Meet you back here in half an hour.
What are you going to do?
What I always do - stay out of trouble... Badly.

Monday, April 11


Dead Horses

Warning sign nine: Someone started a constructive criticism thread on the Bioware forums.  It's up to 72 pages already and it doesn't seem to be a flame war.  Listen up, Bioware: You took everything that made Dragon Age: Origins a good game and lobotomised it.  What's wrong with Dragon Age II is Dragon Age II.  If you want me to buy any of your games ever again (and I have almost everything you've ever produced up to now) you'll ditch Dragon Age II completely and pretend it never happened.  I'm not expecting a direct sequel to Origins - after all, I died at the end so that would be kind of a surprise - but I'm expecting something in the same spirit, not this dumbed-down tarted-up choiceless aimless plotless wasteland of human misery.

Sorry, I've been watching too much Zero Punctuation today.  But the point stands.  What's wrong with Dragon Age II is the entire game and you need to bury it and go back to Origins.  If you can't recapture the spirit of Baldur's Gate, Knights of the Old Republic, Neverwinter Nights, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age: Origins, all games that you yes you produced without going to your customers and having them tell you your job then there's no hope for your company or indeed the RPG industry given the hilarious recent failure and collapse of Squenix.

Warning sign ten: They're giving away a free copy of Mass Effect 2 with every copy of Dragon Age IIMass Effect 2 (which I haven't played yet) is apparently a good game or at least well-received but I can get Mass Effect 1 and 2 on Steam for less than the price of Dragon Age II alone and that's exactly what I'd recommend anyone to do.  I'd do that myself except that I already have them both and even Australia's tough consumer protection laws don't let you return a game on the basis that the story is completely bloody stupid.

The bloke who wrote the critique of Dragon Age II on Rock, Paper, Shotgun also wrote a shorter but more focused "what I think" piece after the first few hours of gameplay, again confirming everything I experienced.  This is not a good game.  Don't buy it.  If you bought it, don't bother playing it.  Get your free copy of Mass Effect 2, or if you've already played that, all the old Infinity Engine games are available cheap on GOG.

If you still doubt me, check out the user reviews at Metacritic.  Given that in the obscenely skewed world of game review scores anything below 7.5 means that the program raped the reviewer's cat and burned down his house, an average of 4.3 and an outpouring of zeros and ones means that the fanbase is very, very, very ticked off.

This rant by Evis T is enormously nerdy but spot on:

As is his review:

And this, what he calls a catharsis (warning, it's long):

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 12:42 AM | Comments (8) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Sunday, April 10


Kicking Dragon Age II Some More

I went poking around the review sites to see if Dragon Age II was worth playing after all.

The verdict is: If you liked Dragon Age: Origins, if you like Planescape: Torment and Baldur's Gate, if you're looking for more of the same - Dragon Age II is not it.

Warning sign one: The lead designer of Dragon Age: Origins left Bioware when he decided he wasn't interested in the direction Dragon Age II was taking.

Warning sign two: The game was designed with sequels in mind.  The opposite is true of Dragon Age: Origins, which tells its story to the end.  Depending on the choices you make, there isn't even a hook for the expansions Bioware already released.

Warning sign three: EA bought Bioware.

Warning sign four: The review scores are lower than the original (down from 9.5 to 8) and the user scores are lower than the review scores (7.3 vs 8).  That second part is significant: For a title targeting a particular niche, you'll often see user scores higher than the review scores, because a flawed game that caters well to its target audience can still be a hit.  When the review score is down and the user score is lower still, that means it's a big disappointment.

Of course, I pre-ordered it to get the extra goodies, so I didn't get to see the reviews first.  But I'm not nearly as cross about the $60 I wasted as I am about the potential Bioware wasted.  They had an excellent game, an interesting world, a history, a cast of characters already brought to life that they could build on, and they produced something...  Adequate, and disconnected.

Warning sign five: There's an introduction to your character near the beginning of the game.  It's being told as a story within a story at that point, and the character you play then is not necessarily the character you will create for the game.  It's the default.  The moment my character opened her mouth I wanted her to be eaten by the darkspawn.

Warning sign six: Once you actually create your character and flee the destruction of Lothering (and these people were not in Lothering; I was there; I know) you need to earn money to bribe your family's way into the city of Kirkwall.  You have a choice of either joining a mercenary company or a smuggler for a year to pay off the debt you incur.  I joined the mercenary company, and was looking forward to seeing what sort of missions I got sent on.  It doesn't happen.  The game just skips forward a year.  And according to this review, that disconnect between the story as it is intended and the story as it is told only gets worse as the game progresses.

Warning sign seven: The music for Dragon Age: Origins that plays when you fire up the game launcher is gorgeous.  (The music for Mass Effect is pretty nice too.) I sometimes stop just to listen to it.  The music for Dragon Age II starts off with an unpleasant drawn out violin chord (or something like that) that makes me want to click away as quickly as possible.

Warning sign eight: The user interface for Dragon Age: Origins feels right.  It fits the game.  The user interface for Dragon Age II looks like it was swiped from some indie budget RTS title.  It's awkard, ill-considered, and incredibly jarring.

You know what this game is?  It's The Phantom Menace.  It might be an okay-ish game in it's own right, but it's not Dragon Age.

The one good reason, the one good reason to play this game for just a couple of hours is so that you can properly appreciate it when Zero Punctuation tears it apart.

Update: Rock, Paper, Shotgun says it's much, much worse than that.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 11:06 AM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Judging A Book By Its Cover 101

Mass Effect load screen: Beautiful image, lovely music.
Dragon Age load screen: Simple and elegant, beautiful music.
Dragon Age II load screen: Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee...

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 05:44 AM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Saturday, April 09


Dragon Age: Origins, A Belated Review

Good: Doesn't quite hold up to Planescape: Torment in its storytelling.  But almost.  Which makes it one of the best RPGs ever.  Also, the first time Leliana jump-stabs an ogre.

Bad: Tends to crash when you fire off multiple flashy spells at once - in other words, right in the middle of desperate combat scenes when you can't save the game.

Ugly: Shame they never made a sequel.

Highly recommended.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 10:31 PM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Dragon Age II, A Possibly Unfair Review But I Don't Care

As I mentioned before, the Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening expansion is narratively broken and not any real expansion on the original game.

Dragon Age II turns out to be...  Average.  Perhaps on the good side of average.  But Dragon Age: Origins is close to great, and I'm just not interested in average right now.

The characters are bland.  Despite the fact that you have a much smaller choice of main characters - so that your speech is fully voiced, unlike the first game - you somehow end up less expressive.

The background graphics are noticeably more detailed and smoother, but at the same time many of the characters are more cartoonish.  And the camera angles for some of the dialogue scenes are laughably bad.

Also, the user interface designer needs to be punched in the face.  The old user interface wasn't perfect, but it was functional and the design fit the game.  The new interface is strikingly ill-suited to the game; everything about it is jarring.

I've only spent a few hours playing it, but that's enough.  It seems like an adequate game, but it's a console game, not a PC game, made of shallowness and flash rather than narrative depth.

Dragon Age II is Final Fantasy X-2 to Dragon Age: Origins' Final Fantasy X.  There are worse things you can be, but that's still not a good thing.

Actually, it lacks X-2's exuberant silliness, so it's not even that.

Not recommended.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 10:24 PM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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And So It Came To Pass

That Pixy saw the breadth of his saved game, and wept, for there were no more darkspawn to rend limb from limb.

Also, the main character was spoilered, which kind of puts a damper on things.*

So, that's Dragon Age: Origins finally done.**  That just leaves Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening, Dragon Age II, Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, Fallout 3, and Fallout New Vegas on my must play list.  Oh, and Bioshock and Bioshock 2.  And Jade Empire, which I've never got around to playing.

Oh, and Civilization V, which I haven't even looked at yet.  And the whole Dawn of War saga.  And...  Um.  Curse you, Steam!

Update: I've now played through Witch Hunt and started Awakening, the two expansions to Origins that are outside the main adventure but follow on from the story.  The funny thing is, according to events established in the main story, either Witch Hunt can be true or Awakening can be; they stem from opposite turnings of a particular plot point late in the game.  Actually, if you make the same story choices I did, neither can be true.  In which case it only makes sense to play both.

Update: I've ditched the Awakening expansion: It's narratively broken. 

In Origins, you start off as a talented but inexperienced young whatever, and work your way up to become the hero of the kingdom.  Your companions stay with you through your travels and likewise earn their new skills and powers.

In Awakening, most of your original companions have left to take up their own lives, and instead everyone you meet starts out as strong as you became over the 60-80 hours of Origins.  That just cheapens the whole experience of the original game.

Also, it apparently doesn't have Morrigan, Leliana or Shale in it, and only a cameo of Alistair.  They contributed most of the flavour of the first game, and without them it's just not fun.

Well, on with Dragon Age II then!  Though I doubt I'll get as wrapped up in this one, since I've finally had my RPG fix after a four year dry*** spell.  (I finished Planescape: Torment in 2007.)

* That twit spoiler had to go and fall 300 feet onto solid rock leaving me to clean up his mess.  Next time maybe I'll just leave spoiler and spoiler to make spoilers on the eve of the battle and see how that works out.

** At least for one playthrough, in which I apparently only covered 40% of the game.  And leaving out at least three of the expansions.

*** Mostly.  I started playing Dragon Age and Mass Effect previously, but never got even half way through either.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 06:42 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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