Archive for the ‘Dragon Age’ Category

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Awakened – Thoughts on the DA:O Expansion

March 20, 2010

Don’t worry, non-spoiler post here. I just finished Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening on the Xbox 360, and even as an expansion it still managed to eat up 35+ hours of my life. Was it worth it? I’ll say, if you enjoy the IP as much as I do! Sure, there were a few aspects of the game that just weren’t as fleshed out as I’d hoped, but over all it was still one of those games I couldn’t put down no matter how hard I tried. Some thoughts:

Characters – Awakening features mostly a brand new cast of characters and companions, but it doesn’t mean they are any less developed. Every companion has a unique personality, and once again I found myself trying to gain favor with each them by pandering to their every whim, as well as bribing them with shiny gifts. I was glad to see that the random banter between companions made it to this expansion, and you’re guaranteed some moments of humor by bringing different combinations of them out with you on your adventures.

One thing I must lament though: no romances! While I’m aware that the game’s faq has already stated as much weeks before its release, still…I think most of us have gotten so used to associating Bioware RPGs with romance arcs that it’s really not that unreasonable to expect a little something something. I mean, come on, not even a chaste little kiss with the roguish Nathaniel Howe? Okay, so what if my character is already happily married to King Alistair? As if a lusty romp through an extramarital adventure is anything new when you’re talking medieval monarchy.

Story – Awakening is plot-driven, so story junkies rejoice. I had a real sense of being immersed in the game, as well as feeling like my choices will matter. There will be more than a few decisions that you can’t take lightly. In fact, there were times I was ready to tear my hair out trying to decide which path to choose. Overall, I thought the premise of the story was decent as far as expansions go, and without spoiling anything, all I’ll say is that the ending was simply epic.

Of course, you can't have a game called Dragon Age with no dragons!

Combat – I was pleased to find plenty of new areas to lay waste to in Awakening, and more darkspawn to kill. So many new abilities and talents were made available to my character and her companions, I don’t even think I had the opportunity to experiment with all of them. One thing I did notice was that combat seemed a little easier in this expansion. I only died once during my entire playthrough (and that was at the end), which for someone like me is just…astounding. Maybe it was because I was able to transfer over my superior gear and items along with my character import, which may have helped my performance in the early stages of the game.

Graphics – Keep in mind I’m speaking as someone who played both the original game and its expansion on the Xbox 360, but Awakening definitely looks a lot prettier. The environmental textures look a lot smoother, as do the character faces. I also noticed added variation and improvements in the facial expressions on my character, her companions and other NPCs in the game. Believe me, it was a relief to finally play and not have my character look constipated all the time.

For the most part I truly did enjoy my time with this expansion, and appreciated the opportunity to continue my Dragon Age story.

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Did Someone Call For a Grey Warden?

March 16, 2010

This should be no surprise to any of my Xbox Live contacts, but all my free time today went towards playing Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening. I’d been looking forward to this, seeing how DA:O is easily one of  my favorite RPGs of all time. I clocked in at over 100 hours on my first playthrough of it (in part due to reading all the codex entries and just about every single scrap piece of note in the game), and even then I felt the fun ended way too soon. So yeah, as soon as I heard there was going to be an expansion, it was pretty much a done deal.

I’m hoping that everything I loved about the original — the characters, the conflicts, the rich settings, historical lore, fun combat, and of course, being able to make decisions that matter — will be just as well fleshed out in Awakening. I’m not too far through the expansion yet, but I’m confident that it will deliver on another epic story.

Getting started was super easy, since I chose to import my human noble warrior. At the end of DA:O, I had managed to muscle my way to the throne, making my character Adeleia Cousland the queen of Ferelden by marrying Alistair and ruling at his side. Like the trailers for the game indicated, my royal husband made an appearance early on in the game, but only stayed long enough to kiss me goodbye and wish me luck on my new adventures.

*Siiiiiiigh*…and here I’d been looking forward to spending more time with my favorite Bioware boyfriend, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Instead, in a stunning display of trust, my love Alistair decides to send me forth into the blighted lands with a sausage-fest party consisting of a wise-cracking mage who talks like a frat boy, a horny alcoholic dwarf, and the tall, dark handsome son of my former enemy. Oh love, what are you thinking? I hope he rules Ferelden with better judgment.

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From Games to Books

March 8, 2010

Nothing beats being able to curl up at the end of the day with a good book (or in my case, a Kindle) in your lap. I love to read, so there’s always a pretty eclectic collection on my reading list — mystery, drama, sci-fi, horror, fantasy, the occasional trashy romance (I’m actually quite partial to the historical Harlequins…mmm…), and because I’m such a sucker for the lore behind the games I’m playing, every now and then I’ll also throw in a video-game novel. I guess you can say it’s one of my guilty pleasures.

This is going to sound really nerdy, but I do love game lore. I love it a lot. Books based on video games aren’t always all that good, but I’m not reading them for the award-winning writing. I pick them up for what they bring to the table in terms of the back story and character development. It’s why I choose to read them in the first place, and not just some brief article on the game’s wiki page.

And I do get pleasantly surprised every once in a while. I just finished reading Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne by David Gaider, which I must say is one of the best video game novels I have ever read. There are parts of it that feel rushed (what I like to call the “primer effect” that plagues so many works of this genre), but despite that I was still quite happy with the depth of the story. I also felt that character development was done surprisingly well — so well that I don’t think I can bring myself to hate Teyrn Loghain anymore. If you enjoyed Dragon Age: Origins and would like a little background information on the events that took place before the game, I would definitely recommend this.

I’m moving on to Michael Crichton’s Pirate Latitudes now, but I’m not done adding video-game novels to my lineup of books-to-read just yet. I’ve read most of the Warcraft novels but there are still a few out there I haven’t gotten my hands on, or I might even give some of the Warhammer Online books a try. I was also recently made aware of the Mass Effect books (thanks to Paulman) so that’s another possibility. If there are other lore-geeks like me out there who enjoy their games enough to read their novelizations, I’m also open to any recommendations!

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A Post Dedicated to my Bioware Boyfriends

January 25, 2010

While this isn’t exactly a MMO-related post, I’ll never turn down a chance to write about one of my favorite gaming companies, Bioware. Not only are they the makers of Mass Effect 2 (which launches tomorrow so expect to see many posts about the adventures of my FemShepard in the near future), they are also the developers behind the highly anticipated MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Through their story-driven RPGs, Bioware has brought us some of the most memorable characters in gaming…including our favorite in-game love interests. True to tradition, it is said that SW:TOR will have romanceable companions, and Mass Effect 2 also has a number of characters confirmed as romance options, available for both male and female Shepards. Being a huge fan of Bioware romance arcs, you can bet your ass I’ll be macking on at least one person aboard the SSV Normandy.

So on this eve of the Mass Effect 2 release, without further ado I present to you this post in honor of my top 3 Bioware boyfriends (Warning: May contain spoilers).

3. Kaidan Alenko – Mass Effect

I had looked forward to Staff Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko’s romance arc from the very first moment I encountered him aboard the Normandy…until I actually had a conversation with him. This man clearly has a lot of baggage but not a whole lot of personality. Still, while I may rag on Kaidan a lot, he does have many redeeming qualities that make him quite endearing, provided you can get past his whole angsty biotics-experimentation-ruined-my-life shtick. Consider how the man has had enough traumatic experiences in his life to make him a murderous psychopath three times over, but instead, his experiences have actually taught him open-mindedness and self-restraint. He is also extremely loyal to those he cares about, both as a soldier and as a lover, and a part of me is already dying a little inside when I think about how I’ll cheat on him in the sequel…well, no, not really.

2. Carth Onasi – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

It seems Bioware has a knack for writing angsty men, and KOTOR’s Carth Onasi is no exception. In many ways, Carth’s whiny-ness is on par with that of Kaidan’s (and sometimes even surpasses it), but at least the former has some semblance of a personality. In fact, there are many times in game where Carth can be just downright petulant and moody. One moment he’s flirting with me after we survive a crash landing on Taris (five minutes into the game, I might add!) and the next thing I know he’s guilt tripping me with his crankiness and trust issues. While certainly not in-game-boyfriend-of-the-year material, getting on his good side required a lot more than simply finessing the conversations (namely patience), which made his eventual declaration of love to my character all the more satisfying.

1. Alistair – Dragon Age: Origins

WARNING! Incoming swooning fangirl rant alert: OMG I *heart* Alistair!!! The characters of DA:O were by far some of the best written I have ever seen from any game developer, and Alistair is easily the most appealing in-game boyfriend out of any of the previous options. He’s strong, sensitive, funny, committed…and royalty, for God’s sake. While he can have his annoying emo moments (he is a Bioware man, after all), Alistair is in many ways the stereotypical Mr. Right, straight out of your latest dungeons-and-dragons-themed issue of Cosmo, complete with the fluffy-puppy eyes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; it’s a fantasy RPG after all, so why can’t we dreamers dream? Of course, the cherry on top was my fortuitous choice of a human noble origin for my warrior, as it turned out to be the only way to rule Ferelden at his side (and he should be ashamed that his queen can out-tank his ass any day).

Honorable Mentions:

Zevran Arainai – Dragon Age: Origins

I’ll admit, while I loved Zevran for his wit and candor, as an in-game love interest he was unfortunately easier to make than a peanut butter sandwich. I exchanged many vicious insults with him on another playthrough of DA:O as a Dalish Elf, but that didn’t stop him from jumping my bones at the drop of a hat. While the whole situation allowed for many instances of hilarity, it became difficult for me to take “romancing” Zevran seriously, even after a sensitive side to him started to emerge later on in the relationship.

Sky – Jade Empire

Sky would have been an excellent romance if I had been able to get into the story of Jade Empire. I felt that the game, while decent, was too short and lacked some of the depth you saw in other Bioware titles. As a result, my experiences with the game haven’t been too memorable, and the details of the romance arc with Sky remain somewhat fuzzy in my mind.