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Review Dragon Age: Choices and Consequences

DarkUnderlord

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Tags: BioWare; Dragon Age

Vault Dweller reviews BioWare's Dragon Age and takes a look at its choices and consequences. Here's a snip:

It's hard to find a better way to introduce a game world, its different races and customs than by tasking the player with seeking allies and offering several gameworld-affecting options, which, in essence, give you an opportunity to tweak the gameworld to your liking.​

Can't overcome your dislike of the nature-dwelling, freedom-loving elves? Replace them with werewolves (by convincing the werewolves to wipe out the elves). Think that nothing good comes from meddling with magic? Let the Circle die in the tower and tell the templars to imprison the rest. Or, if you're a blood mage practicing the forbidden art, use this opportunity to wipe out both the templars and the Circle mages while they're weakened. A goal as flexible and generic as "gather allies" works perfectly with this design by encouraging you to understand your potential options, giving you the appropriate choices, and generating the logical outcomes and consequences.​

Read the rest here.
 

bhlaab

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Why is this the only review of the game in existence that so much as mentions the character system, let alone critiques it.
 

janjetina

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I agree with majority of the things in the review, with a few variations.

Vault Dweller said:
The combat system comes with auto-healing, auto-mana refill, auto-revival, and limited level scaling. Overall, they work well because of all the combat filler. With less combat, they would have been more noticeable and jarring, but considering how much stuff you have to kill, you'll be grateful that you don't need to heal/revive your party members every 5 min.

Level scaling doesn't work well because of the combat filler. It just doesn't work well. An intrinsic and inevitable flaw of level scaling (for example, fights with generic random bandits are equally annoying below 10th level as they are above 15th level) is present. Additionally, level scaled generic opponents contribute to, as you've correctly pointed, the worst aspect of DA, i.e. "drowning truly memorable fights in an ocean of combat filler", as the time and effort (physical, as in clicking and mental, as in enduring banal shit boring, and in enduring growing strong) spent on a single tedious filler encounter is no less than time and effort (requiring some tactical thinking) spent on a rare memorable encounter.

Regarding the setting, the way city of Denerim has been presented is a glaring flaw. A small district that doesn't feel alive represents the city for most of the game. Due to lack of content, it seems like a Potemkin village instead of a big city. Bioware should have consulted their previous work, where cities like Athkatla and Baldur's Gate look and feel like cities.
 

Jim Cojones

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Very good review. Although it is pretty obvious the overall positive tone of the review is strictly connected to the fact that EA offered you to publish AoD and, if it will turn any profit, buy ITS for gazillions of dollars. :wink:

It's hard to find a better way to introduce a game world, its different races and customs than by tasking the player with seeking allies and offering several gameworld-affecting options, which, in essence, give you an opportunity to tweak the gameworld to your liking.
The problem is that you don't really have to search for allies. Just after the lost battle against the darkspawns, you are strictly told will you find them what kills almost all the fun you could have from exploring the world. Compare it with Fallout which had much simpler goals but at the beginning you had almost no information where to look for the chip. Or even better, with Dark Sun where your aim was identical to the one in DA but again you were only given vague directions where you can look for vilages.

The combat system is real-time with pause. It works well because the character system is solid and provides a lot of options. It has the potential to be one of the best RT systems, but the insane amount of combat filler ruins the combat and replayability. The non-filler fights are interesting and challenging, forcing you to understand the options and try different tactics. The combat filler, which sadly represents at least 80% of the combat encounters, isn't as exciting and can only be described as an exercise in tedium and patience.
And these options are... The interesting combat encounters were...

From my short experience (mage tower completed, stopped playing in arl's castle) every encounter played more or less the same and using stun/freeze/etc. abilities being the only thing you need to do to win, well except drinking a potion once a while, - the tactic that never failed. Maybe it gets better later in game when you get much more abilities and the opponents have better resistances. Maybe it would work differently if I used different characters and different builds but that's hardly an excuse.

Now I wouldn't mind playing with overpowered party if combat in game was fast so I can get to more interesting part of the game. But when I see another group of opponents that I can easily defeat in exactly the same way I did with thousands of other enemies but will have to hack 'n' slash them for five minutes and exactly the same will be repeated in the next room... A nightmare.

Or if the encounters were supposed to drain my resources. But game has health and mana regeneration, it offers you practically unlimited sources of potions and the only penalty you can get from combat are wounds that, as you admitted, don't matter much in the way they are implemented.

Or if the combat was boring but at least the visual aspect would make it a bit satisfying. But the truth is that I really don't remember if the animations were any good. Why? Because of the RTWP system and cooldown system. So I never observed battlefield while the game was unpaused but watched health/man bars, skills bar and the actions assigned to my party members, listed next to the portraits.

The combat system comes with auto-healing, auto-mana refill, auto-revival, and limited level scaling. Overall, they work well because of all the combat filler. With less combat, they would have been more noticeable and jarring, but considering how much stuff you have to kill, you'll be grateful that you don't need to heal/revive your party members every 5 min.
Excuse me, but it does sound a bit like "It's a pile of shit but it lies next to an even bigger pile of shit so it's OK".

And it doesn't work well together for the reasons mentioned above. There is some place for filler encounters in games if they are supposed to drain your resources. Encounters in DA don't do that.

The battle is very challenging, especially on Hard. I played it 3 times: died the first time, barely survived the second time but lost everyone in the village and managed to save a handful of people on my third try after I considered and planned every move. Apparently, the game rewards you if you manage to defend the village without any casualties, but this feat would greatly surpass my tactical skills. Design-wise, it's pretty good and, if you go for "keep everyone alive" option, is on par with the hardest BG2 battles. The village is certainly a great example of taking a generic and seemingly boring "undead attack a village" setup and turning it into something interesting, challenging, and tactical.
It is actually the fight that made me stop playing DA. I explored the castle a little more after that but with no enthusiasm and uninstalled the game shortly after. It not only throws at you a horde of identical foes (with some bosses who did not have any particular traits and maybe were a bit tougher but it's difficult to say because of the way most of the mathematical background of the combat is hidden from the player) but also spawns new foes during the combat what lefts you completely clueless whether you are close to victory or will have to kill fifty other undead.
 

Lockkaliber

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Good review, although I do not agree about the writing and setting. If they want to make a game that is as storydriven as DA is, they need to hire someone better than Gaider for writing, or go back to licenses where he can get inspiration from something that's not completely devoid of original and interesting ideas.
 
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I remain unconvinced by the quest design because all the quests have clearly optimal solutions. There were some occasions on which I thought I had some interesting choices, but when I looked at the opportunities carefully I saw that one of them had all of the upsides but none of the downsides. This removes the "consequences" part of C&C and also the "choices" part since the choice is between a superior and an inferior option.

Also, the magic system is NOT well done. The answer to every challenge is "use more mages", and since all of them can pick spells independent of any sort of school and the ultimate spell of a line comes after 4 talents they are ridiculously overpowered.

deranged said:
Although I have only finished the first hub (Mage's Circle) from what I've seen so far he's spot on.

Come back after you've finished the derp roads plz.
 

Volourn

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"equally annoying below 10th level as they are above 15th level)"

Bullshit lie.



"Come back after you've finished the derp roads plz."

The Derp Roads have the best, most interesting combat.


P.S. VD is wrong. BG is not BIO's most successful project. That's NWN )with likely ME series to surpass it).


P.S.S."The problem with licenses is that although they do have a magical effect on sales"

People keep spamming this like it's a fact but with all the absolute bombs with the D&DF logo on it is balony. I'd wager a SD&D game is mroe likely to fail then succeed. L0LZ
 

Vault Dweller

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Lockkaliber said:
Good review, although I do not agree about the writing and setting. If they want to make a game that is as storydriven as DA is, they need to hire someone better than Gaider for writing, or go back to licenses where he can get inspiration from something that's not completely devoid of original and interesting ideas.
You assume that the setting is the best that Gaider could come up with. I started with that Dave Maldonado's quote for a reason.

Volourn said:
P.S. VD is wrong. BG is not BIO's most successful project. That's NWN )with likely ME series to surpass it).
The BG series sold 5 mil copies. Bio's NWN games sold 3 mil. The info is from the Bioware site.

P.S.S."The problem with licenses is that although they do have a magical effect on sales"

People keep spamming this like it's a fact but with all the absolute bombs with the D&DF logo on it is balony. I'd wager a SD&D game is mroe likely to fail then succeed.
A license won't save a bad game, but if we have two games of equal quality (no matter how good or bad), a game with a license will outsell a "no brand" game.

herostratus said:
I remain unconvinced by the quest design because all the quests have clearly optimal solutions.
Proof?

Take the urn quest, for example. Which solution is more optimal: side with the cultists and destroy the ashes or protect the ashes and kill the cultists? Or the werewolves quest: keep the curse and kill the elves, kill the werewolves, or lift the curse - which one is the "clearly optimal solution" and why?

Also, the magic system is NOT well done. The answer to every challenge is "use more mages"...
You're confusing the magic system with the encounter design.

...and since all of them can pick spells independent of any sort of school and the ultimate spell of a line comes after 4 talents they are ridiculously overpowered.
The "ultimate" spells aren't super powerful.

Jim Cojones said:
Compare it with Fallout which had much simpler goals but at the beginning you had almost no information where to look for the chip. Or even better, with Dark Sun where your aim was identical to the one in DA but again you were only given vague directions where you can look for vilages.
Different design, different setup, different goals. In Fallout you're new to the world. Telling you where to go wouldn't make sense. In DA you know the gameworld and you're given the ancient treaties clearly telling you where to seek the allies. I would have preferred a different setting, story, and setup, but the DA setup works with the story and the setting.

And these options are...
The combat options. I thought they were too obvious to spell them out.

The interesting combat encounters were...
The fight with the ogre in the tower. The fight in the village. The fight with the cultist leader. The optional fight with the dragon up in the mountains (that's where you'll need and will appreciate all the combat options). The mad hermit. The revenants who guard armor pieces, especially the one early in the forest. Most "hand-crafted" fights, I'd say.

But when I see another group of opponents that I can easily defeat in exactly the same way I did with thousands of other enemies but will have to hack 'n' slash them for five minutes and exactly the same will be repeated in the next room... A nightmare.
That's the filler combat that almost ruined the game.

Excuse me, but it does sound a bit like "It's a pile of shit but it lies next to an even bigger pile of shit so it's OK".
I've stated my position many times on this issue, so here is a short version:

There is nothing wrong with auto-healing, auto-mana-refilling, even auto-resurrection because I doubt that drinking health and mana potions or casting resurrection spells (or reloading) is such a highlight of gaming experience. Everything depends on implementation and the overall game design. Considering that DA has a shitload of combat and that you can neither avoid being hit or casting spells, being forced to distribute and drink potions every few minutes would have been a horrible chore and wouldn't have made the game better.
 

Volourn

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"A license won't save a bad game, but if we have two games of equal quality (no matter how good or bad), a game with a license will outsell a "no brand" game."

You claimed licenses had a 'magical' effect on sales. They do not. They have a logical effect; not maghical. Nor, do they come close to guaranteeing success. D&D espicially since if I were to do research, I'd likely find that more than half of games based on D&D were failures both sales and espicially critically. *shruG*



"The BG series sold 5 mil copies. Bio's NWN games sold 3 mil. The info is from the Bioware site."

NWN is more successful. This comes from a BIOweenie. BG had two full games and two expansions. And, more time. But, let's be clear, BIO's most successful project is NWN. And, Im believe them about this than you since they have the facts and you have nothing but bias. btw, I bet if we throw NWN2 into the mix, NWEN series would have more sales, and yeah, NWN2 is not an actual BIO game but no doubt plenty of its sales came from the pimping of BIO's name. Quoting some of outdate random number sfrom the BIO site doesn't prove anything. You are also ignore all the premium mods as well. Convienent.

ME has a good shot at beating it, and DA maybe. But, nope, not the Bg seriesno matter how desperately some may want it to be so.
 

bhlaab

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Volourn said:
"The BG series sold 5 mil copies. Bio's NWN games sold 3 mil. The info is from the Bioware site."

NWN is more successful. This comes from a BIOweenie. BG had two full games and two expansions. And, more time. But, let's be clear, BIO's most successful project is NWN. And, Im believe them about this than you since they have the facts and you have nothing but bias. btw, I bet if we throw NWN2 into the mix, NWEN series would have more sales, and yeah, NWN2 is not an actual BIO game but no doubt plenty of its sales came from the pimping of BIO's name. Quoting some of outdate random number sfrom the BIO site doesn't prove anything. You are also ignore all the premium mods as well. Convienent.

Yeah, he conveniently ignored all the stuff Bioware had nothing to do with.
And I'm fairly sure the sales data on the Bioware website has been updated within the last 8 years or so.
 

Volourn

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"Yeah, he conveniently ignored all the stuff Bioware had nothing to do with. "

BIO had nothing to do with premium modules?

BIO had nothing to do with a sequel that used their engine and pimped their name to get extra sales?

LMAO

I trust BUIO in this. They stated that NWN was their most successful game. Period.

This was before the ME, and DA hoopla so that could have changed but as far as Bg goes. NO!
 

Vault Dweller

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Volourn said:
"The BG series sold 5 mil copies. Bio's NWN games sold 3 mil. The info is from the Bioware site."

NWN is more successful. This comes from a BIOweenie. BG had two full games and two expansions. And, more time. But, let's be clear, BIO's most successful project is NWN. And, Im believe them about this than you since they have the facts and you have nothing but bias.
Crazy as ever, Volly?

First, I can honestly say that I couldn't care less which Bio game was more successful. I'm not BG biggest fan around these parts.

Second, the info comes from Bioware, as I noted especially for you, not from wiki or some internet posts. If you want to believe otherwise, you have my permission.

Carry on.
 

Ryuken

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Spot-on review, though I should add it's not just the filler encounters which get in the way. The fact you can't actually block pathways is incredibly irritating. It's like everyone's floating on the ground.

Also, the zoomed out overview is still too close-up compared to the IE games, more camera settings (like being able to switch off auto-focusing on your party members) would have been nice as well.

It ain't the perfect BGIII yet but it's an improvement in the roleplaying department for sure.

EDIT: NWN was successful for other reasons than BG and BGII. NWN had the multiplayer options, mod tools but BG and BGII had the better campaign and a richer gameplay style due to the big party size.
 
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Vault Dweller said:
herostratus said:
I remain unconvinced by the quest design because all the quests have clearly optimal solutions.
Proof?

Take the urn quest, for example. Which solution is more optimal: side with the cultists and destroy the ashes or protect the ashes and kill the cultists? Or the werewolves quest: keep the curse and kill the elves, kill the werewolves, or lift the curse - which one is the "clearly optimal solution" and why?
For the Elves: convince Sathrian to lift the curse. Everybody becomes happy except for some emo elf you meet later, and she is easy to convince.

For the ashes: A powergamer could defile the ashes, get the spec, then kill the cultists to get the horn, then kill the dragon. I didn't though; I didn't care about the spec since I din't need it and just killed everybody. That specific part of that quest does have an interesting choice though, one of very few, and the previous parts of that quest that you mention does have very clear optimal solutions. To address them specifically:

Now, this wouldn't be the first time we've encountered villages in need of aid against marauding undead in an RPG, but Dragon Age does a good job in providing you with real options. You can choose to leave the town,
Clearly inferior choice story- xp- and loot wise.
Sure, you can convince the blacksmith to come out of his shop and make the defenders weapons. But you can also kill him, loot his shop and distribute the goods to the defenders.
Killing him is an inferior choice storywise and lootwise(he won't sell you shit later) and maybe also xp-wise, I dunno. Particularly since all you have to do to convince the smith to help you is a promise to try to find his daughter.
1) The simplest option is just to kill the boy.
2) Go into the Fade and challenge the demon for control of the boy's soul.
[...]
1) Use Blood Magic to travel to the Fade, killing the mother in the process.
2) Go to the Circle for help, should they still exist.
Getting the Circle to help is the optimal solution for obvious reasons. Of course, if you killed the circle you can't do that, but saving the circle is another optimal solution and it is just as easy as destroying it so why on earth would you.

And in exchange, she will give you a... favour. If you're good enough at intimidation, you can convince her to leave the boy AND give you a favour, just for showing mercy in not destroying her.
I admit I missed this on my playthrough, as i didn't play as a mage. This sounds interesting, but then I checked the dragonage wiki:
If the option, "(Intimidate) How about you leave and I do not destroy you." is selected the only way to still get a reward from the demon is if a second, harder Intimidate is passed: "(Intimidate) On the contrary, I believe you can offer more." This is the only way to get the demon to leave for good, or at least promise to leave for good, and still get a reward from it.
^^ optimal


Also, the magic system is NOT well done. The answer to every challenge is "use more mages"...
You're confusing the magic system with the encounter design.
Please elaborate. I found every challenge, even the bosses, easier with Morrigan + Wynne instead of only one of them.

...and since all of them can pick spells independent of any sort of school and the ultimate spell of a line comes after 4 talents they are ridiculously overpowered.
I meant that mages are overpowered since they can pick with so few restrictions, not that the lvl 4 spells necessarily are overpowered.
Although I wrote that a bit clumsily.
 

Volourn

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"Killing him is an inferior choice storywise and lootwise(he won't sell you shit later)"

Ignorance is blissful.




"^^ optimal "

OMGZ Skill checks for 'optimal' solutions. Also, is it really optimal? Nah, not really. Not if you are role-playinga character with morals. Doofus. This is one of the situations where it pays to be an asswipe.
 

Vault Dweller

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herostratus said:
For the Elves: convince Sathrian to lift the curse. Everybody becomes happy except for some emo elf you meet later, and she is easy to convince.
It's an optimal solution for a goody two-shoes character who wants to help everyone, not for a character who, for example, wouldn't want to destroy such a perfect killing machine as a werewolf. Nor for someone who dislikes the elves and sees a perfect opportunity to destroy them with their own weapon.

For the ashes: A powergamer could defile the ashes, get the spec, then kill the cultists to get the horn, then kill the dragon.
Who cares what a powergamer would do?

"Now, this wouldn't be the first time we've encountered villages in need of aid against marauding undead in an RPG, but Dragon Age does a good job in providing you with real options. You can choose to leave the town..."
Clearly inferior choice story- xp- and loot wise.
It's a choice for someone who's in a hurry or for someone who shares Morrigan's point of view. I'm not a powergamer, so I'm not looking at choices from xp and loot point of view.

What I like in games is a choice to do things differently and play a different character. This choice gives you an option to say "not my problem" and I welcome it for that.

"Sure, you can convince the blacksmith to come out of his shop and make the defenders weapons. But you can also kill him, loot his shop and distribute the goods to the defenders. "
Killing him is an inferior choice storywise and lootwise(he won't sell you shit later) and maybe also xp-wise, I dunno. Particularly since all you have to do to convince the smith to help you is a promise to try to find his daughter.
Again, you're looking at it from a completely different angle. How easy it is to convince him is absolutely irrelevant. Same goes for which option gives you more xp or loot, although killing him gives you access to his secret stash, so...

Getting the Circle to help is the optimal solution for obvious reasons. Of course, if you killed the circle you can't do that, but saving the circle is another optimal solution and it is just as easy as destroying it so why on earth would you.
I'm not sure you get what role-playing is.

Why would you destroy the mages? If you think that they are too restrictive, if you disagree with what they do, if you think that the world is better off without them, if you're a blood mage, etc.

Why would you not go to the Circle? Maybe you want to protect the blood mage (if you started as a mage, he's your friend), maybe you think that you don't need anyone's help, maybe you think that the stupid woman has done enough harm and that she should pay for what she did.

It sounds like you're playing a certain type of character who helps everyone and seeks best possible solutions that are good for everyone, and you think that solutions that are best for this character are best for everyone, which isn't the case.

I admit I missed this on my playthrough, as i didn't play as a mage. This sounds interesting, but then I checked the dragonage wiki:

"If the option, "(Intimidate) How about you leave and I do not destroy you." is selected the only way to still get a reward from the demon is if a second, harder Intimidate is passed: "(Intimidate) On the contrary, I believe you can offer more." This is the only way to get the demon to leave for good, or at least promise to leave for good, and still get a reward from it."
^^ optimal
First, it requires passing a second check. Second, it's the same choice with 2 options tied to your Intimidate skill. If you have the skill, you get an extra reward. These are not two different choices. Third, again, if you're playing a character who wants to kill the demon, then killing the demon is the optimal option.

I found every challenge, even the bosses, easier with Morrigan + Wynne instead of only one of them.
Since it's a subjective area, it's hard for me to comment on your experience.

I meant that mages are overpowered since they can pick with so few restrictions, not that the lvl 4 spells necessarily are overpowered.
I don't think that mages are overpowered. I think they are easier to play, but in my experience fighters and rogues are every bit as powerful once you get to know the system better.
 

POOPERSCOOPER

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Volourn said:
"

"The BG series sold 5 mil copies. Bio's NWN games sold 3 mil. The info is from the Bioware site."

NWN is more successful. This comes from a BIOweenie. BG had two full games and two expansions. And, more time. But, let's be clear, BIO's most successful project is NWN. And, Im believe them about this than you since they have the facts and you have nothing but bias. btw, I bet if we throw NWN2 into the mix, NWEN series would have more sales, and yeah, NWN2 is not an actual BIO game but no doubt plenty of its sales came from the pimping of BIO's name. Quoting some of outdate random number sfrom the BIO site doesn't prove anything. You are also ignore all the premium mods as well. Convienent.

ME has a good shot at beating it, and DA maybe. But, nope, not the Bg seriesno matter how desperately some may want it to be so.


This is the first time I've notice Volourn say something completely false and untrue. Usually he is the one to call bullshit on stuff but look at him try to cover up his stink hole.
 

L233

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Vault Dweller said:
I don't think that mages are overpowered. I think they are easier to play, but in my experience fighters and rogues are every bit as powerful once you get to know the system better.
This is true. Rogues, with the right skills and equipment, do by far the most single-target damage. Other classes don't even come remotely close. It's mainly because of the fact that they don't need stamina in order to backstab, which allows them to stack every buff they have available and just keep backstabbing away, and because of the abundance of +backstab damage items.

I've made 2 videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=te2Qeyc4fT4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLeg9lqWL9Y

The first one is a fight against a Revenant, mid-level Rogue. The second one is a fight against some other mini-boss with a high-level rogue. Normal difficulty. It's a stength-based rogue build with a 1h sword in the main hand. I think I've read somewhere that post-patch dagger builds do even more damage now, though I wonder what I'd need more damage for. The only thing that doesn't die in a matter of seconds are dragons that prevent me from backstabbing with their kick attack.

Mages are powerful, but so are rogues - if you put some thought into your skills and equipment.
 

Volourn

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And, without warriors, both those classes can die pretty quick - espicially mages. L0L 2-4 hits by pretty much anything. That's a pretty major weakness.
 

Thrasher

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One test is the ability to solo or not. If your rogue could reliably stun or do some other crowd control, then he would be viable as a solo. Same thing with an Arcane Warrior, which seems more viable as a soloist.
 

relootz

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Good review VD, i agree with most of what you say, although i do find mages to be overpowered. Especially against orange opponents spells are far more reliable then weapons. This probably also has something to do with the AOE retaliation attacks that most of the really though orange opponents do.
 

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