Design and documentation journal for my interactive fiction (text games); also reviews and other miscellaneous stuff.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dragon Age Musing

In high school, I read about three paragraphs of Nietzsche. This qualified me to talk grandly about how silly people were, and how much more I understood the darkness of human nature. This was bullshit, and I probably even knew it at the time. But the dark, angsty teen poetry was darker than the world that Bioware has put together. Let's be clear: despite their ads and age restricted website and insistence that Dragon Age is set in a dark fantasy world, this is an utterly generic bog-standard fantasy world, cribbed from Tolkien and back issues of Dungeons and Dragons magazines. And not the non-standard campaigns, either.

The world has some nice finishing touches, and it's fairly well imagined. The denizens of the world feel far more well-imagined and individualized than any of the characters from Oblivion, and Bioware's NPC's appear to have genuine personalities, and several of them are quite funny. (Not as funny as The Witcher, but above par for RPGs.) Combat kind of sucks, and trying to get your entire party to act the way you want is a grueling task.

I don't care one way or another about including inter-party romance, but I am pleased to find both m/m and f/f options. And if the main m/m romance option (I'm not sure if there are others) is a bit stereotypical - your potential lover is a bisexual elf who grew up in a whorehouse, makes it clear he'd bed anyone with the least incentive, and the achievement unlocked is named "Easy Lover" - I did find him one of the most enjoyable party members, and at least his combat is not fundamentally broken, the way it seems to be for some of the other characters.

It's a good game, but there's some serious misses that standout because the majority of the design is so solid. And I really, really wish we could get two inches away from this faux medieval Britain/Europe thing. I have nothing against Tolkien, but a *little* originality wouldn't kill us, right, game designers? RIGHT? (To be fair, I was obscenely grateful when I got out of the introduction to my character without triggering my most hated trope - where you go hunting and return to find your village burned to the ground.)

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