new digs / dragon age 2

So here we are.   I think one of the reasons why I haven’t been posting lately at the old site is because, well, Blogger feels like ancient technology.  I’ve been keeping a personal blog here at WordPress for a while now, and frankly it’s just easier to write here.  I am hopeful that this will translate into more SFTC posts, especially because 2011 is starting to get serious.

Case in point:  Dragon Age 2.

I took a sick day yesterday, and as a result I’m now about 12 hours into the campaign.  I can’t speak for the larger structure of the game, but from my experience with Bioware RPGs, I’m guessing I’ve finished the first “act.” *

My spending 12 hours with it already should tell you everything you need to know, frankly; I managed barely two hours or so with the 360 version of Origins, and maybe only an hour on the PC.

I knew from previews that Origins was meant to be a PC experience – which is fine, as I was a big fan of Neverwinter Nights – but the 360 port was ugly in every sense of the word.  It presented itself as an action RPG, but the combat was turn-based, or something – it was a loose translation of KOTOR‘s combat, I think, except not fun.  The controls weren’t intuitive and combat didn’t really make any sense.  And for a graphics whore like me, it was just awful.

I didn’t fare much better with the PC version, which I picked up during one of Steam’s insane holiday sales.  It certainly looked a lot better, and it certainly made sense on the PC, but… well… it’s been a long time since I’ve used a mouse and keyboard to play games, and I kept getting lost with the controls.

I’ve heard a lot of bitching about DA2 being “dumbed down” for consoles, but look – if this is the level of quality we can expect when Bioware dumbs something down, then I’m all for it.  Combat is fluid and responsive and FUN.  Conversation trees now use the Mass Effect system, which is intuitive and informative.  It looks… well, maybe it isn’t jaw-droppingly amazing, but it certainly looks quite good.

If I have one piece of hyperbole to dole out, though, it’s that the choices in DA2 that I’ve had to make so far are, without question, the most difficult choices I’ve ever had to make in a videogame.  And I’m only at the end of the first real quest!  ***(Slight, vague spoiler, just so that you know where I am:  I’ve finished the Deep Roads, and am currently exploring my estate in Hightown.)*** The choices I’ve been faced with have been so tough, in fact, that it virtually guarantees that I’ll be doing another playthrough; I need to see what happens if I do x instead of y.  And I’m sure that it’ll be just as agonizing the second time around.

Speaking of which, I’m also really impressed with the game’s writing.  Whenever I play a game with a moral system, I invariably play as good and morally upstanding as possible; I don’t ruffle any feathers, I don’t get overly aggressive, and I certainly don’t sass.   But in DA2, for whatever reason, I’ve been feeling a lot freer to actually speak my mind; the dialog options are smart and well-written, and for the most part there’s usually a speech option that reflects how I, Jervo, actually feel about the current situation.

If I have to find fault with the game, I guess it’s that it can adhere a bit too tightly to the standard Bioware template.  For example, if you ask a character a question, there will always be 3 dialog screens that follow before you respond.  It’s a pattern I’ve noticed for a while, now, and it kinda took me out of the moment a few times once I became aware of it.  Similarly, there are quite a few side quests that you’re given in the beginning of the game, and if you ask why something needs to be done, you invariably get some variation of “Why does it matter?  I’m paying you, just do it.”  Which is maybe a little lazy on the part of the writers, although it’s nothing egregious.

In short: it’s everything that DA:O wasn’t.  And so far, it’s one of the best Bioware games I’ve ever played.

 

* Bioware RPGs generally follow the same pattern – a gigantic opening chapter with a big main quest and lots of sub-quests, as well as lots of random side quests and various errands to run, and then, after the conclusion of that first main quest, the momentum picks up dramatically.

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