This is a first for the Blog. Today’s post is a recollection of a PC game that I had been playing through and finally made it through the first time last night around 2AM. It’s a rarity these days I actually feel I get my money’s worth out of a computer game purchase or the time invested in playing it. After last night, I have to admit there is at least one game that met (actually exceeded) my expectations. That game is Dragon Age Origins by Electronic Arts/BioWare.
This is essentially a role playing game (RPG) based in ancient times filled with knights, wizards, elves, dwarves and more evil creatures than you could think up on your own in a year. In the genre of the Dungeon Siege series (which I really liked), this particular game allows you to control the characters in your party, manage their positions, decide their actions in an expansive world. However, taking that a step further, Dragon Age almost feels like you are interacting with a movie as a result of hours of cut scenes woven into the game flow. These scenes continually prompt you for responses and actions to take which directly impacts the storyline. Maybe you want to play as a heartless champion who cares only about killing every evil doer he come across or someone who actually cares about gaining a better understanding of your companions. As a result, my content requirement was easily met, but there are two other criteria I have that generally impact my enjoyment. First of all, I do not want to read manuals to figure out how to play a game. I spend my life reading technical manuals and research to be successful at work, I do not want to come home and tear into user manuals. If it is not intuitive, there are better things to spend my free time like reading a book. In this case, the only part of the Dragon Age manual that had to be read was the back panel with the license key. Granted, it was similar to the Dungeon Siege game play, but there were numerous in-game hints/tips along the way to easily get you through the game. The other requirements is ease of use. I will say, if there is a negative it is the difficulty in getting comfortable with the camera movement. Basically you can zoom in to be eye level with the surroundings or zoom out for a birds eye view to control the battlefield. Both modes have a full pan feature which can leave you slightly nauseous if you are sensitive to motion. It took me 3 or 4 sessions to really get that down to the point it was fluid. Beyond that, the two button mouse navigation and hotkeys were very effective. Contrast that with the FallOut 3 game where I literally ripped out of the CD tray and flung it across the room after 30 minutes of playing the game due to having to designate which part of the enemy to target on every attack.
In almost all role playing games I try to assume the role of an archer. I am not sure what my affinity is towards that classification, but I have been going that route since the first games that allowed you pick your character. True to course, I selected an Elf for this time through the game:
Note, the screen captures in this post are not cut scenes, but rather in-game play graphics. Oftentimes you get duped by the commercials that simply show a video and not the experience you get while interacting with the game. This was my outfit while engaging other characters in a non-hostile environment. When the whoop ass needed to be brought, the armor came out. Here is the end of the game character record for my Jagger which shows some of the different items that can be purchased/found/earned/gifted during the course of the game.
Jagger was basically at one shot kills at the end of the game due to my approach at distributing skill points and item equipping. Trust me, this came in very very handy at the end of the game when the darkspawn were swarming the castle. While on the topic of skill points, Dragon Age incorporated the common feature of being able to control the character development through distribution of points across a wide variety of skill sets and special powers. This actually provides an almost limitless game play characteristic due to how these points are utilized. Being an archer class, I focused on those skills that gave me the greatest range firepower to compensate for the lack of thick armor. Here is how my talent sheets turned out at the end of the game.
For those planning to play the game, the bottom two on the far right were the techniques that really got me to the end. I’ll let you figure out what capabilities those have in battle.
I have a bunch more screen captures after the jump. Be warned, this is labeled as a M (17+) game and it probably isn’t just due to the graphic violence that permeates the game play. The graphic designer for some of the characters and clothing is definitely male (or possibly female with appreciation of the female form). Let’s just say that this fictional world must have been experiencing an equally fictitious global warming.