Nov 09 2009
I was worried about buying Dragon Age, worried because it was Bioware, the company behind one of my all time favorite games, Mass Effect, and worried because of the slew of positive reviews it was getting from every gamer mag and website on the planet.
Why would that make me scared?
Because somehow, I knew I wouldn’t like it. And I don’t, I really don’t. At least, not yet.
Between Mass Effect 2, and the epic Old Republic MMO Bioware is making, I had to think, “How they hell are they possibly squeezing this game in?” So far, the result is pretty clear to me, they rushed it. And it shows. Most of this first journal will relate to the story and dialogue system, the main tenants of any Bioware game. Gameplay is really just a secondary component, and I’ll talk about that later, but know that more or less the game plays exactly like KOTOR, except they don’t call the dice rolls “dice rolls” anymore.
I’m about twelve hours into the game after a weekend of playing, and my party currently consists of myself (a human warrior named Ethan, a carryover from Mass Effect), my dog (a war hound named Chips, a carryover from Fable 2), my hot naturist mage who isn’t really a fan of wearing shirts, and my gay elf rogue, yes, my gay elf rogue.
So far we’ve been gallivanting around the countryside in very linear areas killing Darkspawn and assassins and werewolves. Bioware has always been all about plot, and getting you hooked on the story, and though this universe seems to be less interesting than Mass Effect’s. There are evil creatures who have come from somewhere to kill everyone, you must unite man, dwarf and elf to fight against them (sound familiar?), and there is a human general who has killed the king and framed you for it. It is pretty deep, as each portion of the main quest line could probably be its own movie, and I think I’m only scratching the surface of it, probably because I simply don’t have the patience to listen to ten minute conversations with every NPC on earth or read through 10,000 pages of codex. Seriously, who the hell writes that stuff?
But most of all, I’m not nearly as engrossed in my character, Ethan Cousland, as I was with Ethan Shepard in Mass Effect. Why? Because HE DOESN’T TALK.
Everything else aside, this is my number one complaint about the game, and probably will be until I finish. I would have expected this from Bethesda, whose Oblivion and Fallout characters never had lives of their own, but Bioware? Come on guys. I expected better.
I understand that animating and voicing the other 50% of all conversations would have taken some time, but that’s what I mean when I say this game was rushed. If Bioware had the time, surely they would have done it, but as it stands now, the only thing my character says out loud is “Would you like a ladder so you can get off my back?” every time I press the attack button too much, which after twelve hours has made me thoroughly hate my own creation.
Also Bioware, listen up. There is such a thing as TOO MANY DIALOGUE OPTIONS. The result of this ranges from mere annoyance, to full blow frustration, to possibly being permanently game changing.
It’s annoying when you have six dialogue choices in front of you, and if you’d died before this scene previously, you pick five different ones, and see that all of them produce the EXACT SAME response from the other party and you’re only being given the illusion of a diverse set of choices.
It’s frustrating when you have a two second conversation with the hot mage you’re trying to bang, and when you tell her you think she’s useful and you’d like her to stay in your party, she somehow disapproves -10 heart points. And it’s even more frustrating when you put the time in and pretend to be interested in her ancestors and woodland witch culture and what not for a solid five minutes, only to exit the conversation with her STILL DISAPPROVING. No virtual sex for me I guess. Conversations like this in Mass Effect just seemed natural; here, they feel like a maze full of landmines.
It will surely depress most gamers when they find out how hard it is to even get VIRTUALLY laid.
Lastly, the effects of conversation can be completely game changing, which is insanely annoying as if you make the wrong call you’ll have to start another 100 hour game again just to make the right one the next time around. Case in point, I met a blood mage named Jowain (or something like that). He betrayed the king, but then helped us later. After the dust settled he was brought before the king and I was given these options. Should he…
A) Execute him (I had this option when I first met him, and declined because I thought he could be in my party eventually)
B) Turn him over to the mages guild.
C) Set him free and have the mages hunt him.
Now, since I really, really want a blood mage in my party, I was torn between B and C. I knew I had a quest at the mage guild later, so I figured that I might see him there where he would be reformed and want to join my party. If I set him free, I thought he would go into hiding or be killed and never been seen again.
Conversely, maybe once I get to the mage guild, I’ll show up and they’ll greet me with, “Hey thanks for sending us that traitor, Jowain, that’s his head on that stake over there.” And what if I set him free, and he immediately wanted to join up with my party rather than go hide?
I understand Bioware’s “consequence” logic here, but I KNOW that I want this guy in my party, THAT’S my choice. But the way to get there should not be this unclear, and I shouldn’t have to wait until my second playthrough to make the decisions I ACTUALLY wanted to make in the first place.
Well, we’re all out of time, and I didn’t even get to talk about gameplay, questing, character building or the graphics (which, dear lord, are some of the worst I’ve seen in years), and I suppose all that will have to wait until next time.
At this point, the game feels more like work than fun. I’m playing because I spent $60 and I must review it, not because I’m having a particularly large amount of fun. I’m hoping that will change, but clearly some mistakes Bioware has made already in the game are going to be irreversible.
Archery: not the way to go here.
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