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06/06/2013 08:00:05 •••

I enjoyed playing a genuine RPG

Awkward sex scenes aside, I would have never have guessed that this was a Bioware game. It plays like a pen + paper RPG, with a deep and complex but poorly explained combat system and a large focus on creating a setting and letting you wander around in it and react in natural ways. This is the first post Knights Of The Old Republic game that doesn't really tie everything to a two path good/evil story. Things happens and you respond to them. It almost

never feels like the game expects you to go one way to be consistent with what you've done before.

I can't explain enough how much fun I had simply choosing the right ways to act and the right things to say for the character I created. I decided to be a gifted noble, who thought everyone was beneath her because nothing had ever disproven that, but with a strong sense of duty. She'd always choose to sacrifice herself instead of someone else, because she knew she could do it better than them. And the game had the flexibility to allow me to do that. Almost

never was there a conversation where I didn't have the option I needed. Contrast that with Mass Effect where Shepard sounds schizophrenic if you try mixing top left and bottom right too often.

It doesn't necessarily allow you to change the world completely (although you can change a fair bit), but it lets you decide who you want to be in it. All the party members, bar two, are completely optional and the character customisation potential is immense. Race, class, and character background all change the experience. The game might not play very differently as a noble instead of a peasant, but when people refer to you by your title and mention connections with your family, it feels like the game is validating your character. The story isn't exceptionally exciting but it's appropriate and well thought out enough to carry the experience.

There are flaws, the companions are interesting but a lot of the banter (particularly with Morrigan and Alistair) is a little forced. Combat is stretching, but can drag. Easy mode improved pacing dramatically but removed all challenge. The game in general is too long, I want to get to the end and explore, yet it's a significant time investment. But ultimately as soon as I finished playing, I immediately wanted to play it again.

06/05/2013 00:00:00

I would agree, but it still seems the game does force you in certain directions sometimes, and can certainly be more punishing of certain choices than Mass Effect (well, except for Mass Effect 3). For example, I find the game almost tediously difficult if I don't head for the Mages Circle in order to get Wynne directly after the prologue if I'm not playing as a mage with some sort of healing capabilities. Not to mention how easy it is to lose some quests forever without the knowledge that you'll do so, such as the dwarf in Orzammar that requires 40 gold or by pissing off the elves in the Brecilian Forest if you're trying to play a more mean-spirited character.

06/05/2013 00:00:00

Difficulty and class balance is something I wanted to get into with more time, because generally your relationship with the party and the whole idea of the influence system is spoilt by the idea that you really need very specific roles in your active group to survive combat, so you can't really have the people along who you want. But you can level Morrigan for healing and put off the Mages Circle for a while (and generally, I find it's more fun to put the game on easy and forget about the combat altogether).

I don't mind losing quests to silly reasons so much, because for me the focus is more on being able to act appropriately to character in a situation than the quest itself. It's annoying when there's something else you would have done and should be able to do (I don't like the way you can't interrupt the vote at the landsmeet if there are still serious crimes left to discuss) but if you didn't have the money on you and lose the quest, well there's plenty of other quests out there.

And cutting off quests because of ways you behave is in someways a positive to me, because it's reacting to you. The reason why every Bioware game before ME 3 could allow you to change a lot of things is because they always designed the changes to have 0 story impact before the end game. You can turn a whole village evil, but none of the other planets care about it and none of the other quest-chains are affected. The change only matters as long as the quest is in progress. (And then in ME 3 they tried doing quests that affected story chains and realised that it was really hard) and I think Dragon Age is slightly better at linking some of the quest chains together and making you bite a consequence for what you did.

Also whilst I'm still talking about the game. The autolevelling in Dragon Age is really terrible, there are a lot of circumstances where going up a level actually makes you weaker (particularly noticeable with lockpicking). It ruins the sense of progression

06/05/2013 00:00:00

I don't mind that they cut you off from certain things, I take issue more with the fact that it's not always intuitive that they will.

And yeah, the whole idea of your team needing certain roles disappointed me too, especially with the predisposition of certain party members towards roles that aren't necessarily very useful. You mentioned leveling Morrigan for healing; certainly possible, but you'd have to bend over backwards to do so considering that all her points are spent on less useful Black Magic type spells when you get her, and you'd just be turning her into an amoral clone of Wynne anyways. And I don't know about you, but I thought the game giving you six possible warriors was a bit much compared to two mages and two rogues, especially considering I found absolutely no use for the two-handed specialists at all. Sten, Oghren and the Dog were nearly always benched when I went out exploring.

06/05/2013 00:00:00

"you'd just be turning her into an amoral clone of Wynne anyways" That was exactly my aim =D. Fighting without a magic healer was always a pain and depletes resources, so I turned Morrigan into a Wynne clone and then swapped them out depending on whether I thought it was appropriate to bring the nice or the nasty to a fight. When going into a town Wynne clearly makes the better impression, but when roughing people up it might be better to leave her behind. Also going into danger I was much more likely to take Morrigan and Sten, because if they die, no big loss to the world (I was disappointed there wasn't an opportunity to make sure that Sten lived up to his promise to die in battle. I was hoping for a ME 2 suicide mission esque situation)

My big problem with the two-handed fighters was that stat systems are really hard to make sensible decisions off. To balance out their greater power you need heavier armour, and higher constitution (or is dex better for the higher defence?) but what number of constitution represents 'don't die easily in battle' and what amount of willpower makes up for the heavier armour? You can say that I should be experimenting, but the stats lock in once you leave level up, so there's no actual opportunity to do that. I feel like there was a way of statting them to make them useful, but I've no idea what that was

06/05/2013 00:00:00

My problem with the two handed characters was that they didn't have the tanking properties a shield specialist (or Shale for that matter) did, and the damage they did wasn't near high enough to justify using them over a Rogue, and Rogues are better overall at utility anyway considering that you'll probably need one for traps/chests. Another problem with them giving you six possible warriors is that there's no real reason for you to play as one, since there isn't a base you won't be able to cover with one of your other warriors, even if two of said warriors have access to special skill sets instead of the usual warrior skills. Makes me rather glad I used a Rogue on my only complete playthrough.

Anyhow, I'm grateful for the Awakening expansion. There's some non-intuitive quests there as well, but at least the added specializations went a long way to help fix some of the balancing issues.

06/05/2013 00:00:00

I went rogue first too, although I ended up with a sort of nerfed ranged DPS. I guess if you don't go rogue you're really constricted on who you take if you want people to pick locks. I'll have to check out Awakening, but a part of me wants to play DA:O again first, even if it's going to take forever

06/05/2013 00:00:00

Awakening is just all around better if you ask me. Better and more balanced cast of party members, a lot more moral ambiguity and interesting ideas when it comes to the Darkspawn, and a set of environments far more interesting than almost any in the vanilla game. They even managed to make going through the Fade enjoyable. Your choices seem to have even larger impact as well, though I haven't played Dragon Age II, so I'm not quite sure what became of it all.

06/06/2013 00:00:00

Huh, I actually liked Orzammar for being less clear-cut up front about what was the "good" and "bad" choices. That decision actually took me quite a bit of thinking, as more information was presented on why each side was bad at nearly every turn.

06/06/2013 00:00:00

See the problem with Orzammar is they never let you get close to the information you need to make an informed decision. I wasn't struggling to make a choice because the lines of morality were blurred. I was struggling to make a choice because the game presents you with 0 information before asking you to make that choice.

As the most basic thing, whenever you try to support Behlen everyone says 'but he killed his father!' and then he says 'no I didn't'. And that's it, it stops there, you can't actually get any real information. One guy says it and one guy denies it.

And the quest lines make you choose sides well before you even have the information that they do give you. The pattern is 'choose a side, be given some information about whether that side was a good choice, choose a side, be given a little more information about whether that side was a good choice'. This isn't how choosing works

And also, it did not give the option to play it as my character would. She's elitest right, like heck would she ever run an errand for someone before they'll even let them see her. She's the friggin' kingmaker, their reign rests in her hands, they can come grovelling on their hands and knees to request an audience for her.

So the option I would have taken would be to enter the Proving Grounds by myself, or with the support of a third-party, win and prove that the two leaders are being idiots and this Grey Warden is someone they have to listen to.

06/06/2013 00:00:00

Aye, fair points. It's been a while since I've played the game myself, but I played it more as a "we need this guy's support to get where we have to go, so let's play along for now and try to make the best scenario out of it." But I can see exactly where this breaks apart for your character, and I suppose it wasn't as good of a segment as I initially thought. It could have used less of a bottleneck on your options, that's for sure.

06/06/2013 00:00:00

There's definitely a lot of character it does work for. If my person had been a nice person, or very pragmatic it would have worked out fine. But it's not great for proud characters, and the rest of the game was surprisingly good at catering for even that kind of finickiness

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