Wednesday, February 23, 2011

That new Bioware thing

Yeah, I want to join the Cool Kids Club too and talk about my impressions on the hyper-hyped Dragon Age 2 demo like everyone else. So forgive me for not talking about that corpse of a NWN2 module there under the table... But no worries, this'll be short.
I admit, my expectations weren't that high, and Dragon Age 2 wasn't on the highest position on my shopping list so far, but of course trying the demo was obligatory. After all, Dragon Age: Origins was a really great, great game I thoroughly enjoyed. It had it's faults, of course, my past post about it covers that, but still, played it 4 times, money well spent.

Anyway, now to the demo of that new shiny thing that makes it all ten times better. Know what, just enjoy the screens.

So, we have breathtaking area design again... again? No, it puts even DA:O to shame. Sense some irony? Silly reader.

We have masses of darkspawne! No really, Bioware, how did you know that Darkspawne were the part of the first game I really enjoyed most? Thank you! Give me those Hurlurks, Ogres, ...

Ah! Finally less to read and more action! I always thought Mass Effect's dialogue wheel made things much easier, especially turning off the brain completely and focus on... um... Miranda's.. err... Isabela's chest or something. I totally need to know what's the friendly answer and what the unfriendly too.. because I can't read that much text, I can't read at all, but your neat little colored icons for good, funny, bad fixes that. Thank you!

Ah, more drama. Even in the demo we have shockingly dramatic cutscenes. This woman breaks my heart, no matter her ridiculous look and texturing, clumsy movement (game's set in old times, Mass Effect in the future after all, so of course Mass Effect's cutscenes look more modern and Dragon Age's outdated. Makes sense.) Actually, it worked without me even listening to the dialogue, because I knew already what was happening! Isn't that great?

Ah yes, Flemeth... she looked like an old swamp hag in DA:O, of course that had to be changed to something more 1337. How unoriginal is an old woman in the swamps who's secretely a witch when you can do something awesome like a dragon (gasp) landing in front of you and shapechanging into a super-cool looking MILF with an extremely sexy and exotic outfit? Haven't seen that before in any other game, great new turn, Bioware.

Ah yes, Bioware, you noticed that the gap between Miranda Lawson's legs was probably not the best idea.... because too few people noticed it, maybe? Now that's fixed, everyone will for sure notice this yummy pair. Well thought out. And for the searchers of secrets, there's surely still enough to discover further below on Isabela's hot little outfit.

(wanna bet below that outfit will be another set of those laughable "avoid a FOX scandal" undies that already made me spit my coffee over the table in part 1 and Mass Effect 2? ;-) )

Variations available, covered in blood, honey, chocolate...

Seriously now, folks. DA2's demo has finally turned me off. There's almost nothing I like about it, beginning with the choice between a male and a female Shep.... err... Hawke, over the backstories of the same that totally don't remind me of Mass Effect of course, over the dialogue wheel because we're too stupid to read text (or Bioware being too lazy to write it) etc. etc.

It goes on over the cutscenes in the demo and the apparent storyline that was again so generic and so "Bioware" that I already have the feeling I played DA2 three times before it even got into the stores. The sloppy area design and graphics that seem even worse than DA: O's (maybe proud owners of DirectX11 cards see something awesome, but I only see shite with my Ati 4870) does the rest. Sure, you get some cool new combat moves, more action, instant reaction on click, and as an alibi for the geeks you can again configure the AI in tactic slots.... blabla. Details that don't make the big picture any better.

The only thing that reminded me a bit of art was the new style for the narrated scenes. That was okay, but seriously, I've seen better.

Well, here I am, voice alone in the dark while the rest of the world runs into the stores to push yet another Bioware "instant classic" on top of the game charts. Personally though, I'm getting bored of Bioware's more and more generic game design. I'm even more interested in Dungeon Siege 3 at this moment, and that means something.

Edit 24/2: Look what happened, here I thought Bioware was at least creative enough to name that pair of walking boobs "Izabella"... wishful thinking, it's just plain and simple Isabela. Edited. :)


Ben Harrison said...

Casa, you really ought to do more critical reviews/previews of RPGs, they're always great reads.

Unsurprisingly, I agree with your take on Dragon Age 2.

Visually, the character design in particular is stomach-turning, and the ludicrously fast and acrobatic combat animations are unbearably bad. The running anims (at least for females) are appalling.

I feel like BioWare have tried to create an anime-influenced, stylistic exaggeration, and failed miserably. Since they're so set on skimpy outfits and flippy animations, I can't help but compare DA2 to Final Fantasy XIII - a game with very limited depth and realism as an RPG - yet one that LOOKS gorgeous. Why? Because the FF devs didn't try a half-ass style; they know they're making an ultra-pretty, utterly unrealistic JRPG fantasy, and regardless of the game's faults, they're -good- at that visual style. BioWare... aren't, and the result is a mess.

So for me, DA2 has failed on all levels visually; it's not pretty, sexy, or fluid enough to pull off the anime/JRPG thing - but in trying to incorporate that style, it also fails utterly to be in any way "dark" or "gritty" or realistic. The only reactions the game gets from me are distaste/nausea (am I the only one who finds "Isabela" hideous?), and amusement (I'm sorry, some of the "dark and serious" cutscenes are HILARIOUS).

As for the rest... nothing appealing to me at all about the story, setting, or protagonist, really.

I'm not sure it'll be half as praised as Origins was, either, despite EA's marketing and endless gimmick promotions - Dragon Age 2 has some hardcore competition this year (The Witcher 2 and Skyrim, to name a few, already look set to stomp DA2 into the mud).

Sorry for rambling; I always get carried away in the comments. Love your articles, Casa.

Are these all screenshots from the demo?

Casa said...

Thanks for the comment Ben.
Yeah, all the screenies are taken from the demo.
And yes, I think they try to serve everyone with this game and fail because they don't have the strenght in most departments other companies are much better in. They try to attract the Mass Effect crowd by making the gameplay more like Mass Effect, obviously. You mentioned Final Fantasy XIII, again I agree that they try, but fail. Dark and gritty is nothing in this game, DA: O was already not half as gritty and dark as advertised. They can't do dark and gritty with this kind of artwork.
The strenght of DA: O was that it still felt like a classic, mainly due to the storytelling and freedom in character design, with all the Origin stories and high replay value. That replay value has completely been taken out for me by narrowing everything down to that stupid Hawke., Sure, fans will still try out every possible Hawke built and good/evil paths, like they did in Mass Effect, but it's for sure not the same as playing a human templar first and then restarting with a lowerclass dwarven rogue like in DA: O. In Mass Effect I've had enough after two different Shepherds, Mass Effect 2 couldn't even get me into making a 2nd attempt anymore, and I'm pretty sure Dragon Age 2 is a "play once, then forget" title.

I'm not sure if Bioware themselves or EA is to blame, but Bioware's current work just feels like being based on market studies and only repeating past success formulas anymore. I miss the new things, and very much the art. What hurts most though is that the once famous Bioware storytelling seems to go down the drain completely, they just repeat themselves anymore with slight variations.

That leaves the competition this year. One is The Witcher 2, that will be one great title for sure. Yes, you are stuck with one Geralt, but that's well accepted and we all know it didn't make the Witcher 1 a lesser game. CD Project Red knows how to make dark and gritty, I dare to say European, especially eastern European, companies are specialists in that department, so I have no doubts they'll deliver what Bioware promised. But, Witcher is one, and sometimes you want the fun and freedom and "classic" feel you get in Dragon Age: Origins, NWN and so on... party creation, free character and class choice etc.

That'll probably be Skyrim's department, and after just having watched the gameplay trailer, I'm pretty sure they'll deliver at least a fantastic (breathtaking) looking game. What I'm worried about though is Bethesda's lack in storytelling, as I said in past posts. Oblivion never caught me, the freedom in gameplay compromised the story side too much.
The same goes for Fallout 3, which I loved on the gameplay side, but as a RPG it failed to impress me. But, New Vegas delivered that, and that's why I mentioned Dungeon Siege 3 in my post: I honestly believe that Obsidian can do something great if they are allowed to concentrate on the storytelling and leave the engine side to somebody else.

If Bethesda announced that they cooperate with Obsidian on Skyrim, I'd forget every other game right now, because I wouldn't have any doubts about the game's story side anymore.

Dungeon Siege 3 though... oh well, we know the other parts, they were fun Action RPGs and nothing more. The engine though looks surprisingly polished for an Obsidian game, I dare to say the gameplay trailer looks better than Dragon Age's at least. And, there might be a storyline too!
Won't be a big hit, because they aren't backed up by Bethesda or so, but it's a game I'm going to check out, because I lately discovered my love for that 2nd class underdog with potential.

Man, that could've been a long blog post...

Ben Harrison said...

Hm, I didn't know Obsidian were developing Dungeon Siege 3. I'll give it a look sometime.

Yeah, Skyrim might, and probably will, be lacking in terms of a progressing story and character development. The Elder Scrolls lore holds some great opportunities for some amazing stories and quests, but even when the lore is portrayed well in the game world (Morrowind did this much better than Oblivion), it's hard to get a real sense of it due to lacking character interaction and dialogue.

That's not why I love TES games, though; personally all I want from Skyrim is a beautiful, explorable gameworld, appealing art and animation style, an incredibly open and flexible character creation and leveling system, and modding tools. Judging by the trailer, it's going to deliver all of that superbly.

I sometimes do miss a more linear, more personal and more developed story/party-based RPG... I guess we've still got The Witcher 2. I like Geralt as a per-defined character, and I agree that they really know how to do "dark" in a way BioWare can't. The setting, visual style and characters all seem a lot more classy and believable, too. No contest really.

Any chance you'll be doing an opinion or preview post on The Witcher 2 any time soon? Wouldn't mind hearing your thoughts on that too.