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The Rise Of Dragon Age II

February 25, 2011 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

BioWare will soon release Dragon Age II, the sequel to its well-received Dragon Age: Origins, the second of its original IP launches this generation and the one most firmly connected with the studio's history as a PC developer, and one that has delivered some of the most beloved epic fantasy RPGs in the history of the medium.

Of course, with sequel comes change -- as with Mass Effect 2's major differences from the original game, so too does Dragon Age II significantly evolve the formula laid down in the original title.

In this interview, lead designer Mike Laidlaw discusses how the team arrived at the decision to change core elements of the game, including a controversial evolution of the game's combat system. He also discusses how fantasy backdrops unexpectedly encourage more realistic storytelling.

The stuff you talked about during the press presentation reminded me, obviously, of the leap between Mass Effect 1 and 2.

ML: Sure.

I spoke to lead producer Adrien Cho about how the team did a really high level sift through all of the community reaction to the first game, codified it in to documents, and prioritized changes. Did you guys do a similar process for this?

ML: We did exactly that process. I mean, for us, what it boils down to, I think, with BioWare, is we like to think we make pretty good games, and games people like. But you never, ever, ever let yourself fall into the trap of thinking you made the perfect game, and you'll just do that again. Because that gets really dull. [laughs]

And also, it's not very challenging as a creative endeavor. So for us, it was very much, look at reactions, seeing what people liked and didn't like about Origins. And there's a lot of stuff people liked. And so, the big challenge, of course, becomes not throwing that out.

One big improvement seems to be that the art direction is stronger. Not to insult the work that was done on the first game, but I really feel like the art is more impactful this time around.

ML: Well I think our art director, Matt Goldman, is a BioWare veteran. He and I worked together on Jade Empire. And he's unique in that he delivers a very clear vision and has a really, really good idea of composition and how we put things together. And so, as a result, I think his team got really inspired and very excited.

And the thing about Matt is he's a great communicator. He can kind of tell you why it's going to be amazing in terms that even non‑artists can understand. So the whole team gets on the same page, and when we see the results, we go, "Yeah! That's great."

So the end result, I think, is a game that, in a lot of ways, both from a design and from an art standpoint, have moved to try and refine its identity after Origins. Because Origins was great, but it was a long run, and it was the first crack.

And that's the way of things. In a lot of ways, you would argue that Return of the Jedi or Empire Strikes Back get significantly stronger vision in terms of visuals than Star Wars, even though it was very strong. It still is like, okay, they knew what they were doing and they were in familiar territory by movie two.

It's the way of games. Also, especially, I think the complexity of an RPG means that you're going to hit it harder the second time around after you've been through one iteration.

ML: Absolutely. Well RPGs in general have so many moving parts, it's easy to get distracted. "Let's just make it go!" as opposed to, "Let's make it beautiful."

Well how do you, as the lead designer of the game, keep a bead on all of the moving parts?

ML: Well, I think for me, it's that I have a team that I trust implicitly. These are guys who are dedicated, passionate, and really love role playing games in general. So I have like sim designers doing the conversations, my writers telling the story.

And the thing is, they're good communicators. They've worked together as a team for a number of years now. They know kind of where things are going to head. And then my job is to kind of keep them pointed in the same direction. If we want to do something different, explain why that's going to be good, why it's a value for the player.

I think my fundamental strategy is, and I know Preston Watamaniuk, who was lead designer on Mass Effect, shares this, is "think about the player first." Understand that someone has purchased this to forget about the work they do, to let go, and to go have a rollicking adventure, and have fun. That's the key. While "fun" varies for everybody, there are some things that are more fun than others, and that's kind of universal.

So from a technology standpoint, how much do you guys share with Mass Effect? Anything?

ML: We probably share expertise more than we share technology. Being on different engines results in a difficulty in sharing -- I mean, even legal difficulties in sharing tech [The Mass Effect series uses Unreal Engine 3, licensed from Epic -- ed.]. But, in terms of design and philosophies, and vision, and how we communicate stuff to the teams, there's a lot of coherence there between the two projects.

So there's an awareness that Mass Effect has done really good stuff. They're two floors down, I can go talk to them. And even getting to the point where we bring Mass Effect people to play DAII, and they will bring us down to play Mass Effect. And the end result is, I think, the games are stronger because you have such a different viewpoint, and they come in and will give amazing and incisive feedback.

I know I've seen demos of the dialog tools you use, which are very BioWare-specific. So is that kind of stuff that can or cannot be shared?

ML: That is all internal so, it's shared. Actually, they're separate. They're not the same code base. But the skill set and the overall functionality, and the way they flow are very similar. So, a writer, especially, and a simulator designer, can move between the two project pretty easily without a whole lot of learning.

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Jack Crosby
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I think if I were making a game I would want to be making a story or a thing of importance to me as it were a piece of art, and then ill let other people decide weather or not its an rpg etc... and I think to some degree thats what Mike Laidlaw is saying that they want to make the best game they can and they are willing to redefine what rpg means in order to do that. I really love the focus that bioware puts towards story and quality over quantity for example the fact that you cant talk to every single character in the game, something which i used to be annoyed with but shortly after playing through oblivion I realised I actually dont want to be talking to every single person if that means I am going to be receiving subpar work just like i dont in real life, i.e. if i want an opinion on climate change i dont ask an average joe with the credentials of "i ha'n' seen nothin" i go to the scientists for a quality answer, dont get me wrong i really liked the elderscrolls games but i feel at the same time they take on a lot more than they are willing to fully polish.

I personally love fantasy's immense power to envisage things in new ways to subtly get across an idea, concept or issue, it has the ability to make things appear black and white but then as ML said allows you to discover that the bad guys are just troubled individuals, something which bugs me about games like killzone (more than the fact that your character is unexplainably short) where you fight such a horribly "evil" foe. it was similar with mass effect and saren in the game he occurs as pure evil but when you read further into his history and the ways that the world works you discover his motivations to be ruthless and deranged through psychological trauma. this sort of complex though that goes into what makes us human and drives us towards certain decisions that ability to ask "why?" in a game,book or movie and have that question answered is something which good fantasy does really really well... uhh not really sure what im getting at here but i guess i agree quite strongly with ML.

i wonder also weather they use the same walking animations for mass effect and dragon age because they seemed mighty similar to me... will they be different with the new instalments in each respective series this year? and i thought that they all ran on the unreal engine, well at least a heavily modified one I'm certainly not in a position to argue with bioware on the fact though haha ... anyway i really like the glimpse into the workings and goings on at bioware!

this is the first ive been excited by dragon age 2 im horribly skeptical about this hawks guy with his spiky hair and pointy armour, that and i never got past the last battle in dragon age origins cause i died like a billion times and was so distraught i just gave up... though a move to a fully spoken main character is very very welcome! i also like the sound of an ability to jump! its one of my past times in games, that feeling that no matter how many times i jump i will never get tired, something which i would dearly love to be able to do in real life *sad face*

warren blyth
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Interesting. I've been saying for years that "I'm just not an RPG guy" (though it seems I'll avidly play every other genre). I think of it as a question of time : when I hear a game has more than 30 hours of gameplay - I hesitate to buy it. Because I know I won't be experiencing everything it has to offer. (would you buy a DVD/Bluray if you knew some parts of the feature would be omitted?)

After spending a lot of time in Mass Effect (and TooHuman, and a bit in Fallout), I feel like i'm more open to the RPG genre again. I think the oft-overlooked problem is that RPGs aren't designed to accommodate bite-sized players like me. ... Two concessions come to mind:

1) Would deeply appreciate a better "recapping the story so far" system.

If I take a 6 to 12 month break from an RPG, I often feel like I need to just start over. I can't remember who was doing what. ugh. I usually just start a different game.

This happened with Mass Effect. Got about halfway through it before life distracted me. Played many other games in the interim. Then when the sequel came out I finally sat down pushed on through to finish.

I was only able to stick with it because I read through every *$^@ entry in the codex to remind myself what was going on. And it totally worked!

I kinda hated it. Endured entire "gameplay session nights" where all I really did was "start xbox, pause game, read codex entries for an hour, turn off xbox." (but I prepared myself for this, thinking "tonight I guess I'll go read a &#^%!@ book on my xbox. Maybe make some coffee.").

After I beat the game I fell deeply in love with it. I purchased (and played through) the sequel's special edition. I purchased the 3 tie-in books (and just finished reading the first a couple weeks ago). I now consider myself a big Mass Effect nerd.

I loved it so much that I'm now planning to buy DragonAge1 and play through it, so that I can then buy DragonAge2. I'm planning to become a DragonAge nerd, if the franchise will let me.

But again, I'm nervous. What if I take a break during Dragon Age? I find myself thinking "I wonder if DragonAge has a codex?" which then makes me grimace. ugh.

The first Professor Layton is the only game I can remember playing where I restarted it - and was thrilled to find a polished presentation of everything that had transpired so far. I have no fear about picking that game up at any time. (admittedly, the story is weak and the art style doesn't suit my tastes. I have little desire to complete the game or invest in sequels. But I have no fear about jumping back in at any point).

- they made an abbreviated version of ME for the PS3 port of ME2, right? would be neat if this was a feature that covered your progress in ME2 as well. Like, after you've completed part of the game, you can quickly play the reader's digest version of the game so far to get back there (potentially making alternate choices).

It would open the game up to trying out alternate choices quickly and easily, without having to mange a wide swath of save games.

(I kiiiiinda want to go back and play through from the beginning as a renegade biotic, and as a paladin tech. But realistically I know this will never happen. sigh.)

2) Would appreciate some way to understand how much time, minimum, is needed for a valuable gameplay session.

I have no idea if Dragon Age will let me sit down and make any real progress in 10 minutes. Usually during Mass Effect, I'd think "I'll just do one more mission." But had no idea if the next mission would take an hour. or 3. I think if there was a clearer idea of time investment, I would have jumped into the game far more often.

Steam informs me that my small chunks of TF2 and L4D (I'll often just play for half an hour to 2 hours) have added up to over 100 hours of playtime in each title. Clearly long time investment wasn't really the problem.

Sometimes I've started L4D2 thinking I'll just play some scavenge mode for 10 - 20 minutes - and ended up playing campaigns instead, for 10 hours. Having a clearer sense of the potential time-sink lured me in.

(much like selling a core model for small price, with all these add-ons, tends to have more mass-appeal than selling one does-it-all model with the add-ons built in? there's an appealing illusion of choice and thriftiness).

I don't know how this proposition could be worked into Bioware's stronger story-focused games. But I think it would draw in more players.

Saul Alexander
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Point 1 is a really interesting idea, although I wouldn't worry about getting lost with DA1. It's really a pretty straightforward plot. I will warn you that the the combat is an awful grind. DA is looking much better on that score, after playing the demo. Also note that DA2 is nearly a wholly separate story to DA1, not a direct follow-on like Mass Effect.

Point 2 I don't really agree with, as it would make the organic world of the RPG feel much more "gamey" and contrived. I guess I have the advantage on PC that I can save mid-mission.

Nick Witsel
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If recall correctly there were times in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind in which I'd only be walking around for hours, in search for a dungeon. Then again, I actually loved doing that, but that was back in the days when I was still at school and could afford such investments. I believe what makes games like L4D, Team Fortress, Halo etc so successful is that they allow sessions ranging from 10 minutes to 4 hours or more without losing the fun factor or whatever you call it.

Adam Bishop
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Dragon Age: Origins is one of my favourite games of this console generation, but point #2 is actually my main problem with it. There are a number of dungeons that just could not reasonably be completed in one sitting (unless a "sitting" for you is more than the hour or so I normally play a game for), but going into them there's no real way to know that. So there were a number of times in DA:O that I ended up feeling really frustrated that I didn't know how close I was to completing my objective, and stuck around playing longer than I really wanted to because I figured I might be near the end of the level.

At least DA:O lets you save whenever you want, though. Unlike, say, Lost Odyssey, where it's not uncommon to go 60-90 minutes between save points . . .

Tim Tavernier
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The problem I'm having with Bioware is that their processes and "it's all about the gamer" mentality is mostly geared to making it easier for the developers to make their game and such, making the game lower quality.

Mass Effect 2 mission-structure shows this greatly. Dragon Age's "warp from one hub-area to another" is another. Streamlining a game should not mean streamlining the making of the game. Streamlining should mean making the game more simple to grasp but not less difficult to play and still have a giant active overworld to move in.

Sting Newman
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I don't think you understand the great thing about the mission hubs is that it allowed designers to up the quality, in Mass effect 1 they did cut/paste mission design, they spread their resources too thin and many missions were essentially the same where you were sent to an exact replica of a mine/planet you had just been to on another planet.

Andrew Wojtkowski
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Dragon Age was a good game that showed a lot of promise. It was very rough around the edges, and I seriously want to know who designed the dwarf portion of the game and ask them what they were thinking when they made it so long and mundane.

Dragon Age had a good story (what Bioware game doesn't?) but it lacked progression beyond numbers getting bigger. The later fights used identical mechanics to the early ones, and you had more abilities than you had space on your bar.

Having played the demo, it's obvious that Bioware was listening. It's a relief to see that they taking advice from their customers in an effort to make the experience better. It is also good to see that they are getting advice from the Mass Effect team. Even if Dragon Age 2 isn't a perfect gem, Dragon Age 3 has the potential to be should they keep up this attitude.

All in all, this interview makes the Dragon Age team look like one of the most open minded teams in the industry right along side ArenaNet. There is a reason why Bioware is so successful. Their games are like a carefully aimed sniper shot vs the Activision Minigun. I hope this trend continues, because they are one of the few A-list companies who I see as improving with every release.

Evan Combs
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Adam Bishop
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Interesting. As someone who loved the first game and really enjoys a slower paced, more tactical style of RPG, I can't for the life of me understand why they would turn the second one into a button-mashing action game, which is what the demo felt like to me. One of the reasons the first Dragon Age did so well is because it provided something that virtually no other game provides anymore (at least on consoles) - a deep, complex RPG experience with lots of number crunching. I'm concerned that Bioware is ignoring how important that market is to their success and instead chasing after the Call of Duty market.

I have no problem with a game company trying to broaden its horizons and bring in new customers - on the contrary, I think it's great. But it seems with Mass Effect 2 and now Dragon Age 2, Bioware are getting rid of a lot of what their core audience likes and replacing it with things intended to appeal to a completely different kind of gamer.

Bart Stewart
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"... it seems with Mass Effect 2 and now Dragon Age 2, Bioware are getting rid of a lot of what their core audience likes and replacing it with things intended to appeal to a completely different kind of gamer."

That's been my concern, too, exactly. I believe there's only so far you can go with dropping RPG features in favor of the admittedly more visceral CoD-like experience before it's no longer an RPG, and calling it that can only feel deceptive to the gamers who bought the game expecting the thoughtful RPG experience.

In other words, if BioWare want to get away from making RPGs, that's fine... but a respect for truth in advertising should compel them to stop marketing those games as "Role-Playing Games."

Aleksei Gilenko
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I feel like I _am_ that very "completely different kind of gamer" and I liked the DA2 demo a lot :) They did DA2 with console gamers in mind, not PC, and maybe, just maybe, this is a good move. They dont hide their intentions, their slogan "think like a general, fight like a spartan, " say is it all cear in the face: DA2 = DAO (team tactics) + God of War (brutal hack & slash) :)

William Norman
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Bravo! Great interview.

I bought Xbox Live Gold just so I could download the DA:2 demo. Was totally worth it! For a long time I have been hoping that a game development house would start a move away from the antiquated systems of the past. In Pen and Paper games dice were a necessary way to emulate random chance. Action bars and turn based "click and wait" mechanics were acceptable and mostly needed due to limitations of the hardware. But now we have machines that can do sooo much more, I think it is high time developers started utilizing possibilities within the RPG genre. DA:2 looks to put the person back in the role play. When I played table top D&D long ago, it was more about being the character, THAT was the role you played. Lately you are simply a tank, or a DPS... I think that concept has taken the humanity out of so very many games.

DA:2 looks to be in a position to start bringing back that personality to the genre, by moving away from stagnant ideas and allowing us to become immersed in a fantasy, not just a setting, and for that I applaud Bioware!

Chris Melby
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I've had this game on pre-order and I'm still picking it up, but I can't express at how disappointed I am about the tactical-view being removed. This really sucks on Bioware's part, no matter how they spin it, it's a blow to some of their long standing fans.

I'll wait until I play the game for final judgment, as it's Bioware and they never fully let me down, but I wasn't too keen on being so confined during the demo.

As long as they didn't remove nightmare-difficulty and this game has the option to be every bit as hard as the first, I'll be OK. The demo did show me later on, that it's still the "same" combat as DA:O, but just appears to be be sped up for those that are more into glitz/show.

Kevin Campbell
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I liked ME1/2 and I really liked DA:O, but really don't understand why people think that Bioware can write good plotlines that deal with real issues or anything. It's always basic black and white morality smeared over contemporary ethical dilemmas (though, more often than not, turn of the century issues that global culture has already come to a consensus on.)

Take for instance the city elf introduction in DA:O. Everyone lauds it for how well it was written, when it was a rote, tired and uninspired "white people being racist towards the main characters." People say that the villains have dimensionality, but where is it for the nobles breaking in and trying to rape elven women? All I got was because they were racist evil nobles. There honestly didn't seem to be anything in the story to suggest otherwise.

The dwarven noble story on the other hand was slightly better, but it still suffered from the "middle son kills everyone and takes the throne" kind of medieval storyline we've been reading since... well... the middle ages.

The mage story in my opinion had the most believable characters in that the guards were distrustful of the magus and you had this blood mage who kind of bungled his way into acts of villainy throughout the storyline, but again, nothing really groundshaking.

Compare this to any game by Black Isle or Troika and you'll begin to see my point. In those games they just let the characters and stories be. They're great-great original stories with interesting and well-thought out characters and they don't try so hard to make a "statement", or "talk about the issues", despite the fact that playing these games can cause you to think about things in a new way. Bioware is like some afterschool special, sitting you down with a tweed jacket telling you drugs are bad, and everyone eats it up because it says "deep and moving" on the box.

It's a lot like Bioshock, when that game first came out my other designer friend kept going on about how it's going to change the gaming world with its choice system and I told him it wouldn't because it incentives morality (and sadly I feel I was right.) When you make a line in the sand and clearly state as a designer that you have two choices (one good, one bad) and choosing either gives you a clear difference in value/power/points the players will be inclined to choose the option more advantageous to them. We as developers like to think we're hot shit and good at writing; that if we write a story compelling enough the objective value of a decision won't matter and we'll be really grabbing these players by the balls and telling them "this is what life really is!" but we can't if we incentivize those decisions because playing the game well > getting engrossed in a compelling story. (And no, we're not going to count the one or two people who will respond by saying that they do choose the bad choices because they are actively trying to be engrossed in the story. It should be a natural thing, not forced.)

ME kind of goes in the opposite direction in that there's one "right way" to play the game (i.e. nobody dies at the end) and it can be accomplished through paragon or renegade should you choose, but the end will be the same. That way feels even less compelling because it really doesn't matter. You can be a cartoony Jedi good guy or a cartoony anti-hero and it's not going to matter much because you can still calm down Wrex, not die on the Citadel, show the council who's boss, save everyone from dying out on the Omega-4 Relay and come back home in time for dinner. And where's all these "hard choices" the game keeps advertising? There are hard choices sometimes when you need to decide what character does what at the end of ME2 knowing that they could all die (thanks to the aggressive advertising campaign done pre-launch), but aside from walking up to random strangers on the Citadel and resolving their canned abortion issue after reading two lines of dialogue the "hard moral dilemma" stuff is woefully lacking.

Let me slash my credibility in an actual way here so people don't get too mad and try to convince me that making a blank black and white decision based on yesterday's episode of Oprah is "powerful and moving"...

I don't care about any of the humans who joined my crew aside from the black guy (yes, that includes generic grizzled old hunter man and cyber Yuffie Kisaragi). Bring back Wrex you horrible-horrible cockteases. Garrus and Tali. Green religious frog assassin guy is alright too. Everyone loves red singing frog zoidberg so you'll need to add him too. I really liked Alistair at the start, but then he became a whiny little baby pretty quickly. You better do something good with him since I didn't get him killed or raped by Morrigan. Speaking of which, I did like Morrigan, and I had her sleep with Logaine, so I expect a demonspawn evil as fuck final boss from that somewhere. After that, I didn't like anyone else from DA:O except the dwarf (who's just as canned as the rest but had a lot of charisma at least) and angry rock lady for being interesting, funny and having a personality (not they don't need all of those, but at least one).

You make great games that are incredibly fun to play Bioware, I don't think anyone can deny that. But your writing is only passable or good at best. I don't see it as being as great or moving as other people say it is. Also, I don't buy for a second that the ending of ME:2 was planned out. That feels like a Shyamalan level plot-twist pulled out of nowhere (actually, most of ME:2's plotline doesn't seem to have any recollection of ME:1s plotline.)

Luis Guimaraes
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Everything agreed.

Shreerang Sarpotdar
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Agree. Bioware makes fun games, and the dialogue can be great, but the issues aren't exactly very deep. Indeed, some of the best parts in DA:O were trite issues that were well-written. As an aside, I think it is very hard to script deep, meaningful choices and fit into the classic three-options dialogue-tree mold.

Frederico L
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---The dwarven noble story on the other hand was slightly better, but it still suffered from the "middle son kills everyone and takes the throne" kind of medieval storyline we've been reading since... well... the middle ages.---

Not that it makes much of a difference, but it was the youngest son. ;)

Kevin Reese
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Agree also.

One other thing probably the vast majority of gamers and reviewers also don't realize about ME 1 / 2 is just how unoriginal the science fiction elements are as well. The vast majority of the games situations are taken from famous science fiction movies and TV shows, and the rest of the ideas from books. As someone who reads a lot of SF, I felt almost embarrassed for the writers of both those games... it seems they were incapable of any original ideas. I do not say that to be mean, just honestly though, almost every element of the SF world of those 2 games were taken from something else.

The writers wrote fine dialogue and characters though...but ya I think I could come up with more original ideas for aliens and their universe in 15 minutes than the entire game writing staff did over the few years they've worked on the game.

Owain abArawn
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As interviews go, this one was pretty worthless.

Shorter interview:

"Man are we awesome, or what???!1"

Superlatives, many. Details, none.

Darcy Nelson
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Darcy Nelson
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Couldn't summon the will to purchase Dragon Age. I just kept staring at the box and thinking to myself, "So this is what Neverwinter Nights looks like without the Dungeons and Dragons aspect." It makes me fantasize (based on no evidence what-so-ever) that the dev team for a potential new NWN title was called in, were told that they absolutely MUST use the horrid mess that is D&D 4th ed. as a base and ran screaming in the other direction. Although I suppose that's a bit ironic, considering from what I've seen DA:O's actual gameplay more closely resembles D&D 4th ed. than anything else...

Laurie Cheers
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Is it the new world that bothers you, or the the ditching of the D&D rule system? I'm not sure how either of them would interfere with your enjoyment of the game.

(Really, does it matter whether a computer-based RPG implements a specific pen-and-paper rule system?)

Darcy Nelson
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If I had to pick, I'd say the latter, although it's not so much that they're not using a computer based version of a popular RPG system I tend to enjoy. If it's one thing I don't like, it's a rip-off, and the gameplay I had seen absolutely gave me that impression. If I want a game in the vein of NWN, I'm going to play NWN, not a derivative with different spells names.

Also keep in mind that this is entirely indicative of one person's view point, and I would never tell someone to not pick up DA:O if it looks intriguing to them. I realize that I am pretty much the lone dissenting voice when it comes to this game. =P

Bart Stewart
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"... from what I've seen DA:O's actual gameplay more closely resembles D&D 4th ed. than anything else..."

I'd agree with that, to the extent that AD&D 4 was turned into generic MMORPG gameplay rules.

The least satisfying thing about DA:O to me was BioWare simply cloning generic MMORPG rules -- right down to aggro management, cooldown timers and buffs/debuffs -- instead of designing gameplay that directly fits the unique world that BioWare is rightly proud of having created.

For them to (let's use the polite word) simplify DA2 even further from a rich set of distinctive RPG actions, as they did when moving from Mass Effect to ME2... well. Purely as a matter of personal taste, that will leave me thinking that DA3 is not worth buying.

(Side note: as I've said before, the MMORPGification of gameplay in DA:O makes me think that the games in the Dragon Age franchise are actually just marketing for the MMORPG that EA really wants BioWare to develop, just as Blizzard created Warcraft 3 to pave the way for the long-term moneymaker that is WoW. We'll see.)

Tore Slinning
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This and THIS!

The setting is worthless without combining rules/stats up the to lore, thats the biggest hallmark of a an RPG game...CRPG games have existed for over 30 years now.

And were created to emulate PNP RPG.

Yet instead of moving closer to truly creating an pure RPG experience, we now go backwards because of this hollywood bullshit.

Bob Smith
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In short... I will never buy a Bioware game again.

The reason, I am not sure that the designers there know how to make a complete RPG. What am I saying?: Try playing any of their previous games BUT don't ever use a fighter type character. The player simply cannot complete the game this way, but only finding out this fact after 40 hours of play. What is worse, if the player simply adds a fighter to their group, these games become trivial. Some character types are clearly second-class citizens in the land of Bioware, only there to provide support for the meat-heads.

I believe the problem to be their trend to the "10: Press A, 20: goto 10" method of game play, opting for simple mechanics to appeal to a broader audience. While I agree that developing a complete gameplay experience for magic users is way more complex than for a fighter, that is no excuse. I don't think that if all the character types can play the lead, the game can't be called an RPG. (I can't play the role I wish to)

After playing the demo for DA2, I am convinced that this game is simply mortal combat with the ability to roam around the world. I guess that the need for complex thought in a RPG is going the way of the dinosaur and replaced with "A-A ... Powerup ... B-A-Up ... Combo ... B-X-Down ... Combo ... Headshot"

If anybody from Bioware reads this, please add random encounters and test the game with all combinations of characters (without a fighter to start). If I wanted to press the same button repeatedly for 8 hours for obviously limited and prescribed events, I would get a job in data entry.

Kevin Reese
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After reading the changes and simplifications made to DA 2, it pretty much killed my interest to get it. I loved the tactical, old-school style combat of DA 1. Certainly was the biggest draw for me ... I don't really care for the story much, pretty much every fantasy RPG is the same story with different faces no matter who makes it, so ya, no cash from me Bioware !

Mass Effect 3 though, on the other hand...