Archive

Loading... DragonAge: Origins First Impressions

Posted Thu, Nov 05, 2009 by Ethec

Welcome to the 1,202nd edition of Loading...

Loading... is the premier daily MMORPG news, coverage, and commentary newsletter, only from Ten Ton Hammer.

DragonAge: Origins is perhaps the most anticipated Fantasy RPG of the year, and with good reason. It's a BioWare game (need we say more?) and its production values are top notch, but how does its novel group-based gameplay stack up? While our full-blown review is coming next week, join us for some initial impressions of DragonAge, thoughts on whether DDO Unlimited is going a step too far by putting levels and items on sale, patch previews, and much more in today's Loading... DragonAge: Origins First Impressions.

The Pulse

You vote with what you view at Ten Ton Hammer, and the result is the Ten Ton Pulse (What is The Pulse?).

Here's today's top 5 Pulse results:

  1. World of Warcraft
  2. Dungeons & Dragons Online (UP 1)
  3. EverQuest 2 (UP 1)
  4. Champions Online (UP 9)
  5. DragonAge: Origins (UP 1)

Biggest movers today:

  1. Global Agenda (UP 12 to #14)
  2. Star Trek Online (down 9 to #11)
  3. EVE Online (UP 3 to #6)
Recent Releases
Upcoming Releases

Loading... Daily

We cheered when DDO went free-to-play and enjoyed success, we smiled when Turbine went beyond selling consumables and sold class unlocks and content areas (so long as groupmates could access these areas on a trial basis), but now we're raising an eyebrow at the latest microtransaction items for sale in the DDO store. Level 4 characters, 32-point build characters, and (worst of all) +3 weapons, ammo, and armor can be yours for low low prices, but these buy-ins flagrantly violate the ancient rule of sanctioned RMT: letting players buy advancement, at best, takes a lot of fun out of the game and, at worst, breaks the game for players with less disposable income (if not everyone). Let's hope DDO Unlimited doesn't become a victim of its own success, and that games like World of Warcraft don't get any ideas.

What I really wanted to talk about today, though, is this week's addition to this year's quality PC games lineup: DragonAge: Origins. We've had our eye on this game for months, and even though it's barely online let alone an MMO, we need a certain amount of role-playing game in our lives to redress our RPG deficiency from the typical MMORPG these days.

I imagine I'm not the only one on this list that has lost sleep to this game, and while Medawky will be doing our full-blown review next week, I wanted to share my early impressions of the game with you. First off, if you haven't picked up DragonAge yet, note that this is a tactical RPG - almost a turn-based strategy game - not an action RPG. After playing and enjoying Torchlight for the last week, I made the mistake of trying to clickety-click my way through combat, while resulted in massive potion consumption and needless death. That being the case, the most powerful key on your keyboard is [space], the pause button, since you can queue commands to party-mates while out-of-action.

Also by way of apology for forcing you to play a TBS in real time, DragonAge offers a Tactics system, whereby you can script actions for characters you're not controlling at the moment. It's both powerful and limiting. Players who go through an extensive trial-and-error process can no doubt produce some decent tactics from the initially bewildering array of options. But until you delve into the system beyond the presets, your uncontrolled characters are like well-trained B-rate actors - they never deviate from the simple script, even when more powerful or significant attacks are available to them. A character programmed "defensive" (so as not to Leroy Jenkins into the next swarm), will stay in place to the point of not smacking an enemy they've knocked back. Or when you do script something like a AoE attack against clustered enemies, well, don't be surprised if your mage toasts a couple friendlies with Flame Burst.

Apparently you can't script common sense, and the result is that you're constantly micro-managing your group's combat actions, which is made all the more painful by some decent enemy AI. In short, tactics may offer more hardcore flexibility, but for those looking for a more hands-off Neverwinter Nights-ish approach to groupmates, it's a step backward.

But to avoid the game on these grounds due to a slightly wonky tactics system, or more than a few quests that feel a little flat and uninventive, would be a serious mistake. The single biggest reason to dive into DragonAge, though it sounds cliche, is the story. It's a BioWare game, after all, and playing the game is like diving into an engrossing fantasy novel, complete with more quippy dialogue than a Buffy episode. That your groupmates talk to each other as you travel around is a very nice touch, and you might find yourself taking the long way just to hear how a conversation plays out. The laconic warrior Sten, for example, will be a permanent fixture in my group because of the in-transit hilarity he offers, particularly the way he rebuffs the darkly attractive mage Morrigan's advances. Managing your group's approval and disapproval of your decisions and each other is, though mostly unnecessary in the early-going, one of the more absorbing aspects of the experience.

The graphics and audio are first-rate, as you'd expect, though every encounter leaves you spattered with enough blood to make the likes of Dexter wince. The close-in dialogue cutscenes, rendered in exquisite detail, make it worse: you might find yourself wanting to wipe some schmutz from the pretty female rogue's lips before she accidentally ingests some Darkspawn. We know medieval combat isn't clean, but wearing arterial spray like a wink and a grin after every single battle, however insignificant, probably takes away from the desired effect. Even so, I wish I could've been in the USK (the hemophobic German ESRB) conference room when DragonAge was being evaluated just to hear the chorus of "Nein! Nein! Neins!"

Are you playing DragonAge? What's your take? Join the discussion in the Loading... forum.


Shayalyn's Epic Thread of the Day

From our Articles, News & Events Discussion forum

Chinese Servers Shut Down Again

How many posts does it take for a discussion about World of Warcraft's Chinese servers shutting down to devolve into bickering about communism and government in general? You can get to the chewy center of this particular Tootsie Pop pretty quickly. (A-one, a-two-hoo, a-three...CRUNCH!) Check it out and get your licks in.

==============================
Awesome Quotes from the Epic Thread

"Screw government. Red, black, yellow, who gives two cents? People are what is important."

- Lambslayer
==============================

Have you spotted an Epic Thread on our forums? Tell us!


5 new Ten Ton Hammer MMOG features today! 19 in November! 2,091 in 2009!

Today's New Features & Guides

  • Champions Online : Blood Moon Hands On Impressions
    http://www.tentonhammer.com/co/editorial/bloodmoon
    With the Blood Moon event for Champions Online well underway, Ten Ton Hammer reviews the good and bad of Cryptic’s first holiday themed event. In addition, the Blood Moon event also represents the first major content update for CO with certain aspects of the event staying around after the event (the celestial power set and Zombie Apocalypse PvP map). Was the event worthwhile? Read on!

  • Overview of Aion's First Major Patch 1.5.1
    http://www.tentonhammer.com/aion/patchpreview
    Patch notes are like politicians, always trying to please and typically failing to do so. Aion’s first round of major patch notes put on a decent show like a politician, but for some they won’t go far enough to provide real change. The proof will be in the pudding (or production) but the overall theme of the patch notes seems to be “ease the experience, don’t rock the boat.”

  • World of Warcraft Patch Patch 3.3 Preview
    http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/76332/
    Another patch Tuesday is rapidly approaching the World of Warcraft, as guilds scramble to complete Trial of the Grand Crusader and notch a few more achievements before the new content hits. The PTR notes are changing weekly and more content is available for play testing. As the changes finally turn to tweaks and most of the content is revealed, we can finally offer up a preview of what is in store for us in Icecrown Citadel and beyond.

  • The Overdue Sequel – A Look at Diablo 3
     http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/76349
    Diablo, the Lord of Terror, has managed to survive just about everything a gamer can throw at him. Like a bad horror movie villain, Diablo always seems to find a way back. Diablo 3 is a game that many have wanted to see developed for nearly ten years, but what will this new game offer gamers? This week we examine what Diablo 3 will bring to the series and how it will differ from the previous games.

  • Dungeons & Dragons Vale of Twilight Video
    http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/76331
    Update One to Dungeons and Dragons: Eberron Unlimited launched last week, and a whole new adventure pack is available. Jump into the Vale of Twilight for levels 17 and above and purge the malevolence. The thirteen moons of Zen'drik have aligned and the battle is at its peak.

  1. Managing Fan Expectations - An Interview with Vanguard Visionary Brad McQuaid
  2. Star Trek Online Space Combat Q&A with Craig Zinkievich
  3. World of Warcraft Patch Patch 3.3 Preview
  4. Global Agenda Assault Class Q&A with Exec. Producer Todd Harris
  5. Champions Online Developer Diary - Systems Balancing, Pt 1.
  6. The Cleric's Guide to Healing in Aion
  7. Lord of the Rings Online - Siege of Mirkwood Live Preview
  8. DOFUS 2.0 Beta Key Giveaway
  9. EVE Online - Ten Tips to Go From Noob to Noobtastic
  10. EVE Online Sins of a Solar Spymaster #31 - Lessons from a Failed Invasion

Thanks as always for visiting the Ten Ton Hammer network! 

- Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle and the Ten Ton Hammer team




bioware_logo.jpg

EA fills a role at BioWare that has been vacated since the departure of co-founders Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka.

News
Tue, Sep 10, 2013
Martuk
Steam-Summer-Sale-2013.jpg

Time to spend that coin you've been hoarding. Day 1 of the Steam Summer Sale is officially underway and it’s loaded with a smorgasbord of games.

News, Official Announcements
Thu, Jul 11, 2013
Martuk
Weekend-Game-Deals.jpg

Join us as we take a tour around the web to bring you the best gaming sales for the weekend.

Features, News
Sat, May 18, 2013
Martuk
Greg-Zeschuk.jpg

BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk talks about his time in the gaming industry and offers advice to Indy studios.

Interviews, News
Wed, Apr 10, 2013
Martuk

News from around the 'Net