Tag Archives: Bioware

On Unexpected Surprises

Blaugust Post #16

First things first, this post will contain extremely minor spoilers for Mass Effect 2, and large spoilers for Mass Effect 1. ME1 came out 8 years ago, so I’m not exactly going to step lightly, this warning is all you get.

Yesterday I beat Mass Effect 1. If you know what you’re doing, it’s about 15-20 hours long, depending on how many elevators you take and how many sidequests you do. (If you want one of the squadmember achievements or the completionist achievement, expect to extend this to 30+.) I like it, but it’s really my least favorite of the three. One of the major reasons for this is the way powers work in Mass Effect 1: Each power has an independent cooldown ranging from 30 seconds to multiple minutes. Mass Effect 2 dramatically reduced the cooldown on individual powers, most of them are under 10 seconds, but all powers now have a shared cooldown. For power-spamming classes like Adepts or Engineers, this changes how they play dramatically. (It does decrease those classes alpha-striking potential, however.)


On the other hand, Saren is a better villain than anything in the later games, although Harbinger’s taunting certainly makes an impression in ME2. Even though he’s under control of the real big bad (Sovereign), he provides a face to what you’re searching for. He’s even a moderately difficult boss fight on Virmire, although I’ve never fought him in the citadel. (I have no idea what the Charm/Intimidate Threshold for skipping that encounter is. Since it’s at the end of the game, I’ve never been without at least one of them at 10.)

Mass Effect 2

New Game++

So this brings me to Mass Effect 2. Normally, your choices in the game allow you to pick up select powers from your squad for your own, whether this really makes sense or not. (It doesn’t make much sense for a non-biotic to have Slam, for instance.) One of the bonuses on starting a new game is immediate access to one of these powers of your choice at the start of the game. It’s my personal opinion that some of them aren’t balanced for this, but it’s kind of a nice bonus for repeat playthroughs. Id’ completely forgotten about this, and now I have an engineer with Shredder Ammo, which does a large amount of bonus damage against targets with no armor/shields. Engineers specialize in stripping armor and shields, so I suspect this will go pretty well.

On Decisions

SPOILER ALERT: This post includes spoilers for Dragon Age Origins. If you haven’t played through it, you should probably stop reading here.

With that out of the way…

As mentioned previously (and on the podcast), I’ve been playing through Dragon Age: Origins in preparation for Dragon Age: Inquisition next month. As you should know by now, the end goal of the entire game is to defeat the Archdemon and thus all of the Darkspawn that make up the Blight. Regardless of the decisions made throughout the game, you will begin the game by going through some sort of tragedy, get inducted into the grey wardens, recruit an army with variable makeup, defeat the Archdemon, and end the Blight. Laid out like that, it all seems rather simple and straightforward.


My “recruit an army with variable makeup” point should be expanded on further, because it’s really somewhere between 50-60% of the entire game. As soon as you leave Lothering, there are 4 plot-important locations you can go to in order to gather support, as well as the capital city of Denerim (which there isn’t a lot of cause to visit at the outset). Each of these four locations contains a main story quest that will generally take several hours to complete, and involves some choices that affect the overall plot and who ends up joining you in the army you end up building. You’ll end up with either the mages or the templars, either the elves or the werewolves, the dwarves (sometimes accompanied by golems, sometimes not), and the human militia.

One of the best things about the game to me is how player decisions affect this process, even though making some of these decisions makes you a terrible person, and some of your party members will call you out on being a terrible person (and attack you in some specific cases). Even then, it’s not unanimous. Sten supports killing off the mages as part of the Mage’s Tower questline (Broken Circle). Wynne objects, and will leave your party and attack you if you start to hint at doing this. At the end of the game there’s an epilogue that describes the long-term effect of decisions like that. I suspect this will have some bearing on Inquisition, but I’m told it has only a minor effect on DA2 in most cases.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Even the 100% required plot events can play out in more than one way. A critical event near the end of the game is the Landsmeet, where Arl Eamon and the player character attempt to get the nobles to reject Loghain’s rule. If you don’t do enough sidequests to get support, you’ll fail and start a massive fight in the chamber. Likewise, this can happen if your choices in the dialogue are poor or if you don’t have the persuasion stats to back them up. I’ve played the game before, but I forgot about all of the elements that went into it; I had to do this 4 times to get the result I wanted in my most recent playthrough.

In Order:

  1. Forgot to turn in a number of sidequests at the bar in Denerim, failing to gain support of two noble families, enough to swing the vote against me. Oops.
  2. Turned in those quests, and then navigated through the speech incorrectly, resulting in the crowd supporting Loghain instead of me.
  3. Successfully navigated the talking portion, and then had Allister duel Loghain. Alistair kills Loghain in the cutscene if he wins, preventing any possibility of marriage to Anora, who will not marry her father’s killer.
  4. Did the speech, killed Loghain myself, Alistair & Anora arranged to get married, everything worked as planned.

For those of you that haven’t explored everything the game has to offer, I won’t talk about much more, but many of the other events in the game can also unfold multiple ways, even if it ultimately leads to the same outcome. Bioware’s other major recent game series (Mass Effect) is not quite as good at showing the consequences of your actions during the game, and it’s really the best thing about Dragon Age Origins. Here’s hoping Inquisition measures up.

On Familiar Territory

Knowing that Dragon Age Inquisition is coming out soonish, and I don’t have a save file to work with, I’ve been replaying a bit of Dragon Age Origins. My first playthrough was marked by bugs galore and a game that crashed roughly every 20 minutes, so I’m hoping that it does better this time. Despite that, I really liked it. The game is currently on sale on Steam until Monday, so if you haven’t played it before now’s a good time to check it out.

dragon age logo
My current dilemma is whether or not to go through the game as a rogue or a mage. (My advice to anyone playing the game for the first time is to play as a mage, for the record.) As a rogue, you have the ability to do the assorted roguish things (opening locks, picking pockets, disarming traps) without depending on another party member for it. Rogues do a lot of single-target damage if they can position for a backstab (or with the right talents, facestab on incapacitated targets). Rogues also get the benefit of being able to pick their origin, with the Human Noble and Dwarf Noble as standout choices.

Mages, on the other hand, are overpowered. Their control is unparalleled, their burst damage is unmatched, and their utility is outstanding, even regarding the plot. With the arcane warrior specialization, they can become incredibly strong at the only things they aren’t normally good at, melee combat. However, the specialization that would normally appeal to me is complete garbage, and I hesitate to play one because of it. Also, the Mage origin story (the only one mages have access to) I find less interesting in the long run than some of the other choices.

I’m sure I’ll get far enough with one to abandon the other eventually. Even in single-player games I’m an altoholic.