no. Mages are significantly more powerful than the other classes. 3 mages + a meatshield is a typhoon of destruction.

Some things to consider. You can put crowd control spells on all three. And then take turns casting to allow the cooldown timer on the first caster to finish before the third one runs out. Cone of Cold only has a 10 second cooldown for gods sake. Three mages with CoC in a doorway can permafreeze anybody trying to get through.

Also consider that you can put healing spells on all three which means you can essentially spam heal.

You can't get past the boss in the Ostragar tower with three mages because there isn't any way to get three mages in your party at that point in the game. You only pick up the third mage later. But, theoretically, it should be easy. The idea is that you don't engage the Ogre in melee. Put your 4 guys (3 mages + meatshield with bow) spread out around the area, all range attacking the Ogre. Whoever gets the Ogres attention just kites the Ogre around the tower while the others beat him down from range. When he switches aggro, you switch who you are controlling to the new target of the Ogre and continue kiting him.

Easy peasy.

Note: Sorry for the MMO terms like aggro and kite but they're very useful. I don't even play WoW or Everquest or anything.
posted by Justinian at 2:02 PM on November 10, 2009


Still, a risky strategy to say the least.

I dunno. It's the strategy that requires the most hands-on management, but it's also the most powerful by a hefty margin.

posted by Justinian at 2:03 PM on November 10, 2009


Yeah forgot about the three mages in Ostragar thing...

Still, the thing that would prevent me from doing this? Morrigan's nagging. I play a good guy the first time through any game, and she's just infuriating with her snide little remarks...
posted by WinnipegDragon at 3:55 PM on November 10, 2009


Funny, I found that haaaaaaaaawt. I think it is the accent.
posted by Justinian at 4:43 PM on November 10, 2009


are all RPGs using the WoW model now for combat tactics?

It's not the WoW model, it's the traditional D&D model. If anything the WoW model would be the "hybrid model", wherein all classes are capable of multiple roles based on how you choose to build them.

In Dragon Age, CC is extremely powerful, and you can get away with not using a traditional "tank" and you can also complete the game without a traditional "healer". You can also build a Mage which can tank as well as any Warrior. And yes, 3 mages + rogue could be a crazy powerful team if you build it right (eg. a spirit healer, an arcane warrior, and a nuker, with either a bard/ranger or a duelist/assassin).
posted by mek at 4:53 PM on November 10, 2009


Downside: No linux port, so I won't be playing it on the computer.

On the other hand:

Upside: There IS Pen and Paper version! Which I probably also won't play, since I'm already up to my eyes in tabletop games. But I appreciate it!
posted by kaibutsu at 6:06 PM on November 10, 2009


While you might be able to get away with bringing 4 mages to a tabletop RPG
posted by sophist


Maybe high level mages in a D&D game, but low level ones? The DM would have to be going migggghty easy on them for that to work.
posted by haveanicesummer at 6:24 PM on November 10, 2009


Some data points for people on the fence:

- I'm playing on the 360. My preference would have been to play on the PC, but my computer is about six hundred years old and just looking at the system specs online caused it to sputter, so that wasn't really an option. It took me a few hours of playtime, and trying out all three character classes, but I went from hating the 360 interface to not really minding it. If you're going to play on the 360, set the radial menu option to "toggle", so that you can click the left trigger to pause and set up commands without having to hold it down. You lose the ability to queue party commands that way, but it's no big deal to activate with A and then immediately click left trigger again, if a touch annoying.

- You can click the left stick to "lock" a target per character. This is enormous and probably the single biggest reason I went from despising the controls to feeling fine about them. Without target locking, you'll find your attacks bouncing all over the place and your guys haring off after some idiot half a screen away. Especially for rogues, I found target locking to be crucial for getting into backstab positions. I pause the game with the radial toggle and use the reticule in the middle of the menu to "aim" for the target I want, then lock it and away I go.

- If I were playing on the PC, I'd play it more like BG or Icewind Dale, as an adventuring party game. On the 360, I play it more like a hero + supporting cast game. Setting up tactics is therefore really important, and WinnipegDragon is absolutely right, the default tactics suck. Setting Alistair to attack anyone attacking me as his first priority increased my survivability quite a bit, though you may prefer him to prioritize Morrigan if she's your magic damage dealer, since she gets jumped and murdered constantly in my game. My rogue almost never dies, though, for what it's worth. During boss fights you'll want to give everyone individual commands, but for most of the fights a correct tactical setup will allow you to just focus on controlling your main character.

- Which is good, because trying to control your whole party action-by-action on the 360 is a tedious nightmare. If I wasn't able to adjust their AI as I do, it would be terrible. So if you absolutely want the full party control a la BG/ID/PS:T, the PC is really your only option. Again, I'd prefer it, but I'm enjoying it on the 360 just fine, it's just a different style of game. I'm going to run through it a little tonight with the radial menu toggle off, to see if queuing commands changes that perception for me now that I've mostly got the hang of it.

- I've liked just about every Bioware game and they remain among the only games I ever finish. Yes, that includes Mass Effect and Jade Empire, both of which I've also replayed multiple times. I open myself to your derision so that you may take my opinion that the story in Dragon Age is really fun and nuanced with the appropriate level of skepticism. While there's a decent amount of the usual "kill this kitten or give him a home, choose wisely!" style of morality, there are also some fairly difficult and interesting decisions to be made as well. In particular, without spoilers, the crucial decision point in the Magi origin story was one I found to be without a clear good solution, and I had a good think over it before making up my mind. (And then, of course, restarting and doing some other branches, because I'm like that, but you know.)

tl;dr: It's fine on the 360 although better on the PC, and it's worth playing. Taking some time to get used to it will reward you should you like the game, and the story-telling seems a lot more interesting in this iteration of the Bioware Ur-RPG.
posted by Errant at 6:27 PM on November 10, 2009


I picked up Dragon Age last weekend and have been enjoying it rather a lot, though I'm not normally fond of the overly scripted model of Bioware storytelling and tend to prefer Bethesda's open worlds which allow me to come up with my own stories. However, Dragon Age has been interesting at least insofar as it presents an interesting new setting (rather than retreading familiar milieus of D&D or Star Wars canon) that seems worth exploring to me.

In that vein, though, I do feel a slight twinge of loss when people start talking about this game in the jargon of WoW tactics. RPG's, for me, have always been more about interactive storytelling and devising some adventure that happens to have a lot of fights, stunts and close calls. The WoW approach boils an RPG down to team sports with swords and fireballs; and I hope that as popular as this approach might get, it doesn't wipe out the market for open worlds that offer one more ways to solve a quest than just devising more sustainable ways of dishing out damage.
posted by bl1nk at 6:46 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


To be fair, the terminology is much older than WoW, and games are only talked about in terms of tanks, healbots, dps, etc to the extent that the mold fits. It's clearly formulaic gameplay, and DA:O just executes a very traditional style, very well.
posted by mek at 6:59 PM on November 10, 2009


I dropped another $50 on the PC version. It's so much better than the Xbox version I don't know where to begin. Better graphics: both textures and lighting. Better UI. #1 improvement is being able to pause combat; not just to micromanage your whole party, but just to slow things down when getting out of hand. Also all the management of inventory, codex entries, etc is way better. And as an extra bonus, it takes screenshots automatically to document your story. You can upload them to some social network site at bioware.com, too, but I haven't gotten into that. Not possible on the Xbox version. So many things are weaker in the Xbox version, I really wish the gaming press had picked up on that before release. Anyone want to buy a slightly used Xbox disc, only with no "free" DLC? Sigh.

As for the tank/dps/healer trinity, I've been trying to track down where those gameplay roles originated. To me the key notion is "taunt", or possibly "guard": some way to force monsters to damage the tank instead of the squishies. Apparently that existed in some of the earlier RPG-style MUDs, but I haven't been able to figure out if it originated there (and if so, where) or if it predates MUDs. It's not really in the AD&D rulesets, at least second edition.
posted by Nelson at 7:07 PM on November 10, 2009


The first game I encountered "taunt" in was Everquest. There is widely held belief that Verant, the developers of EQ were strongly influenced by DikuMUD (a project started in 1990), a text-based forerunner to the MMGs we know today. DikuMUD also had taunt, and unless someone has evidence to the contrary, I would propose it as the origin of the taunt mechanic. There is a possibility it predates even DikuMUD, that it was adopted from AberMUD or another text based MUD, but it is clearly a mechanic born from online group encounters and not from D&D. The earliest occurrence I could find of a taunt in D&D is the "goad" feat introduced in "The Complete Adventurer" supplement circa 2005, which I think was 3.5E.
posted by sophist at 8:56 PM on November 10, 2009


I don't really like the use of terms like tank, CC, AoE, etc. when it comes to non-MMO RPGs either. I think its partly due to the fact that they seem to be very specific to the game mechanics, and not really part of the role-playing. In some sense it feels odd because the characters being played probably wouldn't use such terms, so its sort of very meta and breaking the fourth wall, breaking the illusion of the game and making it more of a strategy game than an RPG.

Is it even realistic anyway? Against dumb monsters maybe, but against intelligent enemies? I can't imagine somebody's (non-magical) ability to taunt would be able to stop a seasoned warrior from shooting the mage with arrows, and make him attack a big hulking giant in full plate armour. Also, in D&D there are tons more spells than in most MMOGs, which make classifying spellcasters a bit more difficult. Part of the fun in using magic in RPGs is being creative with it, and not really just being the fantasy equivalent of an artillery or a machine-gun.

Actually that might be because DA:O uses a mana-based magic system, as opposed to Vancian magic like D&D wizards. That tends to make mages end up more one-dimensional, since you don't need to choose your spells beforehand.
posted by destrius at 9:15 PM on November 10, 2009


As for the tank/dps/healer trinity, I've been trying to track down where those gameplay roles originated. To me the key notion is "taunt", or possibly "guard"

In the earliest CRPGs you did that by just putting your fighters in the front and your spellcasters in the back. I think the original Bard's Tale worked that way.
posted by straight at 9:56 PM on November 10, 2009


It did. Four years after Wizardry did it. Six party slots, three front row, three back row. Back rows can only be hit by ranged attacks. If somebody in the front row goes down, somebody from the back row moves up.
posted by Justinian at 11:12 PM on November 10, 2009


As for the tank/dps/healer trinity, I've been trying to track down where those gameplay roles originated.

I think it really took effect in the MMO era, probably with Everquest 1. The entire reason for tank/healer/dps is because monster AI is stupid in online games. When they're having to run hundreds or possibly thousands of AI routines on just a couple of very fast computers, they have to be very simple. And so they made the game about exploiting that simple AI.

In my pen and paper gaming, monsters acted differently based on how smart they were. An ooze or a jelly would just attack whatever was closest. Goblins and the like would often try swarm tactics, two or three on every character. One of the more dangerous encounters I remember building was with simple kobolds and a smart human leader, who got them disciplined enough to stay behind barricades and pelt attackers with arrows. If you get 40 arrows coming at a midlevel party every round, they're going to end up pincushions, even from 0-level critters. I don't remember anymore exactly how that one played out, but somehow they killed the leader, and the kobolds fell apart into their usual chaotic mess and were quickly dispatched.

Mages were some of the deadliest foes, simply because they really thought things through. An archmage was probably the single most dangerous enemy in my games, far worse than dragons or the like.

You just can't do that very well in MMOs; you can't make AI that's that complex, because A) there's too many people competing for limited computer resources, and B) it's all in realtime, which means there's very little time for the program to make decisions, and C) being in realtime, players can only react so fast, where in pen and paper, they generally had some time to think about what they were doing. It's hard to be clever at one melee swing per second; it's easy to be clever at 1 swing per five minutes.

Sadly, that MMO thinking is creeping further and further out, and it's just ludicrous. Nobody with any battle experience is going to be beating on the guy in plate mail with a sword while the mage rips them apart from the back. Instead, they're going to neutralize the strong guy somehow, go kill the weak guys, and then mop up the scary one. That's what players usually do, after all, and enemies shouldn't necessarily be that much stupider than the players.

I've been playing some more DA:O with a mage character, and the difference is just night and day. Mages just pump out so much goddamn damage. There's one optional fight with a high level bard in a central room, while two rooms open up on either side, and a mage and a fighter jump your party from each, should you engage that character. With my rogue-based party, somewhere around level 16 or 18, that was a pretty tough fight, very touch and go with lots of potion use. Mages are very dangerous, and the room entrances were trapped, so that it was impossible to get in there to kill them with melee without taking a crapload of damage from the trap, plus a crapload of damage from the mage who would see you coming.

With my mage party, down around level 9, it took three tries, but was eminently winnable, while using far fewer resources. My mage tossed a fireball into one room, knocking the two characters there over for a minute before they stood up, did a 180, froze the other mage and blasted him to death before he recovered, tossed a paralyze glyph on the boss to hold her down for 10 seconds or so, and then re-engaged the original fireballed mage. As soon as the frost bolt-ish thing recharged (two or three seconds) it was all over, without taking any party damage from the mages. Then it was just two fighters plus the boss, which at level 9 was fairly rough on the tank-ish character (3 or 4 potions plus a constant stream of healing from both mages), but was never really in doubt.

Mages in DA:O combine enormous ranged damage with phenomenal crowd control. CC doesn't last very long, but with the damage they put out, it doesn't NEED to.

It's a fantastic game in terms of story and voice acting, and I've enjoyed it immensely, but it has severe balance problems. For your first playthrough, I STRONGLY suggest playing a mage.
posted by Malor at 5:28 AM on November 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


While the classes in the game are definitely imbalanced, that really doesn't bother me at all in a single player game. In an MMO balance is crucial, to prevent situations where "class X is so overpowering that everyone plays it, therefore I too must play class X as well to avoid getting steamrolled in PvP."

But in a single player game like DA:O, that factor doesn't exist. You can set your own challenge level and play method, both through choosing your class and choosing the actual difficulty level. If you want to breeze through the game as the most powerful force imaginable, play a mage on easy. If you want more of a challenge, pick a different class and up the difficulty, and adjust your playing style accordingly.

It also makes sense from a story/world perspective. Mages ARE ridiculously powerful. That's why the Templars exist to keep them in check. In my opinion it's better to reflect that in the gameplay then to obsess over the math behind the mechanics, as so many WoW players do.
posted by Roommate at 7:21 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, it's true that you don't have to balance as religiously as you otherwise would, but I can tell you that playing the Normal difficulty version on the PC, with my main toon as a rogue, was punishingly difficult, where playing as a mage is pretty easy. I understand, now, how you can have me saying "Wow, this game is tough!", and Justinian saying, "Wow, this game is easy!" and have us both be right.

I've only gone through the Mage Tower part of the quest on the new character, but the difference is just astonishing. As a rogue, I had to carefully stealth out all the encounters as much as possible, checking for traps, and then carefully pull with my tank to try to get as few as possible, beat on those guys for ages, barely win, probably popping a bunch of pots in the process, rest, regroup, and then go get some more from the same encounter.

With the mage as my main toon, I just park the two mages and the archer in the back somewhere, go stomping around with my tank until I find something that wants to eat me, and run back to the Ranged Puree Machine, where the critters are reduced to goo. Fights that I simply completely skipped as a rogue I shrug about and evaporate as a mage.

Another way of putting it: a 1-on-1 fight with my rogue was always questionable, until I got combat stealth and could vanish midfight and then re-open after my crowd control was off cooldown. At that point, he could kill almost anything, although he might take some pots for a boss character. But in a straight-up battle without stealth, it was always iffy 1-on-1.

With a tank, that could keep monsters faced away, the rogue's damage output about doubles, but a 2-on-2 fight is still iffy, because it's questionable whether the rogue can finish off two critters before the two critters finish off the tank.

With a mage, it's just nuke-nuke-nuke dead. Where the tank and rogue would have a hard time with a 2-on-2 fight without support, the mage can just take them on both at once, alone, and consistently win. Not just sometimes, but ALWAYS. 3-on-1 is not an unreasonable fight for a mage, at least up through about level 9. You'll be out of mana, but it won't matter, because your opponents will all be dead.

I suspect that will change as the game progresses and the melee classes get more powers available, but at the present time, I'd call a mage at LEAST five times as effective as either of the other character classes.

As you say, the balance doesn't matter as much in single-player, but the power differential is just so extraordinary that it makes the game very difficult for melee classes. I could easily see many people giving up in disgust, simply because they picked a weak character class to start with. That's a strong indicator of a severe balance problem.
posted by Malor at 9:21 AM on November 11, 2009


The 360 and PC versions must have some real difficulty differences then, Malor, because I'm playing as a rogue on the 360 on Normal, and I haven't found it too difficult, either with my dex/cun build through level 9 or my str/dex build through level 8. Neither of them have stealth or use traps. I just hang back until the tank engages with Threaten and then circle around for murder, or backstab the one critter that the mage has been burning as they charge. The only times I've had trouble are when we're outnumbered about 2-1, but my tank is really durable and doesn't go down very easily. I really should find a PC and try that version, it sounds like it's different in more ways than just camera angle.
posted by Errant at 11:37 AM on November 11, 2009


Errant: One of the most noticeable differences is that there is no friendly fire on XBOX in normal difficulty. Some have said there are less enemies in certain battles and the devs have publicly stated that the difficulty was toned down for consoles. From GameInformer:

In streamlining combat for consoles, developers BioWare and Edge of Reality also dialed back the punishing difficulty. Fights that I won by the skin of my teeth in the PC version were a breeze this time around, largely because friendly fire is disabled on the normal difficulty setting. You can spew gouts of flame and conjure lightning storms with relative impunity, which removes all of the risk from casting high-level spells. I thought this was lame at first, but it isn’t without charm; I got lots of laughs using attacks and strategies that wouldn’t be viable if my allies were in harm’s way. Tossing a fireball into a crowded melee is entertaining, but it represents the biggest problem with this incarnation of Dragon Age. The action-focused, low-pressure encounters are fun, but they rarely force you to truly test your skills. Though you’ll mow down hundreds of darkspawn and thugs, you’ll rarely feel the satisfaction that comes with a hard-won victory.

Still, things are always easier the second time around and one man's Easy can well be another's Hard. That being said, the recent PC patch also "Slightly increased attack, defense, and damage scores for all party members at Normal difficulty" after which Laidlaw (Lead Dev) then returned to the forum to say that future patches will likely continue to address game balance. "Mages, however, are awesome," he wrote. "That's not going to change." -from Kotaku
posted by sophist at 1:15 PM on November 11, 2009


Yes, the difficulty was turned way down on XBOX so as not to scare the console kiddies.

t also makes sense from a story/world perspective. Mages ARE ridiculously powerful. That's why the Templars exist to keep them in check. In my opinion it's better to reflect that in the gameplay then to obsess over the math behind the mechanics, as so many WoW players do.

Except that this isn't reflected in the gameplay. In the game, mages are scared of the Templars because the Templars kill any mages that get out of line, and sometimes mages who don't. But that's ridiculous; mages are so much more powerful than a whole crowd of Templars that the idea that mages are scared of Templars is farcical. A group of mages could wipe out a whole army of Templars.

The balance is completely out of whack. I don't get the massive love this game is getting. It's a perfectly good game. I'm glad bought it. I'm having fun. But it is has some severe flaws and in many ways is a step backwards from Bioware's previous efforts. It's also a step forward in many ways but you can't ignore the former because of the latter.
posted by Justinian at 2:43 PM on November 11, 2009


I knew about the lack of friendly fire, of course, that's explicitly called out in the description of the setting, but I didn't know about the reduced enemies. That makes a lot of sense; as I said previously, the hardest fights I've had so far have had me outnumbered significantly, and if more PC fights are like that, it's no wonder.

Huh, I guess I'm a console kiddie now. Oh well, maybe one day I'll get to hang out with the cool nerds again.
posted by Errant at 3:27 PM on November 11, 2009


I have a 360 as well as a PC: that console kiddies exist doesn't mean that everyone who uses a console is a console kiddie. The difference between games designed for console and games designed for PC are obvious and real, though. Compare the difficulty of Fallout 3 to the previous Fallouts, for example.
posted by Justinian at 4:15 PM on November 11, 2009


Okay, the combination of Threaten on my tank and Force Field on my mage has turned every previously-hazardous fight into a game of "shoot the distracted morons". Highly overpowered combo. Add Cone of Cold and it's even easier.
posted by nightchrome at 6:20 PM on November 11, 2009


Well, I'm playing through the first time on Casual and I am Not Ashamed.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:24 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


The difference between games designed for console and games designed for PC are obvious and real, though.

It's a commonly-held thesis, certainly. I wonder how true it is. Arguably the whole industry is moving towards an easier default difficulty, outliers like Demon's Souls or Dwarf Fortress notwithstanding. We could both cherry-pick examples from either field to support either argument (I think Etrian Odyssey is more punishing than any Bard's Tale or Wizardry game ever was; compared to the original Prince of Persia, Sands of Time is a veritable cakewalk; etc.).

Comparing Fallout 3 to the previous Fallouts is, as you're assuredly aware, an exercise rife with danger. Still, I think it's not as good an example, since the PC and console versions are more or less the same thing, which appears not to be the case with Dragon Age, and Fallout / Fallout 2 were released well before simultaneous ports were the industry standard. (I also didn't find either of the previous Fallout games particularly difficult, and I'm starting to wonder if my definition of "difficult" is the same as other people's.)

Nevertheless, the main point is that the console version of DA:O is certainly easier than the PC version, and that's regrettable. I don't really understand the impression that console players would find the game "too difficult", unless it's a tacit admission that they screwed up the difficulty on the PC and only the more-advanced tactical control allows someone a shot at winning on that platform.

By the way, while I was mildly annoyed at the "console kiddies" comment, I was really much more annoyed at the continuing realization that I don't really have a choice right now because of my elderly and wheezing machine. Apologies for being snippy, I'm really just aggravated that I had to settle for what is, by all accounts, the far inferior version of a game I do like.
posted by Errant at 8:10 PM on November 11, 2009


(I also didn't find either of the previous Fallout games particularly difficult, and I'm starting to wonder if my definition of "difficult" is the same as other people's.

Just a note: I didn't find either of the previous Fallout games particularly difficult either. But Fallout 3 was completely trivial. At least in the first couple Fallouts if you screwed up and left yourself exposed to a Super Mutant with a gatling laser he could insta-kill you with a crit. Fallout 3 was like roughly as difficult as playing chess against my cat. Assuming my cat had suffered some sort of brain injury.
posted by Justinian at 8:48 PM on November 11, 2009


I am finding it interesting how many people are rating the merits of this game on it's combat engine.

Don't get me wrong, combat is a huge part of the or any other CRPG, but I'm in love with the characters and the world as well.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 6:16 AM on November 12, 2009


We can agree on that, Justinian. About the only real trouble I had was when I left the Vault and immediately ran for Rivet City to pick up that Int bobblehead. Fleeing Super Mutants with rocket launchers at level 2 was genuinely exhilarating and provided a real "the wasteland will fuck you up" moment, which was great. Unfortunately, there weren't too many more of those.

WinnipegDragon, I've been talking about the combat engine, but honestly, my main character right now is a rogue duelist with Momentum and Dueling up all the time, so it's basically auto-attack backstabs all the way because I only have the stamina for one ability every 20 seconds or so. The combat is at best something mildly interesting to do between dialogues.

In fact, maybe that goes to the kiddie point. Having figured out builds for my guys, combat has become pretty trivially easy. I guess I should bump it up to Hard so Morrigan can't simply own anymore.

Tangentially, I started the dwarf noble origin last night just to do something a little different, and holy crap. I don't know how they managed to get me to like dwarves, but they did it.
posted by Errant at 11:18 AM on November 12, 2009


The combat is at best something mildly interesting to do between dialogues.

My question then is "Why make it a game?" That's the main thing that turned me off about Mass Effect. I think I've decided I'm gonna pass on DA and finish my second playthrough of Borderlands instead...
posted by empath at 11:35 AM on November 12, 2009


The Mechanics of Morality: Why Moral Choices in Video Games Are No Longer Fun
posted by homunculus at 4:21 PM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


My question then is "Why make it a game?"

For me, at least, it's because the conversations and quest choices are the game, in that they are the truly interactive part of the experience. You might play a mage and spray everyone with lightning, I might play a rogue and sneak up to people and plant their feet in traps, but at the end of that five minutes, all those dudes are going to be equally dead. On the other hand, when I say something snotty to my companion and he gets pissed off, my game is now going to play differently than when I say something nice to him and he falls in love with me.

That's not to say just blasting people is boring by comparison -- I'm really loving Borderlands too -- but Borderlands with DA:O's combat engine would be shit, because in Borderlands the combat is the game. In DA:O, it's a meaty part of the experience to be sure, but it's not the only part, and it's not the part I'm primarily interested in.

The Mechanics of Morality: Why Moral Choices in Video Games Are No Longer Fun


That's a really interesting piece, although I disagree with a lot of what he has to say. He treats "transgression" as a game-contained action, and in that context I can see how it would become unsatisfying to him. For those that "transgression" does satisfy, though, it seems often to be because the gameworld offers transgressions that are costly in the real world, and so the code being contravened is not an in-game morality but a real-world one.

He also seems to think that the mini-games in Saints Row 2 are less fun than just running around shooting people, which is completely alien to my worldview. I don't know how anyone could play Insurance Fraud and not laugh their ass off the whole time.

His view of aesthetics masquerading as morality is really funny to me, because he's basically arguing that Oscar Wilde made Fable 2, and I think that's an excellent lens for that game. Shouldn't moral choices be aesthetic in equal measure?

Anyway, so much of his argument is stupid. Real-world moral decisions don't display karma numbers, he sniffs, as though real-world abilities do otherwise have progress bars and enumerated levels. Reminds me of Erik Wolpaw's dismissal of criticisms of the game Majesty: if you don't like watching stat bars rise, you might be in the wrong hobby. And holding up Everquest as a model of how to do a morality system right, or even a faction system, is just bizarre.

This rant got long. I'll curtail it then.
posted by Errant at 6:16 PM on November 12, 2009


That's a really interesting piece, although I disagree with a lot of what he has to say. He treats "transgression" as a game-contained action, and in that context I can see how it would become unsatisfying to him. For those that "transgression" does satisfy, though, it seems often to be because the gameworld offers transgressions that are costly in the real world, and so the code being contravened is not an in-game morality but a real-world one.

Well there is a certain thrill to playing a game in a way that the game absolutely does NOT intend that you play. And if they codify 'evil' into the game, then you're still following the rules. It doesn't matter how depraved your actions in the game are, you're still following a path that the designer laid out for you.
posted by empath at 8:48 PM on November 12, 2009


Right, it's the difference between making a dildo out of Legos, vs. buying the Lego dildo kit.
posted by fleacircus at 9:11 PM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well there is a certain thrill to playing a game in a way that the game absolutely does NOT intend that you play.

But how many video games can really be played this way? There's stuff like Metroid sequence-breaking or the Quake rocket-jump, but games are mostly defined by their ruleset, and being able to act outside of that ruleset is usually bug territory. "Intention" in design is a difficult thing to ascertain without direct authorial input, as D&D nerds would be happy to explain (see: "rules as written" versus "rules as intended"). I guess I tend to think "whatever is not forbidden is permitted" when it comes to games.

Anyway, I don't think doing forbidden things is the real lure of morality systems. I think the more attractive notion is that I can like playing a good guy, and you can like playing a bad guy, and we can both enjoy this game that allows for our respective desires of experience. The more applicable comparison for games like KOTOR or Fable is against games like Final Fantasy, where every detail of the progression is linear and if you don't like the way the main character acts, it's hard to like that game, period. That morality systems in games may provide a delightful sense of transgression is, I think, secondary to their utility as base-broadeners.
posted by Errant at 10:00 PM on November 12, 2009


I think the speed run phenomenon shows that there are lots of people playing games the way they weren't intended to be played. And in most decent games of skill, players who reach a certain level will be manipulating the game in ways the designers never imagined. Some designers can sort of ride the wave and stay current, but some cannot. Wizards of the Coast does a good job stewarding MtG; otoh Quake yielded fruit that id was not talented enough to harvest.

There is an axis between a sandbox game like GTA or DF, and something scripted like, well, Dragon Age. Rock Star "intended" I could get a sniper rifle, go up on a building, and shoot some innocent people in the head, but that's just because they put sniper rifles, buildings, and innocent civilians in the game. They didn't know I was going to go on this building to shoot that pedestrian, unless of course I'm on one of their missions, which are really only ever fun when you go off script anyway. (Rock Star is actually pretty fucking inept at corralling player behavior when they try, which is good for a game like GTA.)

Transgressing in a sandbox is more fun because you are combining the elements of the game in a way that you thought of yourself. Dragon Age is more like a choose-your-own-adventure novel with some explorey-fighty stuff mixed in. The real transgressing is when you try to win fights in ways the game probably wasn't thinking you would, sneak past someone's intercept bubble to get to the chest, exploit dumbass monster AI, etc. It's giving the player game elements to manipulate, but these game elements are hugely gamey and not real.

Anyway maybe someday someone will make a good interpersonal relationship sandbox rather than dialogue menus and love-hate mood sliders. Maybe the Sims counts. (There was a game a long time ago on the Mac that used an icon language, but fuck if I can remember the name or designer... Clearly I'm too drunk and tired and have no idea what the fuck I'm talking about.)

--

Just got this yesterday, and so far I'm enjoying it. The NPC chatter is nice and a bit fun, though it's annoying that the NPCs can't seem to handle the idea that to do X we fucking need to do Y so just shut up about it. Also, whenever Allister talks I can only hear Robert Webb (this is a plus).

The Redcliff bit and the choice with Isolde and Connor was interesting; the "explore a big place and kill a shitload of cultists" followup has not been enjoyable so far.

My party sucks and I don't give a shit about my 'build', and life's too short for me to play this game on anything but casual difficulty (I've still died twice...). I'm glad they've left the D&D world and system behind and created something that's more a Song of Ice and Fire with an un-needed dash of Morrowind.

Ob. whining, interface things driving me up the wall:
1. Let me equip in the merchant screen FFS.
2. On the xbox, when you're viewing the codex and scrolling down, the selection stays at the bottom of the list making it impossible to see which entries are updated/glowing unless they happen to be on the first page of the list; there's no way to scroll the list without moving the selection.
3. Inventory items that are tied to codex entries should link to the fucking codex entry.
posted by fleacircus at 1:40 AM on November 13, 2009


Er, and as for the issue of the fucking salesman NPC who shows up in camp—blergh! He's there in camp with a ! on him with no explanation, guaranteeing you'll talk to him, and he leads you on a song and dance then he's like... Oh yeah, *winkwink* I'll cost you real money to go on this quest.

That's the essence of its shittiness. It would be acceptable if they'd popped up a "This is downloadable content dude" dialog when you first talk to him. That's all it would have taken.

But the way they did it's just insulting. It's like some marketing asshole had a negative epiphany: "People like cable TV, and they pay for cable service, and the cost includes fees... ergo people like paying fees!"
posted by fleacircus at 2:13 AM on November 13, 2009


HAHAHAAHAH HA HAH AHAHA. Sorry, I just read the reason why they had to make the combat so much easier on the 360. Apparently there is no pause-and-give-orders during combat on the consoles. Christ no wonder they made the combat system so MMORPG-like. They had to balance it for people who can't pause the game! Utterly ridiculous.

There is a huge amount to like about DAO but I am becoming increasingly disenchanted with some very fundamental things in the game. My working hypothesis is that Bioware tried to walk a middle ground and design a game for the PC and for consoles at the same time. That sort of thing never works right; you end up with systems that don't work very well for either.

The alternative is that Bioware forgot how to design a single player RPG. And that simply doesn't make sense. Or maybe Black Isle was the real talent in that collaboration?
posted by Justinian at 1:48 AM on November 14, 2009


Back to discussing the origins of trinity gameplay, the earliest I saw it was in MUDs. The diku/merc style, to be specific, which is what EQ was modeled on. That goes back as far as 1990.
posted by mek at 2:30 PM on November 15, 2009


Apparently there is no pause-and-give-orders during combat on the consoles.

Well, there kind of is, in that you can pull LT and freeze things on the fiddly donut, then LB/RB to each party member and issue orders, but because you never know whose turn it is or where in their activation cycle each member is, it's immensely frustrating. For instance, telling your tank to drink a healing potion only to have him instantly felled by a foe who must have invisibly won some sort of initiative check. Or queuing your mage to cast Cone of Cold only to have her get hit by an arrow, interrupted, and then return to her primary tactic of "stand around watching the fight". The tactics menu, which is really quite brilliant, becomes almost irrelevant in 99% of battles and absolutely crucial in 1%. Kind of a shame. That's why I'm playing it on Casual as a 60-hour-long Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:33 PM on November 15, 2009


yeah, the console version a frustratingly broken experience. it's ok, because I'm still totally engrossed in what passes for the story, mostly because of how addicted I am to the standard bioware story and plot device mechanics. but seriously, it's probably the worst bioware game yet. that's still a good game, but not nearly up to their standard in many many ways.
posted by shmegegge at 9:22 AM on November 16, 2009


Shmegge: I tend to agree. I'm not sure about worst Bioware game but it's certainly not their best effort in terms of design. Story, yes. Good stuff. But the design is terrible. I'm going to do a very tl;dr post-mortem on the Bioware forums of what went right and what went wrong with DAO. I don't expect a very positive response from a lot of the posters on those forums but I'm hoping the extreme tl;dr nature of the post will keep most of the fanboy trolls away.

I have a whole list of problems to address but they can be narrowed down to 3 broad categories or even 1 massively broad category depending on how you view things.

The extreme broad view: They tried to make the game as accessible as possible to the MMO crowd while still making it a traditional single player RPG and, as a result, made a game that was only modestly successful at either of those things.

The slightly narrower but still very broad view: The problems (apart from some trivial fixable stuff that isnt conceptual in nature) all stem from three basic design decisions which, taken all together, are a failure of nerve on Bioware's part.

1) Virtually all significant content should be accessible to the player regardless of how they build their character or their party makeup.

2) Despite the game being singe player the combat system is deliberately MMORPG-like with the key concept being crowd control rather than a superior system involving positioning and tactics.

2b) Mages are grossly overpowered compared the other classes to the point that the best party is 3 mages and one rogue or tank. I'm uncertain whether this is "2b" and a result of the combat system being MMORPG like or "3" and a wholly separate issue.

But all the substantial rather than accidental (in the Catholic sense of the word) problems stem from those 2.5 or 3 key design decisions, and all 2.5 or 3 decisions were the wrong ones. I fully understand why they did what they did but it just didn't work out.

Either make a PC RPG or a console RPG. Don't make a sickly chimera of both.
posted by Justinian at 3:21 PM on November 16, 2009


The balance issues are stark. All you need is 3 mages with 3 spells each and every fight in the game becomes a complete joke. Even if you aren't playing a stupid comp like that, you start outleveling content in your teens and the rest of the story battles are mostly easy no matter what you do on whatever difficulty.
posted by mek at 4:04 PM on November 16, 2009


I was almost finished and I restarted with a rogue on nightmare difficulty. That's about as tough as it gets I guess.
posted by Justinian at 4:20 PM on November 16, 2009


FWIW, I found the combo of Alistair, me as a rogue, and Leliana (because I couldn't stand Morrigan), with Wynne healing, was very difficult, even on Normal. Part of that was because I didn't yet know how to build my tank, and I didn't get Taunt for Alistair until much later than I should have. Taunt is THE key ability for your tank, and it's not immediately obvious from the description or the rather lame prereq.

I suspect that you'll really struggle on Nightmare if you build your party that way. Melee classes are just really, really weak.

My current party is identical, with the one change being swapping my toon from a rogue to a mage, and we just stomp all over everything on Normal, and the stomping seems to be getting more thorough as I level, rather than less. Mages are fucking insane at high levels; my mage can pump out probably twenty times the damage my rogue could, AND do crowd control, AND do healing, and when I get to the third tier ability in Arcane Warrior, it looks like she'll be able to tank TOO. Pretty insane.

Oh, one other change is that I have the healer better-automated in this playthrough to take care of my tank, so I can micromanage just my mage, while my other three characters mostly handle themselves. Having to pay less attention to everyone else makes my single mage toon extraordinarily effective.
posted by Malor at 11:01 PM on November 16, 2009


I suspect that you'll really struggle on Nightmare if you build your party that way.

I sure as hell hope so. What's the point of "Nightmare" if you don't struggle?
posted by Justinian at 11:44 PM on November 16, 2009


Justinian: "I'm not sure about worst Bioware game but it's certainly not their best effort in terms of design."

well, I may have sounded more negative than I meant by putting it that way. think of it more as "least good." which, I know, 6 of one half dozen of the other, etc... my point is this: the list of bioware games I recall off the top of my head is a list of games that I have enjoyed more than this. baldur's gate, icewind dale, KOTOR and KOTOR II, Jade Empire, Neverwinter Nights, Mass Effect... all better, in my humble O. even the hopelessly broken KOTOR II that didn't even give you a light saber for the first half of the damn game. I beat all of them, and I just realized yesterday that I stopped playing Dragon Age in favor of something else and I don't know when I'll actually get back to it. Again, I think it's good, but I'm kind of damning it with faint praise when I say that. Of course it's good. it's a bioware game. but it's exactlly like other bioware games in a way that's not good, and completely 180 degrees different from them in ways that are not good as well.

mek: "All you need is 3 mages with 3 spells each and every fight in the game becomes a complete joke."

I wish I had known this. I'm at level 14 with a party of rogue (me), alistair, shale and morrigan and I get owned every battle. every time I fight I hold down LT, cycle through my whole party telling them to make a mad dash for the nearest mage to kill it and then whittle my way through the rest. I only JUST got wynne to join my party, after wasting stupid goddamn skill points teaching morrigan a couple levels of healing, not realising I'd be getting a healer 10 minutes later. which is ridiculous. why am I getting a healer 3/4 of the way through the game? I have 3 rogues, 3 tanks and a fucking dog and NOW you give me my 2nd mage?

seriously, combat is broken as fuck in this game. the ffxii style gambits in the tactics sub menu are next to useless.
posted by shmegegge at 7:55 AM on November 17, 2009


That's a definite flaw in the nonlinearity of the game. I chose Redcliffe first, little did I know it was pretty much the hardest possible option, and only barely completed it thanks to the OPness of my mage.

Then I went to Denerim, which was almost as hard, but not quite as bad. And then I wandered over to the Mage Tower and slept through the entire sequence because entire fights would end after I cast fireball once.

The difficulty scaling is a little off.
posted by mek at 2:58 PM on November 17, 2009


that is exactly the order I've been doing things in. I don't remember any other bioware game having this problem, despite having the same "pick your [planet/village/community] destination next" structure.
posted by shmegegge at 3:07 PM on November 17, 2009


Redcliffe isn't the hardest option. Whichever area you pick first is the hardest option, with the possible exception of the elf forest, assuming you are doing a bunch of sidequests. It's an artifact of the scaling system they are using.
posted by Justinian at 5:58 PM on November 17, 2009


Redcliffe isn't the hardest option.

Actually, it likely is. If the enemy A.I. gets hung up on path detection, which is dispiritingly likely, the revenants spawn indefinitely, and the night battle turns from a triumphant set piece into a low frame-rate fantasy version of Left 4 Dead.

Between incidental bugs and the more systemic errors, like being forced to program your allies' A.I. (!), I think I'll have to shelve the game until patches and mods can make the combat at all satisfying. What a disappointment.
posted by Iridic at 8:45 PM on November 17, 2009


I'm wondering how many of you guys actually remember playing through BG and KotOR et al... Glitchy, buggy, OMG why didn't I save, screwy difficulty, screwy balance, retarded monster AI, retarded party AI — par for the course!
posted by fleacircus at 10:10 PM on November 17, 2009


Myself, I'd like to play one of these games where my character actually speaks.

I know that one big divide between the American RPG and the Japanese RPG is that American RPGs love to give the player a lot of latitude in picking the main character. Maybe it's from the tabletop days: pick race, class, gender and go. Whereas Japanese RPGS tend to package up a main character for you and distance you from your PC. (Yes there are exceptions.)

DA:O doesn't stray far from the American formula, and as a result my character has no voice dialog; none of the NPCs will ever speak my name; my character's race and gender occasionally get a dialog variant added (and DA:O is comparatively good about that), but I know deep down that they don't really matter to the story because that would be incredibly wasteful. So while I'm given all these choices on customizing my character, the net effect is that none of then really matter.

Furthermore, because they don't know what class I'll pick, they have to include an NPC of every major build in the game. Sooner or later I run into an NPC who sort of duplicates my PC's abilities and is already integrated into the dialog and story as well.

DA:O does break the formula a little bit with the origins stories. However once they're over you're "Grey Warden" through the rest of the game. I'd rather see them woven in more; let me pick from 2-4 pre-baked characters whose stories matters a lot more to the game. Heck, go the FF6 route and not even have a main character but let me play Alistair's story, Leliana's story, etc.

They obviously had a lot of money and talent to make this game, but playing it I keep thinking they could have done the story a lot better by straying from the formula.
posted by fleacircus at 11:00 PM on November 17, 2009


toon

please oh god stop saying that not everything is fucking WoW

posted by flaterik at 11:32 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Myself, I'd like to play one of these games where my character actually speaks.

Mass Effect, also by Bioware.

Myself, I'd like to play one of these games where almost nobody speaks so that we can get some involved dialogue, like in Planescape: Torment. But since so many people are already complaining about tl;dr in DAO, that seems unlikely.
posted by Justinian at 4:49 AM on November 18, 2009


I don't really get complaints about difficulty in games since I always ramp it to maximum straight away. If I'm not challenging myself I don't enjoy it. Fallout 3 was so easy on "Very Hard" I had to buy the PC version just to install some mods to make it difficult. If DA:O is difficult as a melee character then good! It means that there may be a worthwhile game to be played.

Coming from a background in pen and paper I used to see parties that had all sorts of different unbalanced characters in them. A modern day RPG I used to play (Millennium's End) had a party with an ex-CAG/Delta medic, a stereotypical nerdy college computer jock, a 55 year old retired MDPD officer and a burglar/recovering heroin addict who loved Jesus and parkour equally. Balance those fuckers.

The joy of an RPG is the interaction between the party and their reactions in the world. Taking the examples above - the computer jock was in his early 20s and his interaction with NPCs was informed by his youth and enthusiasm (with a small dose of aspergers...) The same interaction taking place with the retired cop generates an entirely different series of events as he can't help but bring his experience (and general distrust of people) to bear. This complexity cannot be simulated in a CRPG.

I loved KOTOR, Jade Empire, Mass Effect and Fallout 3 for what they were - basically fight scenes with an interesting story connecting them. They aren't really proper RPGs in my mind as I am not truly free to create my own character, my own story and interface with the world through their eyes. Still ten times better than any MMO in my eyes, but not actually allowing the depth of interaction that you get from a pen and paper game.

Balance is provided by giving characters tasks which only they can succeed at. In the example above I wouldn't send the nerd in to interview a suspect, nor would I let him try field expedient surgery in the Columbian jungle under fire but give him a laptop and a connection to the net and he could find out all sorts of things the ex-cop would never know.

Also, all mages suck. All of them. All the time. Same goes for "psychic power" characters. Fuck you. Punisher/Batman base human + skill/determination/psychosis FTW!
posted by longbaugh at 10:33 AM on November 18, 2009


After playing this for a week, I'm hooked. It was the story that sucked me in more than anything and wanting to be involved with the other characters. As far as the gameplay went, yes, mages are incredibly OP and though I loathe Morrigan I brought her everywhere because she was useful. I was also very surprised that I could hit the spacebar whenever I felt like it during combat to change tactics for characters or look through my inventory for another healing poultice to drop down into a slot for a character that was about to die (also irritated with no getting Wynne until much later).

When it was over, I was actually very sad because it felt like there should be more. MMORPGs are never over as long as new content is patched in and there's rep grinds and such to do until that next patch hits. All I can do with this game is reroll another character and play again until I will be completely bored of the storyline. And I will, I have. I just want more.
posted by keli at 2:21 PM on November 19, 2009


Yahtzee's review is online. "What would a Bioware RPG be without dialog? A whole bunch of silence and trousers."
posted by Nelson at 3:52 PM on November 19, 2009


Yahtzee is the best video game reviewer there is. I believe he would also be the best video game critic there is if he was given a longer format and decided to be slightly more serious for those columns or whatever. He is, indeed, negative about many games. But that's because he's honest and most games are shit. He won't say a game is excellent simply because it's a big-budget title and his website gets a lot of ad dollars cough*GAMESPOT*cough.
posted by Justinian at 4:05 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


  Myself, I'd like to play one of these games where my character actually speaks.
Mass Effect, also by Bioware


Right, but then he's not 'my' character, seewhutImsayin'?
posted by fleacircus at 7:03 AM on November 20, 2009


Nelson: "Yahtzee's review is online."

wow, that was dead on, both in everything awful he mentioned about it, and in that for some reason you still enjoy it. I wish you could see this more often in numerical based reviews. like "I give it a 4/10, because it's unimaginative, deritive crap with serious problems in every department. but, you should go get it anyway because you'll probably enjoy it anyway. Take THAT metacritic!"
posted by shmegegge at 8:31 AM on November 20, 2009


Follow up: video of gay elf sex scene here. It's hardly explicit, probably not even R rated, but possibly NSFW.
posted by hermitosis at 10:53 AM on December 8, 2009


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