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Dragon Age: Origins

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Dragon Age: Origins

Postby pjbogart » Wed Jan 06, 2010 1:58 pm

Anyone else slogging through this title? It's a pretty good time and if you liked NWN2 you should like Dragon Age. Nice environments, challenging battles (maybe a bit too challenging) and a relatively engaging storyline. But enough about what's good, you want someone to tell you what's bad, right?

The load times are pathetic, and I mean really, really, really pathetic. You can go to the bathroom, make a pot of coffee and read the sports section of a USA Today all in the time it takes to move from one region to another. It completely disrupts the flow of the game and by the time your characters reappear you've likely forgotten what you're supposed to do next. Hands down worst load times I've ever seen in a video game.

And since they decided to make obscenely long load times, it's a pretty tragic decision to have so many of them. Between the long winded cinematics and a quest system that's more like playing fetch, you'll be sure to be interrupted with a two minute "loading" screen about every minute and a half. Sounds appealing, huh?

At least to this point, it's unclear what money is for. You collect a lot of worthless garbage, but merchants are few and far between and never really have anything worth buying. On a positive note, your inventory is a "party inventory" so everyone shares things like health "poultices" and such, no need to divvy them up as you feel might be necessary, but you only get 70 slots and you can fill them up pretty quick with the huge array of relatively useless items you pick up.

The Race and Class system is pretty thin, though I give them credit for creativity. You can be a human, dwarf or elf and a warrior, mage or thief. Secondary skills and feats are similar to AD&D but sometimes you really need them and simply don't have them. I could certainly use some more injury kits, but I don't have level 2 herblore. Most of the locked chests are beyond my party's skill, even though I picked up a thief NPC. I need items for crafting that I've never seen and shops don't seem to sell. The instructions are worthless so I guess I just keep pressing forward until I find someone to sell those goods to me.

The combat "tactics" system is so huge and complex that you almost have to laugh at the developers who spent so much time coding it. Each character can be programmed to "auto-fight" in just about any way imaginable, including protecting specific characters in your party with specific attacks when the other character gets below a specific health. All very useful, but I can pretty much guarantee I'll never use any of it.

Once again you have to find a camera angle you like and get used to using it. Personally I've found zooming out so I can see the whole battlefield extremely frustrating because I'm always panning in the wrong direction or the person I need to see is off-screen or buried under four enemies. I'm playing "Tombraider" style which is one click before the overhead look and that seems to work okay for me once I got used to it.

From all that you'd probably guess that I positively detest this game which is totally untrue. It's really a lot of fun, but the game's weaknesses come very close to overpowering its strengths. The game is so convoluted and complex that I'm guessing having a walkthrough book in front of me would make it far more enjoyable, if for no other reason than I don't have to suffer any more load screens than necessary, trekking back and forth for what I need. I also suspect it would be more fun playing a second time through after you figure out all of the intricacies, but I seriously doubt I'm going to have the patience to finish it the first time through.

It may be game of the year, almost certainly RPG of the year, but for all of the headaches I'd almost suggest skipping this title and picking up the next one after they figure out how to make the game a bit more user friendly. I honestly can't believe the amount of time they spent making this mammoth adventure without realizing how frustrating simple tasks like navigating through your journal can be. How many cinematics is too many? At what point do you stop and say, "not only are these cinematics taking forever to make, they're disrupting the flow of the game and making it less enjoyable." Seriously, couldn't you find one level-headed gamer to help your crew of colossal nerds make a game that's more fun than work?
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Re: Dragon Age: Origins

Postby TAsunder » Thu Jan 07, 2010 12:44 pm

Thanks for the review.

I've been trying to decide between this title for PC and Demon's Souls for PS3. Both seem strong contenders for RPG of the year. Load times this bad might be enough to sway my decision.
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Re: Dragon Age: Origins

Postby pjbogart » Thu Jan 07, 2010 10:35 pm

In DAO's defense, I'm running the latest, greatest Norton incarnation, which is pretty much always updating, scanning, backing up or screwing me in the ass. I can get my load times a bit more reasonable by taking a scalpel to my entire task manager, but the biggest hog of all (Norton) won't let me shut it down.

I think it might be time to switch anti-virus software.

The game is actually really impressive and I've been having a lot of fun with it. I don't know what else I can do to cut load times. I have 3 gigs of RAM, a decent cpu (AMD dual core 5000+) and a very nice gpu (geforce 250 with a gig of video RAM). The game would probably be a riotous good time if not for the load times and constant cinematics.

Why do they do that? Those cinematics must take forever to make.
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Re: Dragon Age: Origins

Postby pjbogart » Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:49 am

Ok, Ok... I take it all back. The load times are a huge pain in the ass, but if you simply exit out of the game it clears your cache and you're good for a while. Simply exit every three loads or so and the load times stay perfectly reasonable, perhaps even fast. You don't even need to completely kill the game, just exit to the main menu and that seems to solve the problem.

This game might even give Baldur's Gate II a run for it's money, RPG-wise. Huge world, more side quests than you care to do and a very immersive storyline. The creative streamlining of AD&D rules is worth the price of admission alone. The NPC's are fun to work with and each has an interesting story and sidequest to boot. The battles can get hairy, but the difficulty settings make them perfectly manageable with a couple of tries. There's a couple of days worth of learning curve, but that's true of any good RPG so I can't really complain.

I'm now over 20 hours into the game (it keeps track for you) and I'm only 19% complete. That's great bang for your buck. I find myself thinking about what to do next when I'm not even in front of my computer which is an excellent sign of a memorable game.

At this point I'd say this is the best game I've played in a very long time. It's kind of a cross between "Gothic" and "Neverwinter Nights" but with more direction than "Gothic" and less boredom than "Neverwinter Nights." It's quest-oriented without being overly linear. It's combat intensive without being overly sloggy. I'd swear my dwarf fighter told a skeleton he's going to "skull fuck" them.

I peeked at a walkthrough, though they're still working on most of them, and it claimed you can get busy with your NPC's if you cajole them properly. Apparently gender doesn't matter and you can even get into some man-on-man or woman-on-woman action. Pretty bold, though I can't verify that yet.

RPG of the year, hands down. I don't even need to see the other titles.
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Re: Dragon Age: Origins

Postby pjbogart » Thu Jan 14, 2010 9:15 am

Well, I finished and that was a little too quick. Definitely not "Baldur's Gate II" in the epic adventure department. I put in about 40 hours and completed about 40% of the game when I killed the final boss so I guess I left a lot of loose ends. My characters ended the game as levels 19 and 20 but you max out at 25 so I guess doing the side quests would be beneficial if you want to build your character as much as possible.

My gripes at completion are similar to my gripes when I started. Load times were poor and there were way, way, way too many cinematics. For the time they spent making all of those cinematics, they could have added a lot more playable content. There's a learning curve to controlling your party and getting the most out of your hero and the npc's, but overall it works out pretty well. Pretty impressive how they tinkered with ordinary D&D rules to make a more streamlined character development process. A lot of creativity went into this game and I suspect I'll play through it again some time down the road, but I'm not chomping at the bit to give it another go and I suppose that says something.

I'd give it a B+/A-.

Oh, and I never got busy with any of the NPC's, but I'd swear my Templar buddy wanted to teabag me in a few conversations.
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Re: Dragon Age: Origins

Postby mog53 » Fri Jan 29, 2010 8:52 pm

I will say overall I liked the game but the difficulty curve was a little ridiculous. It took me about 40 hours to get my party to the point where I wouldn't die every other battle at best, 3 times every battle at worst.

I agree whole heatedly on the terrible load times. They were so long every time I died, which was constantly early on, that I took the opportunity to dust off my DS and catch up on other games while I waited. In retrospect it was a good excuse to start playing my DS again so it really wasn't that bad : P
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