Dragon Age 2 Demo

Several visitors to this blog asked me to check out the Dragon Age 2 demo and I finally had the chance to do so last night.

(Note: I played it on the xbox360… for comparison I never played Dragon Age Origins on a console, only the PC)

Please keep in mind that this is only my opinion based on playing the demo. And that I’m keeping this short, I’m too busy with the novel to go into any kind of detailed analysis.

Overall: I thought the demo showed promise — without playing the full game I can’t say whether that promise was fulfilled.

Some Good Things
I am impressed at how put together the demo is after such a short development cycle. It seemed mostly polished, only a couple minor glitches and whatnot. And these were major engine changes that occurred from DA:O to DA2. So, impressed at the time frame.

The world is still there, though the art has changed. I still felt a part of the Dragon Age ‘universe’ and that nothing of the canon set in place in the original has been tampered with. And that the original had been built upon. So that’s cool.

Some Not-So-Good Things (in my opinion)
I understand why the first fight was done using a ‘super powered’ character. I get it. But it almost made me stop playing the demo. I don’t know if its because I had read so much negativity in regards to the combat changes or what but that first fight was a button mashing nightmare with no tactics coming into play. I was pretty horrified to be honest, I just closed my eyes, smashed buttons, and I won.

Later as I played with a proper character, through proper progression, I understood what was going on. Certainly not tactical the way I’d define tactical but not a pure action game either.

Really DA2 is neither an action game or a tactical semi-turned based RPG (like BG2 was and to a lesser degree DA:O was). It falls in the middle somewhere and like anything that doesn’t really define itself it has the potential to alienate players at either end of the spectrum. It is difficult to make both styles of gameplay awesome in the same game.

As an action game it is not responsive enough (i.e., I was clobbered by the ogre even after I was on the other side of the map several times) and as a tactical game I really mostly only controlled one character unless it died… there was no need, at least in the demo, to control party members.

Other Points
Not choosing race is a Very Bad Thing and has everything to do with cinematic limitations — characters with different heights and sizes are difficult to build cinematic conversation for — as well the choice impacts the amount of dialog that needs to be written. But aliens and fantasy races are cool. Humans are boring (except my kids and my wife and some of you… you know who you are).

As for the dialog itself, its what I expected. Some of it is visually beautiful but interactive movies have never been the kinds of games I wanted to play. So kudos to the team for the great work but, as always, I kind of wish the huge effort I know it takes to build those cinematic experiences could be spent on gameplay.

Overall I was impressed, the team really put together a strong title in such a short period of time. I don’t think some of the changes needed to happen (especially if Dragon Age has sold as well as has been indicated) but only the marketplace will tell us whether it was the right or the wrong thing to do.

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  • http://koshermuffin.wordpress.com/ Alexis Leno

    Hey!

    I have played the entire game through and I was definitely thoroughly addicting in the same way I was addicted to DA:O. I think that the problem, here, is that I don’t want to replay it as much as I wanted to replay Mass Effect 1/2. I am an avid achievement getter and I really, after one playthrough, just want to get the other achievements as quickly as possible.

    I was also disappointed about not being able to choose different races this time around. I really liked that from the original game, but I understand how different ideas for the story would have had to be handled, especially with your family and the things that you mentioned regarding generating the conversations with sprites of different height.

    Also, the combat didn’t seem that much different to me, but there was one boss I was fighting (towards the end of the game) and they kept knocking out EVERYONE on the field, including its spawned creatures. We all staggered around for nearly 30 seconds and it really just disrupted gameplay as it happened several times. I’m not exactly sure what that was about, but I can understand some of us getting staggered, but it literally happened to all people on the field. For a couple of seconds, I thought I had hit some glitch and was stuck like that!

    I really enjoyed the cinematics, though, and I’m interested to see where the story goes from here.

    Current score: 0

  • Aly

    I agree very much with the limitation on race. This blog post sums up most of my sentiments (unfortunately):

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/03/14/wit-the-opening-hours-of-dragon-age-ii/#more-53897

    Current score: 0

  • Mordukai

    As stand alone game it’s good but bad as a sequel for DAO.

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Alexis,

    Thanks for this!

    Take care,

    Brent

    Current score: 0

  • Mysenthrope

    DA2′s combat plays like an arcade console game.

    Spaz-fast, twitchy movements, inhuman kinesthetics, improper martial technique, absurd leaping around in the blink of an eye, bodies exploding all over the place. Seems dumbed-down, made shiny and flashy for the kids. It’s no longer the dark, gritty, effortful combat of DAO. It no longer feels real, no longer adds to the universe.

    Basically, it sucks.

    Current score: 0

  • Mysenthrope

    Not to mention, there’s no real hero’s journey as you essentially run around the EXACT same maps, in the same town, runnign errands.

    There is no dire, overarching drama or goals, there is no deep, metaphysical underpinnings to the world or your character, there is nothing heroic whatsoever about it.

    Again, it sucks. Or is mediocre, at best. Which = sucks, compared to DAO.

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Aly,

    Hi. Thanks for the link.

    Take care,

    - Brent

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Mordukai,

    Yeah, that’s the general impression I’m seeing from many of the negative reviews.

    Thanks,

    Brent

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Mysenthrope,
    Being stuck in the city, if I’ve read reviews correctly, does seem a bit underwhelming.

    Part of the epic fantasy quest is a journey to places… there was a lot of traveling in the original intentionally, exploring many different locations with different art styles.

    Thanks for stopping by,

    - Brent

    Current score: 0

  • Lordrango

    Unfortunately, it get’s worse. Even if you get used to half-action, half-tactical gameplay, you are left with only several areas where the game takes place and you are actually revisiting them through the entire game. It almost feels like you’re doing exactly the same quests on exactly same locations in all three chapters…

    It all feels quite rushed and unfinished…

    Current score: 0

  • Mordukai

    I think by adding the number ’2′ after the Dragon Age name was a big PR mistake. Gamers naturally assumed this game to be a sequel to Origins yet it doesn’t really have that feel. DA2 actually feels more like a spin off of that game then a an actual sequel. It almost takes me back to the Baldurs Gate Vs. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance days. However I think the publishing companies did good by giving it a different name and making them feel more like companion pieces then actual sequels and how these two game series c0-exsisted and feeling the need for each gameplay style. Maybe if EA/Bioware (I really don’t know who’s the one making the final decisions) would have been a little bit smarter about this then this whole thing could have been avoided by giving DA2 a different name. Dragon Age: Chronicles of Kirkwall…

    I think the only thing that saddens me that because the way DA2 plays out and the fact that it’s a major shift in story then even if the wanted to continue the story of origins they couldn’t without first finishing what they started on DA2. I for one would have loved to see a prequel of origins dealing with the origins of the blights and it’s first outbreak. Could have a been a cool origins idea to explore.

    Current score: 0

  • qwertyuiop

    i felt cheated.

    Current score: 0

  • Mordukai

    Also, I don’t know how much time you have for gaming these days but you should check out Demon’s Souls. I’ve been addicted to that game for quite some time now.

    Current score: 0

  • http://twitter.com/JimLenoir James Lenoir

    I hate to say this, but I don’t think I’ve ever been this disappointed in a game, in a very long time. There are some things that DA2 does well, but the experience just leaves me frustrated and annoyed.

    Take for instance, Kirkwall, it’s supposed to be inundated by refugees, but it’s a lifeless and clean city, with a few mannequins standing around. In the dialogue everyone insists that mages are evil, yet when my mage rains fireballs at villains, the handful of cityfolk merely carry on with their lives, no one reacts, you’d think there’d be panic in the streets… and the city guards and templars.? Well they’re just standing there.

    Dragon Age Origins wasn’t perfect. It had its problems, but this… DA2 … ugh… I really don’t know.

    Current score: 0

  • Karstenaaen

    As I understand it, DA2 was planned in 2008, or at least talks about DA2 happened in august-september 2008; long before anyonew knew the sales numbers for Dragon Age: Origins. I, too, have played the demo. And I do feel the dialogue wheel works well in the game. From the reviews, I’ve seen it seems that there are many re-used areas in the game.

    It also seems that since there is no ancient evil, no secret order, no saving the world, it makes it a bit difficult to make the hero’s journey. I’m not saying it can’t be done, just that it is very difficult to do.

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Lordrango,

    Given the short time frame and the amount of time that was spent retooling the engine I think ‘rushed and unfinished’ was probably (and sadly) inevitable. Higher quality art (though I realize this is debatable) always means fewer areas to explore.

    Take care,

    - Brent

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Yeah it might have been interesting if that had treated this more as a spin-off and at least left the door open on the possibility that the DA1 experience would have been continued.

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Did you feel the PR misled you? Or was it shorter than you expected?

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Thanks, I’ll take a look at it after this crazy busy month is done with.

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    James,

    I think given the shortened development cycle maybe there wasn’t enough time to iterate and polish the gameplay.

    Take care,

    Brent

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    True… some of the changes would have already started by the time sales figures rolled in. And the move to voiced protagonist was inevitable… that’s kind of BioWare’s thing now.

    Current score: 0

  • Brian

    Hey Brent, I finished the game I did just about every quest only one I think I missed was one that was just to stupid to do which may of missed out on a small quest chain. I don’t feel the length was terrible. After completing every thing the game has come in for about 50 hours.

    Length wise it did pretty good in my opinion some of the problem though is non of the quests really felt like you were a champion or doing any thing important. It actually felt like you were babysitting the city. Even to the end the ending which I wont spoil was such a let down it pretty much completed with saying every thing you had just done was pointless. I think that is the biggest fault I have of it was when it did that.

    After spending the time that I did on the game my thoughts on the on the combat are a bit different now in the fact I got used to it. Did not like it as much but used to it. On the pc I set my controls up that when I hit tab it would target and run up and start auto attacking some one. So that made it so I did not have to button mash.

    For the most part difficulty wise it is a lot like how you said you only need to control one person and no one else and you will live through just about every fight. I had two parts where I needed to not play that way one was in the deep roads and the other was fighting a high dragon. Those two fights actually required a little bit of tactics. In the fact they had dodge this or die mechanics.

    Another issue I had with the game story came from the fact the whole game from the very start is all about Mages vs Templars. It is really weird to cheer for a side whether you are good or evil since the game plays out in a way where if you play a evil character that’s not a Mage you are given all the reason to hate the mages if you are good and not a mage you are given all the reasons to hate the mages.

    It is hard saying that point because some games handle the story of neither good or bad faction well. But it is not quite what this game ends up pulling off. The side quests have so little point to them as well as at the end of the game really could of used a conclusion what happened to these other groups that you affected through out the ten year span. But it just ends with a all that you accomplish well it doesn’t matter!

    I only came across just a few bugs and they both happened in the span of about a hour and after that I ended up now having any more issues with the game. In that sense. One of the bugs actually gave a lot of insight into how they created the world. As mentioned earlier as well the city is quite small and you play in the same area for the entire game.

    A lot of times I would do side missions and then just the next jump in time I would have to go back and do very slightly different side missions in the exact same spot. Some times with the same enemies those side missions bugged me. As the ending time I spent on the game. Had a lot of grinding like that. Which I have always thought grinding in a single player game is really bad. MMORPGS do that sort of thing and all it does is it pads in hours of gameplay. That have so very little meaning in the end.

    That sort of thing really shows in this game with long drawn out side quests that have such a weak story to them. One thing they did was they did not completely got MMO style side quests not directly there are not any kill thing many guys quests but they do a good job of putting in a large amount of enemies between you and the target you want to kill or collect.

    So in the end I am little disappointed with it I don’t think I completely hated it my real thoughts like that will really depend on the kind of modification tools are released for the game since I am certain a lot of the gameplay changes could be changed but the story will still lack and it is stuff saying that about games from this company.

    I think I will end this here which I could put headings in this text so it doesn’t look so bad. But would like to say thank you for taking time to play the demo and give us input on what you thought of the game really appreciate that.

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Brian,

    Thanks for the detailed analysis, its interesting to note what worked well and what did not work well in the game. And don’t worry about the lack of headers, everything made sense.

    Do you know if mod tools will be released?

    Take care,

    Brent

    Current score: 0

  • Jim

    Hi Mr. Knowles

    Thanks for the review. After reading it, I went on and played the demo as well. I did so on the PC and the combat is pretty much the same as Origins on the PC (from what I remember), i.e you can press pause and issue commands. The fight animation was insanely fast, almost anime-like. It seems super-human to be able to be that fast, which bothered me because well, it’s a human, a boring human (like you said) can not be that fast!
    The darkspawn are really ugly here. Why did they have to change their designs ??!! They were so badass in Origins! Now they look like those putties in power rangers. Can’t the devs just do a copy/paste ?
    The character designs look worse than Origins. The main character in particular (I played as female) had robotic expressions (smiling like Arnold in Terminator 2), and was running with her hips swinging around: was that supposed to be sexy ? It just look retarded! There was also supposed to be a sad scene with the husband of one the party member, but the wife had the same wooden expression throughout the scene. Not sad at all. What happened here ? In Origins, all characters had great designs, and you could clearly see their expressions. Again, copy/paste, is that so hard ?
    I understand the concept of the game, which is to tell the story of one character, so not choosing race is understandable (although it sucks)
    I also read that you can’t change armor/weapon to your party members. That sucks real bad, I think I spent at least a half hour after every major quest in Origins just to equip and change armor and weapons for my party members.
    Anyway, I have absolutely no idea what goes into developing a game, maybe copy/paste doesn’t work, I don’t know, I just don’t understand why the devs would want to make a game look worst than the first one; yes the game was rushed, but all the designs were already developed yes ?

    cordially

    Jim

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Jim,

    Thanks for stopping by. I found the change in art direction interesting but completely understandable.

    A lot of reviews talked about Origins being ‘generic’ and I think this art change was an attempt to push the art towards being more unique. Art is very subjective and I think some people love the new changes while others are less happy with it. I’m somewhere in the middle… I thought some of the new art cool but I didn’t really like the darkspawn.
    And losing the ability to change armor on party members is another step away from the kind of gameplay I enjoy… but it makes the art requirements simpler and it simplifies gameplay…

    Take care,

    Brent

    Current score: 0

  • Jonko

    Still, higher quality art does not mean resorting to recycling maps. Look at the second Mass Effect game. Nowhere near as many quests as the first, but each managed to be visually distinct.

    Current score: 0

  • CozNL

    I have been waiting on this game so eagerly, i played DA:O/A and the DLC’s multiple times with different characters, just to bridge the time towards this sequal and ofcours in order get the maximum experience and story line the game can give me.
    All summed i think i have more then 300+ hours spend on the first DA, and loved every minute of it, and even more important: i wish there was no end to that experience.

    Finished the game today, and really had to force myself to that. It took me well over 40 hours, but in order to experience the full game you only have to play 25% , maybe 40% of the game. The rest is just a waist of time really… due to that reason I left the game alone for 2+ days, i just lost all fun and interest.
    My conclusion in the end to DA:2: This DA:2 is [u]no[/u] no sequal at all.
    It is a stand alone game, wich does not even goes near the experience of DA1.
    “They took out a lot of ‘RP’ out of the ‘G’, wich made the game just completely out of balans compared to its root-game intentions i believe.
    And certain things i cannot even blame on to the limited amount of given time to develop a sequal, but may be blamed to bad decisions made by people with the wrong intentions. I can forgive time-made choices, but giving someone a leading position who does not belong there. i cannot.

    The game structure fell noticably apart even in the first minutes due to the wish to simplify things, that are not ment to be simplified. If a company wishes to make a sequal, first charter everything that makes it unique, try not to alter the basic features that made the game great. It’s something i notice quite often in the game industrie the last couple of years, and i really wonder why companies think this ‘we need more people’ reason should weight more than the game concept itself. Games are genre specific, and i do not see any other media industrie (except music) messing their own industrie so much up, it really damages the quality of games, and more important: the trust of fans.

    I have a hard time with this simplifying theorie when i think of games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Mass Effect really did something unique, just like Dragon Age did.
    Define unique? “One of its kind”.
    It is therefor not ment to coop with the statement: simplifying; wich means; Reduce fundamental parts, or easier to understand. I agree that unique can and should be able to be modified, but not simplified. It can be made accessible to other genres, without reducing fundamental elements.

    I really hold my breath for Mass Effect 3.
    I hope the game industrie itself starts realising that.

    Current score: 0

  • Jerrybnsn

    When I finished playing Dragon Age Origins I felt like I just lived through a David Eddings series. It’s still my all time favorite game. In comparison, I played both ME 1 and ME 2, and both those games were no more to me than interacting with a movie. Fun, but forgettable. When I heard last July that Dragon Age was going to go more Mass Effect, I feared they were going to take away what made Origins so unique. Because of all the reviews (Bioware employees excluded) I decided to skip Dragon Age 2. I just don’t want to ruin my Origins experience with a bad sequel. I still have scars from Highlander II.

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Oh I had forgotten Highlander II until now. Thanks for reminding me… now I won’t sleep properly tonight :)

    Current score: 0

  • Geoff T

    It’s funny, because while playing the game, Bethany was firing magic here and there, In front of the city guard, In front of Templar’s and no one is doing anything. I found the whole situation hilariously bad.

    Current score: 0

  • Geoff T

    Oddly enough, I actually liked the game more and more as it progressed. I figured it was a case of Stokholm Syndrome at its best. Hehe

    In my opinion what needed more work then any was definitely the lack unique areas, even going into caves in two different areas brought on the feeling of de-ja-vu because you were in this exact cave an hour ago, but in a totally different. Given the time restraints they had on this, it is argualably understandable.

    There also was not the constant banter coming from your party as they jabbed back and forth at each other, and the conversations weren’t as engaging or humorous. In DAO, when Morgana and Alistair or Sten went at it, I stopped playing where I was, listened, and most of the times ended up laughing so hard I could not breath. There are only two characters in DA2 that will give a slightly similar experience and the most I gave was chuckle. (Varric and Isabella)

    Overall, I did enjoy the experience of playing through this game. And while I wont be spending as much time as I did playing DA:O over and over again, I could see playing through it ONE more time. Sadly though, the cliff hangar and semi-finished story at the end makes me want a sequel… Which with the path Bioware has been taking will be a sure thing. Hopefully though they will revisit what made DAO great and incorporate many things back into DA3.

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Geoff,

    For many it seems that the changes didn’t bother them so much as the lack of time for polish. Saddens me to hear about the lack of constant banter, that’s one of my favorite things, when done well.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    – Brent

    Current score: 0

  • http://twitter.com/Nosphorus Matthew Butler

    Hi Brent, afer reading about your departure from Bioware I’ve been checking back every now and again to see what your response would be to Dragon Age 2, I just read your demo feedback and that was pretty much my response to the demo, yet I thought I’d give the full game a try since I enjoyed Jade Empire very much.

    My question is, have you played/finished the full game of Drage Age 2 yet?

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Matthew,

    No I probably won’t play the full game, at least not until I get some free time. Too busy with novel edits + kids. If you play it stop by and let us know what you thought of it. Thanks!

    Take care,

    Brent

    Current score: 0

  • http://twitter.com/Nosphorus Matthew Butler

    I’ll be sure to play through it again once the plot bugs are fixed and I’ll gladly pop back on here to let you know what I think since I practically rushed through it trying to complete it as quick as possible with bugs spilling out of every corner.

    Do you think you’ll ever want to join another Game Developer again? Do you have any studios in mind who’d you’d like to work for?

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Matthew,

    I doubt I’ll ever return to a big studio making large mainstream games. Quite satisfied with my consulting work at Empire Avenue and writing stories and novels. Gives me time to spend with my family!

    Take care,
    Brent

    Current score: 0

  • Jean

    I found that there actually was a decent amount of banter in the game. To me, however, it seemed as though the “banter trigger locations” were placed quite awkwardly. It’s not uncommon to run into combat seconds after a conversation is started, which in turn means you might not even notice it as the music and combat sounds overshadow it. Additionally, most of the really good banter and options are unfortunately hidden underneath very particular circumstances; for instance, you will only be able to save a certain someone during an expedition if you bring a particular party member, and if you bring Isabela while initiating the quest of a certain other party member, they’ll engage in a rather amusing bitchfight.

    But yeah, I hear you in that the characters of the first game were more engaging, also in their interactions with one another. I think this partially has to do with the limitations of the conversation wheel compared to a branching conversation system, and the limited interaction with your party members in general; you can’t talk to your party members while out in the field like in DA1, there’s no central camp where your whole gang hangs out, and every party member only has a handful of occasions where they offer actual conversation with Hawke throughout the game, even in their own home locations.

    I’ve heard many people single out Varric and Isabela as the most engaging characters, and that probably has to do with the fact that they’re well integrated with the main plot. They (plus Anders, to be fair) and their storylines have actual reasons to be around. The rest of the companions sort of feel like they were added in a fit of “oh wait, we’re gonna need more companions than this!”-panic. Their only connection to what actually goes on seems to be their opinions on the templars-vs-mages-conflict. It’s not like in DA1, where your party was brought together by a common goal, to end the Blight; rather, each companion seems to go about their own thing without any particular cohesiveness. I think it was said that this seemingly disjointed atmosphere was chosen to create a more personal experience that focused around Hawke’s rise rather than an overarching threat; however, this lack of cohesiveness, coupled with the limited personal interaction with characters, renders the whole experience rather impersonal in the end.

    So yeah, I hope that they listen to their fans and bring back some of the good elements from DA1 in the next game (and the way DA2 ended without actually resolving anything, a third one is indeed bound to happen).

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Jean,

    Thanks for your comments!

    Take care,

    Brent

    Current score: 0

  • http://twitter.com/Nosphorus Matthew Butler

    That’s a shame, as I’ve always enjoyed exploring those worlds in a medium I prefer over novels, but I can understand wanting to spend time with your family, those ten-eleven years have probably been pretty secluded.

    I’ve always wanted to work in the gaming industry, but learned pretty early on that it’s a long and painful process through education, which I’m probably too old for now (Twenty Three) and I’m not the brightest of people.

    I’ll be sure to write back once the game’s patched, and I’d be willing to give it another chance, I appreciate you taking the time to write back, I’d of thought I’d just be another lost poster in the torrents of comments.

    I’ll see if I can get hold of some of your e-books eventually, it’s about time I started reading again.

    Current score: 0

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=11613525 Ryan Sims

    I loved DAO, loved it. DA2… ends in the middle of a traditional story structure. Right when you really start getting sucked into the game, right when you start disregarding some of the problems, right when you start feeling like you could get into the story, right when the action starts peaking and it seems like your choices are going to have some kind of effect… the credits roll.

    I’m sorry, but DLC is going to kill this industry.

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Ryan,

    While I agree with you that companies are going overboard with DLC and its going to cause problems I wonder if in this particular case DLC has anything to do with the way the game ends. Or was it intentional to build expectation for the third game by ending in a cliffhanger (assuming there is a third DA title, which I’m going to assume there will be).

    I haven’t checked into what DLC is being offered for DA2 — it is continuing the main story or adding content ‘in the middle’?

    Take care,

    Brent

    Current score: 0

  • Ziemniak

    I finally got through DA2 yesterday, and though I still liked it, I got the feeling most of the things I liked were things DA:O did right that DA2 just copied. I will say the decision to give the main character a voice was something I liked, and having rivalry vs friendship for your teammates felt more interesting than just having relationship bars like in the first game: It made it feel like a legitimate choice to anger your party members, since the game would track how mad they were at you, and give you similar advantages to having a good relationship with your disliked party member.

    My biggest issue with the game is probably how it makes you feel like you are making choices that matter, but ultimately none of them do. Every major plot point plays out the same regardless of your choices, and the only time your choices matter are things like ‘does this random person you’ll never meet again die or not’. For example, in the end of the game, you have to pick between two factions, and the story makes it clear this is an important decision that could shape the fate of people living all over the world. However, regardless of who you pick, you fight the same bosses, and get the same ending, with only minor references to your choice. That is hardly an isolated case, but if I tried to post any others, I’d have to get into spoilers.

    I also want to mention the DLC, in that I can’t understand how they expect people who put down DA2 a while ago to pay 5-10 dollars to get a new mission or two in DA2, and play the game again just to see the 1 or 2 hours of new content? I suppose the idea is you buy 3 or 4 DLC packs, and get enough content to justify playing it again, but unless the dev team gets really creative and comes up with missions that are more than ‘go here, kill them’, I can’t see any reason I’d want to pay to get more side quests people already felt there was too much of.

    I know you’ve probably heard these all before, but I’m curious to hear the thoughts of someone who worked on the first game.

    Current score: 0

  • http://twitter.com/Flindyrs Quinn Flinders

    Thank you Brent for all the BW games, I’ve enjoyed them all, like that crispy apply that makes the juice dribble down your chin in delight, until you left.

    I think the one thing I can say that is different since you left is emotional immersion. With DA2 I found no connection emotionally to my char or companions, or the disjointed story with numerous deadends. And there were as many good qualities as there were bad but I would say what really makes a good rpg stand apart from the rest is emotional investment. Totally lacking in DA2 which is sad.

    Found this somewhere on the BW forums you might enjoy, and sorry but I seem to not have gotten the author of this:

    1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
    2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
    3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
    4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
    5. Start as close to the end as possible.
    6. Be a sadist. No matter sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
    7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
    8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

    The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964). She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.

    And with that I will say thank you or the wonderful 10 years of your outstanding contribution to all those fabulous titles.

    Happiness and prosperity to you and your family in the future.

    Flindyrs

    Current score: 0

  • http://twitter.com/Flindyrs Quinn Flinders

    For me the PR was very misleading and for length of game… It is about what I expected but I also expected choices that give replay value on the same lines that Origins did, even with only one race/class. DA2 has no replay value. Maybe one or two choices to do one but overall to go through the game for just one or two while Origins had over 20? And I won’t add different classes to replay value because you have that with your companions you can play.

    Quinny

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Ziemniak,

    Thanks for the good analysis… the companion system changes do seem interesting. The lack of choices changing anything I think has to do with the development timeline and the cinematic nature of the dialog… when dozens of hours are spent polishing a single conversation you don’t want players to miss it. Too many ‘branches’, in either dialog or plot, is just too expensive.

    As for DLC, yeah, I don’t know how that is going to pan out. Its hard creating 1 or 2 hours of authentic content for a story-rich RPG. For other games like a shooter where they can design a new map and people are happy the model works better I think.

    Take care,

    Brent

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Quinny,

    Thanks for that!

    I admit to being surprised however that DA2 was lacking in emotional connection. Most of the great writers who put together DA1 are still working on DA2! While I’d love to take credit for being the ‘missing ingredient’ I suspect there’s other stuff going on?

    For me I find having a voiced protagonist that I’m suppose to inherit makes me less engaged with the story and the other characters… instead of focusing on what my party members are saying, I’m constantly being distracted by own chattering. In a sense, once the protag has a voice, all the secondary characters even if written as brilliantly as before, become somehow diminished. The spotlight that was on them is now being pointed somewhere else.

    And unfortunately that ‘somewhere else’ is going to be a more weakly written character because, in the hope of still giving players some semblance of player ownership, the voiced protagonist doesn’t have as strong a personality as a protag in a movie or book would have. So in reality the player is controlling the ‘weakest’ character in the presentation. And the spotlight is on that character.

    Or maybe that’s just a lack of coffee in the morning talking.

    Thanks again and take care,

    Brent

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Quinny,

    I’m curious as to the total dialog word count for dialog in DA2. Given the short time frame I doubt its more than 200 000 -300 000 words which would be half what DA1 was. I think that is a fairly reasonable tool to estimate length, especially in BioWare titles.

    And voiced protagonist = less story replay. It’s just inevitable unless the title has 3-4 years of development.

    Take care,

    Brent

    Current score: 0

  • Dave

    Dragon Age: Origins
    • 1,000,000 Words
    • 1,000 Cinematics
    • 1,000 Characters
    • 56,000 Spoken Lines
    • 60 Hours of Gameplay

    Dragon Age II
    • 400,000 Words
    • 2,500 Cinematics
    • 500 Characters
    • 38,000 Spoken Lines
    • 40 Hours of Gameplay

    Current score: 0

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Wow, I’m impressed. 400 000 words in that time frame is a lot.

    Current score: 0

  • http://twitter.com/Flindyrs Quinn Flinders

    I understand what you are saying and that, I believe, is just a part of the problem having a voiced protag. That part of a good rpg’s gift to players “imagination” is gone. But I think mostly, in comparison, it is the attention to detail in story and dialog. The companion dialog is maybe 10% of what was in Origins and that is hard to get unless certain circumstances are met.

    All of the absorbtion in other areas are not there. Exploration, loot, crafting.

    What you had said earlier about development timeframe no doubt played a big part. The writing team is excellent and just dropped the ball this time. Very difficult pill to swallow! So. Looking more closely at the content it seems more likely the writing content was finished, but it was edited out because all the hooks/etc. were not finished in time. If that is true then what we are left with makes perfect sense.

    To me a good rpg, like Origins and previous titles are like reading a great novel in an interactive visual way. This release just seems to have pages missing.

    After Mike’s interview yesterday on GameStop the Origins fanbase is starting to fold. You can hold your head up for all you accomplished while there and left with your integrity high.

    Quinny

    Current score: 0