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Archive for November, 2009

GTA III

When you strip away the hype GTA III is an arena shooter where you drive around and kill shit for points.

Typically when people talk about this game they’ll throw around terms like “emergent”, “non-linear” and “sandbox” as if that explains why it’s such a blast to play. I don’t think it does, mainly because we’ve just spent a good decade playing emergent, non-linear sandbox games that are not nearly as exciting or enjoyable as Rockstar’s opus. Freedom and player choice do not automatically translate to fun. By championing those aspects of GTA III above others we fail to understand what really makes it tick.

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Let Me Break You

This isn’t just about Dragon Age, really it’s an issue for all “non-linear” “player driven” games, but one of the the biggest problems with this game is that it’s terrified I’ll break it.

Case in point. There’s a character in this game who sets you up with thief missions. In one of the missions things don’t go smoothly and it turns out that you’ve been led into a trap. After the mission you confront your connection and ask him what happened. He’ll feed you some nonsense about how he was misled and he vows that he’ll set up another job so that the two of you can get revenge.

Now here’s the thing, from my perspective this guy screwed me over, it would be totally within reason to slit the guy’s throat and leave his body in the street for stray dogs to clean up. But killing him isn’t an option.

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Peer Pressure

In Dragon Age’s you don’t have to worry about building up light side points, renegade points or any other moral integer. You’ll still be making the same binary moral choices but Bioware have finally realised that they don’t need to keep score. Because, really, I already know when I’m being a douchebag I don’t need to be told by exactly how much.

Instead they’ve decided to try and code a rudimentary form of peer pressure. I honestly think it’s a great idea, one with a lot of promise but I’m not sure it works here. Or more accurately there was a glorious few hours where it worked and then it got wobbly.

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He Who Fights With Monsters

After 30 odd hours of playing Dragon Age my tactics have become worn smooth with use. First I scan enemy targets and look for possible threats, if there’s a mage I immediately get my spirit healer to cast stonefist against them, I’m not looking for a kill, just giving my Marabai warhound enough time to close the distance and tear the mage to shreds. Once the threat is neutralised the warhound will then attack any archers skulking amongst my enemy’s back line. Meanwhile my sword and shield wielding warrior charges forward like a lunatic and valiantly engages the enemy infantry. With his armour and copious hit points he can soak up punishment while my dagger wielding rouge acts as a force multiplier cutting down targets with carefully placed backstabs. If anyone looks like they’re about to die my spirit healer tops up their hit points.

It is an aggressive strategy all about projecting power and surgically emasculating the opposing horde with overwhelming force. Norman Schwarzkopf would be proud. For most of the game it works exceptionally well. That is until I reach the deep roads, the deep roads become my quagmire.

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generic

Alright let’s just say it Dragon Age is pretty damn unimaginative. One would have assumed part of the reason Bioware made a new fantasy IP was because they wanted to get away from the “boring” Dungeons and Dragons license. If that was the case then Bioware failed hard, Dragon Age is a lot more generic than Dungeons and Dragons ever was.

Need I remind you Dungeons and Dragons contains creatures like these. Okay so they’re kind of stupid but at least they’re original.

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Character Creation

Cool mo bro

Allow me to be slightly snobbish for a moment while I’ll tell you that Japan has never produced a good roleplaying game. Oh sure Mother 3 is an amazing game, it’s just not a roleplaying game. At all. Same goes for any Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest game you want to shake a stick at. They may be fun, they may have fantastic stories but they are not even remotely about roleplaying, they are at best tactical resource management sims with dating game elements. I don’t even think the Japanese know what roleplaying is.

So what is this roleplaying about? Well for starters it’s not about playing a role, it’s about creating a role.

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Hai guys I has heard of this new game Dragon Age: Origins it looks dopeness.

When that trailer was released upon the internet in the dark days of May 2009 the reaction from hardcore RPG fans hoping for the next Baldur’s Gate was a kind of bewildered butt hurt. Blood, violence, sex? Who cares about those things? We want an isometric camera and elaborate spreadsheet like dialogue trees. The phrase de jour was “dumming down” and there was mention of the dreaded “consoletards”. The Marilyn Manson song blaring over the top just added insult to injury.

The game is out now and it does (on the PC at least) feature an isometric camera and elaborate spreadsheet like dialogue trees. It is the spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate but it’s Baldur’s Gate by way of World of Warcraft and Gears of War. By which I mean it’s picked up some of the combat dynamics of WoW and Gears of War’s po faced self seriousness.

But it is a good game and over the next few entries I’m going to examine it in pain staking detail because I have a blog and that’s how I roll.

Do we get it? NO!
Do we want it? YEAH!
This is the new shit
Stand up and admit it

Next: Character Creation

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