Dragon Age: Origins and my attitude to playing style in video games

A few weeks ago a discount on Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening was offered on Steam, and I took this opportunity to buy this game. Being a cheapskate (or poor student), I had been waiting for a long time for a discount to come, I knew it was supposed to be a great game and desired to play it since it’s release at the end of last year. Based on the previous games of the developer of DA:O which I’ve played with great enjoyment (such as Mass Effect, but especially Baldur’s Gate I and II) I had great expectations. My expectations were met.

This game rocks. The story is great, it’s got epic battles, it’s got cool finishing moves such as decapitations, the finishing moves for large monsters are even more impressive. The game also provides buckets of blood, which is spattered nicely all over your player character and his or her allies after they minced a group of enemies in melee combat. It’s quite comical to see conversations right after a battle, with the player character and friends talking or observing the conversation like everything is fine while they’re covered in blood.

There are some downsides as well. I bought the Digital Deluxe Edition, which includes some downloadable content (DLC), extra’s for the game made available for a price. One of those things includes a castle which you can conquer and then use as a base. Another one is an extra party member. Both are a disappointment in my opinion. Cleaning out the castle was cool, but after that all you can do is go there to buy and store stuff, and you can only enter the courtyard of the castle and no longer the interior. I remember Baldur’s Gate II, where you could also get a castle as a base. In that game, the castle generated income through taxes, and your posession of the castle also led to further story development, including having to defend your castle from an invasion. It’s a pity awesome games like that aren’t made anymore. Concerning the extra party member, that was material originally intended to be included by default, but later cut and relegated to DLC.

They should not offer DLC, they should include it in the base game and charge a higher price for it if necessary. Certainly with DA:O I have the impression that the base game is left deliberately incomplete (admittedly very slightly incomplete) because they cut features and then offer them as DLC. Besides asking money for it, the way the DLC is implented is annoying. It requires creating an account and being logged in over the Internet to authorize the DLC – for a game which does not feature multiplayer – a process which is not free from error.

I can imagine that with BG II being 2D and DA:O being 3D, it cost a lot more money to develop DA:O so they need to compensate those costs with more turnover. That could be the reason for the increasing trend of offering DLC, which I despise. But I wonder if the increased sales of video games, because they have become more popular and because DA:O like so many other titles has also been released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (BG II was only made for the PC), isn’t enough already to cover the extra expenses? Given that Electronic Arts is the publisher, I wouldn’t be surprised if greed was the motive.

The game is quite affected by bugs, too. I experienced a few crashes. A few days ago patch 1.04 was released to fix some bugs. Yet still, the crossbows were apparently not fixed, leaving those weapons still useless. DA:O is still affected by bugs which need to be fixed, and meanwhile they’re already busy working on Dragon Age 2. This doesn’t give me much confidence in this sequel, maybe I should avoid it’s DLC, wait a year after it’s release to buy it heavily discounted, at a point when the bugs which have a serious potential to spoil the fun are hopefully fixed.

Now let’s reflect on my experience when playing DA:O. My perfectionism is easily seen in the way I play games. In shooters like Max Payne 1 and 2 or F.E.A.R. for example, I often quick load the last quick save I made before a shootout if I deem myself to have performed not good enough, e.g. if I take even the slightest amount of damage. Another motivation is creativity and the entertainment value resulting from it, which means killing the enemies in a creative way. I then quick load so that I can try it again, with a ‘perfect’ method so I take no damage at all. With creative I mean, to give an example in the case of F.E.A.R., to lure enemies into trip mines which I planted for an ambush, or to sneak up on an enemy and kill them with a kick, instead of plainly shooting them which is not as entertaining.

Of course not all games lend themselves to this creativity. A lot of shooters don’t allow for creative gameplay, Doom 3 being a good example. Multiplayer shooters often don’t either, for example Counter-Strike: Source does allow for a lot of creativity in tactics, but not in equipment for killing enemies. Half-Life 2: Deathmatch is a good example of a multiplayer shooter which does, because it features a very entertaining weapon, the gravity gun, and laser tripmines.

In certain role-playing video games – DA:O is one of them, but so is Oblivion for example – the best way to win is certainly not obvious. My perfectionism drives me to read FAQ’s and strategy guides on the Internet so that I learn how I can be more able to win, to play even better even if I could beat the game without any help.

When playing Oblivion, you can make your life much easier if you’re smart and creative, know how to exploit (not talking about cheating here) weaknesses and strengths of enemies and yourself, if you understand the mechanics of the game. For example, you can just charge at enemies blindly, or you can use invisibility and back stab them. I refer to this and this page for details, as you can imagine the tactics there can make a huge difference in your ability to defeat enemies. Being smart poses a challenge, because I like to be creative, but often can’t develop creative and smart tactics on my own when the game is role-playing game, they’re so complex. That’s why I need the Internet.

I feel that DA:O is a game just like Oblivion which requires quite some thinking on which tactics to use. I’m unable to kill the two dragons I encountered so far in this game, while I’ve seen a video on YouTube demonstrating that it’s actually quite easy if you use a brilliant tactic. There are many other video’s demonstrating easy kills of adversaries which are difficult on first impression. So far I’ve been playing the game at the standard difficulty, refusing to turn down the difficulty even though the game gave me a hard time at certain moments. Even though it could increase my (short term?) enjoyment of the game if I’d reduce the difficulty so I wouldn’t get killed so often, I refuse to do so out of a sense of self respect, even if it’s just a video game. I expect my enjoyment in playing the game would be far greater if I manage to follow the advice on the Internet and copy those tactics to realise those easy kills at the standard difficulty.

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