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Default Dragon Age - Gamasutra's GotY

December 24th, 2009, 05:38
Dragon Age takes top honours from Gamasutra's choice games of 2009.
BioWare once reinvigorated the Dungeon & Dragons-inspired line of PC fantasy RPGs with Baldur's Gate. After a decade of evolutions, the studio has attempted to bridge the gap between that early milestone and its modern refinements.

Dragon Age: Origins succeeds both in that goal and as a masterful, ambitious roleplaying game in its own right. On its surface, it seems full of the same dwarves-and-mages-and-elves dynamic that's been so thoroughly mined, with stock visuals to match. But as you explore the game's considerable volume of content, its fascinating subtleties begin to reveal themselves — class, gender, and race roles form the underpinnings of a compelling world without becoming too heavy-handed.

On the personal scale, Dragon Age features some of the most affecting and entertaining character interactions in gaming, implemented dynamically and seamlessly. Party members idly chat amongst themselves — affably, dourly, indifferently — and comment on the player's own choices. The game's overarching story is nothing special; it's the context and the personal moments that count, and they count for a lot. Rarely are virtual characters so believable.

The game itself demonstrates an impressive RPG design fluency born of hard experience, particularly on the PC where it fluidly shifts between a modern third-person RPG and an old-school top-down dungeon crawler at the player's whim. It strikes a satisfying balance between intricacy and intuitiveness, rewarding player investment but not becoming overbearing.

The remarkably diverse origin stories that serve as the subtitle's namesake just add further personality and depth to one of the most surprisingly unique RPGs in recent memory. With Dragon Age: Origins, BioWare has succeeded in reprising its own revival.
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December 24th, 2009, 05:38
Interestingly they had Cryostasis as their #1 overlooked game of the year!
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December 24th, 2009, 05:40
Originally Posted by txa1265 View Post
Interestingly they had Cryostasis as their #1 overlooked game of the year!
It was overlooked for good reason.
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December 24th, 2009, 11:21
I finished DA last night - I didn't really feel compelled to hammer away at it until I was done, unlike Drakensang, the Witcher, and Risen. While the game was 'good' I felt the game mechanics left much to be desired - these deficiencies have been enumerated by others elsewhere so I won't rehash then. But together they left me with a 'thank god its done now I can move on' feeling. For me the problems stems from the system they came up with to replace D&D/d20 - I think it was second rate and dull, and that filters through the game as a whole. Yes, the character interactions were good, the voice overs impressive etc, but if I was only interested in that I'd read a book or play IF.
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December 24th, 2009, 17:50
Originally Posted by booboo View Post
But together they left me with a 'thank god its done now I can move on' feeling.
Glad to know I wasn't the only one…
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December 25th, 2009, 04:20
Sorry booboo, I have to disagree with you on Risen and Drakensaang being better in terms of interesting systems. I found both of them to be rather dry. Risen was overly simplistic, and wasn't very compelling in terms of wanting to try out different combinations of skills and powers, and Drakensaang was just an overload of skills, stats and powers. I didn't think Dragon Age's system was that great to be honest, but I definitely thought it was better than those two. Is there some history with Gothic on this blog, it seems that everyone here just drools over Risen. I found it fun to an extent, but quickly boring in it's simplicity, and the length to which you had to go to carve out the class you wanted to play.
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December 25th, 2009, 05:00
Originally Posted by mooninja View Post
Is there some history with Gothic on this blog, it seems that everyone here just drools over Risen.

I honestly don't understand where you came up with that. Most of the posters here rated Risen anywhere from a 6.5 to an 8.5. Not what I would consider "drooling" over something. I thought Risen was great except for the ending, but I'm not blind to its flaws either, I would rate it around 80%.
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December 25th, 2009, 05:47
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
Glad to know I wasn't the only one…
Same here. By the time I was on the last subquest, I was tired of the game and just wanted it to be over. Sidequests dragged on, the game was extremely linear, and the story was dull. It wasn't a bad game, but I've enjoyed every other game I've played from Bioware more.
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December 25th, 2009, 07:03
Originally Posted by Anderson View Post
It wasn't a bad game, but I've enjoyed every other game I've played from Bioware more.

It was a lot better than KotOR imo, and I also liked it more than Jade Empire. Having said that, I still think it's vastly overrated by most people.
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December 25th, 2009, 17:51
Well I think it was a great game, much better the risen, wish felt like a fan made mod for gothic 2.
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December 25th, 2009, 23:20
I'm just digging into DA now and my impression is that it's a game done with a rare level of 'granularity', in that it has a huge range of options, a massive amount of content, complex systems and a long playtime.

What I would not say is that the game is 'surprisingly unique'. It seems to me that it follows previous Bioware games fairly closely and makes use of the usual RPG tropes - a medieval world populated by monsters, shopkeepers and questgivers, menaced by unspeakable evil and eveybody clunks around in full armour as though they're on the set of Excalibur. Although it's all done very well, I do wish reviewers would start to actively ping a game like this for its rather retrograde reliance on tired gameworld cliches and not write that it's 'surpisingly unique'.
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December 26th, 2009, 00:57
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
It was a lot better than KotOR imo, and I also liked it more than Jade Empire. Having said that, I still think it's vastly overrated by most people.
I probably liked KOTOR more. That was the first Bioware game I played. I remember feeling more satisfied with my ability to control my party members, in KOTOR.

I played DA on the 360, which no doubt affected my opinion. The control scheme felt awkward. You could not position members individually or effectively, you could not place them on hold individually, selecting skills required multiple button presses, and you could only program one action per character. What that meant was you had to constantly and endlessly micromanage your party's behavior, especially at the higher difficulty levels. I could've used the Tactics, I suppose, but I never really got into that aspect.

Anyhow, combat started to feel tedious around hour 50, and I turned the difficulty down because I got tired of the constant micromanagement and just wanted the game to be over already.

The linearity of it was also a big negative for me. I prefer a more open world design. Not that Bioware games are ever open world. But they usually trade off the open world for an engrossing and well-paced main quest story, which was (imo) absent here.

Boy, I sound grumpy. I'm probably sounding too harsh. It wasn't a bad game by any stretch. I'd give it an 8.0. Good, not great.
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December 26th, 2009, 03:02
You really need to upgrade your PC Anderson.
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December 26th, 2009, 03:28
I like Dragon Age more than about half of Bioware's games … somewhat more than KotOR, way more than Jade Empire, and way, way more than Mass Effect …

— Mike
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December 26th, 2009, 05:25
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
You really need to upgrade your PC Anderson.
No way, man. I'll never give in to the dark side.
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December 26th, 2009, 08:12
Originally Posted by Anderson View Post
I prefer a more open world design. Not that Bioware games are ever open world. But they usually trade off the open world for an engrossing and well-paced main quest story, which was (imo) absent here.
A matter of taste, obviously, but I enjoyed the story in DA considerably more than any other Bio game. The overarching plot was simple but each location told a wonderful tale.

I just finished replaying Orzammar today; Branka and the surrounding story is just fantastic.

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December 26th, 2009, 10:24
Originally Posted by mooninja View Post
Sorry booboo, I have to disagree with you on Risen and Drakensaang being better in terms of interesting systems. I found both of them to be rather dry. Risen was overly simplistic, and wasn't very compelling in terms of wanting to try out different combinations of skills and powers, and Drakensaang was just an overload of skills, stats and powers. I didn't think Dragon Age's system was that great to be honest, but I definitely thought it was better than those two. Is there some history with Gothic on this blog, it seems that everyone here just drools over Risen. I found it fun to an extent, but quickly boring in it's simplicity, and the length to which you had to go to carve out the class you wanted to play.
It seems opinion (as always) is divided on just how great DA was ;-) Personally I like 'dry' rule systems, if by that you mean ones with lots of build options. TDE seems interesting - my only gripe there was the lack of explanation. Risen was simplistic at times - but enjoyable nonetheless. The single biggest DA:O irritation for me was the lack of PC scaling with level. example: I specialized as a shape-shifter. The top power was changing into a 'dire bear' (kind of) - achieved at low level. There was no scaling of that power after that point (or if there was, it was almost non-existent). I stopped using it, because at higher levels even a 'hurlock grunt' could take the punishment this creature delivered while doing considerable damage back. That is just pathetic. Why not have the power grow in level, especially since they doled out skill points so stingily? How about shifting into a dragon thrall or some such at level 20? A waste of 4 skill points. I also felt the power of spells did not scale well, and there were way too few of them (unless you optimized your spells combos or used well known exploits). Of course, a large part of this was level scaling crap, but I never felt that way in the old BG titles - when you had potent magic, it truly was potent and you would scythe through lesser foes. And don't even get me started on the pathetic 'armies' you can summon at the end. That was a piss-poor implementation of tactics - clearly an afterthought. There were other things too, but overall I would have preferred an updated BG3 with the budget they allocated to this title. Finally, Yes I *did* enjoy large parts of the game, some were quite interesting and well executed, but overall I was somewhat disappointed.
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December 26th, 2009, 11:15
I really enjoyed the game.

My favourite aspect was the characters. But I am playing it for a third time and find myself appreciating some of the mid game locations more.

I think it has a different story structure than recent Bioware games. There is more focus on the stories that are happening in the huge mid game locations. Rather than being tightly focused on the main plotline.
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December 26th, 2009, 11:54
Well, I can't speak for the shapechanging because I just didn't use it but the spells in DA do scale, with a damage multiplayer drawn from the Magic stat. You must have played a different D&D to me because I was forever forced to choose addition low level spells I never used. Drakensang's magic system was spectacularly dull; if you dared to play a non-human mage, you didn't even get one, single AoE damage spell, which is the staple of most mages.

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December 26th, 2009, 19:24
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
Well, I can't speak for the shapechanging because I just didn't use it but the spells in DA do scale, with a damage multiplayer drawn from the Magic stat. You must have played a different D&D to me because I was forever forced to choose addition low level spells I never used. Drakensang's magic system was spectacularly dull; if you dared to play a non-human mage, you didn't even get one, single AoE damage spell, which is the staple of most mages.
shape change was useless at higher levels - although arcane warrior may have scaled - I didn't have enough skill points to try both, even though I went to the trouble of unlocking that via a quest. Well, I ended up with a magic stat of 48 or so - which was not unreasonable. lightning storm did 15 points of damage a round (I could see the number scrolling up) to the average hurlock/genlock 'grunt' when I was at 20th level. Many of them (especially the archer types) were also able to resist my earthquake spell - they should all have been rolling around like skittles if they were weak canon fodder. Another problem: armour/defense. The optiosn for boosting your AC were very limited (AW may have allowed more, but as I said, not enough skill points to try that). My AC in D&D as a wizard was almost as good as a fighter and with protection from spells etc, you could be truly formidable. in DA:O. even grunts hit me way too often. My AC/defense hardly changed from level 10 to level 20, even though my magic stat increased a lot. I only had two AC/defense spells (rock armour and some mage specialist defense spell) which were always on. If there were other options, I didn't have the skill points to exploit them.

As for D&D - sure there were many obscure spells - the point though is that as a wizard I could have all 100+ spells in my spell book (eventually - find or buy), and choose which ones were sensible for an upcoming combat e.g. going against undead. Here, I had one skill point per level and that had to go in training a specialist class OR getting one measly spell which led to a commensurately limited set of spells. For me, at least, that was a poor trade-off, perhaps as a pure fighter it didn't matter, but as a mage that limited my play style hugely - you ended up finding a 'winning' strategy and you pretty much had to keep using it because you had such limited choice of spells. I never played a non-human mage in DSang so I have no idea about those limits - I assume there is some game/ruleset specific reason for that? But as a human mage, I had a great deal of fun fiddling with an entirely new magic system which hadn't been whittled down to something simplistic. Yes, the game had it's faults (plot was derivative etc), but on the whole I felt more of an inclination to go back and finish it. with DA:O I ran out of steam 75% of the way through.
Last edited by booboo; December 26th, 2009 at 19:38.
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