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Default Dragon Age - Twitter Review @ Twenty Sided

December 4th, 2009, 22:59
Shamus Young has decided to experiment with a new format for his Dragon Age review, Tweeting quick comments as he plays and then coming back to flesh it out. It's not a format that works for me and I suspect it inherently favours a negative vibe but that's Shamus' schtick, anyway. Here's a bit on difficulty from Part 3:
Feels like #DragonAge on Easy is still a little harder than #KOTOR on normal. I guess I need more micro-mgmt.
The difficulty in this game is a mess. Some people are saying it’s too easy even when playing on hard. Some say it’s too hard even when playing on easy. Some say it goes from boring to impossible on a whim. There are two broken things here.
One is that mage powers tend to dominate the game, and not all mage powers are created equal. When I was talking about how hard the game was, people responded with:
Just use [Forcefield, a power I didn't have] and then follow up with [another power that was way down a skill tree I'd never even looked at] and if you must, then have someone else follow up with [another power I hadn't acquired]. This game is TOO EASY.
It’s very easy to miss or overlook key game-breaking powers, and there’s no way to respec.
The other problem is that the system of auto-scaling enemies is broken. You’ll get wiped by a room full of common mooks. Then you work past that and end up steamrolling a boss. The difficulty is all over the place.
I’ve been through the bulk of the game twice now, both times as primal mages, both times using the same play styles. And the challenge level of the game feels more or less random. The first time I did the Deep Roads the game was insanely hard, to the point where even regular encounters required multiple attempts.
The second time through the game I did the Deep Roads and it was pretty average. A couple of hard boss fights, but nothing game-ruining.
This takes away all sense of accomplishment for me. When I win handily, I don’t feel like I out-maneuvered a tough opponent, I feel like the game under-estimated me and gave me foes that were too weak. When I lose, I don’t feel like I did something wrong, I feel like the game just murdered me with tough foes.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
More information.
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December 4th, 2009, 22:59
I suspect it inherently favours a negative vibe
You know, on principle I despise Twitter because I'm old and crotchety and I hate being reminded that 16 year olds are going to be around 20 years after I'm dead , even though they're annoying little pricks, and how's that fair exactly? But that notwithstanding…

I like the format of the review exactly because it hits upon the negative points that might otherwise get glossed over or forgotten. I'll say again that we're inherently predisposed to like CRPGs, and I don't need someone telling me how much fun it is to run a party around and collect gear and level up. Just tell me what's annoying, because there's always annoying stuff. Oh is there. And the real question isn't whether I'll like the tried-and-true formula we've all been gaming with for more than a decade, but whether the annoying shit in this particular iteration manages to kiill the fun.

He's right about the difficulty. I've read plenty of posts by people saying "It's not that hard if you just use basic tactics" and then you realize they're talking about casting these spells you just don't have, possibly because you're not even playing a mage and the premade ones come with some pretty sub-optimal builds. Once you get two characters with AOE and two characters with forcefield, yes the fights are basic. But try playing through with a warrior main and Wynne as your only mage, and you have to pick your skills very carefully. That's just hard to do the first time through, especially since the game completely hides the ball as far as any numbers are concerned.
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December 4th, 2009, 23:32
I agree with the difficulty of the game being somewhat broken.

It’s all about having mages… or not.

I started playing the game with a group composed of my main character as a fighter (shield), Sten, Leliana and Wynne. The game happened to be *very* difficult. Despite having Wynne, I had to use insane amount of poultice to win several fights… then I changed Leliana for Morrigan. Sure, I couldn’t open some locks… but suddenly, every fights (except a handful like a certain dragon) became easy. Morrigan seems a must for anyone whose main character isn’t a mage.

A few things I blame:
Level scaling. You have little sense of progressing. Street thugs mid-game are tougher than fully armoured knights in early games. Actually, some of the toughest fights are against street thugs!
Mana-based spells coupled with the fact you always have full mana at the beginning of every fights.
You obtain very powerful spells really early in the game.

The rich background, the story and the still very fun tactical fights keep this game great, but I can’t help myself thinking that the game could have been even better.
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December 5th, 2009, 04:51
Originally Posted by Yeesh View Post
You know, on principle I despise Twitter because I'm old and crotchety and I hate being reminded that 16 year olds are going to be around 20 years after I'm dead , even though they're annoying little pricks, and how's that fair exactly? But that notwithstanding…

I like the format of the review exactly because it hits upon the negative points that might otherwise get glossed over or forgotten.
Well, I'll admit I'm neither a fan of Shamus nor Twitter, so I'm predisposed not to like this.

I would suggest a good reviewer doesn't gloss over or forget these minor points but, instead, uses them in a different way. Without suggesting I am a good reviewer, I take copious notes when doing a review - almost exactly the same as these tweets. "Load times are too long, "too many rats", "too many mouse clicks to access char stats" and so on. I often note the irritations more readily than the positive points.

The difference is, I then sit back and contemplate the entire product - as I'd expect most reviewers do. I'll often decide [minor irritation #3] is insignificant in the scheme of the game and not worth highlighting.

For example, Shamus' latest Dragon Age article is about how the character model for Wynn is like a supermodel and therefore ridiculous. Maybe even sexist? But if you don't isolate that one, little, tiny point, you realise all the models for every "type" is the same (all males, all Qunari etc), so it may be less immersive but it certainly doesn't say anything about the philosophy or intent of the developers.

Anyway: bah, humbug.

-= RPGWatch =-
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December 5th, 2009, 05:40
I liked Shamus comic but am split on agreeing and disagreeing … and have spoken enough about Twitter here

It was interesting - his blog was on my RSS, and based on some stuff I had been reading that was a jazz CD review by a couple of guys going back & forth on Twitter, I had started to write one of my Torchlight reviews (I have 2 review copies!) as a series of Tweets … then I saw he was doing it doe Dragon Age … I had to rethink it …

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December 5th, 2009, 08:15
I can't wait for the Twitter fad to end…
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December 5th, 2009, 13:51
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
I can't wait for the Twitter fad to end…
But it never will end, and calling it a 'fad' is no different than those who wanted the 'rock & roll fad' or 'mp3 fad' or 'internet fad' or 'social media fad' to end … the term is 'luddite'.

Twitter itself is somewhat of a transitional technology, meaning it will morph and change sort of the way that MySpace is now irrelevant but there is no way you could call the fundamental impact it had a fad that has ended.

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December 5th, 2009, 14:03
Well, predicting the future is pretty hard.

Eventually, I think these social site things will become truly vital and useful tools.

I suppose they already are, to an extent - but I don't see myself using them until all the fluff and pop-culture crap is gone.

However, the concept of sharing thoughts and experiences via the Net - as old as that may be - is a solid one, and one we can benefit from greatly.
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December 5th, 2009, 16:52
Well I disagree about the difficulty. It sounds to me like Shamus made some bad choices and now he's trying to blame the developers for it. All the spells are described quite well, IMHO. You level up pretty quickly, too, so missing good spells can be rectified fairly quickly.

(That's not to say that the spells couldn't use some balancing. Slapping force field on a boss while you take care of all the minions is ridiculously effective, for instance. The duration of that spell should probably be halved and AI should be improved so it doesn't keep attacking targets that are inside a force field.)

Mages are certainly strong - particularly as the game goes on and the mages can afford to put more into willpower. They tend to be weaker against single targets, though, especially in long battles. Morrigan is great for bringing down masses of white-con enemies getting ready to rush in. However, against stronger enemies, putting a fighter in front of the the target and a rogue behind will dish out tons of damage that won't stop when the mana runs out.
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December 5th, 2009, 19:13
Originally Posted by Zloth View Post
Well I disagree about the difficulty. It sounds to me like Shamus made some bad choices and…..
Ahem…you are doing *exactly* what he and others have said they object to: 'well, if you build your character/party in *this* way it works - so there'. I happened on some spell combos that work, and they work well. But from many comments it seems that if you do not follow a certain 'formula' the games becomes stupidly hard and unpleasant. For the most part, the successful strategies people use (such as the forcefield boss lockout - which I found somewhat late) reflect crap AI,poor spell design or both - surely things that should be criticized. If having a mage in your party is a prerequisite for having an easy time - I think that shows poor balancing. among other things.
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December 5th, 2009, 20:51
Originally Posted by vanedor View Post
It’s all about having mages… or not.
Well, at least for the first run through the game, that´s the case in a lot of party based RPGs, BG2 for example. Playing most of RPGs without spellcasters usually guarantees more difficult experience.

Originally Posted by Zloth View Post
It sounds to me like Shamus made some bad choices and now he's trying to blame the developers for it.
Agreed.

Obfuscated descriptions along with inability to change spell picks on the fly is definitely a problematic combo in DA, but game offers quite diverse portfolio of useful crowd control and area of effect spells nevertheless, so one has to be really unlucky to build a worthless mage imo.
And there are always other class abilities like bombs, traps, bard´s stun song, two handed sweep, war cry, Shale´s auras etc, etc. Aaaand the difficulty slider.

Also, seems like most of guys´ complaints about difficulty come from the fact that he went to Deep Roads very early in his first playthrough which, frankly, is his own fault.
The game states repeatedly Deep Roads are overrun with darkspawn and even though it´s understandable if one takes it just as flavour comments, I think that upon entering the area, it becomes clear quite fast that the statement is true and that it´s one of the places where having some AoE´s will make a big difference.
Plus, when one can´t beat even regular encounters on repeated tries in some areas, it should be obvious one´s not in a shape to be there at all and should return there once he´ll have more tactical arsenal at his disposal.

As for his Broodmother problems, I wonder if he tried positioning his party on solid ground, eh.

Originally Posted by booboo View Post
If having a mage in your party is a prerequisite for having an easy time - I think that shows poor balancing. among other things.
Nope imo. Letting player to have easy time regardless of party composition - that would be poor balancing.
As I see it, prerequisite for having an easier time should always be having a well balanced party. In most fantasy RPGs that means having at least one spellcaster present.
And in DA you get one right before the game starts to be more difficult, so…
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December 5th, 2009, 22:48
Originally Posted by DeepO View Post
Letting player to have easy time regardless of party composition - that would be poor balancing.
As I see it, prerequisite for having an easier time should always be having a well balanced party. In most fantasy RPGs that means having at least one spellcaster present.
And in DA you get one right before the game starts to be more difficult, so…
Ok, you realize there are a total of three classes we're talking about here, right? So 2/4 mages is easy, but 2/4 rogues or 2/4 warriors should be hard? Seems to me that a balanced party in the context of three classes should be a little more flexible. Especially considering the number of warriors you can recruit versus everyone else.

And speaking of "balanced party", during the section where I was stuck with Wynne (on my new playthrough on Hard) I had three mages for a while. It was easier than anything I'd ever done my first playthrough on Normal as a fighter with just one mage. I guess three mages is the most balanced party you can have, yes?

I admit I'm surprised that uncle Shamus had trouble on easy as a mage. Maybe he was trying to avoid the ultimate mage cliche and so he didn't pick up Fireball. I know that's the first spell I went for. Damage, knockdown, interrupt, and DoT… but for some reason neither of the recruitable mages are interested.

Originally Posted by Dhruin
I would suggest a good reviewer doesn't gloss over or forget these minor points but, instead, uses them in a different way. Without suggesting I am a good reviewer, I take copious notes when doing a review - almost exactly the same as these tweets. "Load times are too long, "too many rats", "too many mouse clicks to access char stats" and so on. I often note the irritations more readily than the positive points.

The difference is, I then sit back and contemplate the entire product - as I'd expect most reviewers do. I'll often decide [minor irritation #3] is insignificant in the scheme of the game and not worth highlighting.
I think what we're looking at here is the new paradigm (eww I said paradigm) of consuming information on the internet. As a person who writes, I recognize the process that you've laid out as definitively better for producing superior output. I completely agree. And yet, as a consumer of information, I guess I crave access to the raw forms. I'd rather hear about everything you experience, if possible, and then decide for myself what's going to piss me off or what won't detract too much from the experience. Which is weird, because again I hate new ways of doing things. And young people.

Of course, it's ironic that we're even discussing this in the context of Twitter, because one thing I expect we can agree upon is that no one wants to read bits and pieces of a review over a period of days and weeks as the reviewer is slowly working his/her way through a long game. Twitter is all about real-time communication, but there's no point in reading something like this review until it's pretty far along… So while I like the review in archive form, I can't imagine the point of reading tweet by tweet as it's twat.
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December 6th, 2009, 00:59
Originally Posted by Yeesh View Post
Ok, you realize there are a total of three classes we're talking about here, right? So 2/4 mages is easy, but 2/4 rogues or 2/4 warriors should be hard? Seems to me that a balanced party in the context of three classes should be a little more flexible. Especially considering the number of warriors you can recruit versus everyone else.

And speaking of "balanced party", during the section where I was stuck with Wynne (on my new playthrough on Hard) I had three mages for a while. It was easier than anything I'd ever done my first playthrough on Normal as a fighter with just one mage. I guess three mages is the most balanced party you can have, yes?
Well, the game has only three classes, yes, but you can develop each in various ways which nets you a decent amount of options how to assemble a balanced party.

What I consider a party well balanced for combat is simply a party whose members can together supply all important functions.
I´m probably simplifying a bit here, but in DA it basically means having someone who can effectively dish damage, soak damage and crowd control (unlike in some other RPGs, buffs/debuffs aren´t that crucial in DA).
It just happens that achieving this functionality without a spellcaster isn´t easy.
But as I said, that´s imo the case in most of party based RPGs.

So yes, by these criteria your warrior + 3 mages party was probably a well balanced one. It may even be the most effective of them all, I dunno.
That doesn´t mean there aren´t other options.

In this context, I definitely agree that available warriors/mages ratio is unfortunate. One more mage companion would quite significantly help at making party, eh, make up as well as roleplaying opportunities more flexible.
Two available rogues are imo sufficient since they share a lot of their talents with warriors.
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December 6th, 2009, 02:39
Ahem…you are doing *exactly* what he and others have said they object to: 'well, if you build your character/party in *this* way it works - so there'.
Not quite. There are dozens of ways you can build your party effectively, maybe hundreds of ways. I'm saying that you need to think and experiment. If you're having a lot of trouble then look over the spells and skills next time you gain a level and see what's there that might help you. It's not a matter of just lucking into the "correct" spell choices and tactics, it's a matter of figuring out one of the better tactical systems.

For instance, I got the tempest lightning spell. Great special effects and it does some good damage but there's a major problem - the targets (I mostly aim for archers and mages so I don't hit my own folks) simply walk out of the area of effect then keep attacking. So I'm taking forever to cast the spell, burning a lot of mana, and the result is trivial to overcome. What a waste - I need a respec.

Then along come Wynne. She's got access to the earthquake spell. Somebody had thrown that at me earlier. It didn't hurt but it sure made life hard on my ranged attackers - we couldn't move 2 feet without falling down! Wait a second… couldn't move? I dusted off the old "useless" tempest spell and I've been doing horrible things to ranged attackers ever since.

That's the kind of stuff that makes this game so fun for me. Not just exploring yet another dungeon with yet another grotesque beast that needs to be murdered, but actually exploring the system.

-

Oh, Yeesh, I think there are really four classes: fighter, rogue, mage, and cleric. They combined the mage and cleric spells, though, which left them with 3 "named" classes. At least when I got her, Wynne was decked out with spells that matched the cleric class more the a magic user. There are enough healing and buff/debuff powers to keep her that way, too. If you do that then take the good old fighter/thief/magic user/cleric foursome the game will tell you that you've got a warrior, a rogue, and two mages even though you've got the classic four-class party. So yeah - there are symatic games going on here.
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December 6th, 2009, 03:33
Originally Posted by txa1265 View Post
But it never will end, and calling it a 'fad' is no different than those who wanted the 'rock & roll fad' or 'mp3 fad' or 'internet fad' or 'social media fad' to end … the term is 'luddite'. .

Er….. comparing twitter to 'rock & roll'? Um…ok.
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December 6th, 2009, 04:51
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
Er….. comparing twitter to 'rock & roll'? Um…ok.
Calling the evolution of internet communication a fad … I call us equal

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December 6th, 2009, 05:53
Originally Posted by txa1265 View Post
Calling the evolution of internet communication a fad … I call us equal

I'm going to assume you're being sarcastic, because I know you couldn't have been serious in regarding Twitter that highly.
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December 6th, 2009, 06:01
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
I'm going to assume you're being sarcastic, because I know you couldn't have been serious in regarding Twitter that highly.
It was more light-hearted joking than sarcasm …

Well, what I was saying is that Twitter is merely an evolutionary step in the overall development of internet communications - and communications in general, just as the rock & roll of the 50's is an anachronism with no current relevance but an unmistakable overall importance.

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December 6th, 2009, 06:05
The problem is that Twitter would be largely insignificant without cel-phones, so I think you're giving the internet a little too much credit there.
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December 6th, 2009, 19:32
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
The problem is that Twitter would be largely insignificant without cel-phones, so I think you're giving the internet a little too much credit there.
That information might have been true early in 2008, but most folks use it in a truly converged way between a whole host of devices and also with other integrated apps.

I think we might as well give this up, as it is clear that you really have no idea about this stuff nor do you want to, which is fine but you are coming across like someone who still contends all console games are dumbed down platformers.

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