Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dragon Age broke me

Shamus Young and a few other people have this Internet show which I don't like, even though I think it's objectively good. But that's besides the point. Most recently, they are playing "The Walking Dead". Shamus introduced the game thus:
"What if you took the choice and conversation wheel gameplay of (say) Dragon Age or Mass Effect, and made that into a game all by itself? No shooter combat. No classes. No equipment. You just talk and make decisions. The whole time."

And I imediately thought "that sounds absolutely awful and terrible". (To add a disclaimer: I have not played the game. I have not watched videos of the game. I have not read coverage of the game. I have no idea whatsoever if this description is indeed accurate. Also, I hate zombies. Have I mentioned that recently?)

...and a few days later, I have begun to wonder WHY exactly I had this reaction.

...and a few days later, I was beginning to think the answer is Dragon Age.

...and after writing all of the above, I am sure the answer is Dragon Age.

That is for two reasons:

1) I did not consciously recall that Shamus mentioned Dragon Age in the description until I had to copy and paste that paragraph into this post. I only recalled Mass Effect; and in fact, one of the reasons I started thinking my reaction was unwarranted was that the dialogue in Mass Effect was not particularly aggravating.
2) Shamus later mentions that the game is made by Telltale and not Bioware. But I did not remember that. So I was working on an implicit connnection: Mass Effect => Bioware.

And what's so bad about Bioware dialogue systems? Dragon Age. (YMMV). So let's talk Dragon Age.

(Second disclaimer: my experience with Dragon Age is limited to Origins. I did not play the sequel, because I disliked the original.)

In my opinion, Dragon Age had three major issues:
1) The inventory management.
2) The combat.
3) The dialogue side-effects.

And a minor but incredibly annoying one: the inconsistent dialogue skipping (which they hadn't fixed by the time they released the next Mass Effect, which might have been 2; was it fixed in 3?)

[Sidenote: were there problems with the story too? FUCK YEAH. But I am biased towards gameplay; I believe that good gameplay will carry a bad story anywhere - hey, see Mass Effect 3! ZING! -, but good storytelling will only carry bad gameplay so far. So I tend to judge games based on gameplay.]

With regards to the inventory management, I think it was objectively bad. But then again, nowadays I tend to believe that about all inventory systems which have constraints without VERY VERY good reasons (Risen broke me, but in a good way).

With regards to combat, I know some people liked it, so it's purely subjective. It felt to me like they just took all aspects of MMO combat which I loathed and mashed them together. YMMV.

So - to get back on track - what was so bad about the dialogue?

To me, the dialoue was THE MOST TERRIFYING PART OF THE GAME. And that is simply because, in my experience with Dragon Age: Origins, a lot more could go wrong during dialogue than during any other part of the gameplay.

And it was (mostly) because of the companions and the fucking approval system.

Ugh, I am rewriting this paragraph for the third time. Apparently I find it hard to put into words how much i hated THE FUCKING APPROVAL SYSTEM. So I'll just have to say that it was a decent idea with a very flawed execution. And now I'll explain how it tied into dialogue: dialogue choices could affect the approval rating of certain companions. Without you knowing in advance. And often with the same choice prompting opposite reactions from different companions (which you may have happened to have both with you at the time).

The dialogue side-effects turned me into a WHORE. I did not care about properly playing my character; I only cared that I did not hurt the oh-so-precious feelings of my easily-insulted minions. AND I FUCKING HATED IT.

So... yeah. That's it in a nutshell. Phew. Glad to have that off my chest.

So I guess I could give The Walking Dead a try; I mean, not all dialogue is necessarily bad dialogue. Oh, wait. Fucking zombies. Nevermind.



Blogger Andrei said...

I dislike zombies and Dragon Age too, but here's a zombie game I'm looking forward to:

10:32 PM  

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