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Tycho / on Mon, Mar 21 2011 at 12:00 am

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Punching Down

Having rolled from fever to fever all weekend to find myself deposited here, before a blank editor, is startling to say the least.  The last true memory I have is writing the last post, which was about getting the shit beaten out of you, a fact which almost invariably leads to beating the shit out of.

Here’s the strip, additional Pokemania, which has jabbed its thirsting roots into many of my companions.  But yes, you go back and forth in this game, terrorizing young persons and doing serious harm to their pets.  And that’s the hero!  That’s the kind of thing a hero does.

Now home from our long revel in faraway Bostonia, I’ve dumped enough time into Dragon Age 2 to have a sense of the generally applied criticisms.  It’s possible to achieve or cultivate a mental “gear” which allows one to enjoy the proceedings, and because the setting is interesting to me I have done so.  But Dragon Age 2 is clearly the middle child.  Also, fantasy games should use Roman Numerals.  That’s the other thing.

Actually, there’s lots of other things; but the value matrix you apply to them will vary considerably.  The art gets an unqualified yes:  they’ve essentially retconned a distinct brand into the game after the fact.  An attempt to streamline combat might have made things better for the console enthusiast, but with the difficulty ticked up on the PC I still get the satisfaction of choices well made.  Voice casting works, and all voice actors would (in a perfect world) be Welsh.  Then, we start running into trouble.  Mid-fight reinforcements which leap from nowhere, or perhaps directly from the nega-realms, are bizarre in a world they have otherwise attempted to make real.  And I’m constantly receiving incredible gear that is tailored, for some reason, to my main character.  No-one else can wear it, including the stuff I got for pre-ordering.  What’s the value in this?

I was backstage when I heard Adam Sessler’s review of the game live, a review largely given over to cracks about the game’s penchant for asset re-use.  I wondered to what extent he was Sesslerizing the proceedings, or using them as a basis for his unwarranted and chronic Sesslerizations.  It turns out that you will see this kind of thing almost immediately, this returning to the same place, again and again, until you see the place coming and wonder if you can’t just let them have it.  In the middle of your epic quest of familial redemption, you come to feel less like an avenging proto-sovereign and more like a landlord who must evict unruly tenants.

I’m that Dragon Age fan whose read the books, and what’s more, liked them - liked them!  franchise tie-in novels!  I know - and the wealth of out-of-the-way information and world-building is for me a tremendous value.  I wonder, though, if enthusiasts of hacking and or slashing don’t want more frequent bursts of new art as a reward for the work of their arm.

They set themselves up for this, of course: epics have echoes that travel through them, and they created the idea of The Grey Wardens (the Spectres, the Harpers) and the ravenous Blight, and gave you big stakes all the way through.  Dragon Age 2 is more personal, feels like a reboot in a lot of ways, a side-story almost.  The graphic novel adaptation of a setting.  It’s interesting.  But I expect the conversations at Bioware right now are incredibly complex.  

(CW)TB out.


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