After finishing Conviction, I decided to clear the backlog and finally get around to the most recent Dragon Age: Origins DLCs—The Darkspawn Chronicles and Leliana’s Song. I was actually to go into detail about each one, but as I was writing, the effort felt more and more pointless. To make a long story short, both pieces of DLC were extremely shoddy and shallow, and not worth the money they cost. After finishing both and feeling taken advantage of afterwards, I started to wonder if the prospect of DLC for story-based RPGs is even tenable.
Many readers and staff on this site have praised BioWare's high fantasy epic Dragon Age: Origins for its compelling story, loveable characters, and nail-biting decisions. Truly, it is a great game, but no one has had the time or focus to closely examine each of the games major choices in an effort to discover what makes them so great. A closer examination reveals that not all of these choices are nearly as good as the others. This article aims to teach what makes story choices in a game compelling, and what makes them forgettable.
To start with, Dragon Age: Origins — Awakening was a pretty chunky amount of content for something called an "expansion". It may sound odd, but after going through it I kind of felt as though it might have worked better if it had been split up into its three main component parts and doled out one at a time, similar to the way Fallout 3 handled its five add-ons.
The other day, I joked with a friend that I was doing a "60-hour speed run" ofFinal Fantasy XII by following the story and ignoring all of the side quests. I'm not a fan of grinding at all, and RPGs which keep themselves playable when the person doing the playing is simply following the critical path are my favorite sorts. In total, I haven't done more than an hour or so of "grinding" enemies (and that done from my own free will) and I'm having no issues so far, so I'm kind of wondering where the complaints are coming from. Maybe it becomes more of an issue further into the game, but at the point I'm at, it just hasn't been a concern.
What compels us to spend 25, 40, 50, even 70+ hours on a single game? We think we've figured it out. Join us for conversation about Dragon Age, Assassin's Creed 2, Way of the Samurai 3, Torchlight and Borderlands DLC. With Chi Kong Lui, Brad Gallaway, Mike Bracken, and Tim "Yes, I Like Borderlands Now" Spaeth.
Last post, I mentioned that the tendency to choose segregation as a means to solve problems was a feature of many societies in the world of Dragon Age. Another, related motif appearing in many Thedan societies is the existence of a rigidly-defined social order in which a person's status and even his occupation are set at the moment of birth. To varying degrees this kind of social rigidity appears in almost every social group in the game (except the elves). Through its dialogue and plot, Dragon Age: Origins repudiates these systems, but in its mechanics it supports them.
Playing Dragon Age gave me a relatively frequent sense of déjà vu. Although the game portrays a number of different nations and societies, there are recurrent features that speak to underlying ideas about the psychology of its inhabitants. One such motif is the tendency for its denizens to solve their problems through segregation. At several levels, the people of the continent of Thedas like to resolve issues by pushing problematic groups into isolated areas and pretending, as much as possible, that they no longer exist.
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