Editorial: In Which SiliconNooB Gets in a Fix

When is the correct time, and what is the correct pace in which to modernise a franchise. Should it even occur if a winning formula is not broken? NOPE!


Funnily enough this line of questioning wasn’t prompted by Final Fantasy XIII (the worst game ever created). Complete morons will try to tell you that the design of XIII attempted to modernise the series (that dubious honour belongs to FFXII), when in actual fact the changes present were made out of sheer laziness and fail.

No, the game that prompted this musing was Dragon Age Origins, a game made ostensibly to cater towards the exacting tastes of old-school PC WRPG fans, a franchise which looks to be raped by modernity for its impending sequel.


In recent years Bioware have moved away from their old formula. Jade Empire heralded their implementation of an action based battle system, prioritising button mashing reflexes over strategy, while Mass Effect saw the implementation of the conversation wheel, which prioritised cinematic presentation over the player’s ability to accurately choose what they wished to say. Thus, players are to choose the happy, mad, calm or sad response and just hope that that was what they were going for (a personal bane, and catalyst for many reloads).

With the release of Mass Effect I was initially disgusted with the conversation system, yet this was something that I was able to move quickly beyond, I had to. Such changes are the way of the world, and it is obvious from playing Mass Effect that it was built from the ground up to be a thoroughly modern RPG, appealing to as many shooter fans as it did to RPG fans. I do not now begrudge Bioware this change, it is the modernisation which needed to occur in order for their flagship series to keep pace with the proportional profitability of their output from previous generations. Such are the times.

Dragon Age Origins is a whole other kettle of fish however, this was a title touted repeatedly as being made for the traditional PC RPG gamers who found themselves alienated by the rapid shift toward action gimmickry in modern RPGs. Unfortunately however, Dragon Age Origins was a commercial success, which of course means that it is to be bent over to receive a forcible modernisation.


Thus, not only are old-school gamers to be alienated from Bioware’s current mainline series, but they are also to be alienated from the series which was ostensibly, specifically and vocally aimed towards them in order to redress Bioware’s shift away from old-school sensibilities. This is what sticks in my craw. The slavering crowd already had their Mass Effect, but now Dragon Age is to be turned into their second Mass Effect, and old-school gamers are left with naught but their dicks in their hand, once again.

Frankly, this sucks.

Those cretins are of course as happy as shit, naturally they will not be content until all the world’s games are filled to brimming with the latest in gimmickry. The shooter crowd who piled on with Mass Effect are similarly unconcerned, after all ‘only fags worry about that gay shit’. But fans of traditional RPGs are left out in the cold once more with Dragon Age 2, the one property still left to them has been wrenched cruelly from their grasp, and harangued with a shiny new coat of paint.

Certainly not.
Certainly not.

Gone is the ability to choose exactly what one says, instead we are to look forward to choosing from the conversation wheel lucky dip. The battle system too is to be modernised, this is news to be welcomed on the consoles of course, as the controller interface all but requires it, yet news that the PC version does away with the isometric view is all the confirmation needed to know that it is to be lumped with the same action battle system as the console versions.

The question which remains is thus; was this change really necessary? Bioware made a game aimed specifically toward old-school RPG fans and it sold very well, is there a need to turn this formula on its head?! Was it the shooter fans who made Dragon Age Origins a success? Was it the gimmick-enthusiasts of this world who made Dragon Age Origins such a success? This whole decision smacks of the thinking: “We’ve already got the RPG fans, now let’s have a crack at every other demographic“. Bioware are trying to eat their cake, and take a shit on it too. At any rate, old-school gamers have been deemed insufficient by Bioware and their EA overlords, mass appeal HO!!


  1. Honestly though, the conversation wheel? Not bad; I can’t recall ever choosing the wrong option, though I’m not sure how one error-proofs any input. Pressing the wrong button or mashing the D-pad too many times happened too.

    I also don’t share anyone’s nostalgia for passive input in an RPG. Sure, tactical and strategy RPGs, that’s a good idea. But a real time battle system ought to feel real time. Enemies standing there like bumps on a log while I scroll through menus trying to decide if Firaga or Firaja or Fir-Gaga is the correct spell break immersion.

    Careful, considered strategy without time constraints has its purpose — chess. When I play a video game, I want excitement and responsiveness.

  2. Some fairly good points, and a well articulated argument, but…

  3. @Lane: I’m amazed that you want every game to be of the same type. Shame that there should exist games that let you combine some of the good aspects of strategy RPGs such as the ability to consider your attacks, (which in a game have to be drawn from a list and not instantly from the character’s memory) without having someone beating on you with a sword whilst you scroll through it.

    That’s *not* nostalgia speaking. The attempt to paint it all as such didn’t go unnoticed, and it’s just as specious as you are well aware it is.

    And incidentally, for someone who wants excitement and responsiveness, you don’t play much TEAM FORTRESS 2, do you? :p

  4. I’m actually mostly with Lusipurr and SN on this one. While I think the conversation wheel is absolutely progress and the obvious answer for any Bioware game, I don’t want Dragon Age to be another Mass Effect. ME2 watered down so many of ME1’s RPG elements (that were already soft to begin with), so that even a much better cast didn’t make it better than the original.

    I like DA’s old school feel and that I actually have an affect on the leveling tree and equipment. I agree that there is a place both for turn based, strategy based play and frantic Kingdom Hearts style battles.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing improvements to DA’s console battle system, but a Mass Effect clone would certainly be disappointing.

    But back to the wheel, it IS interesting that you find it such a crapshoot. I haven’t heard that from anyone else, and if I felt the same way about it, I definitely wouldn’t want it in Dragon Age either. But I find it to be extremely precise and immensely engrossing. It makes me play Mass Effect making decisions as a character instead of what I think would benefit me as a player. I don’t think I’ve had that sort of immersion anywhere else, and I’d love that in Dragon Age. But please keep it a separate entity. I agree with the main sentiment. They are different series’ for a reason.

  5. Like always I have probably indulged in a little hyperbole, but off the top of my head I’d say that the conversation wheel let me down 5-6 times over the course of both Mass Effect games, and many times more than that in Alpha Protocol. It’s really just the difference between having fine-grained control or coarsegrained control over the things you’re saying.

  6. @Lusi: I don’t want every game to be the same type. I want all games with real-time battle systems to be, well, real-time and not fake-real-time. I played through DA on both my PC and PS3, and while I prefer the PC version (obviously), the PS3 battle system was pretty damned good for what it is. I’m looking forward to the DA2 system, because I liked the ME2 system better than ME1, and I pretty much hate shooters.

    Which is not to say that non-real-time systems don’t have their place (SRPGs, TRPGs, mobile/handheld games, etc.), and that button-mashers are the pinnacle of gaming design. But an immersive story-based game that borrows from action conventions is better, in my opinion, than an immersive story-game that interrupts my actions with FIGHT RUN MAGIC ITEM. (As an aside, I think some of my favorite battle systems from the not-current-gen games were Rogue Galaxy and, to an extent, part of FF12).

    Also, I don’t think it’s just nostalgia speaking (and I didn’t mean to imply that, if I did). I mean, I’m sure someone is nostalgic for text-based adventure commands, like “EXITS ARE NORTH, SOUTH AND DENNIS. > GO DENNIS” but most of us can admit that was a bad idea, even if we still like to play Roguelikes.

    I will join you for at least one game of TF2 once I finish my move from being Prolix Barrister of one county to my new county.

    Oh yes, y’all have not heard. I have a new job! So, yeah, moving will eat into my gaming time for the next 2-3 weeks.

  7. Oh Rogue Galaxy! I forgot about that game. That DID have a really good battle system. And art style. Aaaand…that’s it.

  8. Voice acting was so-so in RG as well. Crafting sucked.

    Ethos, we must form an alliance against the clamoring hordes.

  9. I have no idea if the voice acting was good or not because the writing was just so, so bad. Some of my best rants have been inspired by RG.

  10. Cmon, who didnt love leveling weapons just to feed them to your radioactive space frog?

  11. @Lane:

    I will join you for at least one game of TF2 once I finish my move from being Prolix Barrister of one county to my new county.

    Yes, yes, YES.

  12. Was Tri-Ace somehow not involved in Rogue Galaxy? I never played it, but a friend of mine said they screwed him at the end by making you use party members you never used at all so they were horribly underleveled?

    Sorry, but when I hear “crafting” and “terrible voice acting” I instantly think “Tri-Ace.”

  13. No, RG was Level 5 (Jeanne D’Arc, White Knight). You do have to use all your party members but they level (albeit at a slower pace) when not in party. Also, there is a lot of grinding for the crafting minigames so that’s rarely an issue.

  14. Oh, and between Mass Effect 1&2 I did find I wasn’t sure what the answers they gave on the wheel were going to translate to somewhere between one and two dozen times.

  15. Oh wow. I think between both games I only had two instances in which it wasn’t exactly what I expected. And even then it was just slightly off.

  16. That just means they did a good job making the game for you, Ethan.

    I found that sometimes you could choose the sarcastic option and have your character deliver a pleasingly sarcastic response, while other times they would be quite rude to the person they were talking to. Sometimes you will choose the hostile option which will allow you to confront the person you are talking to, other times you will punch them in the head.

  17. REJOICE! Industry and progress win out again because DA2’s combat will contain both time to pause and endlessly obsess over which fire spell Lady Gaga would use to toast her enemies, or to mash buttons like a rabid weasel intent on using the X button to carve a swath through one’s enemies.

    Abortions for some, little American flags for others!

  18. @SN – Absolutely I would find that frustrating as well, then. I suppose I’m either lucky or in the same mindset as the writers. I mean, they ARE Canadian, even if they’re from the boring, flat, useless section. (See: most of Canada).

  19. My bigger problem with the Paragon/Renegade choices were in ME2 where I’m not sure how anyone played a Renegade. In the first ME by the end of the game I was ~5/5 Paragon and ~4/5 Renegade. Sometimes the “SHUT UP OR I’LL KILL YOU!” response made sense. Others the “Hey, let’s talk about this.” one did. In ME2 it sort of felt like the “morality system” slipped into that nice guy or cartoonishly evil rut.

    I never got around to playing Dragon Age 1, but the DA2 video doesn’t make it look bad. Isn’t that basically just a shinier version of the original?

  20. @Lane: That is EXACTLY how it should be. Give both options so that everyone can play how they like.

  21. Oh NOW you support democracy and freedom. While watching your royalist sport of cricketbat or whatever.

  22. -Thank goodness Cricket never took off in America, you would have every manner of Texan bringing the game into ill repute.

    -I don’t understand how one is supposed to play Dragon Age 2 tactically when they’ve removed the isometric camera. I suppose the one saving grace is that someone will create an isometric mod within the first week.

  23. I used to go to the local Euro ex-pat bar when I was working as a defense attorney in Austin. Early mornings here are the best time to catch soccer and cricket matches, and I liked to get drunk with those Limey, Mick, Kraut and Scot fucks and yell at the teevees with them.

    I actually like cricket, and once had some drunk Brit fucker try to explain the game to me. I got like every third word, but I know enough to be able to follow the action.

  24. Well, that’s all that matters. Few entry level fans have an encyclopedic knowledge of the game’s intricacies, that’s what umpires/commentators are for.

  25. I will give that to dirty foreign sports; your commentators are much better. I routinely mute American football games because the “commentary” generally consists of some idiot stating the blindingly obvious. “Oh, Jim, they’re really gonna need to get the ball past the goal line if they want to score.”

    No shit, really?

  26. BAHAHAHA! Tonight the 7:30 Report did a segment on the Compton Cricket Club!