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Game News Desslock – Decline of Gaming and Dragon Age II

Jaesun

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Tags: BioWare; Dragon Age 2

<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>Veteran cRPG writer Desslock ponders over the decline of cRPG gaming as well as his disappointment of the new something awesome happens combat of Dragon Age II <a href="http://www.pcgamer.com/2011/05/04/alternate-lives-dragon-age-2/">at PC Gamer</a>:</p>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<blockquote>
<p>The ones we love always hurt us the most, and the roleplaying genre has, over its many years, inflicted its rabid adherents with a few post-traumatic stress disorder-inducing moments. The most infamous occasion was the 1994 release of Ultima VIII: Pagan, the sequel to one of the most beloved RPGs. It completely abandoned the renowned features of its predecessor, and its reception prompted a written apology by series creator Richard Garriott. The simplified Deus Ex: Invisible War was another PTSD moment, as was Bethesda&rsquo;s transformation of the Fallout franchise (for isometric perspective turn-based combat fans, at least).</p>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>Ultimately, whether or not you&rsquo;re traumatized by changes to a beloved franchise depends upon how much you personally cared about those specific features that were most mutated. I actually love Fallout 3 as much as its predecessors, and wasn&rsquo;t remotely turned off by Bethesda&rsquo;s radical design changes, but other fans felt betrayed. Similarly, many RPG fans are enjoying Dragon Age 2, but for me, its release is very much a Pagan moment.</p>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>This is probably my most subjective point, but I really despise the graphical changes in DA2. I love the realistic, gritty artistic style of Dragon Age: Origins. It&rsquo;s grounded, and doesn&rsquo;t look like a cartoonish Final Fantasy game or an anime movie. It&rsquo;s Tolkien, as opposed to World of Warcraft. Dragon Age 2 is the opposite: it&rsquo;s characters are blindingly colorful, with absurdly disproportionate features, twirling fancifully-oversized and apparently weightless weapons that detonate their cartoonish enemies into fountains of gore. I find it embarrassing to play a game that looks so child-ish. The last thing Dragon Age needs is to look and feel more like God of War. Dragon Age 2&rsquo;s environments are attractive, but even that&rsquo;s offset by the fact that they&rsquo;re also recycled more frequently than in any previous RPG I can name (maybe in any game since Halo), and they&rsquo;re just as non-interactive and even more relentlessly linear than in Origins.</p>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>What annoys me most, though, are the changes to Dragon Age&rsquo;s combat. The tactical, isometric perspective has been pointlessly removed, characters hop around the battlefield like spastic Spider-Men, and combat is so frenetically paced that it&rsquo;s needlessly difficult to manage an entire party of characters. To compensate for the design (which seems primarily intended to allow gamers who don&rsquo;t like messing with details to control a single character) the game has been made incredibly unchallenging. Friendly fire has essentially been removed, since it&rsquo;s now relegated to an impractical option only available on the highest difficulty level&mdash;and it doesn&rsquo;t even work there, since the game clearly wasn&rsquo;t designed to accommodate it.</p>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>Also lost is Origins&rsquo; feeling that each battle is a carefully designed tactical set piece, with enemies sensibly placed to utilize terrain features or otherwise effectively organized. In the sequel, enemies are generally just jumbled together in meaningless masses, and each battle is indistinguishable from the last. Reinforcements haphazardly appear in virtually every fight, often behind your party, rendering tactical placement pointless. The lengthiest combat sequences are just arduous battles of attrition against enemies possessing massive hit point pools, rather than posing more tactical challenges.</p>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>At least Dragon Age 2, unlike Pagan, does have some significant strengths, particularly in its storytelling. Additionally, the UI is effectively streamlined, and the new skill trees are an interesting way to shape character development. The look and combat aren&rsquo;t inherently poor, and would&rsquo;ve been perfectly worthwhile in a sequel to BioWare&rsquo;s other experimental action RPG, Jade Empire. As part of the Dragon Age saga, however, this is more like a spin-off than a sequel.</p>
</blockquote>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>Of note, <a href="http://www.pcgamer.com/2011/03/08/dragon-age-2-review/">The PC Gaming Review</a> gave Dragon Age II a score of 94 and proclaimed it &ldquo;The best RPG combat ever.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>Spotted at: <a href="http://www.gamebanshee.com/news/102750-alternate-lives-dragon-age-ii.html ">GameBanshee</a></p>
 
Joined
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At first I was going to say something along the lines of "if even Desslock thinks DA2 was decline, it clearly means we're at the point where the combined retardo of the current crop of cRPGs is about to collapse upon itself like a dying neutron star". Then, I read "Origins’ feeling that each battle is a carefully designed tactical set piece, with enemies sensibly placed to utilize terrain features or otherwise effectively organized." Sounds like he's just jumping on the DA2 hate bandwagon 'cause it's the hip thing to do. Fuck that guy.
 

Dionysus

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Yeah, that set me off too. The thoughtless encounter design was the biggest problem with DAO.
 

quasimodo

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So Desslock who thinks Oblivion is best RPG evar and loved FO3 feels betrayed by DA2?
 

Hamster

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I love the realistic, gritty artistic style of Dragon Age: Origins. It’s grounded, and doesn’t look like a cartoonish Final Fantasy game or an anime movie. It’s Tolkien, as opposed to World of Warcraft.

:retarded:
 

Topher

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quasimodo said:
So Desslock who thinks Oblivion is best RPG evar and loved FO3 feels betrayed by DA2?

DA2 was the end result of their declining tastes, they were given exactly what they wanted and when it was given to them, when they finally saw what it was they were bringing upon themselves all this time, they didn't want it anymore but now... now their's nobody left to save them.
 

coldcrow

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That dude should be beheaded for even trying to draw a comparison between Pagan and DA2.
 

Zeus

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Jaesun said:
Of note, The PC Gaming Review gave Dragon Age II a score of 94 and proclaimed it “The best RPG combat ever.

And that's why you'll rarely find the oldschool columnists at PC Gamer actually reviewing games.

They didn't give Troy S. Goodfellow many strategy reviews, they let some other Troy do it.

Andy Mahood's the only one I know of who's allowed to review big titles like Test Drive 2, but he's the exception, because racing fans mentally split their favorite genre into Arcade and Simulation, something RPG fans have never been able to do... we tend to freak out if a game isn't KotC with prettier graphics.
 
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Melcar said:
Didn't even read it.
I never read the linked articles. Previously I used to read the summary by the newsposter, but now I've stopped doing that as well and only read the snarky attempts at humour underneath. As long as they contain an emoticon that is.
 

Kaanyrvhok

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As an action RPG Jade Empire was at least in the ballpark. DA 2 would have been a step backwards from Jade Empire in everything but party size.
 

Topher

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Kaanyrvhok said:
As an action RPG Jade Empire was at least in the ballpark. DA 2 would have been a step backwards from Jade Empire in everything but party size.

At least Jade Empire had a setting that hasn't been done to death.
 

baronjohn

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Dragon Age 1 was a complete turd. I can't think of any worse AAA games.
 

J_C

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baronjohn said:
Dragon Age 1 was a complete turd. I can't think of any worse AAA games.
Too bad. I can think of dozens of worse AAA games.
 

Zeus

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Yeah, I'm playing through Jade Empire now and actually enjoying myself. The combat is just MASH MASH MASH, but it's really not so different than the average Action RPG like Morrowind. (Same dive in, hit-hit-hit-, jump back, cast spell routine.)

Games used to be about things. There were games about driving tanks and games about flying planes, and now the only time you see shadows of those genres is in small portions of FPS games. So basically, Jade Empire's neat because it's about a martial artist, which is something you just don't see that often. It's like getting to play through a Bruce Lee movie.

Like, my character is mentally Jackie Chan. I read all his dialog in broken English. It's hilarious. And they scripted enough responses so you really can come off like some smiling do-gooder from out of town, just like Super Cop or Rumble in the Bronx. Normally, when I play a game with a good and evil path, the good path comes off as some pretentious paladin, but not my guy--he's Jackie freaking Chan. He rides into town, falls on his head and saves the day.

It's such a nice change from the usual, "DO U WANT GRIZZLE WARRIOR SNEAK THIEF OR BEARDMAN IN LADYDRESS?"
 

Gosling

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Dionysus said:
Yeah, that set me off too. The thoughtless encounter design was the biggest problem with DAO.

Stop the bullshits, start the truths.
Desslock is actually right - in a lot of instances enemies in DA were handplaced and utilized terrain: archers and mages were put on raised terrain or balconies, well behind the fighter lines, while narrow passageways leading to them were filled with traps, thieves would ambush you at the most innoportune moment, firebal-hurling arcane horrors would suddenly break into a room when you were surrounded by zombies, even in the Korkari wilds the Genlock Emissary (or whatever the guy's name) would retreat after being hit only to lure you into a a carefuly set ambush.
There was a lot of mindless enemy mobs too, but quite a large number of encounters were actually well-designed.

As it has been mentioned before the tedium of DA combat stemmed from fighting the same 3 enemy archetypes countless times over and having a limited set of tactics due to a not very complicated combat system. But saying that there was no thought behind encounter design just because you did not like the game is stretching the truth a bit too much.
 

Shannow

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Also lost is Origins’ feeling that each battle is a carefully designed tactical set piece, with enemies sensibly placed to utilize terrain features or otherwise effectively organized. In the sequel, enemies are generally just jumbled together in meaningless masses, and each battle is indistinguishable from the last. Reinforcements haphazardly appear in virtually every fight, often behind your party, rendering tactical placement pointless. The lengthiest combat sequences are just arduous battles of attrition against enemies possessing massive hit point pools, rather than posing more tactical challenges.
Seems like Bio had a little mix-up. With Origins Desslock clearly got the version that lacked "enemies are generally just jumbled together in meaningless masses, and each battle is indistinguishable from the last." and "The lengthiest combat sequences are just arduous battles of attrition against enemies possessing massive hit point pools, rather than posing more tactical challenges."
With Daatoo Bio obviously didn't want to give Desslock a version that lacked all combat so he got the same version as everybody else. That's what happens with short production cycles.


(And going 3D, RT was Beth's least offence against Fallout, the least. :mob: )
 

gromit

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Jaesun said:
Pagan was awesome. Fuck the haters!
:bro:
Although, reading this did grant me some perspective as a latecomer to Ultima. There were a lot of changes made (almost as many as from VI to VII) and a complete change of setting, but by the time I got around to playing them the series wasn't beloved for, say, its party control. Looking back on the series and its standouts, Pagan still has the fundamentals of those, at least as I count them: intuitive and consistent world interaction, ample opportunity to make use of it, a good sense of "show don't tell" (both in "telling story" and in directing the player) and a strong theme revolving around virtue. It sits perfectly in a (half-finished at best) trilogy revolving around corruption of the virtuous, and ultimately virtue itself, by twisting the principles: falsehood after falsehood, as after the escapades brought about by the Fellowship's "love," the Avatar courageously sees through terrible things to reach Brittania, figuring it to be aflame that very moment, only to find the Guardian's been busy being its "caretaker." His pillars are now in place, and all across the land are questioning the very truth of the virtues.

Ascension, now there's an anti-sequel. How Desslock can have a mad-on for Pagan while simultaneously celebrating some of the things he has, I don't entirely know. But ultimately I guess it comes down to what you're looking for from a game or series. Is NV a Fallout game? I mean, we can't even agree what is / is not even an RPG most of the time.
 

sea

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Desslock said:
Also lost is Origins’ feeling that each battle is a carefully designed tactical set piece, with enemies sensibly placed to utilize terrain features or otherwise effectively organized. In the sequel, enemies are generally just jumbled together in meaningless masses, and each battle is indistinguishable from the last. Reinforcements haphazardly appear in virtually every fight, often behind your party, rendering tactical placement pointless. The lengthiest combat sequences are just arduous battles of attrition against enemies possessing massive hit point pools, rather than posing more tactical challenges.
... b-but, the game's biggest problem combat-wise was that they wasted a decent battle system by filling the game with trash mobs and endless waves of the same generic enemies! I mean, yes, there are good fights and encounters, but... no, not most of them. I mean, yes, Dragon Age II's endless respawning dudes make the combat in the first game look damn near excellent, but still, were we playing different games? Maybe he quit playing before the Deep Roads, and ended on the game's high point in Orzammar.

Also, on the art style: I think Dragon Age actually looks great artistically. The problem is that the technology and limitations of consoles kind of prevent it from coming out strongly. If you look at a lot of the little differences in the architectural styles, the small details in furniture and objects, the cohesiveness of most scenes, the lighting (especially in Awakening, there are some really beautiful scenes there), etc. you'll see that a lot of care and effort was put into it. And I don't think that anyone can look at a scene like the ruins of Ostagar and say that it isn't at least a little impressive.

But damn, are the people in that game fugly.

Zeus said:
Yeah, I'm playing through Jade Empire now and actually enjoying myself. The combat is just MASH MASH MASH, but it's really not so different than the average Action RPG like Morrowind. (Same dive in, hit-hit-hit-, jump back, cast spell routine.)

Games used to be about things. There were games about driving tanks and games about flying planes, and now the only time you see shadows of those genres is in small portions of FPS games. So basically, Jade Empire's neat because it's about a martial artist, which is something you just don't see that often. It's like getting to play through a Bruce Lee movie.

Like, my character is mentally Jackie Chan. I read all his dialog in broken English. It's hilarious. And they scripted enough responses so you really can come off like some smiling do-gooder from out of town, just like Super Cop or Rumble in the Bronx. Normally, when I play a game with a good and evil path, the good path comes off as some pretentious paladin, but not my guy--he's Jackie freaking Chan. He rides into town, falls on his head and saves the day.

It's such a nice change from the usual, "DO U WANT GRIZZLE WARRIOR SNEAK THIEF OR BEARDMAN IN LADYDRESS?"
100% agree here. Jade Empire is not a great game... the writing is awful, sappy, stilted, and occasionally borderline racist and insulting in the same way poorly-dubbed samurai movies from the 50s and 60s are, not to mention the characters are probably the worst BioWare have ever done. But at least the setting is very unique, the entire game has this sort of magical/mystical atmosphere, and the combat is a lot of fun, and even pretty good next to full on action games. I'm willing to forgive a lot if a game is able to really stick to its theme well, and we need more themes other than "elves! dwarves!" and "it's like real life, but with more grey."
 

1eyedking

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Futile Rhetoric said:
At first I was going to say something along the lines of "if even Desslock thinks DA2 was decline, it clearly means we're at the point where the combined retardo of the current crop of cRPGs is about to collapse upon itself like a dying neutron star". Then, I read "Origins’ feeling that each battle is a carefully designed tactical set piece, with enemies sensibly placed to utilize terrain features or otherwise effectively organized." Sounds like he's just jumping on the DA2 hate bandwagon 'cause it's the hip thing to do. Fuck that guy.
Goddamit where's my scriptedage.gif when I need it...
 

Multi-headed Cow

Guest
In before Desslock gives Skyrim 96% and editor's choice in PC Gamer.
 

Radisshu

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Futile Rhetoric said:
At first I was going to say something along the lines of "if even Desslock thinks DA2 was decline, it clearly means we're at the point where the combined retardo of the current crop of cRPGs is about to collapse upon itself like a dying neutron star". Then, I read "Origins’ feeling that each battle is a carefully designed tactical set piece, with enemies sensibly placed to utilize terrain features or otherwise effectively organized." Sounds like he's just jumping on the DA2 hate bandwagon 'cause it's the hip thing to do. Fuck that guy.
 

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