Tag Archives: dragon age

“Story Mode,” Action Games, And Interactive Fiction

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So Horizon Zero Dawn is the latest big budget game to include a “story mode” or what people are calling super-easy modes now. While some may argue against modes that significantly de-emphasize or nullify combat, they’re really part of a larger trend along with “walking simulators” and new adventure games. Continue reading

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Is Witcher 3 The Next Game Everybody Wants To Imitate?

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I still don’t quite know what to think of information on an upcoming Assassin’s Creed game being broken on 4chan of all places, but one thing did catch my eyes — the mention in that 4chan thread of a desire for a “Witcher-feel” in the game. All I could think upon reading that was “here we go.”

I guess I should have expected it. The Witcher 3 has been named game of the year by over 150 publications (and this blog) for 2015. It’s the hot new game everybody likes. Of course it would become the next secret sauce everybody else is trying to capture. Even if the 4chan thread itself was bunk, we still might see other developers make similar desires known in the near future. Everybody should definitely be learning from good games including Witcher 3, but when big developers say they want to be like this good game or that good game, in my opinion they usually end up missing the point of why those games are good. Continue reading

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The Witcher 3 And Why Most Action RPGs Have Bad Combat

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I’ve been wanting to talk about action RPG combat for a little while now since all the criticism about The Witcher 3’s combat came up after people got it in their hands. This also comes relatively soon after many hours of engaging in Skyrim’s infamous combat system. We also have people’s concerns brewing over Bethesda’s plans for Fallout 4’s combat. Continue reading

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BioWare Is Kind Of An Anomaly On Consoles

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Playing the Dragon Age Inquisition trial EA put on Origin and discussing how it handles its combat system made me realize something about what BioWare is trying to do. You ever think about how many other western developers released party-based RPGs on consoles? Continue reading

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What’s Happening To Turn-Based Games On Consoles?

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Trying out Lost Dimension for a couple hours gave me an opportunity to think again about why I (and perhaps a lot of other people) have been averse to turn-based Japanese RPGs in recent years. The reasons are complex and probably different for everybody, but I think it’s an interesting issue to look at when you compare them to the massively popular western RPGs on consoles these days. I also coincidentally seem to be putting this up just as Square Enix suggests the possibility the Final Fantasy VII remake might leave behind the original’s turn-based combat system. Continue reading

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Hopes For Dragon Age Inquisition

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BioWare’s PAX Prime 2013 presentation of Dragon Age Inquisition seems to have gone over really well, showing a real turnaround from the criticized Dragon Age II. I however am still only cautiously optimistic of the developer’s claims heralding a return to the gameplay of Dragon Age: Origins.

If you watch the gameplay videos from the PAX floor, people are cheering almost all the way through it. On forums I’m already seeing a lot of vehement Dragon Age II haters get hyped for Inquisition, so BioWare is definitely doing something right.

For starters I’ll admit that even in the off-screen videos the graphics look really impressive — real next-gen stuff. The large hubs the game takes place in also look really expansive.

People seem to be the most excited for the gameplay though, but what I saw in those videos actually doesn’t look extremely different from what was in DAII. BioWare made a big deal about how Inquisition is gonna bring back the zoomed-out, strategic combat mode of Origins, showing some stop-and-start tactics in the Inquisition videos. The whole demonstration clearly showed off a back-and-forth switch between that style and something more like a hack n’ slash action RPG. That’s nice, but DAII never actually ditched the tactical combat style.

You could pause and give your party members specific commands in every version of DAII. BioWare even showed off videos and screenshots back in 2011 to try to placate PC fans of Origins. The problem was you never NEEDED to fight like that in DAII. On normal mode the combat sequences were so easy that you could just run around with one character slashing up enemies most of the time while your AI companions handled themselves. Pausing and applying any kind of strategy to the situation always felt like overkill, and as soon as a second wave spawned in any plan you put into action was out the window. BioWare needs to assure me this won’t happen again in Inquisition.

Other problems with DAII’s combat include how you could basically only customize equipment for the main protagonist, and how apparently the spells weren’t balanced for friendly fire, which was disabled in all but the highest difficulty mode. BioWare has said that friendly fire will basically be its own toggle, and that full party customization is back, but we still haven’t seen anything suggesting how Inquisition will be balanced. Origins really did require you to carefully plan out every battle to avoid getting pounded. I’m still not sure Inquisition will have the same level of challenge.

I already know Inquisition is going to be better than DAII just by nature of the development cycle. DAII’s problem was it came out 16 months after Origins — you could tell it was rushed because BioWare was caught off-guard by the success of Origins, which is still the developer’s most commercially successful game outside Mass Effect 3.

BioWare has acknowledged the fans they lost with DAII though and I’m sure they’re aware of how poorly it sold compared to Origins. The three-year development cycle of Inquisition alone should probably ensure it’s at least better than DAII.

Still, I’m worried about BioWare’s transition from an RPG developer to an action game developer, which doesn’t seem to have stopped since Mass Effect 2. That game and Mass Effect 3 really did try to be third person shooters with light RPG mechanics in their combat (outside the remaining RPG story structure). The last time I went back to play the first Mass Effect I was surprised at how much it felt like, well, an RPG. DAII replaced the menu-based attack system of Origins with a direct button-to-action system similar to Kingdom Hearts or Phantasy Star Online (even the UI on consoles looks a lot like PSO). Most of the combat you see in the Inquisition demonstration looks even more like that, almost like it’s trying to be a hack n’ slash game for general console audiences. I’d go into a talk about the viability of classic menu-based RPGs in today’s market but that’s probably for another time.

BULLETS:

  • The image above is fitted to be an iPhone 5 wallpaper by the way.
  • Nice fan film of Splinter Cell Blacklist multplayer: http://t.co/61wD9yIQ8v
  • Apparently Triceratops might never have existed: http://t.co/JkLTyEW2Ik
  • The release of the Mac version of BioShock Infinite seems to have gone by totally unnoticed.
  • More hope for TimeSplintters Rewind: http://t.co/jBOmDSRNz5
  • Diablo III is out for consoles now (I think), but did people forget there are next-gen versions coming? I didn’t like the early screenshots I saw for the PS3 version.
  • This is how you do replayability people: http://t.co/mNaDerDq24
  • Has any JRPG world map ever actually been a sphere or globe: http://t.co/429xwfpVBO
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BioWare and the Frostbite 3 Engine at E3

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For a few specific reasons, EA is one of the companies I’m actually more interested to see show their stuff at E3 this year. Most notably I’m interested in their next generation game engine and what BioWare might do with it. I haven’t really seen a massive amount of chatter going on about it.

When EA and DICE unveiled the Frostbite 3 engine along with Battlefield 4, they went on about how the new tech is gonna allow for “more human storytelling” in games, even going so far as to paint the 17-minute gameplay demo as some heart-wrenching story. Pretty much everyone wrote that off, knowing that for BF4 this pretty much just means prettier explosions and maybe larger and more destructible environments. Does anyone really care that BF4 is gonna try to have a story?

If there’s one company within EA that can actually use prettier graphics to enhance their storytelling, it’s probably BioWare, who are already confirmed to be using Frostbite 3 for Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Say what you want about their recent games, but BioWare is one of the few developers in this industry still able to write stories with characters I actually care about. The main reason I even play Mass Effect and Dragon Age to be honest is to interact with each game’s characters.

Think about it: in what other games from EA do you spend more time looking at a character’s face as they move their mouth? Any improved visuals tied to characters and facial animation will definitely see the most benefit in BioWare’s games. On current generation hardware games like L.A. Noire are already trying to combine core gameplay mechanics with narrative by requiring players to read characters’ increasingly realistic faces. Who better to take advantage of this than BioWare? We pretty much already know Dragon Age III is going to be at E3 next week.

Yeah yeah Dragon Age II wasn’t as good as Dragon Age: Origins, but I think at the very least the next game will be better than that. DAII turned out the way it did mainly because of its rushed development cycle. The game only came out 16 months after Origins. Assuming DAIII comes out next year, it’ll have been three years since DAII’s release. I think they’ve learned not to rush the game out this time around.

Whether it’ll actually be as good as Origins was in terms of gameplay is another discussion. I’m really just anticipating what BioWare’s storytelling is gonna look like through the lens of DICE’s new engine.

It’s also looking like we’re gonna see quite the gang of dark fantasy RPGs at E3 going into next year as well. On top of DAIII, The Witcher 3 is going to be shown behind closed doors, and Dark Souls II is already advertising around the convention center (all three games running on new engines too).

BULLETS:

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