Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dragon Age!

First thing’s first, for those who’ve so kindly expressed concern and since I don’t know when Bill will get around to posting an update (such a slacker): Talking to him this morning, it sounds like Mary’s been doing much better the last couple days. Hopefully that trend continues and all will be well.

As for Dragon Age, the Collector’s Edition I ordered did arrive yesterday. That’s a huge relief given that my supposed review copy is nowhere to be found (and will evidently be on the 360). To be fair I get there’s a lot of schlub sites out there trying to get free review code, but it’s Gameshark. No, it’s not IGN, but it ain’t Skippy’s House of 2nd Grade Game Reviews either. Ah well. I shouldn’t really complain. The people doing the PR for this game are incredibly nice and I’m sure they’re doing their best. I’m just disappointed that it means I (probably) won’t have a Gameshark review ready for about two weeks and that does impact how much it gets read. This isn’t something that can be played in a couple of nights, after all. (Plus, I’ve got my kids with me for the next seven nights which severely restricts my gaming time; this is not something that I should be playing around a four and five year old.)

As for my first night with the game -that sounds so taudry!- I stand by the assessment that it’s just incredibly great. I won’t speak for the console version, which does play much different even if the story is the same, but I played through the human noble origin for the second time and it just snares me. It only takes about 90 minutes to complete and I was emotionally connected to my character’s family inside of 60 minutes. I really should play through the other origins right away, but I’m torn because I need to start progressing in the game.

Some other spoiler free notes:

- I’m running a Intel Core 2 (2.x GHz) PC with 2GB RAM, GeForce 8800 (GTS, I think) graphics card, and Win7 64-bit. I’m running at 1680x1050 with details set to High (second best) and no anti-aliasing enabled. The game runs just fine. There’s an occasional hitch here and there, especially when adjusting the camera distance, but I think that’s a product of running 64-bit Windows with just 2GB of memory.

- The Dragon Age website is a mess, or at least it was last night. I’ve got two codes for custom items and I didn’t even mess with entering them because the site would not let me stay logged in when I tried to move from page to page. (And it’s definitely not just me.) This morning it seems to be working better, so I did go ahead and enter the codes (hopefully content will be filtered down to my account by the time I get home), but my game’s data from last night still isn’t all updated to my online account either so I’m not sure the site is over its release day meltdown just yet.

- I do feel gipped that buying the CE doesn’t also give you either of the release day DLC packs (Warden’s Keep or Stone Prisoner), yet the Steam digital deluxe version gets you both. I know I get the DVD and cloth map, but come on, I paid $60 for an extra $5 worth of goodies (if that). Give me one of the DLC quests, at least!

EDIT: I take it back. I did get a code for Stone Prisoner. It was on the back of the Blood Armor card and I didn't see it. Yay! :)

- I do so love the cloth map. It’s getting framed.

- I am such a geek.

- When I got my first look at the game in Edmonton I didn’t spend much time looking at the tactics stuff. Last night I did and it’s great. Depending on your character’s cunning attribute you get a set number of tactics slots to configure how that character behaves in combat (if left to his/her own devices). You can tell them which enemy to attack (nearest, ranged attacker, strongest, weakest, same guy you’re attacking; the list goes on), when to use their special abilities, when to use health and whether to use the weakest or strongest available potion, etc. etc. etc. Taking the time to set these options really makes a difference.

- It seems like, on Normal difficulty, a lot of people are struggling not to get murdered in combat. I definitely ran into problems last month when I first played it, but last night I didn’t lose my party once and only one character took injuries form being knocked unconscious (this is up through the quest to become a Grey Warden). My suggestion is not to overly divide your party. Don’t send all four guys after different opponents. It just takes too long to bring adversaries down and if ranged attackers outnumber you badly enough they’ll slaughter you. I tend to put three melee guys on one opponent at a time (making sure one of them is flanking for extra damage) and then let a ranged/magic character try to keep ranged attackers busy. This seems to minimize the amount of ranged damage my guys take, while allowing them to really mow through the grunts.

- One thing that some may not like (I don’t) is that I don’t think there’s any way to get at the numbers game going on in the background. What separates a 20 Dexterity score from an 18? I really don’t know. What kind of success am I having with hit rolls in combat? No idea. You get enough info on skills and attributes to get the idea, but if you really want to know numbers and try to maximize the math, I don’t think there’s a way to do that.

- I love, love, love this game. But you already knew that.

If anyone does have questions leave ‘em in the comments and I’ll answer what I can. Tonight I finish out the Ostragar section of the game, which is where it really starts to open up.