Category Archives: Dragon Age 2

Tumblr Gaming Blog Of The Week

I don’t know what else to call these posts, but Fereldanwench‘s gaming-related Tumblr blog is pretty awesome. It’s also labeled NSFW (Not Safe For Work 18+). I’ll flop that up front.

In fact, this blog taught me the word “apostitute“, which is the most startling, remarkable, and rich neologism I’ve cognized in a while, a fusion of the Dragon Age term “apostate” and the obvious.

And Ferelden (with an ‘e’) is of course a geographical kingdom in Dragon Age. I liked the author’s post below. The original link to her enthusiastic caption is here.

Ferelden Wench is also a cosplayer, with some Saint’s Row and some DA2 Isabela to her credit.

It’s nice to see someone re-appropriating the word “wench”. If bitch and **** can get done, it will be a triumph.

dragon age 2 lesbian screenshot

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Midweek Hysteria

Hysteria. The symptoms are:

“Faintness, nervousness, sexual desire, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in the abdomen, muscle spasm, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and “a tendency to cause trouble”.

Yes, those are the symptoms of trying to romance Morrigan in Dragon Age before she warms up her swamp galoshes a little bit for you.

Until then, you need to be ready to endure tongue lashings of the non-pleasurable variety, generally cause trouble in order to please her, and you’d better have your save game handy. (For the benefit of any Dragon Age romance savants, I am using a Morrigan gender-unlock mod.)

So. I’ve been at least two months in Rift, and I need a break. I’ve never been into festival grinds. I’ve squashed enough summer bugs and fished enough summer fish already. My main character’s roleplay daughter (on the second account) is up to level 40.

Last night I played Dragon Age: Origins and picked up Shale, the DLC companion character. I’m thrilled with DA on the PC compared to the PS3 (except the map is too small), but Shale is a disappointment that ruins the party I had planned.

Tonight I am updating SWTOR while listening to Diablo soundtracks. “Sisters” is my favorite so far.

Dear Bioware, if you’re going to make a companion DLC, the added companion needs to be of maximum amenability with all players instead of a narrow niche appeal. Put niche characters in with the main cast and let people pick and choose, like with handsome assassin boy, Zevran.

So after I originally boycotted SWTOR due to the outrageous anti-LGBT reversal, and then was turned away by F2P due to not being able to make a Twi’lek, I remembered my beta Imperial Agent, who was cool and inspiring while still being human (I think, so playable without paying up front). Primary drawback: no light saber.

We’ll see how long I survive. The last time I entered the spiked pit trap that is the limited F2P SWTOR character creation, I lasted two minutes before quitting, and I haven’t logged in since.

It’s been another weak week for news. Angry Joe is apparently playing games instead of making videos. I adopted The Old Reader as my Google reader substitute recently, and they just now announced they are kicking out their 400,000 new customers and making a private service for 10,000 instead.

I was not a happy camper when I heard this last night. Thankfully I have my blog, and it has a sidebar full of links, which is how I coped without readers in the first place.

Lastly, I’m happy to see the Rift Newbie Guide staying on top of the pop. That guide is like a plant that was dead, an embarrassment to my lack of attention, and I resurrected it for F2P, and it’s beating my WoW guide now daily for visits. This pleases the kitty.


Weekly Wyrm ~ June 7, 2013

Town Crier ImageThis week I played Dragon Age: Ultimate. I also logged into Rift tonight, played with my outfit, and gazed over the ocean while listening to the birds chirping.

I have fond memories of Rift. For example, I might be the only player on Faeblight and one of very few people with the Town Crier title for guide writing (given during six or so months after launch).

Investing time in Rift again is a decision I can’t take lightly, but it would be fun to roll a lowbie on June 12th and experience crowds like at launch with raids forming up in the starter zones to take down big invasions.

Smart players are jumping in now, of course, since Rift lite allows unlimited play to L20. The kitty and F2P get along like elves and goblin mech-saws, but Rift F2P is going to be big. My newbie guide has nearly 500 visits just this week.

A lot of discussion is taking place now about XBOX One and PC versus the new consoles. No surprise. It’s one of those ever-favorite and complicated topics. Angry Joe makes good points in his rant #2, but he also might be a little over the top.

Microsoft isn’t killing used games outright. Based on what AJ is saying, they are designing a system that enables options for them and game developers to take a royalty instead of 100% of the profits going to the used game purveyors.

Like old cowboys, XBOX 360 games have a less viable future. By refusing to program backwards compatibility, Microsoft is putting expiration dates on all games for the previous platform. This is another perk for the PC, of course.

The requirement for an internet connection is terrible for a lot of non-moneyed, non-first-world people. As poignantly pointed out by a few American armed services members in the comments to Angry Joe’s rant, always-on internet is difficult in Afghanistan or in a submarine under the Pacific ocean.

Profit is the United States of America.

In an epic discussion over PC vs. console on Escapist this week, someone declared no advantage for PC because “no one is playing ten-year old PC games.” That is so not true. I’ve played Baldur’s Gate and Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines in recent weeks.

Those are nearly 15 and 9 years old and still playable on the PC. I installed Bloodlines off of my original CDs, DRM-free.

I also listened to the Vampire Bloodlines soundtrack this week on Youtube. It’s one of my favorite game soundtracks. I like the Main theme, the Santa Monica (zone) theme, and the Downtown theme.

Revisiting Dragon Age: Origins (with all DLC) has reminded me of how to do everything right in a fantasy RPG. When the game launched, I thought it was great, but didn’t realize that it would be one of the greats ever. I played it originally on PS3, now I own it on PC thanks to Steam.

A lot of current day RPGs have lost their way with game writing. Dragon Age nails a few key things that are also found in other great RPGs like Planescape Torment and VtM:B.

  • Friends in the game right away. The friends help you and make you feel at home in the setting.
  • Solid factions that are rich and interesting. You either feel like a part of them, or you don’t like them at all.
  • Real choices with consequences (if only towards the respect of your companions.)
  • Your character is heroic, but in moderation. Not the chosen savior of the universe.
  • Steamy romance with handsome/beautiful rogues. (Ok, not really but it’s something to consider ~ haha.)

An example of a recent big-name RPG that tried but failed? The Secret World.

I also like the classic, realistic-looking game map and the mostly silent protagonist in DA. There was an article this week on Escapist about the silent protagonist. Silence has my full favor.

The voices of my characters are actually a problem for me in Guild Wars 2. I have made at least ten different characters in GW2 and none of them feel like the one. My Leonore in Rift, on the other hand; she always felt like the one.


A Pox On One-Bar MMOs, And Other Thoughts On A Crazy Day In Game News

Today was a crazy day for game news. Massively posted a rumor of an Elder Scrolls MMO announcement coming in May. We’ve known Bethesda has had a secret project going for a while, but few thought it would be Elder Scrolls. It’s such a weird option when your strategy of rolling out single-player zones of Tamriel is already so profitable.

Then we had the Diablo 3 announcement–release date May 15. We also heard a semi-exciting announcement from Overhaul Games at Baldur’sGate.com–they’ve got a new, updated and expanded version of those two grand old classics coming to the PC. Also in the old school genre, Wasteland 2 has garnered well over one million dollars in a couple days via Kickstarter. Massively has an interview with Brian Fargo on this here.

I will plan to play both Baldur’s Gate and Wasteland 2. Wasteland, the spiritual predecessor for the Fallout games, was a great favorite of mine back in the day when these party-based games were popular. These games aren’t so popular any more–they require some tedious party-based play commands, pauses, and inventory management.

Maybe we have Bioware to thank for a revitalization of this genre, although Bioware notably simplified Dragon Age 2 after almost making a mockery of their assertion that Dragon Age: Origins was a spiritual successor of Baldur’s Gate 2. It wasn’t really close. BG2 had like a hundred spells. Multi-classing among several classes.

Yes, everything else was there in DA:O, but shortly after buying it on release for PS3 and playing, I was at the forums ranting. I was disappointed that I was playing a dumbed-down console game in comparison to BG2, which was supposedly the inspiration. I haven’t bought a new console release since then.

That’s a perfect segue to the main topic of this post–WTF Secret World? Massively had an article up this morning that pulled me in like a girl in a candy store with a reference to lesbian sex, and it only got better with the description of a classless system with 500 available skills.

Your skill loadout is only seven active skills, though. Seven? And here I was thinking that my main objection to playing Guild Wars 2, after playing GW1 to the original campaign cap and experiencing the system, was having to use only one skill bar with about 10 skills.

Yes, I understand how there are weapon-based skills in GW2, and I assume you can swap these in combat. Maybe I’m spoiled by LotRO with 5-6 12-slot bars all full of wonderful things, but I just can’t grasp how seven or even ten skills at any given time is going to hold my interest.

You can argue that I’m way off base here because you have a lot more skills you can swap in and out. Still. Great combat is like poetry, and it’s no fun to write poetry with only seven words. Did you ever write a haiku, like back in high school? It’s a five-seven-five structure. Let’s try writing a haiku with only seven words.

Slash, Gut, Interrupt.
Buff, Trip, Overhead Smash, Poke.
Slash, Gut, Interrupt.

That’s right. Even with a haiku, my darling orc-slaying comrades, we had to repeat words to make a haiku because our words were not epic polysyllabic. Now consider a sonnet. Now an epic poem. Would you more enjoy writing haikus for a couple hundred hours if you had thirty or even five hundred more words that you could switch out, but you could still only use seven at a time? No, not really. Only an obsessed poetry freak would enjoy that.

Secret World has been mostly dismissive about plans to go console. Maybe they are wary about the time frame–the current consoles are near the end of their lifespan. Maybe it’s their game engine and mature subject matter. Guild Wars is more ambitious. They have more like 10-12 skills on their bar, with the advantage of the available skills tied to weapons you can swap. I don’t know the exact number. We kitties have appplied to the SW and GW2 betas, but we are not yet invited.

I’m not necessarily pontificating that GW2 or Secret World are dumbed down compared to LotRO and WoW, but they look that way. I know there are nuances of the Secret World system that I’m missing here, and I’ve watched the GW2 videos on Mesmer combat and the tricks seem interesting, but you’re still using the same skills and rotations over and over, even if someone else’s skill is combining to catch your skills on fire or coating them with space dust or something.

It’s just a wee bit disappointing. That sounds so geeky and disappointment posts are so stale, but I want these MMOs to be amazing and wonderful as much as anyone. I also heard from Keen that Diablo 3 removed skill trees. Too puzzling? Too complicated? Too tedious? Let’s use ellipses for this one. …

Diablo 3 skill tree discussion. Bashiok on said discussion. Secret World is scheduled for release on June 19th. Still no date for GW2, but pre-orders should be available on April 10. I admit that I’m a little excited for both of these titles, which are bringing no shortage of great and interesting things to the table besides skill bars. I bought Rift at launch because I played the beta. Same situation here. I want to see the betas.

Further Reading:

NowGamer Interview with Secret World content designer Joel Bylos


The First Pillar Is First–Dragon Age 2

Image Did Not LoadBefore the launch of SWTOR, Bioware talked a lot about their new model of four pillars of game design: Exploration, Combat, Progression, and Story. Bioware uses characters with strong motives to energize their Story pillar because characters are the heart and soul of story. Characters move mountains, ravish princesses and princes, and start wars.

What’s the heart and soul of Progression? I’d say it’s the hero’s journey–the desire to venture forth to battle, seek treasure, overcome obstacles, and become powerful and great. Everyone wants to live a hero’s life. So what about Exploration? The first pillar is the first for a reason–it’s of first importance for fantasy fiction. We often take it for granted.

Aside from the continued simplification of DA2 , which is more a matter of opinion, (I’ve been trying to come up with a good euphemism for “dumbing down” because the phrase is getting stale) setting is the main weakness in the opening chapters of Dragon Age 2.

The Bioware devs were apparently so close to their project that they didn’t write for the average Jane. I didn’t even realize until I’d played Dragon Age for a few hours that this was a city campaign. The narrator just said a short blurb about Kirkwall during the boat voyage cinematics, something like this:

Kirkwall–the city of chains. A free city, in a manner of speaking.

And some other vague historical things that I didn’t bother write down after making a new character to verify whether or not I was imagining my perception of this. Speaking of historical things, everyone has probably read Robert Howard’s fiction, for contrast.

Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars – Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyberborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west.

Okay, we’re psyched to go to seek our fortunes now, right? Gather your party and set sail for the tombs. Meanwhile, I know almost nothing about Kirkwall or the Free Marches where the city of DA2 is located. It’s probably somewhere in the depths of the journal that I’m supposed to be reading but never really do.

This design, by the way, is a real weakness of Bioware’s voice-over imperative. You speak to NPC’s and go back and forth with one-liners, but this isn’t close enough to describe a world, so you get these big “info dumps” in fiction writing terminology–you read a huge essay on a tablet or something.

Guess what is considered a no-no for fantasy and sci-fi writing? Info dumps. Avoid them, because your reader gets bored. Try to weave setting into the action and dialogue instead–something MMO writers so often just don’t do. Guess what? This latter strategy doesn’t work for Bioware. Voice file sizes will go haywire. Players will get bored listening to NPC’s drone on about backstory.

And with respect to the Exploration pillar, what can you really explore in Dragon Age 2? Linear dungeons with dead side-passages that lead to trash. The city overall is really nicely designed, though–the areas are big enough and the art and architecture are beautiful.

Bioware claimed that Dragon Age is the spiritual successor of Baldur’s Gate (these classics are on sale right now by the way–buy one get one free until the end of February at Good Old Games). I admit that in DA2, I’m finally feeling this a little bit. This is a really good thing.

You’ve got the snarky party banter. You’ve got this great city where random things do seem to happen, and adventure seems to be everywhere. My point is that I wish I felt a lot more of the good vibe of a great city adventure campaign–with more attention to the “first pillar.”

Also, I greatly admire the stylish, sleek maps and interfaces in DA2–this is some brilliant artist work–but the tried-and-true realistic fantasy art romances me better. (The art in the map graphic above is my own.) I kind of have the same reaction to the new stylistic, modern-looking maps in LotRO, which I’ve gone back to playing a little bit in the past few days–as predicted.

I signed up twice today for the Guild Wars 2 beta–once for English and once for Spanish. You too can throw in your bid for the next two days with the hopes of being chosen. Visit the article on Massively.com if you need a link.

I hope GW2 is great and surprises me, but I can’t help but feel like–as with SWTOR before launch–the game is slightly overrated right now. The similar combat system as the original, combined with the desire of Arenanet to put GW2 on consoles, are also speed limiters on my enthusiasm. The WvWvW PvP sounds interesting, but it makes no sense at all to me in terms of immersion.