Working in the E! and Style Network offices is a daily reminder that us G4 folk are of different stock. We like stories about wizards and aliens and space dragons and what-have-you, while the affairs of the Miley Lohans and Heidi Jonases of this world only register when the police become involved, or when highly inappropriate Photoshops can be made and passed around. +7 to Snark.
BioWare games have always appealed to our nerdy sides, even when they -- like us -- are less-than-graceful. In honor of tomorrow's launch, here are Five Reasons We're Nervous About Dragon Age: Origins (and Mass Effect 2).
Number Five: What A Load Of...
by Brian Leahy
Look, most games are going to have loading screens. Some developers make the decision to attempt and hide them or offer the player something to do during the inevitable downtime. We saw this as early as the original Resident Evil. Remember those door opening sequences? Load screens.
Enter Mass Effect, BioWare's epic space-RPG for the Xbox 360 and PC. During many missions, the player comes upon elevators separating different parts of the level. While riding in these elevators, the party characters converse with Shepard about the mission, life in general, or their favorite foods. In any case, it was time the player didn't have control of anything.
Gears of War does this. As it streams in the next large chunk of playable level, Marcus will get a call on his comm system and his walking speed will drop to that of your parents' passionate love-making. The key difference? The player retains control of Marcus throughout. It's functionally the same. The advancement is controlled and dialogue is exchanged, but the player keeps their agency.
Number Four: Overly Ambitious
by Patrick Klepek
BioWare promised the stars with the original Mass Effect. The studio said Commander Shepard's first adventure would have him patrolling the stars and exploring countless planets in search of side quests, sweet loot and more backstory about the Mass Effect universe. And if the dozens of hours on the disc weren't enough, there would be a slew of downloadable content to keep players interested until Mass Effect 2. If you played Mass Effect, you know none of that happened. The side quests could be counted on one hand -- and were boring. There were two pieces of downloadable content, both of which were inaccessible if you'd bothered to, you know, actually finish the game. BioWare's said the same issues won't plague Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2, but it's not really a stretch to say: we'll believe it when we see it.
Number Three: Come On and Save Me
by Andrew Pfister
After all these years I still can't determine if it's my fault or not, but all I know is that it's happened twice: I'm motoring along, leveling up my party, exploring strange new worlds and making important decisions that impact the entire galaxy...then all of the sudden, BAM: the game freezes and I lose my progress. Happened to me with KOTOR, happened to me with Mass Effect. I would have been okay with it, had the games not fooled me into thinking that they had been auto-saving my adventures, but they hadn't. Replaying hours of game time is my biggest pet peeve in gaming, and the two biggest instances of it have happened with BioWare titles. I will be playing both Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2, but I'll be paranoid the entire time.
Number Two: The Combat Conundrum
by Brian Leahy
BioWare's combat roots are steeped in that of Dungeons & Dragons. It's slow, round-based, and extremely tactical. In recent games, BioWare has made the effort to update the combat to something that should appeal to everyone, but sometimes ends up creating something that annoys hardcore action or devoted RPG gamers.
Mass Effect is extremely action-oriented. It can be played in real time. You aim. You shoot. You can also pause the game and target individual abilities for your party, though it didn't quite work on that level. BioWare's stable of super RPG fans longed for the days of Baldur's Gate.
Dragon Age: Origins is at the other end of the spectrum. It's a tactical RPG, but has a few features to help out action fans. The question is: are these players ready for 80 hours of ability-heavy RPG combat? Would they rather aim and shoot? Will it piss off all of BioWare's new fans who started following the company after Mass Effect?
Hopefully, BioWare will finally be able to achieve a combat engine that appeals to both types of fans. That, or they'll go back to focusing on one or the other and stop trying to combine them in an unholy union of gaming styles.
Number One: Make Moral Choices Matter
by Patrick Klepek
It was shocking when Wrex died in Mass Effect because of what I decided. It wasn't so shocking when Wrex didn't die because I said "hey, I liked his weapon load out," loaded up a save point from two minutes prior and chose different options. Voila, he's alive! As games place more impactful decisions in the hands of players, they need to encourage sticking with those choices, too. On the flip side, it's frustrating when decisions appear to have no impact at all. BioWare's promised that decisions made in the original Mass Effect will have serious implications in the sequels, but at this point, like many other things, we're taking them at their word. Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age: Origins need a more satisfying balance between decisions that affect the character's world now, not decisions that get fleshed out when the sequel rolls into production.