Tag Archives: dragon age

RPS’s review of the first 8 hours of Dragon Age 2

WIT: The Opening Hours Of Dragon Age II by John Walker

An excerpt:

Clearly influenced by the enormous success of Mass Effect II, and the excellent ways that game was executed, DA2 seems determined to try to be as accessible, without compromising on its combat. But in the compromise appears to be lost another crucial aspect of such an RPG: dialogue.

My character, The Female Hawke, is utterly unlikeable. Smug, smarmy, and needlessly rude, her having been given a voice means her identity has little to do with my own influence. Good old Grey Warden Simon was mute, but immensely likeable. And helped by being offered nuance in his responses.

Hawke has Mass Effect’s three options. While they occasionally vary, they boil down to, “Good”, “flippant” or “evil”. The latter two are always rude, the first one only sometimes. And with no conversation skills apparent in the game, that’s your lot. Creating a character whose gift of the gab can talk their way out of situations appears to have been completely eradicated – something that’s really shocked me in a BioWare game. If it appears later, it appears far too late.

I desperately miss the range of possible responses, none so crudely labeled. Here, I was able to flirt, or agitate, in a way that felt nuanced, even subtle. Now I can sometimes choose the conversation option with the heart by it, where Hawke will then say something barely related to the words I’d clicked on, often so crawlingly crude that I’m surprised my companions don’t file a sexual harassment complaint.


Mass Effect 2

Major spoilers follow:

Last month I played the original Mass Effect again and completed every side-mission so that I could export the save game for Mass Effect 2. Mass Effect 2 features a ton of little nods to your decisions in the original, but, in the end, I’m not sure if it’s really all that well implemented. The problem is that I bonded or bought into the role-play of my projected identity (Gee, 2003) of my version of Shepard in how the commander became emotionally attached with various party members that when I met up with those party members in the sequel, I was disappointed with how interactions with them were treated.

For example, in my version of Mass Effect, Ashley Williams started out relatively xenophobic but loosened up towards the end as I explored her feelings with her through dialog. When I met her in ME2, though, it just seemed like she reverted to her old self, as if we didn’t become close friends at all. Most glaringly, though, was the way my Shepard interacted with her lover from the first game, Liara T’Soni. In ME2, they exchanged maybe two lines that referred to their past relationship, kissed once, and then that’s it. The rest, I assume was just scripted for any Shepard incarnation, based off of Liara’s dealings with the Shadow Broker. I know there’s a comic book prequel to ME2 that details what Liara was doing between the events in the two games, so maybe her experiences while Shepard was away were traumatic enough to warrant her distanced emotion, but *Shepard* doesn’t know anything about those details (even if I did via reading the comics), so it would make sense for them to at least spend a couple of more sentences on how the events affect their relationship.

Disappointment in how ME ties into ME2 aside, there’s a bigger problem I had with Mass Effect 2. (I should say, right off, though, that I did like ME2; I just thought it could’ve been better.) The bigger problem is that there’s not really much of an epic plot going on. Things don’t lead to other things. Piecing together a mystery was a great plot in the first game; it’s barely there in the second game. Instead, the majority of the game is spent recruiting more and more party members and then going on unique missions for each one to unlock their special ability, presumably a reflection of their augmented loyalty to Shepard. There’s no sense of urgency, really. You don’t meet party members along your desperate journey to fight the bad guys (which worked really well for almost all the previous BioWare games such as Baldur’s Gate, Knights of the Old Republic, and the first Mass Effect). Instead the game is about recruiting them and getting them set-up the way you want before eventually going through a mass relay to fight the bad guys. It just didn’t feel like there was a point to it, especially since you can only take two party members with you on a mission. Getting more than half a dozen seemed superfluous.

A funny thing I noticed: it’s actually very similar to Dragon Age: Origin‘s plot, though DA:O seemed less linear than ME2. You have to get the Dwarves to join you, for example, but before that you have to resolve an internal conflict they’re having, and you have many options for how that conflict is resolved. In ME2, you recruit NPCs by helping them with whatever they’re currently working on, but you don’t get much of a say in how it’s done. What tied Dragon Age together really, really well, was the betrayal theme underlying the whole game. ME2 doesn’t have a one-word theme that resonates as strongly, I don’t think…

Other things about the game:

  • I liked how the relationship between Joker and EDI evolved to the point where they started having some pretty good chemistry and banter between them.
  • I liked most of the new party members pretty well, especially Jack, Miranda Lawson, and Mordin Solis. The DLC party member Zaeed Massani was alright but not really a fully realized NPC as the others are. No dialog with him at all, really, though he does have some interesting one-liners in various situations.
  • The opening prologue was extremely effective and moving. The rest of the game, not so much.
  • Finally, oh man, the scanning planets for resources part of the game sucked ass. I think I even like roaming around barren landscapes in the bouncy, bouncy Mako better.

Still, this was the second in a planned trilogy of games. Arguably, it’s the lull before the climactic finale, building up anticipation for something big. I suppose I’ll hold onto my save game until then.

Gee, J. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy.

mini-reviews for games I played in Nov and Dec 2009

I figure I’d start off this year with a massive list of games I’ve played recently and then post individual game reviews as I play them. Also, for the new year, I’m going to try to endeavor to think more critically and reflectively about the games I play. But here’s a non-critical list of the games I remember playing in the last two months of 2009:


  • Torchlight – level 35 or so, finished main quest. Fun Diablo clone with great art. Not sure it has legs, but it’s good for when you need a 30 min wind-down diversion.
  • Dragon Age: Origins – twice, on third iteration now. Google for reviews. I can’t really add anything more other than to say that it has very strong introductory chapters for the different origin stories you can choose for your character, drags a little in the middle (massing an army can be tedious), and has a relatively short end-game (what we’d get that army for again?), but all in all, classic Bioware and a triumphant return of deep(ish) party dialog. Looking forward to community mods.
  • Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon – I bought this game years ago but it never installed on my various computers I’ve owned over the last few years. Buggy install is a bitch. I saw it on Steam 2 weeks ago and figured I’d give it another shot. It worked! and it’s a pretty good game. Odd Tomb Raider-esque ledge climbing given its pedigree (the first two were point-n-click 2D adventure games), but they didn’t really bother me. The art did take a turn backwards though when they moved to blocky 3D. I played Broken Sword 4 a couple of years ago and remember it being much prettier.
  • Nancy Drew: Warnings at Waverly Academy – Yes, I’m a sucker for Nancy Drew games. They’re all generally the same with not much innovation between iterations, but that lets them pound out… what two dozen games? in the last few years. Kinda like trashy romance novels.
  • Nancy Drew: Ransom of the Seven Ships – Sailing and driving around was pretty fun, I have to admit. That was new.
  • Mirror’s Edge – the first-person pakour game that came out a year or so ago. Most games I play are at least a year old so I can afford them… But anyway, yes, this game was fun. Shortish. Captivating music. The cutscenes were done in cool Samurai Jack-esque cutout-esque artwork. It was frustrating a few times, but overall good. Racing game combined with platformer combined with FPS. Neat.


  • Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes – Best DS game of 2009 for me. Though, admittedly, I haven’t played GTA or the new Zelda. Essentially, a puzzle game with RPG elements. Engaged me more than Puzzle Quest did.
  • Broken Sword 1: Shadow of the Templars – haven’t quite finished it yet. Just as good as I remember from playing it years ago when it first came out and then replaying it a couple of years ago on the PC. For some reason, Nico’s apartment as a sort of home base works really well and is missing from the later games in the series. Also, being able to talk about everything to everyone and get (mostly) unique dialog is pretty cool. The DS version adds some nice 2nd-screen portrait close-ups when talking with NPCs but the small main screen makes seeing the various environment elements a little harder, though they tried to make up for it by making things highlight when you touch the screen with your stylus. I bet the Wii version is great, so go buy it if you have a Wii!

Xbox 360

  • Fable II – Got this pretty much right after I (finally) bought an Xbox 360 in November. I think I liked the original Fable more. The morality system was pretty meaningless since it didn’t affect the story at all, just your character’s visuals.
  • Lego Batman – Playing with Robin. We aren’t done, yet. It’s fun. 🙂
  • various incarnations of Rock Band – Fun as always. The main reason we got an Xbox 360, actually. Well, that and the fact that it hooks up nicely to my home network and Windows Media Center.
  • Forza Motorsport 3 – When we get a house and a dedicated home theater room some day (I want to take you to a monster-free city), I’ll be getting a racing chair and a wheel to go with whatever version of Forza exists then… It is sooo beautiful. Damage modeling, too!


  • New Super Mario Bros. – Haven’t actually gotten to play it much, but I like it. The kids we sometimes hang out with like it.
  • Wii Sports Resort – borrowed from Steve. I spent a few hours just flying around. 🙂 Sword fighting is fun.
  • Wii Fit Plus – We had to rearrange our office to make enough room between the couch and TV for the Wii balance board. Now that we’ve set it up, we’ve used it maybe once a week, which is better than sitting on our asses all the time. Pretty fun so far, actually.

Dragon Age plot flops and Zero Punctuation

So, I played Dragon Age for a couple of weeks. It’s engrossing. Very engrossing. But I *was* disappointed with how little change there is to the plot or storyline with each of the six different starting conditions. Each start story was really well done, so to have the narratives from a particular one be mostly forgotten once you get to the main game… Well, on the official forums, SLPr0 wrote up a nice overview of some of the ways in which the plot could have been so much more (included after the break). Head on over to the forum thread (Literary Criticism in Regards to Flopped Plot Opportunities and the Human Noble Origin) to read the ongoing discussion.

And, of course, there’s Yahtzee’s take on Dragon Age, which is, as with all his Zero Punctuation videos, hilarious and spot on in that scathing-yet-there’s-a-bit-of-truth-there kind of way.

Continue reading Dragon Age plot flops and Zero Punctuation