Thursday, March 17, 2011

Some more DA2 thoughts

Gotta love the blogosphere and the Bioboards these days. My my, emotions are cooking. Now, the main reason I waste some more time on the topic is hearing the same line over and over again:

"You are not entitled for an opinion unless you played the whole game"

Yo. That's my favorite. So, I want to let the developer and the publisher know that I don't like the current development by... actually buying the product? That's great thinking, really. After all, the publisher is only interested in sales. If a game sells good, it's a proven success, all the whining on the internet by disillusioned fans means absolutely nothing at all, as long as the product sells. Geddid? Is it that hard to understand? Do I need to buy the Farming Simulator 2011 too and play it from A to Z before I'm allowed to say "that's not my kind of thing"? And will anybody care once I've paid the money for it?
See, Dragon Age 2 might've caused a huge controversy, but yet again everyone buys it anyway, it's on top of the gaming charts. The only thing we as players can do to change their ways of thinking is to vote with our money, if we don't like the current development and want to change it, we don't buy, it's simple like that. Once we buy, nobody cares anymore what we write about it on the boards and blogs. Conclusion: I don't buy it, period. If someone gave me a copy to play and change my mind, sure, I'm open, but Bioware won't send me a copy and I'm not going to pirate that thing either to review it, so that's how it is. Now, the real question is, am I really not able to judge the game at all, because I don't own it? Let me recap the development from my personal view...

1. Mass Effect: I liked it. For it's presentation, not really the storyline. In all honesty, I've heard so much praise about Mass Effect's storyline, but for me it was the first time Bioware's storytelling started to annoy me a little. I thought it was stereotypical and aimed at a playerbase who still wet their pants about Star Trek-like honor and pride stories. However, presentation was cool.

2. Dragon Age Origins: I loved it. It had it flaws, I wrote about them, but it was still great. Again, it was not the storyline but the way it was told, the characters, and, that's a main point for me, in contrast to Mass Effect the feel of a real RPG with free character creation, all these Origin stories etc. More about that later.

3. DA2 announcement... Boy, that was fast. How much quality can DA2 have after such a short development? Remains to be seen.

4. Hawke. Okay, that was the first real downer for me. I DO NOT WANT TO PLAY HAWKE! I want to play my own personality. Shephard was enough, geddid? It's cool, have one game series with a set main character, but hell, leave me my choice in the other game, like you already DID in part 1. And why not? Only for the reason that some kids need a voiceover? I don't need a voiceover, quite the contrary. I want something left for my imagination! And that's where the dumbing down process starts. I actually wanted to write a whole post just about how a set character or a voiceover alone dumbs down a RPG, but it's not always as easy as that. To make it short, it depends on the game, and in Bioware's case it's generally not my thing. I generally prefer to play my OWN character, that's what makes a classic RPG for me. Playing Shepherd or Hawke is not giving me the feeling this is my adventure, it's the feeling like playing Bruce Willis through Die Hard and make decisions for him. The voiceovers are not what I'm saying deep inside that character, it's what the actor I'm giving commands to says, especially because the voiceover leaves nothing to my imagination anymore. To make it short, it's a different kind of RPG, and DA turned from RPG type one (classic) to RPG type 2 (uh... modern? Console? *shrugs*)

5. Dragon Effect. That dialogue wheel is not the greatest invention in gaming history! STOP F...ING using it in every game just because Mass Effect was a success. It didn't make Alpha Protocol a winner, and it doesn't make Dragon Age 2 a winner. Not even in Mass Effect it's cool to hear Shephard say some idiotic line you totally didn't intend to say, but hey, in Mass Effect the dialogue wheel has been sort of... part of the series, you got used to have it in THAT game. Do I want it in every other game too now, do I think it's an improvement for all RPGs just because Mass Effect was an okay game? No, for sure not. Mass Effect wasn't great because it had a dialogue wheel, so stop treating that dumb thing like the holy grail of all future RPGs. It's not, it's a Mass Effect thing and it should remain in that game.

6. Mass Effect 2. More of the same. Honestly, what's the big deal... it played faster than part 1, more action, less clutter, amazing... Maybe it was better than part 1, I honestly can't say. It was quite enjoyable, I admit, but it was play and forget, and a refined repetition of the same Bioware formulas. First time actually I wasn't interested in the romance subplots anymore. Why? Not because I don't enjoy romances in games, quite the opposite. But I'm getting tired of always the same formula... since Baldur's Gate it's always been the same steps, from the first dialogue choices that show some interest over the stupid reputation-point-farming to get on their good side, then the obligatory "make a choice" showdown, the naive kissing and FOX-save romance scene... YAWN... seriously, after a half dozen games it's getting old.
Anyway, nothing in Mass Effect 2 felt new and exciting anymore. Maybe, if I had to choose between 1 and 2, I'd take 2 as the better, more polished game, but that doesn't mean much.

7. Dragon Age 2 Lore/ingame scenes/community info... blablabla.

Lore: Seriously, I couldn't care less about the bigger picture of Ferelden. When I play a D&D game I don't care about the big world of the Forgotten Realms either, I care about the small world my character will see when I play. I'm not interested in the 5000 years of history or relations between the different states or why King soandso fought that war with state xy 300 years before... Let me be so blunt and say, everyone can make that up. It just takes some patience and detailing out from some hired geek who likes to write up lore. In most cases it's based on either Tolkien or the Forgotten Realms anyway, with some changes of times, names and places to hide the ripoff, and I wouldn't even notice because I honestly don't care. I don't read lore, I only care for the world my character will see and feel in a game. In real life, I'm no historican either and I don't need to know which tribes fought what wars an eternity ago to make my way around.

Ingame scenes: I don't care for fighting mechanics, sorry. The fighting is a minor part in following the storyline and getting immersed. I only don't like if it's looking more complicated than it has to. DA2's fighting scenes looked rather messy to me, a minor turnoff. Big turnoff: The dialogue wheel, again. Did I already say I don't see the point of adding it to every other game just because Mass Effect sold good /despite/ the wheel (surely not because of it)?

Community info: Oh jeez. Romance, romance romance romance. Let me repeat I like romance subplots. But the fuss on the Bioboards was ridiculous. And now every character has to be available for romances, every taste has to be catered. Character x is not bi? Oh my god! Political correctness outcry, what will the gay community think? No no, make him/her bi fast. Just make everyone bi, shall we? Also make them so outwashed that surely every taste is catered, throw away every personality and... oh right, do some market studies about the look. We have to make sure our teenage players get exactly the partner they're looking for!
Before anyone comes with the homophobic stamp now: I played a F/F romance in Origins too, it was enjoyable. I absolutely love how the gay characters in New Vegas are done. That's not my point. My point is washing out every originality and edges.
Was there any other topic on the Bioboards, besides some chest hair? I must've missed them.

Let me recapitulate now. So far there was nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing I saw as any improvement over Origins. Everything I saw was taking away things I liked in Origins, and putting nothing in it's place that made up for it, only things I consider unnecessary or even bad decisions.

Then came the demo. You've read my post? What's there to say... come on, people on the boards even defended that one and said it cannot be used for judging a game... it's old, based on an earlier build of the game, uh... should not demonstrate any aspect of the final game... err.... are you kidding me? It's a DEMO! It's supposed to be a demonstration of the final game and it should make me buy a game, no? There, it failed. If a Demo of a game fails to impress, I don't buy a game, isn't the world like that? Now I'm told I'm supposed to ignore that demo and buy the game anyway, because I should've known that the demo is not, in any way, supposed to be a demonstration of the final product which will be a completely different experience?
I'm sorry, but that's a logic that completely escapes me.

Anyway, all my past prejudices towards DA2 were not only proven right, but even increased by that Demo. Not only all the points I listed above, it got even worse. They made the dialogue wheel even more dumb, to the point I'm honestly thinking "how retarded does Bioware expect me to be, if they even give me icons that show me that the asshole answer is not nice?".
The few cutscenes were cringeworthy at it's best. How much more stereotypical and, unintended, funnier can it be? I'm sorry, but there was no drama there, it was "headdesk" only.
The sugar on top was the graphics. I don't expect Bioware to come up with something breathtaking like The Witcher 2 or Skyrim, don't worry.... we all know Bioware games aren't meant to be next generation graphics, but...

...Are you kidding me?! This is an AAA game with 90+ scores?
For the shameful rest just look at my past rant. Some people still call that an unique style, I call it shit. Crap. Worst of the worst. There's nothing, absolutely nothing stylish or of unique beauty there. You can load up a game from 1999 like "Alice", THAT is a unique style with lower polygons, even by today's standards it's Art. Dragon Age 2 isn't art, it deserves a headslap for the graphics. And I've not even started about the breasts yet....

Okay, that's up to the point of the demo. I'm still following the reviews of the game, and especially Mat's at his Rotted Rose blog. This is by far not the heated, hateful perspective you see from many other sources, quite the opposite, and I'm absolutely not expecting Dragon Age 2 to be such a pile of crap like some Metacritic scores by users make it appear to be.
No, what I expect it to be is actually yet another Bioware standard game, but not of highest quality. If I played it, I'm sure I wouldn't give it a total thumbs down, because I know Bioware's formulas work. At some point it'll be the same as Mass Effect, the presentation will catch me again, the formula will invade my mind and I'll want to see the end. Just like Mass Effect 2. Just that Mass Effect 2 didn't have the "woah, awesome" effect on me anymore it has on most other players, simply because I'm already bored of the Bioware stereotypes. And after all I've seen, Dragon Age does not have the polish of Mass Effect 2. No, with my prejudice in mind, but also knowing how the games can catch you, I'd expect me to give it a score slightly below 80. Which means, it plays okay, but I'll probably not play it again. Just like ME2. It was okay, but one time was enough.

However, there's another point why I support the massive outcry of half of the community, and why I like seeing those metacritics scores: Because it's damn right the only way to stop Bioware to do it again. Everything else, like going out, buying it and playing it anyway just to be able to make a more detailed review is sending EA and Bioware the signal "Just go on, simplify and homogenize your games even more, we'll still buy it". No. I'm stubborn like that, I still believe in quality having a niche in all this multimillion dollar business. I think after all I've seen of DA2 so far I have the right to say "no, it's shite, I don't need to see more", and I want Bioware not to do the same thing again in DA3. Which they will do if Dragon Age 2 is a success, and sadly, the sales figures speak for themselves - it's on top of the game charts, and I'm losing my hope it'll get better again.

Now, the last thing for this long rant is a quote from the Bioboards that summarizes almost everything about the dumbing down of Dragon Age 2. It was in reply to someone mentioning the fact that you can't put armors you find on your way on your companions (doh?)...

Stanley Woo wrote...

You can find armour upgrades for Fenris that "would be perfect for Fenris." All games have limitations. We can't cater to every individual's imagination.

Not sure if there's anything more to say. Guess I've said enough.


Nessa said...

Heh... I think I've got the non-BS translation for Woo's comment there.

"Why would we have a common sense feature found in much older games? It's our game, we'll make it how we like. Be a good moron, shut up, and go buy it."


I'm reminded why I don't buy games anymore.

Oh, and where is that scene with the deformed elf from? Morrowind -prior- to modding it? *snickers* Why do we need faster graphics cards if the quality goes down with "modern" games? :-)

Apolyon6k said...

I rented the game to see for myself what is the truth about it and I have to agree with your assessment that it was a typical bioware game. I liked Origins because it somehow tried to be a roleplaying game but DA2 is only an action game with rpg elements. Origins made the mistake of being too combat focused but in DA2 it plays like a beat-'em-up (Tekken or Mortal Kombat) or a hack'n'slash like Diablo with story elements detatched from the player as far as possible.
Had real problems finishing the game motivationwise.

Quillmaster said...

Great comments that pretty much reflect what my feelings have been all along. I haven't bought it and have no intention of buying it.