Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dragon Age

I finished Dragon Age about a week ago.  It's a fun game, but after all the extreme hype, I was expecting something a little more.  It's basically the same game that I've played a dozen times.  I don't mean that I've played a dozen RPGs or even a dozen RPGs of the same style—I mean that basically every RPG written by BioWare plays almost exactly the same.  For the most part they feel like they could all be sequels.  Dragon Age plays basically the same as Knights of the Old Republic, Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, and a host of other extraordinarily similar games.  You talk to people, kill an occasional monster, talk to more people, talk to the people in your party, and then talk to more people.  If I didn't like story-driven games with a ridiculous amount of dialogue I'd be upset.

I thought I'd be getting something a little more with Dragon Age, but it's still a bit behind the times graphically, and while the story is well-written with not many exceptions, it's nothing really any better than their previous efforts.  I don't have any right to be upset with the game, and I'm not, but I still managed to be a little disappointed.

I think I liked Mass Effect (from the same group) better.  Mass Effect is in the same vein of talking-focused games as Dragon Age, though the combat makes it the most different than the rest, as it's an RPG-esque shooter instead of a more standard pause-and-give-commands RPG like the rest.  There is attention paid in certain crucial parts of both games (more than their predecessors) to make sure that it's a more cinematic experience, and that's done pretty well (I didn't even notice that Dragon Age switches seamlessly between prerendered cutscenes and in-game graphics until the very end).  I cared about the people in my party more in Dragon Age due to their very strong personalities, and in Mass Effect I cared more about my own character and the decisions I was making.  But Mass Effect was visually so much more appealing than Dragon Age that I can't even begin to explain it, given that Dragon Age came out a couple years later.  People look like people in Mass Effect, but for the most part in Dragon Age they're so far into Uncanny Valley that they've set up a castle there.  Both games suffer from bafflingly tedious and bland optional side quests in cookie-cutter identical locations, distracting from the very well-written and well-presented entrees.  Dragon Age did do an exceptional job of making early choices in the game integrate with the story later on, be they your choice of class and race (which chooses which of a half-dozen unique stories will start the game for you), or simply who you befriended and who you killed.  I can easily imagine playing through the game a second time would have a very different feel to it, and I'd run into a lot of interesting twists in the story I wouldn't be expecting simply due to playing a different style of character.  They're both great games, but for whatever reason, Mass Effect ultimately just made me feel happier.

I guess I'm just disappointed with BioWare because I already know they're capable of more.  And, from what I gather from reviews, Mass Effect 2 is that "more."  I am anxiously awaiting starting it very soon.


Louise said...

I'm glad I am not the only person who was unsatisfied with the game. I have harsher opinions of the game, but I think that I am always going to have strong opinions about RPG's.

I guess I am really waiting for a RPG which totally knocks my socks off.

Unknown said...

I was surprised by how non-beautiful Dragon Age's graphics are, and by how mostly bland the setting is. I've also found the combat frustratingly difficult until recently - maybe I just did the areas in the wrong order?

p.s. IWD is a Black Isle game.

Travis said...

Ehhh, Black Isle, BioWare... close enough. :)

I ended up switching the difficulty to Easy to counteract the ridiculous level of randomness (though mostly high) in damage from enemy mages.