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Malik (1/19/10)

There was a lack of posting yesterday since I was one of the fortunate employed people I know to actually get a three day weekend. If there was a post, I'd probably have said something about the playoff (NFL) games. However, they all seem like distant memories, so I'm no longer feeling like saying much. All I can really say is that I'm still more for the Saints than any other team out there in contention, so I hope to see them destroy the Vikings next Sunday. Also, I can say the Jets/Chargers game was just silly every step of the way.

Anyway, I'm still trying to play Dragon Age Origins when possible. Unfortunately, that's not too often since the real world keeps crushing down on me with "responsibilities". Still, I did play a bit this weekend, and I have to say my impression of the game is not changing much for the better.

I think my complaints now fall into two categories; the plot and the limit of four people in a party. To start with the latter, I just don't enjoy limited party style games. Especially if it has no real purpose in the plot of the game. DAO is not like a RPG with parties that are limited due to circumstances. For example, in Suikoden, some of the party is left behind to build up your army and build your base. In Final Fantasy 4, you must leave people behind as they get side tracked by other plot devices (like when you reach six people after Cid joins you, but the twins have to make a sacrifice of themselves to save your life). There is usually some reason, albeit some will be lame like Chrono Trigger's excuse that more than three people out of a proper timeline with cause paradoxes, but none with DAO. You have yourself and three others, while multiple people wait in camp with no reason given. None.

I can see a reason, outside of the plot, in technical limitations. If you have a large party, then you must face larger enemy mobs, which could tax some systems. However, with no reason given, this just makes it feel like the programmers were too damned lazy to give any excuse beyond a big "we don't know and we don't care."

This also ties in to my other complaint; the plot. There is so much that just feels like lazy writing. The antagonist (whatever his name is...I can never remember his name, but he's the obviously evil looking guy) seems to be about as one dimensional as Garland from the first Final Fantasy game. Back then, a plot was not considered too important for an RPG. The difference, beyond being multiple decades later, is that we now live in a time when a plot is assumed to matter to a plot driven genre, like RPGs. I mean this antagonist is blindly evil. He wants to be king, and that seems like a worthy enough cause, until you see that he's smart enough to formulate a plan to be king while being too idiotic to know that his plan is going to doom the world...leaving him kings of nothing. Either this guy is a sick genius, or not. It cannot go both ways and feel realistic.

The plot of the world seems quite similar in how it's lacking. The world is just dull and generic. You have nameless mass of evil (called, in game, "the hoard" and "the blight" that just wants to destroy all life and a group of people who want to stop them. You can try to dig deeper, but it's one of those scenarios that you cannot make sound much better no matter how much additional aesthetics you add to it. Yes, some extra details can be found to flesh out the world if you read the "codex" entries. However, these are entirely text based stories that only tie in to the actually overall plot of the game in a few select cases. It's like the books you can read in The Elder Scrolls games. However, in the TES games, you still got some plot details from interacting with NPCs. In DAO, the plot points that make the world seem like more than a paper cutout of a world are almost entirely optional to encounter, require being read and not interacted with, and just don't tie in to why your character is doing what he/she is doing.

I won't even get into that one; why is my character on this quest? From the end of the origin story (each character gets one of a half dozen origin stories before joining the main plot), I was left wondering why I couldn't (or in character, "wouldn't") just say "screw it" and continue my life without joining the Grey Wardens (A.K.A. "the fellowship of the ring").

Yes, I am honestly trying to have fun with the game. Actually, compared to Mass Effect, I am having more fun than I did with that prior Bioware mess. In fact, I have had some good fun with DAO. I just have to turn my brain off while playing in order to ignore some of the problems. I have to not think too much about the plot and I have to either turn the difficulty to easy or pretend I'm playing an offline MMORPG. I mean it's either play on easy and enjoy some of the various party combinations and abilities, or play on normal, hard, or whatever higher difficulty you want with an almost set party (one tank and three damage dealers, preferably two or three being ranged, but not including more entertaining prospects like a rogue with stealing abilities). I mean the game offers a lot of fun options for building characters, but there are obvious certain paths that are more correct than others, especially when picking spells for any mages.

To show I'm not trying to just be a jerk about the game, I can say something quite good about DAO. Bioware did make the character interactions quite fun and entertaining. In fact, that's the one part of DAO where the writing is excellent. There is nothing like having two oppositely aligned people in your group and listening to them bicker and try to out maneuver each other in a debate about morality, or having two people falling for your character who fight over you as you explore town. Too bad the writers didn't put the same level of detail to the world around these characters, or even most of the NPCs who populate the world.


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