Dragon Age: Origins – Part III: Keep on Rockin’ November 20, 2009Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Blog-along, Video Games.
Tags: Dragon Age, PC
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Warning: Spoilers ahead.
I didn’t do too much more in Dragon Age over the last couple of evenings. I ended up getting sidetracked by some miniature painting videos. I did, however, knock out both DLC areas.
I started with Warden’s Keep, since that one so conveniently began in camp. After making my way through the mountains to Soldier’s Peak, I was greeted with lots and lots of demonic stuffs. Which I promptly made all fall down. The dungeon itself was fairly short and linear. I killed the several waves of stuff outside, then proceeded inside to mop up. There were a couple of NPCs to chat with inside the keep. The first, Sophia, wanted nothing more to go out into the world and in exchange would close the rift that kept pumping evil nasty things into the keep. The only problem with this plan was that Sophia herself was inhabited by one of the aforementioned demonic presences. So I splatted her. It turns out she had some nifty armor, which Alistair is now wearing.
Moving on, I found a jar of some blood-like substance on a table in a random room, and was offered the chance to drink it. Since it wasn’t technically being offered by strangers (there were none around), I did and was awarded two new abilities, both involving cutting myself. Now it’s like I’m a ghetto blood mage! Though, the ability to cut myself and get mana back alone is worthwhile, with the other ability allowing me to cut myself and hurt that enemy over there. So fairly nifty all around.
I ran across Avernus a few rooms on. It turns out he was the other person responsible for unleashing the bad juju into the keep. We had a pleasant conversation, sealed the portals, and I let him live. I also told him to keep pursuing his research, which rather peeved Wynne. Not that I noticed any appreciable drop in affection from her for that. He said he’d send for me when he made more discoveries, but I have no idea if that will actually happen or not.
Completing Soldier’s Peak unlocked a couple of fairly pointless shops, and the very much not pointless storage box. I really wish that the box would appear in camp, but I suppose I can keep coming back to the Peak periodically if I really have to.
Next up was the Stone Prisoner DLC. This was also rather short. I arrived in the village and had to kill a bunch of darkspawn. I found Shale doing his best imitation of a scarecrow, tried to wake him up, and failed miserably. You just can’t trust merchants these days, can you?
I found the one house that had a glowing door when I held the Tab key and went inside. There were, of course, more things to kill inside. What would a quest be without a constant stream of enemies, anyway? I fought my way to the basement (cellar?) where there were actually survivors. I chatted with the man whose house it was, and it turned out his daughter ran off. Of course she did. So I had to follow in her wake. I got to the end where she was entranced by a demonic cat. It reminded me of my college days, actually. Anyway, I wasn’t taking any of the demon’s crap, so it infested the girl and forced me to kill it. Well, damn. There was nothing to be done about it but go back to the guy in the cellar and tell him his daughter was dead. He gave me the correct phrase to awaken the golem in the center of town, which I did.
Shale was an interesting creature. Apparently the control rod didn’t work anymore. Amusing. But he agreed to come with me in any case. He’s currently sitting in camp unused. Which is probably a shame, but I’ve come this far with my groupies, so I may as well finish it off.
After finishing the DLC I decided to head to Orzammar. I didn’t get terribly far in, but I did get a girl permission to study with the Circle of Mages, caught a few Nugs, and told a guy that he couldn’t start a Chantry in Orzammar. I picked up a couple more quests, but haven’t started on them yet. When next I play I’ll probably see if I can gain entry to the two contenders’ houses in the Diamond district, then see what there is to be seen in Dust Town.
And in closing, an interesting note about Arcane Warriors. If there’s a piece of armor that gives bonus stamina and stamina generation, when an Arcane Warrior wears it replace the word “stamina” with “mana.” Cool, huh? When you find armor that gives +25 or +50 stamina…watch out! On a random note, my mage is wearing Superior Dragonbone Plate, Alistair is wearing the armor Sophia dropped, and the Juggernaut set is sitting in the storage chest at Soldier’s Peak.
Dragon Age: Origins – Part II: Gathering the Clans November 16, 2009Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Blog-along, Video Games.
Tags: Dragon Age, PC
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Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Whoo-boy. It was a busy weekend. In Ferelden, that is. I pretty much did nothing but laundry, some badly needed cleaning, and Dragon Age. Have I mentioned lately how good this game is? This game is good.
Let’s see. I cleared Redcliffe, including all the questing that involved, recruited the mages, and I cleared the Elves. You know, come to think of it, that doesn’t really sound like much. It’s funny, really. The game is so much fun, and really sucked me in, but there is so much to each segment that when I look back, it feels like I didn’t really get anywhere compared to the amount of time I spent. I tried to figure out what was causing them to take so long, and I realized…I can easily spend 30+ minutes just talking to NPCs in a location. Since it feels like I’m actually having something of a conversation with them, I don’t even notice the time fly by. And then there’s the length of the dungeons. With all the encounters and occasional NPC interaction mixed in, those take hours. Plural. And of course that’s not counting the various party interactions and sidequests. Like sexing up Morrigan. Oh, you wild witch, you.
So, where to start. At the beginning, I suppose. That would make the most sense.
When last we left our intrepid adventurers, there was a massive battle, the Grey Wardens were all but annihilated, and we had been saved by a rather questionable witch of the wilds. Who gave us her daughter. Sweet. First stop, Lothering.
For a such a small town, there sure is a lot to do here. After dispatching the bandits (toll collectors…suuuuure….) , I checked out the town. Half the place was filled with refugees, and the other half wasn’t terribly happy about it. The first Chantry board of the game was here, which turned out to be an excellent source of income throughout the game. I picked up Leliana, a rogue, and she is still a staple in my preferred party. Her affinity for opening things people would prefer to keep locked has been very helpful—and has the added benefit of free party experience. Win/win! I initially started to stress the archer route with her, but then I had a change of heart (mostly because she couldn’t keep her nose out of melee combat) and refocused her into a basic rogue with a touch of dual-wielding. I also came across a caged gentleman with a wonderful sense of humor, and I just couldn’t pass up the chance to free him and take him into my service. Of course, as it turned out, pretty much everything I did pissed Sten off, so I replaced him at the earliest opportunity…some hours later. So I did some questing, ran around the Chantry, recruited a couple of party members, and drove off roving bands of bandits, bears, and spiders. All for the greater good and pocket change, you understand. After I was finished in Lothering, I decided that my next step should be Redcliffe. Oh, boy.
The events surrounding Redcliffe are a rather lengthy series of quests, and the fact that I elected to head there first added another whole thing. But more on that later. The people in Redcliffe seemed rather cranky, but then so would you if you were subject to undead invasion every night. The first step was to recruit a handful of villagers to defeat the undead horde (and a horde they were). That was easily accomplished with some promises and spare silver. Then the actual undead incursion started. It consisted of fighting off two waves of enemies. (Unless, of course, you leave the village after starting to gather the villagers, but before initiating the defense. In which case it happens without you. That was actually cool. Then I reloaded.) The first wave wasn’t too bad, but the second prompted me to switch the game over to Easy difficulty. It turns out that it is indeed very possible to horribly screw up spell and weapon selection as a mage. I ended up not being able to do jack to the undead critters. Luckily the easier difficulty fixed that. The village defense was followed shortly by a castle assault of my own, which went pretty well. Things got a bit hairy in the courtyard when I had to fight a revenant and a horde of archers and other undead baddies, but I pulled through.
It was interesting to see that Jowan poisoned the arl. I wonder who it is in the other origins…maybe some character specific to each of them? I released him from his cage (much to Alistair’s disapproval). When given the choice, I decided not to attack the boy, or kill Isolde and enter the Fade that way, much as that latter offer was tempting. Instead I went to the Circle to ask for help. Which brings us to…
…the Circle of Magi event(s). Redcliffe got to be put on hold for a while so I could spend a day dealing with that freaking place. I did get Wynne early on (buh-bye, Sten!), and then proceeded to fight my way up the tower. Not much of any remark happened until near the top, but the sheer amount of papers and notes I came across that relayed the plot was awesome. I eventually reached the Sloth demon (who didn’t even make mention that we had met earlier. Shame on him! Unless he was a different Sloth demon. Possible, I suppose.) The Fade portion was both ludicrously fun and a royal pain in my arse. Not playing with a walkthrough, I didn’t do the areas in anything resembling the “proper” order, so the golem was the last form I got. It was really cool morphing into different spirits to navigate my way and defeat the various bosses and such, but all the backtracking was horribly annoying. The whole thing culminated in a boss fight that started me thinking that maybe I wasn’t doing it right, as the demon kept changing forms, but I finally got it down. Though, not until after realizing just how awesome massive AoE spells would be in my hands.
So, a couple of hours later I was out of the Fade and was able to finish the tower. Despite all pleas to the contrary I did not in fact kill everything in the Harrowing chamber, tempted as I might have been. Nor did I succumb to Uldred’s temptations, even though I thought it may unlock the Blood Mage specialization. No , I played the white knight and killed all the bad guys while leaving the innocents standing. Then I traipsed on down to the first floor and secured assistance for Redcliffe. Yay.
Before I left I also ran through the summoning rituals in the library and the common room upstairs. I don’t recall if I got anything nifty out of them, but the quests were done. The statue puzzle in the common room(s) was particularly arcane.
So, back to Redcliffe. Using the lyrium from the mages I popped into the Fade and rescued Connor. I was very tempted to trade the kid’s soul for the Blood Mage specialization, but I declined. Now I’m kicking myself, but whatever. I’ll pick it up for Morrigan next time around or something.
Of course, the arl still needed saving, so queue yet another (lengthy) quest chain. This one sent me seeking an urn of dead lady ashes. After a brief pit stop at Denerim for information, I was off to the village of Haven, which appeared to be a set piece for Siren or something. Very spooky, and the bloody altar didn’t help. I ended up having to battle my way through a bunch of cultists until I reached the revered father running the thing, who in turn tried to convince me that they weren’t all bad. Leliana wasn’t having any of it, so I killed the bastard. What can I say? The boobs made me do it. One NPC rescue later I was on my way to a huge temple where the ashes were supposed to be. Several hours, another failed coercion attempt, and some drake scales later I reached the peak of the mountain. Wow, is that ever a big dragon. Dang. I’ll have to come back to that. The “Gauntlet,” as the structure at the top of the mountain was called, beckoned me, so I had a nice spot of tea with the guardian inside. Then I went forth to be tested, which was fun. I like the rhyming riddles in this game. They amuse me. The one sticking point was a bridge puzzle, but after drawing the whole thing out on a piece of paper it started making sense and passing that section was made simple. I made it to the end and claimed the urn. Yay. On the way out I swatted the dragon kicking around and skinned it.
I made it back to Redcliffe with minor incident, but I also picked up a new party member. Zevran (which makes me think of Zathras every time) is an amusing fellow, but not very useful at picking locks, which meant that Leliana was staying. Sorry, buddy. In the end the arl was cured, and Jowan was packed off to the Circle. Yay, and stuff. Now the arl wants an escort to Denerim. I think I’ll do the Elves next, actually. Thanks, anyway.
The Dalish clan, much like the Circle Tower, was comprised of two main adventuring areas—the forest, and some old ruins. Also much like the Circle Tower, it took for-freaking-ever. But this time there were werewolves. Which made it cool. After the usual NPC interrogations I wandered into the forest, disturbed some revenants for their armor, returned an acorn to a giant tree who sounded like an ent from Lord of the Rings, and found some werewolves holed up in some ruins. Naturally I wanted to root them out. I fought my way through the wolves at the front gate and proceeded with an absolutely enormous dungeon crawl. Literally every time I thought I’d reached the end, there was another floor. But I did get the Arcane Warrior specialization out of the deal, so it wasn’t all bad. In the end I sided with the cute nekkid spirit chick, there was a shiny lightshow, people died, and the curse was lifted. The Dalish were free to join the alliance. Yay!
That was pretty much all the plot I went through over the weekend. I did do some other sidequesty stuff—mostly Chanters boards and random bits for the Irregulars. I did also get two sets of drakescale armor, as well as Superior Dragonbone Plate. Morrigan has been “slept” with (anyone else find it odd that she actually put a bra on just for that occasion? Does she carry one in her purse just in the event of sex? Is it a magical witch condom?), Leliana is up to a bit over 90 affection, Alistair is in the 70s or 80s, and everyone else is meh. Wynne is a bit friendly, but my tryst with Morrigan pissed her off a bit so she periodically disapproves.
Speaking of Wynne, keeping her around opened up a series of plot points that were really quite cool. And got me something spiffy. Also, her interactions with Alistair when I’m just wandering (or anyone’s interactions with Alistair, really) are absolutely hilarious (it’s a sock)!
At the moment I have the humans, elves, and mages behind me, a bit over 100 gold in the bank, and 100 inventory slots. My next step will either be Orzammar or Denerim. Probably Orzammar. I’ve put in something over 35 hours at this point, and I don’t see finishing in less than another 10-15 or more. I’m thinking this is easily a 60-hour game. I do still have some sidequests hanging out there, but only time will tell how many I actually do. I’m not doing the assassination ones by choice, and at this point I’m taking the rest as the opportunities present themselves. We shall see.
Dragon Age: Origins – Part I: A Tale of Two Versions November 13, 2009Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Blog-along, Video Games.
Tags: Dragon Age, PC, PS3
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I know I haven’t updated in a while, but I went on an extensive sidetrack away from game-related things. While I did fiddle around with some games for a bit, I didn’t really accomplish anything. I knocked out some levels in Scribblenauts, got to Silvalant in Star Ocean, and went pretty much nowhere in Demon’s Souls. Oh, and I made more progress on Ultimate Alliance 2, now that the new DLC is out. But that will be its own post.
But the real purpose of this post is to discuss Dragon Age: Origins. I had pre-ordered the PS3 collector’s edition from Amazon months ago, and it finally arrived this week. After a fairly lengthy round of installing and inputting content codes, I was taking my first plunge into the world of Ferelden.
Or not. In reality, I spent the next long time in the character creator. It is a very, very sexy thing. I’ve only spent that much time in a character creator once twice before—in Star Wars Galaxies and City of Heroes. Putting some serious time into designing a character in an offline game is a somewhat new experience for me. I was amazed at the various options and depth of customization. And the kicker is that you can only actually customize your character’s face (and hairstyle, voice, and portrait, but meh). There’s no body customization. It’s an interesting choice, but probably for the best. I’d likely still be sitting there if body customization was available.
I ended up creating an Elven mage (typical, I know—but this one was really based off of my WoW character, so….) and running through that origin story. The origin section alone took several hours, and had a lot of dialogue trees. The dialogue in Dragon Age is amazingly well-acted, and the lips sync up well with it. It’s a small thing, but it helps bring the characters to life. And even early on there are some interesting lines you can pick. There is some odd shadowing and shimmering on character models during conversations on the PS3, but nothing major. Movement and conversation work well.
And then there’s combat. Combat works well enough if one is soloing (which is the case for the first couple of dungeons in the origin), but the interface really starts to get clunky when the combats get larger, as I found out in the third dungeon of the origin. By that time I had a cone of fire that I could spew, and would have killed my compatriots several times over had I been playing on a difficulty higher than normal. The limitation of only having 6 abilities hotkeyed at quickly becomes an issue, as well as only being able to pause combat by opening up the radial menu. The game is screaming for tactical combat, which the PS3 version does not deliver. It’s fun for what it does, but it’s easy to see that the designers had more in mind.
The menu interface also leaves something to be desired on the console. In order to compare equipment in your inventory with equipment that you’re wearing, you have to highlight the equipment and hit a button. This brings up two big boxes with equipment details, covering pretty much all the screen. You can scroll through your inventory in this view, but you can’t actually see what you’re doing. It’s mildly annoying. The codex interface is a bit more annoying. The quests and codex entries are just linear lists that take a lot of scrolling to get through. It’s also easy to close a section you wanted open, and to open a section you want closed on accident. Overall, the menu system, like the battle interface, is functional but not optimal.
I did make it up to the Tower of Ishar in Ostagar in my first evening. I had planned to make the ascent and light the beacon last night. Despite interface annoyances, the game really dragged me in. Three hours passed unnoticed, followed by a couple more. Dragon Age really is addictive.
But wait, there’s more!
After airing my grievances with the PS3 version with a couple of friends who own the PC version, I looked into that version more in-depth. It appeared that none of the issues I had with the PS3 version were present in the PC release, and the interface was actually *gasp* intuitive! After much hemming and hawing, I decided to but the PC version. I installed it (15+GB? WTF!) and quickly recreated my character. The PC version has a couple more sliders in the character creation area, including the ability to tweak the character portrait’s expression. Nothing major, but cool nonetheless.
I had to run through the origin again, but it really wasn’t as tedious as I thought it might be. Even running the same content again a day later, the game was still totally engrossing. I think part of that may have been the actually logical and intuitive interface this time around. The quick pause feature alone is worth it. The tweakable camera angles are also great. There are a few more tutorial tips in the PC version because of the new interface, but nothing major.
The interface isn’t the only place the PC version differs from the PS3 release, however. The loot appears to be different in the PC version (and a bit less to boot). Running through the Harrowing went quickly enough. The dialogue options were exactly the same, and the controls were easier to use (duh).
I popped out of the Harrowing, and ran around the tower with no hint of the framerate hiccups present in the PS3 version. Yay! Though, in my explorations I noticed that bookcases no longer sparkle like chests and crates if they have loot. That is very good to know. Some other things also fail to sparkle, so it pays to be more observant in this version, as well. With the mouse and camera control, though, it’s really pretty simple. Things that you can poke still glow blue when you mouse over them.
My next real eye-opener was the spider-infested store-room tunnels. Now, I am running the game at maxed-out graphical settings, but DAMN does this place look good. Total night and day versus the console. Once again, navigation was simple, auto-pausing upon entering combat was great, as was the occasional manual pause. This (mini) dungeon was much more fun this time around. I was in and out in no time.
A couple of quick conversations later and I was on to the third and final (and only *real*) dungeon of the origin. This was where the game slapped me upside the head and informed me that I was an utter fool if I thought the difficulty level would be the same as the PS3 version. That is very much not the case. The PC version is *harder*. Not because of any interface clunkiness, but because the enemies seem a little smarter, hit harder, etc. And later on, there are more of them. I was much more involved in combat this time around, and I got this overwhelming feeling that this was how the Baldurs Gate and KotOR games *should* have been. It was incredible. Combat was fast, frantic, and just plain awesome.
I plowed through the dungeon without much of a problem, came out, had my conversations, watched a couple cutscenes, and joined the Grey Wardens. I did pick a couple of different dialogue options this time through just to see, but nothing really affected anything. Which, since I don’t have any real party members yet, makes sense.
Onward to Ostagar! I tore through the dialogue, and found a quest that I hadn’t run across previously—a guy captured for desertion had a key to a shiny cool chest, but wanted me to get him some food and water before he’d trade it to me. I could have tried to kill him outright, but I decided I wasn’t playing that kind of character this time around. Because I screwed up with my skill allocation I hadn’t picked up a level in Coercion, and I failed to get him his food. Oops. I guess I’ll see about trying that quest next time around with a rogue.
My trek through the woods went well enough, though I did have to reload once. It turns out that in the PC version, letting yourself get sidetracked while the other three members of the party deal with a mob of enemies will start getting people killed. Who’da thunk? Did I mention that the PC version is harder? With more enemies? Yep, this is where it really starts to show. I cleared through the woods well enough, this time conspicuously avoiding the old Grey Warden ruins until I’d finished up my other quests out here. After getting all the side stuff done I went along, met Morrigan and her mother, and returned to camp. Though, not before sprinkling some ashes on some rocks and awakening a demon and having to dispose of it. Yep, something else I hadn’t found last time through. Spiffy.
Like before, I came, I saw, I Joined. The war council was the same, with the same sinking feeling that Loghain was going to turn tail when the beacon was lit. The cutscene of the beginning of the battle once again gave me flashbacks to Lord of the Rings (might have been the totally awesome music), but this time was much prettier. I fought my way to the tower (sustainable abilities, like frost weapon, really can suck up the mana) and went inside.
And promptly got rocked. Repeatedly.
This was the point where the game told me it was serious. That it had shown me how to play and now expected me to put up or shut up. It flattened me. Several times. This was where I learned that just because I had a healing spell didn’t mean that it was actually going to do the job all by itself. I ended up mowing down health packs like a starving denizen of a third-world country, and that finally got me through. The next several rooms were a tad easier, though no less intense, and then I got to another big room, this time with a ballista close by. That I could use. It was awesome. By the end I was pretty much bowling for party members, but meh. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I discovered on the PS3 that even with friendly fire off, cone of cold would still freeze allies even if it didn’t damage them. I suppose the knockdown from the ballista would be no different. So I kept firing the bugger with the occasional break to life drain the baddie shooting at me and using health packs on the rest of my team.
I tried to cautiously go room by room, but apparently enemies in this game can open doors, so I was pretty much up against 6+ guys at once at a minimum. But it’s all good. There were many mana-giving corpses on the ground—thankfully all the enemy’s.
When I reached the top of the tower and saw my opponent, my first thought was “wow, that’s a badass looking monster” followed quickly by “he is *so* going to eat me.” He did have a lot of health, and he hit really hard. I ended up not being able to keep the rest of my guys up, usually because he was picking one up and squeezing them repeatedly—which not only hurt them, but also denied them actions so they couldn’t health pack when my heal spell was down. Of particular interest to me, however, was that some of his attacks were manually dodgeable. He’d start to throw a really big rock, and I could run out of the way. He’d charge, and I could dodge. I used this to great effect after he’d broken my other three party members, and managed to take him down with a sliver of health left on my main character. Talk about a tight battle! I love this game.
After the epic boss battle I lit the beacon, watched the cutscene, went “Ah-hah! Called it!” at Loghain’s part in it, and promptly got pincushioned with arrows and landed on my ass. I woke up at Morrigan’s hut, had a lively chat with her and her mother, and am now ready to go to town (literally and figuratively).
And that’s where I stopped for the night. I can’t wait to continue my adventure this evening.