February 24, 2010

Finally writing about Dragon Age

I know the game isn't new and exciting anymore, but I essentially don't care about that.  I have been meaning to write about it for a while.  Also want to write about it first before I write about Mass Effect 2.

Warning: Spoilers for Dragon Age below

First of all, I played at a mage for the playthrough I'm talking about now.  I started one as a dwarf but the results of my choices didn't make any sense to me, and didn't feel like any character I wanted to connect to.  Also, the prospects of me getting in Alistar's pants were slim to none, so I gave up and started a new character.  Yes, I am that shallow.

So I restarted as the human mage, who I named Thia.  I decided that she'd mostly do the morally "good" choices, but if there is a chance for a joke or hilarity she would take it.  That did make it a lot more fun. And that is definitely something I do appreciate about Dragon Age: it's a lot less binary when it comes with the character choices you make.  You don't necessarily benefit for going one way or the other, you just either sever or keep ties and alliances according to what you say or do.  And just because you think one thing is good and other people don't, you're not immediately chastised for disagree with the "morals" of the game.

I don't need to go through every quest and decision I made.  I doubt you guys are super interested in that.  So this will just touch upon my general thoughts about the game.

As I posted around November, when I first started to play I  noticed a theme of betrayal.  It's a theme that most of the origins stories have.  For example, I went out of my way to break rules and help my friend Jowan, a mage who was afraid of becoming the emotionless, monotone, Tranquil.  But after I helped him it turned out he was lying about who he was and his powers, and there I was left to take all the punishment.  And then you introduction to the Grey Wardens in battle turns to Teryn Loghain leaving the King of Ferelden and all of the Grey Wardens except you (and hottie Alistar) to DIE.  This game definitely teaches you that life is unquestioningly unfair, even if you are the hero.

Yet as people time and time again lose your trust, you still have to reach out and find help with a huge diverse group of people.  You have to reach out to every contact you have to fight this war against some epic evil knowing that you can't trust most of the people you are talking to.  Partly because if everyone outright agreed with you the story would suck, but also because everyone is distracted by problems that affect them right now.  The blight isn't immediate.  It is a slow takeover.  No one really notices it until it's too late, because they have communities and families and friends to worry about that are right there in front of them. You have to be the one to say "Look, I know some stuff is happening now, and I'm here to help you, but OH GOD THE BLIGHT!"

The epic fantasy feel, the whole "I'm on a journey to save the world" vibe, didn't feel old and rehashed excessively.  Sure, some of the same themes that have been prevalent since Tolkein were there.  They definitely got a facelift though.  For example, in almost any fantasy story with elves, the elves look down on humans from their ivory towers of immortality and are snooty assholes.  Not here.  Elves are recovering from their traditions being stripped away and generations of slavery.  They're either in the slums of the city or on the fringes of the forests keeping away from human cities.  Sure they still have the pointy ears and lighter frames and they have a good set of archers, but they aren't what you grew up with.  They have real issues now.  Also the standard set ups of bastard children and witches and god-blessed martyrs are there, but not the old, dust-gathering ideas of them.  This definitely kept the story intriguing.

I do like the harkin back to D&D style structure when it came to leveling up, but I'm biased because that was my first RPG.  I also liked the playing style in general.  I love strategizing and managing people in general.  I know of some people who got bored with pause and play, but I feel like I am a much better play for having it available.  Going to Mass Effect 2, I kind of missed it, but then again I wasn't controlling four people at once so I understand why it can't be utilized all the time.

If I have any complaints about the game, it's definitely not gameplay.  Nor is it graphics like everyone else--I really couldn't care less about graphics if I like the game.  It was the body proportions.  The arm lengths and size of the hands were WAY off.  All the women had man hands!  All the dwarves looked like they could walk on their fists!  I hope they fix that in the sequel, or even better in Awakening.

Sticking to the "good jokester" idea of a character that I decided on, I was able to befriend most of my quest buddies without much effort.  I became best friends with Leliana and Morrigan, two very different characters whose morals are totally on the opposite end of the spectrum.  Now in this game the more yours allies like you the better bonuses they have in combat.  This was fantastic for me since my three closest chums were a mage, a rogue and a fighter.  Totally balanced out.

Thia definitely worked out for me.  She was a mage who could talk her way out of trouble, could deal out a good amount of damage, and I didn't regret looking at again after creating her.  That is one thing that can go wrong with making your own character.  You may end up regretting what they look like.  But Thia totally worked out.

Playing this game, for me at least, was like reading a good book.  You had no idea what would happen next but you needed to know as soon as possible.  That's part of the reason why I spent hours and hours playing it whenever I had the freetime.  Each scene was another chapter in a fantasy novel that I was helping to write.  It's a testament to the writers over at Bioware that they kept me this engrossed.  It's actually really easy for me to just stop picking up a game and not finish it.  It's something that happens with me for a lot of other stories too, in books, tv series, etc.  I just stop caring that much.  But that didn't happen with Dragon Age.  I was so excited for the end of the game, and when it was over, I was kind of sad.  I looked forward to seeing those characters after work or during the weekend.  Now, I didn't really have to anymore, did I?  At least, not with Thia's story.

Oh, and the romance with Alistar that caused me to have the superb crush on him?  It was cute, poignant, and although not super realistic not super improbable either.  The stuff junior high crushes are made of. Also, can I just say it's refreshing to have a bastard heir to the throne who thoroughly doesn't want to be king?  Mmmm, lack of power trip.

Romances, or at least having the choice of a romance, are always something I appreciate in games.  Partly because in stressful situations, people always want to lean on someone.  Friendships definitely do that as well, which is why they're nice to have in this game.  Human connections in general, ones that aren't strained and ones that are genuine, are intriguing to watch.  That is why TV producers can get away with reality tv--the connections are already there, they don't have to fake them.  What's more fascinating is to see these connections grow, and how they blossom, and why they do.  That's what these romances in video games allow you to do.  Sure, the way the friendships grow in this game are great to watch as well, because they do grow and people do react to them.  But romances are a more tangled web than mere friendship, and watching to see if the knots tighten or unravel are definitely entertaining.

I think for me, it's the characters that are going to keep me coming back for more.  I want to see what happens in the sequels--where are they and how have they fared?  Will they still be my friend?  Or will they be my foe for some odd reason?  Did they go where they said they would?

I'm going through my second play through finally, and I'm realizing how much I missed these people.  Although this second character is going to be a complete jerk, it's still going to be nice to hear Morrigan pissing everyone else off, or Sten suffer culture shock, or even pet the dog again!

If you like RPGs, good stories, and making choices (and for once, not solely binary choices!) in your video games, you'll probably love Dragon Age.

February 15, 2010


So I just realized why I don't post as often as I used to on here.


Not kidding.  Five jobs.

I got to look at how all of this happened.  Something's not truly adding up.  :P

February 8, 2010

Bayonetta: A Step Forward for Women in Video Games?

I want to spread the word on this one because I find it to be an interesting point that even I never think about. The Game Overthinker, someone who's opinion I respect, sees Bayonetta as the sexual object men can never obtain because she is not in their league. Has that happened in video games before?

No spoilers, and I haven't played Bayonetta myself (need to fix the xbox that is in the house).

February 5, 2010

Not enough projects

Not that I don't have enough to do, and not that I can avoid the distractions of work easily (I'm sure you all love hearing once again how work is stealing my soul) but Proptart and I have a brilliant idea:

We're going to do a Let's Play.

It'll be hilarious!  I promise.  It'll be happening soonish too.  I swear.

Also, totally need to tell you all about my experiences with Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2.  Both experiences were AWESOME.