On WWI: Dragon Age

Sometimes all the money and press in the world make no difference.



The Elements: This is a "classic style" RPG. You control a party of player characters, with a turn based structure that runs in real time. It was a pastiche to the days of yore, emulating games like Baldur's Gate, and Icewind Dale

The Crux: You create one character, going through one of 8 different background stories, selected based on your race and class, that lasts approximately 2 hours. Like all bioware games you meet up with a party in a beginning story area and proceed through 3 different main sections of the game till you reach the finish. There are "random" encounters, and several decision points throughout the game that "change the course" of play. (i.e. some dialog is different, certain quests may not be available). Gameplay consists of selecting your party members and giving them orders. You fight monsters and talk to NPC's and complete quests.

The Countenance:
Let me begin by saying the game is technically proficent. There were few bugs, money was spent on the cutscenes, and the game had an approxamate length of 60 hours.  The controls on the PC version are sound. The game runs well,and the sound design did not detract from the experience. The first two hours of your individual story and how people react to you in the game was well done, as were the last 3 hours when you got to make several interesting key choices.

There are many many things wrong with this game, which I like to refer to as "Brown Age: The Brownaning." The color palate is disgusting, consisting almost solely of "Gritty brown", "Burnished steel" and "Rust blood red".

Excepting a half dozen special enemies (Dragons, an ogre) there are only three types of enemies in the game. That's 1 special enemy for every 10 hours of play. There is the fighter enemy, the magic user enemy, and the thief enemy. Granted, occasionally the fighter looks like a wolf, but mostly (like 90% mostly) the bad guys you fight in the game are humans. Wearing brown robes, or dull steel armor covered in brown robes.

The loot you begin with (especially if you pre-ordered and got fancy loot) and acquire in the first hour or three of play is better than anything you will find during the game.

Perhaps most offensive is the fact that there is no single event in the game which does not tie into the storyline. This is a problem, because they tried to sell me "Baldur's Gate" and what I got was "Final Fantasy" with a retread of the infinity engine. (Draw your own D&D Essentials line comparison).

What do I remember about Baldur's gate? Wandering off and fighting for my life in a gnoll fort. A random beholder in a cave. Colorful locales and a variety of enemies.

The game is long and tedious, endless fighting done in dull environments. There is nowhere to go on the map that isn't a plot point relevant to your "Epic Story". Every single random encounter is tied into you and your story, feeling not very random at all. The experience was not very fun.

It, like all 'modern' Bioware games, there is good inter-party interaction, with an option for romance. This becomes integral to the finish, making your relationship decision have some serious impact on how the game ends. The main plot is interesting, as is the world they created. However, too much effort was spent on making everything 'realistic' that it is a very boring place to explore. Also, your impact and exposure to the main plot is maybe 6 hours of a 60 hour game experience. It has a bad case of "Everyone has to play a human for artistic integrity" in a metaphorical sense, because there are elves and dwarves.

After I beat the game (on the highest difficulty level I might add), I was so sick of the experience I swore never to play another game having the Dragon Age label.

Their attempt to recapture the spirit of the age of Baldur's Gate games was completely off the mark, in the same way that all big corporate retreads are. In hindsight, you can see this from the very first trailers (with screamo music overlaid) that were released.

The Genre: It is plane jane SCE. An RPG in the classic sense. The action component is illusory, due to the pause and give commands method of play.

The Detritus: Even fans of the game will skip whole sections because of how boring they are to play (The Fade, Ostgar). Note that this is 60% of the whole game that they are skipping.

The Final Counsel: Avoid at all costs. I am sure this warning is too late, but don't be swayed by their claims of an 'old school ascetic'. It is a lie. You'd do better to visit gog and play Baldur's Gate I or II, or Planescape, or Icewind Dale I or II.

Platforms: This was created for and released on consoles and the PC. I pre-ordered and played on the PC.

2 comments:

  1. While I'm not keen on random encounters for random encounters' sake - they strike me as mere bulk, of the sort that could be mentioned offhand rather than played through in lieu of something that develops something - I agree that a B-plot or two doesn't go amiss. Everything being tied into one storyline is just as bad as things happening for no adequately explored reason.

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  2. Interesting review.

    Most of the people I know who've played the game were new to RPGs and a lot of video games in general. As that was the case, they were smitten by Dragon Age.

    I get the impression that most of them are willing to overlook a great deal of the game's flaws (repetition, bland and drab enemies, lack of exploration) in exchange for its teammate character interaction, romance, and player character customization. Few newer games offer those things in meaningful ways.

    That said, I do agree that the colour palette of DA: Origins was awful. Then again, it feels like it's becoming the standard palette for most modern "dark fantasy" and "epic fantasy". *sigh*

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