The Endless Wars: The Descent

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I've been Dragon Aged

I haven't posted in a great, long while. I know that this post should, therefore, be this big, long character-driven make-up blowjob, but it isn't going to be. I just like Dragon Age: Origins more than I like you, end of story.

I was shocked to find that I've spent 70-80 hours with it since its launch, because those hours just flew by. It's almost like a killer fantasy novel, but interactive.

It's a different beast than you may expect from Bioware's more console-driven science-fiction fare of recent years, in that combat hearkens back to Baldur's Gate in that combat can be paused at any point, but actions can't be stacked as in say, KotOR. In addition, your party formation is critical in ways a newcomer can't even fathom. This is a hard game for those that didn't cut their teeth on early Bioware RPGs. I didn't come into the Bioware fold until KotOR, so I was one of those who found themselves beyond exasperated after a while, and switched to 'easy' while I learned the ins and outs of combat. Ultimately, just stack your party with mages, and you're gold.

Beyond that, if you program your character AI properly, you should be okay, but boss fights demand a fair amount of micromanagement, something that I have madly fallen in love with. I love the FFXII-gambit-style AI system. This is something that should be in every western RPG. Being able to mold each character's combat style through simple preset AI if-then commands is awesome. I loved not only setting the smartest commands for each character, but actually shaping choices around their personalities. For example, Morrigan, my 'black mage,' for all intents and purposes, would never actually heal other characters, but if they got too beat up, she would cast blizzard on them, and freeze not only the enemies beating up on them, but the beat-up character, as well. She's kind of a wise-ass that way. This was also helped by the fact that I would never form a party without Wynne, the healer. Talk about the most apt naming scheme ever. Wynne = win.

Additionally, the story is just awesome, and is assisted beautifully by the accompanying novels. Loghain's behavior is that much more impactful if you've read the prequel novels. Duncan is an amazing character if you've read up on him. The Wardens and the Darkspawn are that much deeper if you've invested the time in getting to know them. Seriously. Read the fucking books, Dragon Age: the Stolen Throne and Dragon Age: the Calling. Having them read them before playing this game, I am super-invested in how things play out for certain characters, and am genuinely shocked and upset at others. It is no lie when I say that Dragon Age is the one universe I am invested in more than any other right now. Mass Effect is up there, sure, but it lacks the depth of Dragon Age in no uncertain terms. I already have designs on re-reading the Dragon Age novels, because I want to compare notes with what I now know.

That being said, I am super-pumped for Mass Effect 2. I am already outlining a 'perfect playthrough' for importing into it. This holiday will be spent finishing off Dragon Age and starting my final Mass Effect playthrough. Talk about a juxtaposition. While Mass Effect is all about hope, Dragon Age is all about compromising your ideals for the least bad outcome. Honestly, I love both, as they raise different aspects of personality. That's why Bioware is the most important developer of our time.

Anyway, yeah, the Dragon Age story is amazing. Not only is there the Origins 'thing,' where the first few hours of the game are different depending on your Origin, but that affects the way the rest of your game plays. I love love love it, and the overall story is extremely impacting. I recently had HUGE decision in which I had to allow a party member to behead another major character to keep things cool, AND a very important female party member left because I wouldn't impregnate her with a child. WOW. I was pissed, but that much more motivated. Dragon Age is full of moments that will make you feel and think.

In closing, it'd be nice if more games had both the mythological and emotional depth of Dragon Age. Rarely have I felt such weight when it came to a game, and damn, it is nice to have an emotional escape be as deep as Dragon Age.

Of course, I do have some criticisms, but I'll save those for a future post. I can summarize by saying that Dragon Age runs into some of the inevitable 'uncanny valley' problems in terms of it being a game.

That being said, I'm off to vacation in Chicago for an extended weekend. I'll be back, hopefully, next week, with more Dragon Age thoughts.

Also, Tony and I are prepping for our 'Best of 2009,' and '2010 Preview' podcasts, so be sure to bombard us with some games you wanna hear about.

-Blaine

1 comment:

  1. OMG! He's alive!

    I'm glad you're loving Dragon Age. I'm a little concerned as to whether I will like this game, though. Magic users are my least favorite classes to play and from whaty I'm hearing, the game is kinda stacked that way.

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