Why, you ask? Well, it is good you ask that question. Otherwise this would be a very short post. And trust me, it won’t be.
I would recommend Dragon Age 1.
The answer is to why I will most likely wait is…a lot of things. But first, a quick history. Remember Dragon Age 1? Yeah, me too. LOVED that game. Flaws and all. And it does have them. But overall, I would recommend it to anyone that likes RPGs and/or tactical combat, with very few, small caveats.
Problems you say?
It did have a few problems though.
Inventory was a pain. If you played it, you know. If you did not, suffice it say there was a LOT of junk and very little space to put anything. 99% of loot was random, and in this case, random meant mostly useless. And it was everything. In corpses, flowers, boxes, bags, stashes, book, etc, etc, etc, etc. It was not great, lets leave it at that.
The AI was not great. It was not horrid out of the box, like NWN2 or anything, but your characters were pretty limited in what they could do automatically. Which meant if you were not directly controlling them, they often did the dumbest thing they could. After a bit, I heard about a mod called Advanced Tactics. That gave you a whole host of new options in the tactics menus, so you could intelligently program your guys so they did not act like idiots when you were not holding their hands.
The party influence system was an actual joke (at least, they must have meant it that way). Sure, you could get your peoples to like or hate you based on how conversations/actions went, but you know what really influenced them? Gifts. That’s right, you could end around everything and just give them things they liked until they liked you again. That was pretty weak.
L worded it.
Beyond that, there were nits and picks, but I really loved that game, flaws and all. I did love it, right after some people I know told me what it was really about. I am a Bioware fan and followed Dragon Age notes here and there…and I watched the same trailers you did most likely. After that, I was pretty sure I would not get it. But friends that know RPGs played it and said:
“Do not listen to the marketing, Dragon Age:Origins is a Bioware game through and through and it awesome.”- knowledgeable RPG friends
Concerned a bit.
But I was little worried. You see, not long before Dragon Age 1 was released, EA, that huge conglomerate I have complained about in the past, bought Bioware. Yep, bought them out right. Kept on the staff (even the doctors), and things seemed to go well…well, except for that awful marketing campaign. Those videos I linked above are not the only ones. Let me translate them for you: “Play this game, destroy things, while Zombie thumps in your head! It will melt your braaaaain!” I was understandably put off by those, but the friends I talked about (yeah, I have them) above convinced me to ignore and the game was a blast and nothing like the marketing. Well, except for blood coating you from head to toe after each battle. But that was an option you could turn off and I did as soon as I found it. All was well.
Then, after awhile, but not that long (about a year), I started to hear about and see stuff from Dragon Age 2. I got somewhat excited. I mean, this is Bioware. They have created some of the best games to ever be released. Things like Baldur’s Gate and Mass Effect just to name a couple. It was also EA, so I was cautiously excited. This would be the first RPG released by Bioware that was fully developed under EA.
Whatever though, still had the doctors there, still had a long history of being awesome, even with Mass Effect 2 not really being as good as one, I was very hopeful.
Then I played the demo. I could not believe my eyes. They got rid of being able to zoom out, they got rid of flat chested women (I kid you not, they are all porn star proportions), the UI seemed to be developed with a love of empty space and combat…oh combat. Sure, it was only the demo, but damn if combat was not all fucked up. Where your characters faced did not matter as much, you had a bunch of WoW like skills, and no longer had to plan anything out. Just go attack and press buttons as fast as you are able. Weeeeeee! (that was sarcasm)
The friends and the reviews.
Those same friends disagree on Dragon Age this time around. Some of them says the combat is dopey or different, but it is still fun. Others suggest it is pretty much crap now. And the reviews. They seemed to disagree with themselves.
While Dragon Age 2 got decent scores, the words of the reviews have convinced me the demo was not wrong. Some choice cuts are below:
- In gameplay terms, much has changed from Origins. Everything from skill trees to quest notifications have been redesigned and made easier to use. “Dumbing down!” goes the cry from the pessimistic faithful, and those coming to the game with that mantra in mind will find that confirmation bias supports their prejudice.
- Companion armour is now completely off-limits while upgrade trees are inflexible and closed off to any new specialisms you might want to give them.
- I still found that my inventory quickly filled up with fantastic weaponry that nobody could use. All unusable items, from diamonds to torn trousers, are now automatically stored in the junk tab of your inventory. They can be flogged to a merchant in one job lot, with a single button press.
- Crafting is a hands-off affair, too. No longer do you merrily pick herbs and flowers on your travels. You simply find hidden pockets of infinite crafting resources which merchants can then use to deliver potions direct to your inventory. It’s strangely soulless, as if Tesco Direct has inserted itself into this fantasy realm.
- The modular nature of the story is also reflected in the missions, which are sort of annoyingly compartmentalized. There are a couple of longer journeys, but far too many boil down to hopping to the map, talking to someone, killing them (or not) and going back to the quest giver. You will spend far more time than you’re comfortable with running back and forth between exits.
- The lack of forward momentum is exacerbated by the fact that you’ll see almost all of the game’s environments in its first third. Sure, there are different things to kill, but haven’t you seen this cave once or twice or eight times before? BioWare tries to make the journey seem more sweeping by having it span a decade, but when towns look the same and characters don’t appear to age or even change clothes, it feels artificial.
- I’m assuming the slightly stunted world is a result of the accelerated development schedule, which I also imagine is the culprit behind the lackluster gear system.
- The other half of Dragon Age 2, however, adheres to the painfully familiar definition of ‘mature’ – featuring blood, sex and not much else. The game frequently attempts to clumsily shoehorn crude innuendo into a conversation, provide a flash of flesh or show some hilariously over-done violence. The free city of Kirkwall is apparently populated with an abundance of haemophiliacs with high blood pressure, who explode into arterial clouds as soon as somebody draws their sword, spattering players in gore and hiding the UI behind a red haze.
- The result of mixing these two halves is a game which feels at odds with itself a lot of the time. Dragon Age 2 tries to tell the epic tale of Hawke, a refugee who fled the tiny town of Lothering to escape the Blight, then spent the next ten years rising to the role of Champion in Kirkwall. The structure of the quests, however, just makes it clear how little intrigue Kirkwall has to offer, with the entire city apparently waiting years at a time for Hawke and Co to romp through the streets killing indiscriminately. There’s a lot more to be gleaned from the side-quests offered by your companions than from the main plot.
- The contradictions extend all the way down to the technical level too. In the opening hour of Dragon Age 2 you arrive at Kirkwall to find the city sealed. The refugees talk about how they’re being turned away in their hundreds, while the guard captain loudly insists that the city has been overfull for months. There’s no possible way anyone else can be admitted, he says, while standing in a huge, empty town square with no more than ten protesters in front of him.
Convinced to wait.
After all of that, and the talk in the forums and everything else, I am convinced to wait. Even though I know it might be fun for a bit, it does not sound like a $60 game to me. The streamlined (I still say dumbed down), as EAWare (clever aren’t I) calls it, just sounds like they removed systems they did not like. I can not do inventory management? Party influence now works if they hate me or like me? Crafting is a joke (it was not much better in the first really)? And the game recycles the same art assets over and over. Maybe they did not have enough time to do the full development. Or maybe it was EA’s influence, as I suspect the marketing of the first one was. Maybe is just what happens when EA has time to enforce their marketing is reflected in the game. I do not know. But I am disappointed.
So yeah, I will wait. I will play the many other great games out there, I will watch and see what happens with Dungeon Siege 3 and Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Skyrim, and still try to convince my wife to switch from WoW to Rifts. And in a few months, I will pay $20 or so for the game, it will be fully patched, and I will get my monies worth out of it.
Of course, if they come out with a toolset so other people could fix a fair amount of these problems, I will probably buy it right up.
If this report of sneaky DRM is true, it looks like we have yet another reason not buy DA2. You know, beyond the original designer having left because of the direction of Dragon Age 2. Forgot to mention that in the first rundown…