Vladerag's Blog











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There are three games that I credit with having evolved by concept of what an rpg should be, the first being The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind by Bethesda Softworks, the second and third however, both go to Bioware and the Dragon Age series, and for good reason.

Dragon Age I introduced us to a radical, and radically simple concept:  Your choices make a difference.  Sure, there were games before this were your choices influenced the game, but Dragon Age I was unique in that every choice would resound throughout the game.  For example, a relatively minor choice you made in the first thirty minutes, should you have decided to choose the mage background, will become important later in the game and can radically change your playthrough.  I wont give details and spoil it for anyone who as yet to play, but in essence this kind of pattern exists throughout the game, you can decide how you play all the way to the end.

While Dragon Age I was almost purely based on choice, Dragon Age II felt much more linear.  Mostly because it was, it really felt as if it was lacking what made me love Dragon Age in the first place.  However, Dragon Age II stands out for some of its own innovative additions, and it isnt as if choice is wholly absent, it is just that you will never make a decsion that will reverberate in the game quite like the choices in Dragon Age I.

On the topic of its innovations, DA2  had a much more streamlined combat system than its predeccesor, especially for those of us who love magic.  It really reduced the robotic look to using staff magic, and it was a major improvement in how the action played out.  In fact, magic was almost totally overhauled between I & II, and all for the better.  Mages now actually fought, and looked cool doing it, as opposed to sitting back and making vauge motions.

Other outstanding features included a vocal main character, as opposed to the silent one in DA1.  It might seem like a minor thing, but both the male and female voices are well done, and since you can choose Hawkes personality and responses in speech you can look forward to a game filled with dialogue to match the character you have created, and that is a real bonus.  But the real inovation is in the face, you get to model it yourself, of course, in true Dragon Age style, and you can make it into whatever you want.  But no matter what you do, it will still be exspressive.  Imagine, that peoples faces actually reflect their emotions and that the lips synch with what they are saying!  It really raised the bar when it came to character models and character speech.

Of course, the best thing about DA2 is that your choices from the first Dragon Age affect it and are present in it.  Allistair cant appear to talk to you if he dies after all, and you made that choice a while back, and now you get to live with the consequences, awesomely.

But for all of my love for DA and DA2, they both had some problems, and while great games, were just a little shy of amazing.

Dragon Age III, if the hints Bioware has handed to us mean anything, will be taking place in Orlais, but just what the plot and events will be are anyones guess.  Or rather, anyones choice.  In essence, Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II have created the world and set the stage, and all your choices could be reflected in the third installment of this series.  Did you side with the elves in Dragon Age: Origins?  Did you duel the Arishok in Dragon Age II?  When you begin Dragon Age 2 you are prompted to choose a save file from Origins to use as history, only there is more data in the save file than is used for the gameplay of Dragon Age II, so it seems likely that information will be passed on to three.  Because of this, Dragon Age III is guranteed to be at least interesting.  But why stop there?

Dragon Age I and II both had problems, in opposite directions.  Origins had less-than-exemplar combat, paired with sometimes a little shody character models, and somewhat suffered for its lack of a linear feeling.  Not that I particularly like linear rpgs, but I remember that if it wasnt for my penchant of checking every door to see if I could enter I might not have discovered the way to continue one part of the main storyline, and nothing is worse than spending hours of your time trying to figure out what the game wants you to do next.

Dragon Age II suffered from other maladies.  The most noticable, and infuriating, was that they reused maps.  Every single dungeon looked precisely like every other one, the only difference being which path was blocked and the occasional mirroring of the place.  It really was painful to be disapointed repeatedly by the lack creativity in that department.  Also, as I metioned before, the game is much more linear.  Little you do has a huge affect on the storyline, just on how you do it.  Hand in hand with this is that persuasion is no longer as important, and that was almost depressing.  Looking back at Origins, my character was practically the definition of sociopath, I manipulated anyone and everyone, wheedled every last coin, bit of information, and service out of every person I came into contact with, and made them love me for it.  I took great pride in betraying people at the last momment, before taking them for everything they had.  It was fascinating, and was a truly important tool in my aresnal, not to mention a fascinating one.  Dragon Age II clipped my wings, so to speak, but there were still some fun oppurtunities so it wasnt a total loss.

So what too look for In Dragon Age III?  Synthesis.  The best of both worlds.  Bioware has a good track record of listening to what their fans are saying, so it is a good bet that words like these ones have made it to their ears. 

On the other hand, my expectaions are higher than my hopes.  I am expecting that this game lands a perfect 10 at IGN, because with two great games under their belt, and the fact that they both excelled in different areas that the other was poor at, the solotion seems obvious.  I am expecting that my choices all the way from the first Dragon Age will help form the world and the ones from the second as well, and I am expecting that this game will be finally introduce the idea that how I build my character will affect how people react.  (It really is funny to watch my character, a blood mage, berate another character for using blood magic or give lectures on how blood mages give mages a bad name after I killed my through tons of people using that same magic.)

Honestly though, I hope Bioware doesnt screw this up.  While it isnt like the gaming giant is prone to that kind of thing, in such a complex game, one that will be affected by choices you made years ago (or days if like me you will be starting both Origins and DA2 over to make the perfect background for DA3.) and just choosing what choices should be important enough to carry and how to build such a multifaceted storyline is a challenge by itself.  Games are often compared to Icarus, and for good reason.  Consider the hype that surrounds it already, can it really live up to the potential we saw in Origins and II?  Rarely have I seen a game series with as much raw potential as this one has, and I expect them to shine.  Realistically, I hope they dont mess it up, but I know it will be a great game no matter what.



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