Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

Back… But Not in the Saddle

Posted by deckard47 on June 10, 2009

And I’ve never even listened to that song.

As you have probably guessed, I’m willing to cut the people at Bioware a lot of slack. I played through those almost unplayable portions of Mass Effect, I pretended to enjoy the campaign from NWN when everyone else talked about how “good” it was, and I put up with the sillier parts of KotoR. I’ve made a heroic effort to see the good in all of the Dragon Age stuff they’ve been putting out. I don’t have to do this for Mass Effect 2, because everything they’ve put out for that game looks amazing. Sure, they may have not “coded in” the inverted controls (that’s what the EA rep told me, hilariously), but I had fun even as my inverted mind fought their inexplicably non-inverted demo. That game is badass, already. It’s not being released for another year and it loks better than Dragon Age.

I’d done a pretty good job of blocking out the bad parts of Dragon Age, including their juvenile “relationships.” Then I read this bit over at RPS, and it al came back to me. How puriently excited we were supposed to be about the hawt companions we could totally have sex with. How some people watching laughed derisively, some made weird, (apparently) masculine sounds of approbation, and some people like me made Lucky Jim faces and gave our peers sidelong looks. It was not a pleasant situation. He sums it up pretty damn perfectly:

Our hero – one of the Grey Wardens, the group to which players will belong in an effort to fight back against the Blight, and the evil Arch Demon bringing it about – has a present for a lady, Morrigan. It’s a magical book that she has been looking for. She’s going to be very pleased to receive it. Once it’s dragged from our inventory to hers, she responds with some of the most excruciatingly dreadful flirtation I’ve ever seen. The acting is very weak, my face screwed up as I wrote the word “AWFUL” on my pad in the dark. She’s dressed as you might imagine a girl would appear on the cover of a 1980s D&D book, wearing what appear to be a couple of straps of material, most of her breasts hanging out. We can respond to her elephantine attempts at flirting by suggesting we’re open to her ideas. Once we’ve ambiguously agreed to her advances a couple of times, it cuts to a glimpse of an awkward sex scene

I was there (at a different presentation, for me, not everyone laughed), and I still blocked out how BAD it was. And I totally didn’t recognize that the hundreds-of-years-old Witch was played by Kate Mulgrew. I lose points.

Still, the parts I played, the art I saw, the music I heard (not attached to the hideous presentation) were all cool. That’s not the right word. The felt right, proper, even. It felt like someone had sensed my silent, crotchety disaproval of these new RPGs and their three person party system, their lack of my beloved attributes, or perhaps the blasphemous minigames that took place in space and medieval China. Don’t even get me started on this fast travel you all love so much, or your damn lockpicking minigames.

I love all of the RPGs I play (including those that I just made not-so-subtle fun of), more than I should, I expect. But it’s been a while since a game really telegraphed its understanding of my desire for a specific kind of fiddly, archaic role playing. This is what the title screen (and title music), character creation, origin story cutscene, combat, and early dialogue did for me. I know this sounds weird, but I can’t say if the combat will really hold up in the end. I honestly think that the console solution for Dragon Age is inelegant, out of place, and unpleasant to watch or play. If you want to give me lots of abilities, 4 PCs, and tactical situations, don’t make me zoom into the character’s ass and switch control every time I want to carry out a carefully planned attack. It’s the least pleasant way I can think of playing an RPG. It works in Mass Effect because I play one guy. If you made me switch to Ashley every 5 seconds (and believe me, I would, her AI is bad enough), I’d stop playing your game.

Which is all to say that I (much like RPS’ John Walker) really want to like this game, and that I’ve only seen 10 minutes out of an 80 hour campaign. I will believe in this game until they drive it into the ground with Marilyn Manson and a prepubescent understanding of women (and men), sexuality, and human interaction. They’re not at that point yet (it’s pretty standard stuff, when compared to a lot of games. Better, even. That’s so sad, that I could write that and mean it), but they’re shuffling closer every day.

That’s it, no more writing about the tiny bits I played at E3. I’ll wait to pour my heart out again for the tiny bits I get to play at Comic-Con NY!

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