Tag Archives: RPG

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.

Breakpoints

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.

Eidon
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.

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

On Current Events, #3

This is going to be a short one, but some crazy stuff happened recently.

Fantasy Iron Chef

battle_chef_brigade
Battle Chef Brigade is a game that I heard about in January, and it was just pointed out to me yesterday that it’s on Kickstarter now. It’s from a studio that has already released a few mobile games, and I really like the concept here. The characters also look awesome, and the price for the game itself ($15) is right. I intend to keep an eye on how this one shapes up.

The Man Who Arranges the Blocks

tetris
This might be competition for the Battleship movie, but the company behind the Mortal Kombat movies is making a movie about Tetris. There’s no good way to talk about this without it sounding insane, especially since he refers to it as “a very big, epic sci-fi movie”. There’s nothing I can add here that hasn’t already been said by Penny Arcade (in a comic that’s 11 years old, even). Either way, it’s unlikely to be as good as this video:

October Approaches

It’s time for the AAA Blockbusters of the year to come out, along with pumpkin-flavored everything. I’d hoped that Destiny would have enough longevity to carry me through the temptation of picking up a lot of these, but that doesn’t appear to be the case (more on that later). As a result, there’s a very strong itch for a good co-op game this fall. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is on the way, but their marketing campaign is giving me a lot of pause. This is unfortunate, because Borderlands 2 is one of my most-played games on Steam, behind Skyrim and Dragon Age. Speaking of which, Dragon Age: Inquisition is another game to watch, since DA:Origins is one of my favorite games and DA:2 is… not. Even if the campaign isn’t great, it’s including a Mass Effect 3-like multiplayer mode, and that might be entertaining enough. There are many more things for the rest of the year; Civilization: Beyond Earth and Super Smash Bros 4 are the ones I’m most looking forward to.

On Original Sin

There were several candidate topics for today, but after playing this game on Monday, it took over most of today’s post. I would apologize, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be hearing about the others eventually.

Divinity: Original Sin

It’s looking like a good year for isometric RPGs. Shadowrun: Dragonfall came out in February and it is excellent. Pillars of Eternity is due out at the end of the year and I have relatively high hopes for it. In between those lies this game, that I completely overlooked both when it was on Kickstarter and later as it appeared on Steam Early Access. The most recent game in a relatively old series, Divinity: Original Sin is an isometric RPG with turn-based battles (similar to Shadowrun Returns or Wasteland 2 in that sense) and is a prequel to the first game in the series, Divine Divinity. (Yes, I think Divine Divinity is a silly title.) Set in the fantasy world of Rivellon, Divinity: OS places you in the role of a pair of Source Hunters, members of an elite group tasked with eliminating Sourcery (spelling 100% taken from Terry Pratchett). I don’t know much else about the plot at this time, but that’s really not what attracted me to the game.

With Friends Like These

Since there are effectively two main characters, the entire game can be played in co-op. If you are joined by a partner during character creation, each person will control one character, otherwise you’ll customize both before setting out. From there, the characters are tossed into the world, free to make independent dialogue choices and combat decisions. Actually playing this way was a lot of fun, and in cases where you and your partner disagree on a course of action, it’s resolved with Rock, Paper, Scissors which is influenced by your stats. You can even escape from combat without your partner, but you may have to locate a resurrection spell if things don’t work out.

Artes Magicae and Artes Militia

As one might expect from an RPG going for an old-school look and feel, there are a plethora of skills that can be improved, abilities that can be learned, and stats governing the use of those. In a slight break from D&D, the stats are Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Constitution, Speed, and Perception, which mostly cover the things you’d expect. There are skills for each weapon type, five schools of magic (four of which cover the traditional elements), weapon special attacks, roguish things, and some more non-combat skills. These combine to determine the power of the abilities you can use in combat, like a charge attack that has a chance of knocking down things you hit (based on strength), or a spell that does damage and has a chance to blind (based on intelligence).

Putting the ‘R’ In

I spent several hours with this game on Monday, and I’m looking forward to the release date (June 30) so I can play through for real. Of those hours, very few of them were spent in combat. There’s just so much to do, and the writing is both odd and funny. If you’ve played other Divinity games, you may have some idea of what to expect. I haven’t played enough to speak to long-term balance or the overarching narrative, but if this is what we can expect from modern games in this style, I hope we get many more.