Thursday, July 21, 2011
My response to DA2 blog and comments
This article is actually very much describing how I feel towards DA2, and reviewing in general. The fact is a reviwer must look at a game as a Reviewer first and a fan second. Here is my comment reprinted:
"I think the over all point here is for people to be able to judge on more than one level;
1)A sequel to Dragon Age: Origins
2)A game in its self
3)A game leading up to another game.
I understand people were upset about no longer being able to create your own character, and I understand that. Yet you have to be able to make Hawke your own. In origins the truth ,as I see it, Yes you had the ability to make your own character, but it really effected very little of the overall game. I played as an elf and I played as a mage, and as a Cousland. For most of the game it had no effect on how I was perceived outside of the Origin. At least with Hawke you play a human, and if your a mage there are reactions to it. Someone tell me a legitimate difference the origins made in the gameplay except you're aware of other story elements?
I do believe DA2 was incredibly rushed, and everyone seems to agree with that.
While some people found the characters dull I found listening to their interactions enjoyable. While Aveline and Isabella are very different they posses a strange kind of affection for each other that was different than the friendship between Oghren and Anders in Awakening. That said, the characters are a bit stagnant, but that is mainly in their opinions. I just felt like with the way the game is written and designed there should be an ability to somewhat alter the course of characters. I was constantly hoping I could change characters actions but found the game very linear in that sense. On one hand I do understand that some opinions are set in stone, but it felt useless to say certain things to people. In particular Anders was UTTERLY inconsistent between Awakening and DA2 to a unbelievable extent. Anders was a snarky, selfish, laid back, but lovable mage in Awakening. Yet under the care of a new writer he became an entirely different character. In DA:2 Ander is supposed to have matured and tossed away his childish selfishness in favor of seeking justice. The hope continued from the Expansion is for Justice to have taught Anders that his selfishness ultimately leads him and other mages no where. Yet all Ander's snarkyness and his ability to simply bounce back with a joke is replaced by wavering uncertainty and obsession. There is almost zero connection between Anders and *brood* Anders.It's almost as if no one actually read what the lead writer for Anders was writing. Heck it didn't even feel like the writer played Awakening. It was just inconsistent. In terms of presenting a character. Also and this is particularly prevalent with Anders and Isabella there was so very little... indication of romantic interest. For Anders they essentially use the excuse "sense you showed interest, for the past few years he's been really into you...". It felt rushed and awkward to have him so intense when I had been so playful, and my mind kept flashing back to Awakening. Fundamentally it seemed like Anders was previously prone to using humor to protect himself instead of confronting issues. Even with the situation there should be something humorous about how he approaches Hawke, and how he feels towards others. With Isabella she was a tease but she never showed real interest in Hawke exactly. She was never really directly talking to Hawke like she would others(like casual lover Fenris).The inconsistent writing was just annoying. Then you have a character like Carver who has not a single redeeming quality about him. I get that he is supposed to be resentful toward Hawke, but he is such a positively negative human being its absolutely INSANE. All he does is complain at you, and you never find a redeeming quality in him.
I hate how people complain about the direction they took with the game. Honestly the gameplay felt exactly the same in terms of combat. Except playing a rogue felt and looked more like how a rogue should be. The game plays absolutely NOTHING like Mass Effect or other series, and the comparison (outside of the dialogue wheel) thoroughly makes me suspect that half of the people complaining have never actually played Mass Effect or Mass Effect 2. I have played both thoroughly and they are not similar in combat. In terms of the "tree" system, I can say that it is far more functional than either Mass Effect leveling systems. I also found it easier to really see where my mage was focusing on than in Origins. The Tree layout encourages one to focus their traits and their companions traits. You see where your powers are progressing to, upgrade abilities, and the specializations are immediately open to you so you can start on them from Act 1.
The wheel based dialogue honestly is a more organized system because you see which options end or continue a conversation. In the Baldur's Gate series there were times where you could only pick one or two questions out of five REALLY good ones. With the wheel you can go back and pick questions without re-readying all the options(like in Origins. This makes the system a bit more organized. There is also the fact that you can avoid selecting a choice that is very vague or seems neutral, but is the exact opposite choice you want to make. The symbols make it easy to understand roughly how the dialogue will be perceived. In other Bioware games it is really easy to perceive a dialogue option one way and instantly have a NPC perceive it another. I would often choose a very neutral choice when talking to Morrigan or Sten only to earn disapproval. Finally there is the fact that just because Origins and older Bioware games have had more dialogue choices does not mean that the responses to those choices were different from other responses. Having 15 options of what to say and only six responses to those options is really kind of a waste.
Ultimately Dragon Age 2 was flawed. It felt incredibly short in terms of game length. Act 3 feels rushed to conclusion with a sort of fake urgency. Every time I get to "The Last Straw" I think "Oh yea end of the game, right." Part of that is the fact that the game leaves so very much unexplored. For instance in terms of the Lyrium Idol, I found myself wanting to know more not so much out of curiosity but out of realizing I knew nothing at all. Not to mention no explanation as to how You-Know-Who got a hold of it.What worsens this problem is the fact that the Quanari plotvline seems to be loosely tacked onto the Mage-Templar story line. The two plots feel utterly disjointed in terms of how they connect. If there was more of a build up involving the Quanari presence in the city it would be better. If there was ,for instance, a case of mages running to join the Quanari(only to face the cold hard reality of there views) or say elves in the alienage joining in mass and the elders of the alienage asking you to stop them, there would have been more tension. Overall the game's story lines fell flat and felt horribly short.
It seems to me that in the end the developers chose to use the "time skips" of the game to deal with the lack of build up in terms of story. It is a lot easier to say that "four years have passed and tension has been increasing" than to actually show cases of it.
Then there is the fact that the number of graphical and technical glitches in the game are just pathetic. Having to reset Isabella in order to upgrade her armor? Undead that get frozen while rising from the ground? Quests that cannot end, start, or if completed give XP? . Playing with the near micro-sized subtitles on(and sometimes off) will lead to a graphical error in cutscenes in which the characters jump shape popping from one size to another in order to fit. It appears as the adjustment for characters while having the subtitle box is somewhat broken. I hate constantly going back to Mass Effect, but dear lord in ME the subtitles are a reasonable size and because there is no special box that alters the screen it's not an issue. The words appear over the cutscene as if it were a movie. This not only helps keep the player immersed but it is also SOLVES THE PROBLEM BY ELIMINATING IT AND EXTRA WORK. Simple fixes, and worse off fixes implemented in other games made by the same developer. A few glitches are completely understandable but the sheer number of glitches and bugs are ridiculous . On this level the game, as a game, is full of fail. I find it inexcusable. I am left with the constant feeling that the game was only half tested, and its quite obvious that it was not as thoroughly run through as other games. It is as though they simply said "Fuck it we'll fix everything in the patch(s)," If you scroll through the Dragon Age Wiki, you will find that most of the quest pages have a section entitled "Bugs" as will some of the characters, and numerous items. This is beyond my comprehension. I have not experienced such base glitches in a game. In honesty I have to chalk this up to laziness and the desire to put the game out as quickly as possible. The desire for this is ultimately understandable, and to a point reasonable from a monetary perspective. The more time it takes to work on a game the more money is put out not only on the game itself but on employees. Then there is also the fact that if they are not careful they may lose some of their audience after the initial thrill of Origins wears off. I'm not saying the latter is true, but a company may perceive it that way. Yet it is unacceptable to essentially screw over your fans. Whether or not you enjoyed the game, you have to admit being too cheap or too lazy to tweak/fix OBVIOUS problems within a product before shipping it out to loyal consumers is essentially a big "Screw you" to the consumer. It could be unintentional and perhaps numerous problems weren't caught until produced in mass, but even then that reeks of being too lazy to thoroughly test every aspect of your product. Bioware is known for quality, and it is in there and our best interest to keep that consistent. Usually I am far more tolerant of bugs and glitches but this is simply...maddening.The game is such a disappointment because it was honestly below the quality of most Bioware games. When you set a high standard for yourself and then for no reason, other than hubris or greed(on the cooperate side) produce a mediocre product you must expect criticism. "
Well there is my comment in it's entirety. If you can't tell my biggest gripe is the writing of the game and in particular Anders. In a few weeks will go in depth on my views of the overall writing of DA II because ultimately it is part of a larger issue with writing in general.
Keep reading and I'll still keep writing. Well I'll write regardless, but at least enjoy it.