So, I'm going to expand this blog to include fantasy video games because I found a crunkin' awesome one. This game will knock your socks off.
I was waitng for the next big fantasy game to come along. I'm sort of retro in my video gaming. This is because of a general technological lag in equipment, and the fact that I'm fully employed, in grad school, and engaged to a Ph.D. student. This does not leave much time for video game playing.
So you know where I'm coming from, some of my favorite fantasy and fantasy related video games include Heroes of Might and Magic III, the entire Final Fantasy franchise from Final Fantasy II on up., to Final Fantasy 12. I also like strategy fantasy games like Age of Empires and Age of Mythology. And of course, the entire Baldur's Gate series.
So on to DragonAge: Origins. When I finished classes this summer, I wanted some innocuous fun during my time off. I checked list after list for the best RPGs. I wanted something current, but I wanted to stay away from online video games. Why? Without diverging too much: time for videogames, is time for me, and me alone. I am NOT looking for any interraction with the broader populace. I have an active social life, I don't need friends online. This is not to disparage people who do--merely expressing a preference. I was exceedingly disappointed when Square released Final Fantasy 11 as only an online game. That's right--you can't actually even play it without going on line. I was very much afraid that DragonAge would be a game like that. The game does in fact have that capability, but it has an undeniable throughline that is completely playable without the internet. What a relief.
I'd also heard that there were some difficulties with the PC version of the game. Employees of both GameStop and BestBuy who raved about the game, both suggested I buy the console version, and stay away from the PC. Had I an XBox or PS3, I may have done so. But I got a new computer just a year ago. I purposely spent twenty bucks extra for a nice video card, and fifty for extra ram, but my machine is by no means a performance whore. I wouldn't even know how to make a gaming machine. As it is, you'll be glad to know the game plays absolutely fine. The Wiki for DragonAge has reported on some general programming bugs, but they have not made the game in anyway unplayable, unlike my attempt at playing the more recent Heroes of Might and Magic, which required seven different patches to play.
So onto the FFF
Note: I haven't finished the game, I was too excited to wait. And I rarely get to finish videogames, which require a skill and tenacity that simple reading does not.
So holy neato! You don't just play one character in DragonAge Origins. When you start, you get to choose one of six different story lines. The quests are largely universal, but the dialogue changes for each character. You can choose from three races, two genders, and the choice of a Magi, creates a wholly different storyline. I chose the story of a Dwarf Commoner. So, I can almost guarantee that many of the developers who worked on Baldur's Gate, also worked on DragonAge. Much of the informational dialogue is written in the same way, and, the controls and view points are very similar. One neat thing about DragonAge, is that you can zoom in on the character and play it first person, from any perspective. I don't particularly like the claustophobic nature of first person shooters, so I tend to operate at the three quarter level, but when I want to see a detail of the scenery, it's nice to be able to zoom in. As in any video game a la Baldur's Gate, or any role playing game, you get to choose the sort of dialogue you want. You can be a buttface, but you can also play really good characters. This is bad for me, but good for the teenagers out there who are angry at the world. I've never wanted to play a player character who was evil. Even being cruel to imaginary creatures is difficult for me. As someone who enjoys writing creatively, I can only write nasty characters with the personal knowledge that I fully expect to be writing their comeuppance one day. (For an example of my creative fiction, tune in to my Eagles Landing blog.) So you get to choose your own character. That means that your main character is slightly less enjoyable than the npcs (non player characters). NPCs never leave character. And players are inconsistent, and since you get to choose their story, less fascinating than having a traditional yarn. Why is that? Well, I hate making decisions that matter in my own life. The responsibility of having to make them in my videogames isn't a joy, it's one more burden. What that says about me, I don't know.
However, the neatest part of DragonAge is that you can play up your NPCs allegiances. You had a similar capacity in Baldur's Gate, by gaining or losing reputation points. If you had a bad rep, "good" characters would decline to join your party, or would fight other members of the party. DragonAge has expanded on this. You can even sleep with some of your fellow NPCs if you say the right combination of words over the course of the game, and give them the right number of gifts. All of which leads me to another opinion of video gaming. Teenagers and gamers will have the endless hours necessary to unravel all of the game's secrets. Regular Joe's will not. I will probably not buy another video game in a year or two. And in that time, I might finish this game. If I do, I will probably play it again as a different type of character. No way am I going to get through this game six times. Maybe six years from now. But six years from now I'll have kids of my own, and even less time. So it's nice that the game has increased playabilitiy, but it's also nice to have a plethora of online experts providing guidance on how to complete certain quests, and which gifts will make the NPCs take their clothes off sooner. Some of the characters are really enjoyable, like Morrigan, a witch, or apostate, who is pretty hot, and also pretty contrary. Other characters like Alistair provide excellent comic relief and great side quests that really help develop the story.