[PC] I Found My Filler

I decided to finally finish Dragon Age: Origins and I’ll be using that as my filler game until Skyrim comes out. Oddly enough, I completed Dragon Age 2 but not the first one. Of course, the second one was far shorter and didn’t really have as much content as the original one.

I took a look a Oblivion, but I have completed that and wasn’t all that keen on playing through it again. I was already done with Sanctum which was much like Plants vs. Zombies in that it isn’t a game you play at length over a long period of time – it’s more like Minesweeper or Solitaire.

I was flipping through Steam pages looking at games but nothing stood out. I almost picked up Dead Island but I can’t really get into zombie killing games. I feel guilty for the senseless violence they focus on all too much and it bores me in a very short time. Generally the zombies are not all that challenging or different in much other than looks. Yeah, I get that there are quests and missions and it’s sort of like Borderlands. I just don’t like the content of it. You could have quests and missions just like Borderlands but have the content be Hello Kitty stuff and it wouldn’t do anything for me either.

I even briefly considered checking out Age of Conan which I didn’t really like much beyond level 20 and not much really before then either. The idea was neat, but meh.

So after all that reflection, I decided on DA:O with the excessive gore turned down (at least turned off the persistent blood). I went with a Dalish Elf Rogue (female) because I didn’t play a rouge before and thought it might be different. My previous characters that I played through about 50-60% of the game were Warrior types; one was sword and board while the other was dual wielding and failing horribly because of the heavy armor (he was always out of energy after using one or two of the abilities).

After playing it for a bit yesterday, I’m not sure I shouldn’t just play a Mage type… That’s the same sort of trap I fell into last time, I kept restarting and trying different characters and back stories. Ah well, I’ll knuckle down and see if I can’t get it done by November 11th.

 

Game Down!

Sadness.

I beat Dragon Age 2 yesterday. I admit I was a little disappointed because it seemed short. Looking back, I playing close to 30 hours in a short time span to beat it. I got it Thursday or Friday and could have had it beat by Sunday. There were only a couple of hours left on the game when I played it yesterday.

SPOILERS AHEAD.

Again, I’ll compare it to Mass Effect 2 in degrees of content – not context of content, but formula of content. Very short main story with a lot of side quests and companion quests that fill in the time. I suspect you could easily beat the game in one day if you focused on advancing companion plots that fit with the game and skipped the rest; namely Isabella and Anders’ quest lines.

Considering the main story quests, you really only had the delve into the Deep Roads, dealing with that Chantry chick that was turning people against the Qunari, Isabella’s relic, Qunari, Anders’ quests, then the revolt against the Templars. The most time consuming part likely came from the beginning which was basically, “do quests to get 50 gold so you can advance the story.” That was all.

In the end, if you didn’t have proper rep with the companions, they might turn on you. Some appear to be predisposed to one side or the other. Oh, in case it wasn’t obvious, you end up being part of something that sparks the Circle of Magi turning on the Templars and, to some degree, the Chantry. As in, you distract the High Cleric while Anders goes and plants an arcane bomb only you don’t realize it until the Chantry explodes.

What?

I said there would be spoilers! :p

Neutral characters: Varric, Isabella
Pro-Mage characters: Anders, Merril, Bethany (if you have her)
Pro-Templar characters: Aveline, Fenris

I didn’t have Sebastian so I’m not sure which way he swings. I also didn’t have Carver because I went Warrior to start. (I am going to play through as a Mage just to see some differences. So far Bethany gets killed instead of Carver during that battle with the Ogre in the beginning.)

Did I miss anyone else?

I went Pro-Mage.

Aveline was going to side with the Templars because they represent order, however, she thought I was the shit so she stuck around and noted the Guardsmen were protecting the innocent citizens so staying out of the Magi-Templar fights. Fenris, who clearly doesn’t like Mages, flipped sides (despite having favorable rep with him) until just before the fighting started where I had the option to talk to him. I brought up the fact that the Magi were facing close to the slavery he did. This was done by selecting the “Join Me” option so he switched sides.

In my next play through I’m going to see what happens when I side with the Templars. Maybe after this one as a Mage, though it’ll be interesting to see what happens as a Mage going against the Circle? heh. I’ll have to save game lots and try it out.

I think in this play through I’ll try to fill the void in power left when the Arishok kills the Viscount. I did note there was an achievement for becoming the ruler or something and I did catch the dialog option that I suspect would have started it but decided to play neutral.

p.s. BIG SPOILER – really, I’m going to ruin the game for you if you read this. Flow of the story would be:

  1. escape from Lothering/Blight to Kirkwall (short)
  2. get into Kirkwall (short)
  3. earn 50 gold to get on board the Deep Road expedition (long)
  4. do the Deep Road where Bartrand betrays you and his brother, come back out (short)
  5. sort out Chantry+Templar+Zealot hostilities towards Qunari (medium)
  6. find Isabella’s relic, which is why the Arishok is hanging around and why she won’t ever enter the compound (short)
  7. fight your way to the Keep during the Qunari assault where you duel the Arishok (I ended up protecting Isabella, I don’t know if they’d leave peacefully) (short)
  8. power vacuum created by lack of Viscount, Meredith gets too powerful/pushy while the mages get anxious, Anders blows up the Chantry to force the issues (medium)
  9. pick sides – fight to the Gallows; resolve alliances (companions choose to stay with you or leave) (short)
  10. fight waves of the side you chose to oppose (a second chance to reconcile companions) (short)
  11. kill each of the leads of the factions; Meredith is corrupted/maddened by the idol Bartrand had taken from the Deep Road, Head Enchanter from the Circle decides to use Blood Magic – both were pretty big fights, though the one with Meredith seemed bigger/longer (short)
  12. game over

Some of those points could be mashed together and I don’t think thing you can advance the story until you sort out Bartrand the one time or distract the High Cleric for Anders. As you can see, a lot of the filler is doing the side quests or spending time earning cash for the Deep Road expedition.

That’s all for now.

Dragon Age 2 Impressions

Good stuff.

It consumed a good day and a half of my time and reduced me to grunting at TheWife in response to whatever she was talking to me about. I still have not beat the game.

It feels more like Mass Effect does than the first Dragon Age, though I do still have to force the NPCs to do certain things to avoid failure (like heal or drink a potion). I suppose I need to adjust some setting son the Tactics which could remedy that.

The shift to Mass Effect-like play solved a number of my issues with the first one and they pushed focus more towards one aspect of play (action) rather than trying to appease several crowds (the other crowd preferring the Baldur’s Gate-like game play). I suspect my job has influenced me to prefer not having to manage people in games I play – I just want to play and not have whoever is following not do stupid stuff. Dragon Age II delivers on that.

The other Mass Effect-like change was having a single main character with one storyline rather than trying to cater to several. You’re {somebody} Hawke. All the dialog reflects that. Also the selections you make don’t necessarily reflect what you say, rather how you say it which is good.

The other issues I had were with the blood splatter, which is still present but I don’t find it as bad or sickening for some reason. Either was I too tired and zombie-like to notice or they’ve adjusted the color of it so it’s not as dirty a brown-red color so it looks more… right.

Really, it’s an improvement.

I could actually see playing this game on the console easily enough and I don’t feel it’s interfered too much with the PC version (which I own). The one annoyance I have with the controls is that you can click to move with the mouse which isn’t a console item. It’s a legacy device from the Baldur’s Gate-like play style. This frustrated me greatly as the same button to select a target to focus all abilities on is the same one use for moving. I looked in the options for a way to disable it but could not find it.

I have no complaints otherwise.

Graphics good.

Animations good.

Sound was fantastic – though TheWife complained at how loud it was. I swear for the talking it was like they put the volume low but bolstered sound in combat. Checking the settings you could control this and make adjustments but it seemed like there was some hidden multiplier on the sound. i.e. I set dialog to 10 and combat sounds to 5 but there must have been a 0.5 multiplier on the dialog sound setting while there was a 1000 multiplier on the combat sound setting. Maybe I unknowingly increased the sound for combat because the jarring sounds of combat were just so good.

Story good.

Side quests good. So far I’ve only tripped over a few that weren’t clearly marked on the map or didn’t have specific text to take you to a region.

Too many things at once got a little overwhelming at times. It felt like the larger my party, the more shit I had to do to appease everyone. Lots of going back and talking to party members in their home locations (sound familiar to Mass Effect players?).

The story is definitely a good one and I have to wonder how things play out with the different class picks from the start – I started with a Rogue type, then switched to a Warrior and ran with the Warrior. I am really curious to try it as a Mage given the context of the game content – I wonder if there would be any real differences?

It’s a great game. If you like good story, action and lots of exploding bodies. Very entertaining. You might not like it as much if you preferred the Baldur’s Gate (or Neverwinter Nights) style of having to control most of the party’s actions.

 

I just skimmed a post by Graev which does mention something that was somewhat frustrating and likely a limitation of the console. Repetitive dungeon layouts. This mainly occurs with the side quests or companion quests where you reuse areas though it does dip into the main story quest a couple of times. I sort of dismissed that.

The skill tree scaling back does not bother me so much, other than there was no obvious skills to cover off picking locks – I’m running with the assumption that it’s governed by the Rogue’s Cunning attribute but I’m not sure. It’s something that shouldn’t need to be assumed but then, I didn’t read the manual.

 

DA:Origins, ME2 and WoW… Oh My!

I haven’t completed Dragon Age: Origins yet, but I swooped in, bought Mass Effect 2 and played it like a mad man.

I guess that confirms I’m starving for some good sci-fi (or non-medieval fantasy type)content. I’m even making a new Mass Effect character to play through the first one again so I can import it into Mass Effect 2.

That says something. If you know what it’s saying, let me know because I sure as hell don’t.

On the other hand, I don’t feel the, “meh, it’s medieval fantasy” feeling with WoW. I probably should be feeling that but I don’t.

I suspect it doesn’t feel like a medieval fantasy because the gameplay as a Hunter tends to be more active and I feel like I’m shooting things more than just whacking bad guys or healing people.

Star Trek Online is sci-fi but I feel no draw to that game. None.

Weird.

36 Hour Days Please…

Of course, if we ever moved to a 36 hour day (aside from being odd for the day/night cycle) the expectation would be to spend more of that time working.

But wouldn’t it be nice to have 8 hours sleep, 8 hours of work and 20 hours of other stuff instead of just 8 hours of other stuff?

I’m thinking of this because I’m running out of ‘other’ time to squeeze in game time.

On my gaming plate I have:

1. WoW
2. Divinity II
3. Dragon Age: Origins
4. Mass Effect 2

The “WoW” listing isn’t as simple as just “WoW”, I have a lot of things I feel I need to do in that game. The main thing? Random Heroics every day for my two Emblems of Frost… on two characters. Aside from that I raid somewhere between two and four nights a week. Oh and my son plays. And my sister and brother-in-law are playing. And a long time gaming friend (Frank) is back in the game so I’ve been playing with him as well.

That’s the main thing, WoW is eating a lot of my “game time”.

Don’t mistake me for spending the remaining waking hours of the day playing WoW, no. I spend time with the family, watch TV with the wife, watch cartoons with the boys, do the odd chores, play games with them, etc. Hence my use of “game time”.

I was lucky to have more game time that usual this weekend because my oldest went to visit a friend for most of Saturday and my youngest was helping his mom with stuff. I ended up playing a couple of hours of Divinity II (which I haven’t posted about yet) which was fun.

I’ve all but stalled on Dragon Age: Origins simply because I played through the various beginnings so many times. I got back to it for about one hour, finished Redcliffe and was off to Denerim to find the Ashes but stopped there.

And now Mass Effect 2! I don’t have it yet, but I will order it on Steam when I get home and I’ll be dying to play it as I raid Icecrown Citadel later tonight. I’ll do my best to avoid playing it once I’m done raiding (midnight) because it’ll be downloaded by then.

So, I need more time in a day. Get work done, get more sleep, spend good quality time with the family and still have some time left over for “game time”.

The obvious thing would be to reduce my WoW time and not ‘need’ to run the Random Heroic Daily well, every day possible. The other alternative is to see if I can function off two hours of sleep every night…

Any guesses as to which one I’ll try?

Is This Thing On?

Just checking.

I haven’t posted in awhile, probably because I haven’t been in the mood to do so although there hasn’t been a lot going on that I’d want to bore my few readers with. Because that’s what I do, I hide all the good stuff away and leave you with the uninteresting stuff. I’m saddistic like that.

A little while back I (significantly) adjusted my Reader feeds to limit the number of blogs I was following. It was getting to be a bit much and taking up too much time. I just couldn’t keep up. From now on, I’ll be clicking through my Blogroll to see who has what to say when I have some time to kill or when I’m curious.

So what’s been going on in Ogresville? Like I said above, a lot I’m not willing to talk about but I will share the following:

1. Dragon Age – the honeymoon is over. I did what I usually do and sort of put this on the back burner. What do I normally do? I start up a bunch of characters and play through the starting areas so much that I want to barf. Okay, maybe not barf, but I get sort of sick of it. I’ll get back to it soon I’m sure.

2. Left4Dead2 – I got into the swamp levels (technically, you can play any one of the levels you want, but there seems to be a sequence). It has been good fun, great outlet for stress and frustration. Not a good game to play while the kids are awake though.

3. A Gathering Storm – (Brandon Sanderson is using all the notes left behind by Robert Jordan to write the ending of this series) the  first of two books to tie up the Wheel of Time series. I’m barely into it but I can see things are really getting tied up. I don’t notice a big difference in the writing, but then it’s been awhile since I read the last one. It’s good so far. (Yes, I was missing item 3 in my first posting of this entry hehe)

4. World of Warcraft – Raiding slowed down the last two weeks. I missed the Sunday before last because, well, I pulled myself from the game and benched myself. I wasn’t in a good state to play. The following Tuesday I was just too late and the raid was full (I had one of the wife’s friends over to check something out and we were chatting). Thursday was cancelled due to Americans being late with Thanksgiving. But they should start up again on tonight.

I got my Mage to 60 and my Priest almost to 72 – I should get off my ass and get him to 80. I think the main thing holding me back on the Priest is that I know I’ll feel the ‘need’ to get the epic flying on yet another character. And I started a Rogue, who is now level 30.

I managed to finally run some TBC Heroic instances (duoing with UFTimmy) yesterday morning. That was interesting as I was juggling between looting, DPSing, talking on the phone, IMing people and eating chips – chips took priority, I will not lie. We duoed Heroic Ramparts, Blood Furnace and Slave Pens. We’ll eventually get to Underbog and the others. I’ve done most of the others except anything past the Shadow Labyrinth so those will be a treat.

I am really looking forward to the next patch. That’s about all for WoW.

5. Dungeons & Dragons – We missed a number of games, or so it feels, and I lost track of where we were. I asked the DM and he reminded me we were in a crater near a library of a ruined town. I believe we were on our way to another town.

The DM has taken to doing something I was doing during my campaign (which I got from another DM in the group) and has been throwing out bits of story which reveals to the players (not the characters) some of the things going on behind the scenes.

I started doing that because I found it gave the players a better sense of the world and a feeling that there are things going on elsewhere, the game world doesn’t just revolve around their characters (even if it really did).

6. Other Stuff.

Other things include the kids doing well at school. I was surprised to hear my four year old reading from one of his books. It’s not a complicated book but it is new so he’s only heard it read once. My older son has been impressing me with his reading as well. I think if he were to start playing WoW right now he might enjoy some of it more. Reading comes to him easier than spelling out the words.

We have the Christmas tree up already. The boys really had fun with that. They wanted to have it up for when my parents come to visit. Bby the way, the 5$ cost for WoW is really tempting me to get it for them – I suspect my father would play and my mother might pick at it some but probably not enough to warrant the monthly subscription fee.

That’s about all I have.

Dragon Age: Origins – First Impression

NOTE: I ordered the game via Steam and therefore did not have time to read the manual while on my throne. How’s that for opening a First Impression post? Some things may be revealed in the manual so understand that his post is based on just jumping right into the game.

EDIT: I will likely add to this as I remember items. I’ll do my best to make sure I note it’s an addition.

Character Creation

First I’ll start with what everyone starts with, creating a character.

The interface for this was quite intuitive and easy to use. That should be expected at this point in time, Bioware has done enough of these types of step by step character generators.

The complaint I do have is that they went with the same old races; Human, Dwarf and Elf. After seeing what they came up with in Mass Effect, I have to say I was disappointed with them choosing Dwarves and Elves. Yes, they’re the staple of most fantasy settings, but I was hoping for something different. Of course, if it was something different I’d likely have complained that it was a little too alien for my liking and I suspect a lot of fantasy loving types would pass on the game entirely. Still, only three race choices seems a little disappointing and I am talking solely about number of choices – they executed the look and feel of the races with excellence you expect from Bioware.

They did try to make up for the lack of races by having different ‘status’ for the selections. You seem to have commoner, nobility and magi status options which presents some differences in your starting experience. I don’t really see a difference otherwise, which is a little disappointing.

The attributes are pretty simple, though a little alien in that you’re not really sure how the scale works. With a D&D based setting, most people know the stat ranges (or learn them quickly). The descriptions are pretty clear, it just feels different after playing D&D for so long. Several attributes appear to tie to advancing certain skills so you will want to take careful note of that when assigning points to attributes as you advance through levels.

The initial classes are, again, more of the same. You have your warrior, rogue and caster classes. It’s apparent that some other options open up later on in-game where you have to meet some requirements or unlock these extra classes some how. You will note Allistair, when you have access to him, does have access to the Templar class as well. Overall, it was a little disappointing to see these very basic classes but I do believe they’re hoping to add flavor options to the character by those locked classes.

The skills available to your character are fairly simple, which I like, though a little too general, vague or ambiguous. For example the social interaction skill (persuade, I think) is either based on Strength or Cunning which makes sense. I’m not really sure how these all work, I’ve mainly played a melee type so I had the combat training. I didn’t see any obvious bonus to this so I suspect a lot of the passive skills have under the hood type impact.

Actually customizing the look of your character goes beyond what we’ve seen from Bioware previously (aside from Mass Effect). You get a lot more control over the look of your character in this game, even down to the point of your portrait that is assigned to that character. That’s right, you can adjust the portrait of your character; move the camera for it up, down, left or right, change the background, change the facing of your character and even change the expression of your character’s portrait (pushing the slider all the way to the right is quite comical). They even included presets for all the races for people who don’t care and just want to jump right in.

Overall the character generation was positive aside from the feeling of not knowing how everything works and what each little choice could mean down the line. (As a powergamer or min/maxer type I really do enjoy systems and knowing how things work.)

Graphics

I’m going to lump camera views and animations in with ‘graphics’. My first thought of the graphics was based on the character generation, I thought the character models and options available were quite good and resulted in some good-looking characters… graphically speaking.

My second thought on the graphics wasn’t as positive and came when I started the game and was presented with the zoomed out mode to start. I didn’t like it. I found the zoomed out versions of the characters and area lacked a lot of detail and some of those bells and whistles that are common in newer games. It just didn’t look right to me.

Zoomed it? Ahhh… nice. Zoomed out? Meh.

It’s weird and my own personal feeling.

I also found the camera didn’t  automatically rotate to make things viewable and I often couldn’t see what was going on in certain angles. Rotating the camera manually helps but I’m still not keen on that. Now playing while zoomed in felt a lot like playing a MMO or a game like Mass Effect (some people might think it sort of a console view).

Bioware makes use of all the latest bells and whistles as far as the graphics go but I did find some of the textures sort of uninspiring. Nothing that really stood out, just some items that you might pan by as you’re running along.

Overall I like the animations I’ve seen so far. It doesn’t feel as plan and hack and slash as you’d expect. The abilities I’ve used so far have had good animations. When I Shield Bash, I see it happen and the target gets knocked over. When I Overpower, I see the three hits and the guy get squashed. When I decapitate an enemy… well, it’s really messy.

Blood and gore, but mostly blood. They make liberal use of blood in this game. Apparently we’re all just walking bags of blood waiting to rupture and splatter everywhere. It is a little over the top in several  places but I do admit, coming out of a fight with blood splatter is likely truer to form. Still, lots of it.

I wish there was a /wipeface command or something because all the characters seem unphased by the blood. That is a little weird because there is a part where a sergeant is talking about the Darkspawn and telling people not to touch its blood. They also go on about how the hounds that bite the Darkspawn end up… wrong if they bite them too much. Yet here I am, covered in blood.

And the finishing attacks on key enemies is admittedly quite cool… if not bloody.

User Interface

The design is pretty simple, if you’ve ever played a MMO or CRPG before you will quickly know what is what.In the top left you have the character portrait and statuses. Each portrait is wrapped by the health and fatigue or mana of the character. To the right of that portrait you can see what action that character is performing.

Below that is the hotbar which also includes your XP bar. Moving abilities around is simple enough, as is triggering some of the abilities.I could see casters running out on bar spaces so I suspect there is a way to add more.

Overall it is responsive, though I have had occasions where none of my abilities were on cooldown but they were all darkened – I’m not sure why that was. Clicking on the portraits selects that character (I suspect F1-F{whatever} selects the characters by portrait) and focus quickly switches over to that character’s view and abilities.

In the upper middle you have your menu bar which contains all the typical buttons needed for navigating through the game aspects; Inventory, Character, Journal, Quests and Options (there are more).

The journal, or codex, has an interesting system of tracking the bits of lore. Given all the pages and numbered entries, there looks like there will be a lot of lore, information and tips to sort out.

Dialog options are about the same as all previous Bioware games. You hear what is said and have an opportunity to respond. Unlike some of their other games (like Mass Effect) you don’t hear yourself speak which I find a little jarring.

The controls seem to make sense, though I’m not keen on how some of the combat abilities work in that they seem to require some extra clicks for targeting when you’re not already attacking something. I will have to look into these some more.

I couldn’t figure out how to rotate the camera at first, but eventually found it and it does make some sense and after a short while of play (zoomed in) I was used to it. I thought it would have use the numeric keypad or the Insert/Page keys, but I was wrong. The default seems to be using the arrow keys or the A and D keys. Alternatively, you can right-click to mouse look – that might be limited to zoomed in mode.

The inventory is much as you’ve already seen, but it is a bit different in that it appears to be a shared inventory. No more rooting around looking for that item one of your characters had in a bag. All inventory appears to be lumped together and there is a lot of room. You can expand this further by purchasing bags. I worry about this a little because it seems you could make it possible for everyone to dip into the same resources. I remember previous AIs being somewhat wasteful…

EDIT: One of the fellows in my D&D group was talking about the radial menu last night. I had completely forgotten about this bit of UI.

Why?

Because I avoid it as much as possible. DA:O has a context sensitive radial menu that can be used for examining, things, destroying or using items. I’m sure there are other uses for it but I haven’t ventured far enough into the game to discover them.

I’m not a big fan of radial menus and prefer they work off of clicking rather than completely off of mouse hover. Mouse hover is prone to slipping and sometimes unintentionally closing the menu. It’s a little frustrating, especially at first. Most PC users are used to clicking to get what they want where as a console gamer might be better equiped to navigate radial menus because when they invoke it, the context of their input is on that radial menu. On a PC… not so much.

In my opinion, you should click to bring up the radial, then click on the next item to invoke it or set it as an anchor if it has subitems. The menu should not disappear unless a selection is made or another click is made to change focus. This closer mimics what a console gamer might experience as opposed to mouse moving out of the radial bounds causing the radial menu to close.

Coming back to working with items, I found using items a little different. The catch for using items is that for some you need to exit the inventory for the use to actually happen.

An example would be some of the pre-order books. I got two books; one book adds three attribute points as a bonus and the other adds a skill as a bonus. I used both from the inventory and closed the inventory to discover only the last one took effect. I had to go back into the inventory and use the first one again.

I’m not too keen on this. In some cases (like drinking a potion) it makes sense, but in other cases, not so much.

Mechanics

Combat plays sort of like the way Knights of the Old Republic did, third person over the shoulder type view where you can target enemies and start attacking. You’ll automatically path to them or you can manually control where you go – I tend to do this and it almost feels like I’m playing in a MMO.

From what I’m hearing from my friend who is playing the XBox360 version (I’m playing the PC version), he hasn’t found a way to zoom out or pause yet but it is definitely an option of play for the PC. You can zoom out for a 3d isometric, top down type view you had in NWN (Neverwinter Nights) or Baldur’s Gate (which is the correct spelling…). This sort of mode is great if you like the top down, micromanaging of your party type play.

Personally, I haven’t used it a lot, but I might get it a shot once they shiny new game smell fades. I don’t really like the look of things while zoomed out, so that is a hurdle I’ll have to get over some how. I could see some people using a hybrid of moving or exploring with the zoomed in mode then switching to zoomed out mode to handle combat. I could also see someone exploring while zoomed out and fighting while zoomed it.

Whatever suits you best.

They’ve gone and made life a little easier for players to manage their character or companions by adding “tactics” you can define for each of the characters. They’ve also tied this to an attribute (Cunning) and some skills that add more slots. In each slot you can specify a condition and what that character will do when that condition is triggered. Conditions include things like; “your health < 25%”, “enemy’s health < 25%”, “attacked by ranged” and things like that.

People who have played Final Fantasy XII might recognize this as being similar to the “gambit” system they introduced, although, FF12 did not make all the conditions available immediately, you had to learn them or purchase them and then you could use them.

Traps can become involved in combat, either as part of the set up (such as an ambush) or as something that gets in the way. Unfortunately, I wasn’t micromanaging the Rogue companion so I didn’t really make use of this. However, I did trip over one that was particularly nasty (videos may have shown this wonderful puddle of grease/oil lit up by an enemy’s flaming arrow. It hurt, a lot.

Your character can also make use of this by making their own traps, assuming you pick up the trap making skill, and finding/using materials you come across (loot, chests/bags, herbs or merchant items). I have yet to get into this.

There are also skills for creating potions from various components or herbs. This sort of thing appears to be one option of staying alive. Using poultices appears to be an instant action, almost like taking a potion. This is pretty important to know and think about while in combat and likely something that you should spread around. Magi classes also seem to be able to learn Healing type spells which are definitely useful.

The character’s natural resources are (effectively) Health, Mana and Fatigue.

Health is a measurement of your condition, if it is expended you are ‘dead’. It regenerates pretty quickly while out of combat so it’s a good idea to sometimes wait it out instead of burning healing resources outside of combat.

Casting uses a mana system, so as you cast spells it consumes mana. I didn’t play my Magi enough to note how the Mana regeneration works, I’m pretty sure there is some, but it didn’t appear to go as fast as Health regeneration does.

Fatigue is an interesting system I haven’t entirely figured out yet. I believe it is a pool you draw from for special melee attacks and it can have it’s ceiling lowered based on gear you have. For example, naked you’d have 100 but wearing a full suit of chain mail you might only have 80. I might be wrong, as noted way up top, I  have yet to read the manual but this is what I observed. I did not appear to run out of fatigue.

You appear to only ever have Mana or Fatigue, not both.

I mentioned above that when you lose all your Health you are ‘dead’, note the quotes. You’re actually disabled and once the combat is over, you will pop back up. I’m not sure if there is a catch to this because I only had one guy drop one time. He popped back up when I moved close to where his body was so I suspect there is a degree of recovery involved.

Unfortunately, I did not play a Rogue or ranged combatant type yet so I have no idea how any of their abilities work, I did observe there are abilities available for those types. There is a (short) skill tree for dual weapons, ranged weapons, weapon and shield as well as two-handers. As mentioned there are skills for traps and potions but others include making poisons and thievery (I’m not sure if that covers skulking about).

I intend to try out these two other aspects of the game as soon as I can.

Storyline and Environment

I don’t want to talk too much about the story so I don’t ruin anything for people, but so far it has been interesting and set out really well. A lot of the world factions, beliefs and superstitions have some reflection on our own but they’re all presented in a manner that makes you feel part of the world. A lot of that has to do with the voice acting and script – it is far more involving to hear someone say something than to read about someone saying something.

I’ve been really impressed with the environments I’ve seen and been involved with so far; the keep (noble human), the tower (magi), the ruins in the south, the surrounding wilderness and the tower on that site as well. The ruins area definitely has an epic feel to it, they did an excellent job there. The tower is excellent as well – I recommend, despite feeling rushed, that people stop every now and then and look around, including up.

Online Site

You can use your Bioware Community profile to log into the game (and the community site) which will allow you to purchase some extra downloadable content (I had access to all of it because I pre-ordered the deluxe version of the release).

It also allows for some neat automatic features as well. This includes automatic screenshots of certain parts of the game that get uploaded to your profile under Dragon Age: Origins, tracking of your achievements as well as game progress (quests completed and which ones you’re on). If you upload your character you (and others) can view the character’s stats, abilities, skills and gear. You can also use that character’s portrait for your online profile. Which is really cool!

The community also has other built in features like being able to create groups with a forum, organizing projects, creating your own albums (20mb of space) and keeping a list of friends.

I don’t really feel the need for yet another online community, but I definitely like how it tracks achievements and takes automatic screenshots.

The Bottom Line

Most of my complaints so far are ridiculously minor compared to the positives I couldn’t possibly claim to not like the game so far. I am pleased with my purchase and I would recommend the game to people who like CRPGs.

I would submit that the game is closer to NWN2 than BG, but I’ve heard people argue the other way. Either way, it’s pretty damn good game!

If you’re looking for a hack and slash game, this probably isn’t for you but if you’re the type that likes rich environments and great story elements, you should love this game.

Dragon Age: Origins – I Brokedid It…

Apparently I broke it twice before I even had the game. How’d I do that? Well, let me tell you… I broke the story and NPC interactions.

Wot?

That’s right. I broke a lot of the NPC interactions and dialog.

How?

First off, I made a Human Noble Warrior. In that starting line you’re the youngest noble son of some nobles. White nobles. I made my warrior black. I’m literally the black sheep in the family. Everyone else is white… mom, dad, bro… everyone.

Maybe mom ran off to Dragon Age’s equivalent of Jamaica to… well, you know what rich older white ladies like to do there… and maybe she came back with me. Dad didn’t notice, sort of like in Jim Carey in Me, Myself and Irene. Or maybe he snapped?

Minor oops there. If you’re going to be allowing some one to adjust their skin color, you might want to make sure mom and dad are similiar or throw in some sort of adoption which covers all the grounds, even if it is a little cliche.

There was another thing that threw me off in that storyline; you dismiss the absence of your brother from where you’re getting to. Now maybe I missed something, but I didn’t see him and it seems I don’t care.

He was only my step-brother anyway.

Second break was my Mage/Wizard/Caster character I created. I always imagine my wizards being sort of old and wise. I blame you Gandalf. So I made an elderly human magi… and the dialog implied that I was found at a young age to be quite gifted in magic. I moved through the apprenticeship quite quickly and now I was to face my test.

Wait a second. I started young, moved quickly through the lessons and I’m ready for testing at the ripe old age of about 60? I could be wrong, but this guy isn’t  a spring chicken anymore… he’s an old fart. What do you mean I’m young?

I couldn’t help feeling fail. Here I was, 60 years old… I probably spent 45 years in apprenticeship, but apparently that was fast.

I really did make those characters and noticed those discrepencies in the story but otherwise, I really like what I’ve seen so far. Obviously, they’re not serious issues.

One issue I did have was with their community site, which is apparently still beta. I pre-ordered the deluxe version off Steam so when I created the character I had the bonus ring you get from ordering from Steam. I was also supposed to have two adventure/setting addons, another ring or two, some armor, some books and a staff (I think – I have to double check). In order to enable this I needed to redeem my codes (I had three).

Finding the ‘redeem’ code button was easy enough, it was under the “Downloadable Content” from the game’s main menu. I click on it. Sure enough, I saw the ring and it got downloaded. I saw the two extra content pieces  but they weren’t downloading.

I hit “Redeem” and popped the codes I had from Steam in there where I got mixed messages.

It said the code wasn’t recognized AND the code was entered.

Wot?

I popped back into the game and looked at the downloadable content. It still required Bioware points. I entered the codes again. This time, no positive message, just red text saying the code could not be entered.

Now, that site is beta… but that really begs the question; Why are you using a beta site for something as important as registering the game and unlocking extras that you paid extra for?

I said screw it and played for a bit before I had to run off and pick up my boys from school.

When I got back, I fiddled around some more trying to figure out why I wasn’t getting my extras. Someone on the Steam forum noted that they logged out of the game (it has a log in – I’ll talk about that later) and then logged back in. Once they did that, all the downloadable content was available.

I gave that a try and it worked.

Why do you have to log into the game?

Well, I don’t believe you need to, but if you do it ties to your profile at that Bioware Community site. It should update achievements and upload some screenshots the game seems to automatically take as you progress through it.

Just what I need… another community.

So what about the game?

I’m too tired to answer that now, besides, I’ve played it less than a Eurogamer reviewer does. :) All jokes aside, I did only play it for three hours. I will put a first impressions post up as soon as I get some more coffee into me and collect my thoughts on it – which are all positive aside from the ones in this thread.

I made the mistake of hopping on there after raiding (around midnight) and thought, “I’ll just start my magi character and see what it’s like…” I got to bed at 2am, that should tell you how good the game is.

I need my third and fourth cup…

EDIT: For my internet stalkers… err… fans… okay, the select few that read this  blog, here is my DA:O profile. Oddly enough, it doesn’t have the data from my late night (or early morning) adventures. Aedan is actually a much higher level now and I’ve unlocked several more achievements. Odder (is that a word?) still, my Magi character doesn’t show up there but my Elf Rogue (who I haven’t played yet) does show up.

I need to make a Dwarf Two-Hander specialist…

Dragon Age Available Tomorrow…

I don’t usually pimp products like that, but I have to admit I’m really excited for this one. I pre-ordered the collector’s edition from Steam last week so I’ll kick off the download tomorrow morning (assuming it is available) and give it a bit of a whirl before I get into raiding.

Yes, I am choosing raiding over playing Dragon Age. I figure I could always take Wednesday off to play Dragon Age.

Using the preview character generator that was a free download, I created a couple of characters. The first on is a melee type, I believe he was a common rather than a noble, but I might be wrong. The second was more of a Rogue type, I went Elf commoner with that one. The last one I created was a caster type which was neat.

I’m going to have to try them all… though I’m pretty sure I’ll go through as one type and then just sort of pick at it.