The GWJ CRPG Club - Game 5: Dragon Age: Origins (In Progress)

Traps offer an alternative to crowd control via magic, if you've got a rogue with the skill and have the ingredients to craft them. The downside is that you frequently don't know ahead of time that you'll need them, so you end up going into an encounter, wiping or reloading, and THEN setting the traps in order to lure enemies into them. So you're still micro-managing. But I admit I like this game's mix of automation and micro-management.

EDIT: Don't forget grenades as well.

I'm definitely running into some drag, too. There are a few little things bugging me, like how tiny some of the hit-boxes are for objects I want to interact with (hopefully, this is a bigger problem in the Circle Tower than elsewhere) or how fiddly the inventory system is and how quickly the party's inventory gets overloaded. I'm also finding that in any fight that's difficult, I need to pause and issue commands to my other party members much more than I'd like, and am now remembering that the first time I played this, I definitely found the game's AI a bit difficult to grasp. Even now, while I can manage most fights on Normal, some are a chore, and I don't totally get how other people find Hard to be that much more fun. But, different strokes; I've definitely played other RPGs on harder difficulty levels and enjoyed it..

I think I need to rearrange my AI scripts some, and am open to suggestions on how to do that. I also think that I probably need to take more advantage of crafting and use potions, poisons, grenades, and traps more aggressively.

In terms of progress, I'm almost into the Fade!

You don’t need traps and/or grenades for this game to be honest, although I guess they might be nice to haves for some encounters. I’ve never really used them and in any case, some of the ingredients required are exclusive to merchants so you can’t really just craft them on an ‘as needed’ basis. You’ll only make them if you have anything spare left over when you visit a merchant.

I think I’ve said elsewhere that the economy system in this game is not one that leaves you swimming in money able to by anything. I think you can game it a little at some point (large lyrium potions I think are he most profitable thing to craft and then sell) but it takes a lot of work travelling between locations because specific ingredients are only available from specific merchants.

It was far too much busy work if I recall correctly. Mostly I’m selling crafting stuff beyond ingredients for making health & lyrium potions. Keeps my pack free for other stuff.

ok, Denerim seems to be stable for me this time (visited it first to clear out as much as I could before travelling elsewhere, and so that i could access the city over-map later) so fingers crossed things go a bit better now.

I think those of you having crash problems are probably running mods that aren't working well. It sounds like the modding scene on that game isn't especially unified. When I was looking, I got the strong impression that mod conflicts were common and that you got no warning when they happened. That's why I only did the one.

With just Qwinn's Fixpack (and the 4GB exe patch, which isn't really a mod), I've had zero problems. It's been flawless.

Just finished up Orzammar, my third area. I was really expecting this area to suck. I've always found the Deep Roads to be ridiculously over-long and not very interesting. But, as it turns out, I enjoyed them more this time than I'd anticipated. Why? The enemies finally caught up with my DLC gear, and suddenly fights weren't easy anymore. I was actually having to pay attention and sometimes losing. Awesome. Much better. The tedium of the Deep Roads was mostly ameliorated by needing to focus. This is the Dragon Age I remember, and I was happy to have it back.

For those having trouble with combat: remember that DA borrowed heavily from WoW, in that you want the tank/dps/healer trinity, and aggro management is important. In my experience, the only really good tank in that game is a shield-specialized warrior. I have Alistair in that role, and he is incredibly tough. I haven't experimented with Shale this time around, but the last time I was trying golem tanking, I was rather underwhelmed. As I recall, aggro management was quite good, but the toughness of a shield warrior just wasn't there, and ending up with a pile of rubble was kind of the normal outcome. I had to work MUCH harder to keep Shale alive than to heal Alistair.

There's a specialization for mages that lets them wear armor, Arcane Warrior, and they can actually be quite good tanks. I've had excellent success, in past runs, with a mage tank main. Add in Blood Magic, and a little constitution (you still need most of your points in Magic), and they're wicked tough. But you have to get far enough to get the spec unlocked (and you also have to know where to look for the training), so you can't do this until at least early midgame on your first playthrough. I think of Arcane Warrior tanking as a second-playthrough option, kind of like playing a Malkavian in Vampire:Bloodlines.

If you stick with one good shield warrior, you should be fine. If you don't like Alistair, then I've had no issues in the past running a respec mod; with that mod you can make any of the warriors into a tank. In the default game, really only Alistair can do it; everyone else has way too many skill points into unrelated disciplines, and will never recover well enough to make good tanks.

If you don't want that mod, then for best results, I think it's either gotta be you or Alistair, with Shale as a weaker but workable option. Other options might work, but I think fights will be an endless series of desperate struggles.

Alistair is really tough if he's properly specced, and in high-strength-required armor. He's pretty good at mass aggro management, and he makes fights so much easier.

I've returned to Ostagar. Found the king there, burned him.

He was still...

Spoiler:

...alive when I found him; his eyes are blinking.
IMAGE(https://tormodh.files.wordpress.com/2019/01/cailan.gif)

just a flesh wound.

Slowly making progress through the Fade. I now have all four different forms, so I think I can collect all the stat boosts and get my companions back.

I really haven’t minded this section. The inclusion of some (very) light puzzle solving is interesting, and I imagine the Fade forces some first-time players to learn how to use several different abilities to their advantage. It’s also a bit different from the other sections, and I like seeing the designers experiment, here.

I just don't think I'm going to be able to hang with this one. I was pretty enthusiastic to start it up, but I lost momentum in Lothering and haven't felt any desire to go back.

I really enjoyed the Harrowing in the Mage origin. I keep returning to the sloth demon who asks you riddles to teach your companion how to turn into a bear. There was a wonderful, fairytale-like feeling to that exchange, where cleverness could win out over brute strength, should you want it to. It reminded me a bit of Daedalic's adventure games. At the same time, the look of the Fade and the design of the sloth demon were bizarre and grotesque; it made for an intriguing contrast of different styles of fantasy fiction.

However, after that sequence, through the rest of the Mage origin and into Ostagar and thereafter, the world settled into a different, less interesting groove. I wouldn't call the world or characters or plotlines that I encountered "bad", but none of them really captured my imagination. Part of that might just be an artifact of playing the game so many years after its original release: that dark fantasy path is fairly well-trod at this point, but it might have felt more novel in gaming a decade ago. Mostly, I just don't find that kind of cynical world to be very captivating, and I'm not a fan of BioWare's Whedon-esque dialogue.

I could forgive all of that if the combat were tolerable, but it isn't. I know this'll likely be dismissed as my playing on the wrong platform or not playing at the right difficulty, but I'm just not having any fun with it. The model of MMO-like combat in a single-player game is one that I quite enjoy, but it's been done significantly better in other releases, including games that were predecessors or contemporaries to this one. It strikes a poor balance between micromanagement and mindlessness where I think it could have benefitted from leaning more one direction or the other.

Sorry to bow out, but I hope the rest of you enjoy it! It's got a lot going for it; it's just not my kind of thing.

I wonder if you'd enjoy the Awakening expansion on its own. More condensed, more weird, some minor but appreciated tweaks to the combat, and you can start with a fresh character. I believe in the past you've mentioned you enjoyed some games' standalone expansions more than the "main" game, so I could see this being true here as well.

Just got into Lothering. I’m playing a elf mage (going to go for Arcane Warrior) named Adero. I did a bit of modding, one of which was adding the unlock spell line to mages for those pesky locked doors/chests.

I’m not sure if it’s a bug or not but i managed to buy a backpack from the quartermaster then I went into the wilds, came back and he had another backpack for sale.... which I bought. I don’t recall that from previous attempts.

Well, I've sorted out the Dalish, the Mage's Tower and Redcliffe (to a point. Right now I'm wandering around in Denerim and have encountered a CTD bug while trying to sort out some blood mages. Not sure I'm that worried about so I'll probably go back to the main plot now, although I might divert and run through some of the companion quests now instead. They (mostly) like me, so we'll see how we get on and maybe do Liliana's song while I'm at it.

It's just all a bit..... average. Good average I think, but still just - a lot of the time it just makes me feel like I'm ticking boxes on a spreadsheet. I does make me appreciate how much better Inquisition is than I gave it credit for originally. I was a little harsh on that game initially, but with the benefit of playing this game again is that it's clear DA:I is the best Dragon Age there has been so far. It pales in comparison to The Witcher 3 for sure, but it's a good game that one, and well worth it for people who enjoy this.

I think I might sit back a bit for now though. It's not a particularly compelling experience at the moment, although I'd guess I'm about half way there now.

So, just to be certain, I cleared out as much of Denerim as I could first - including that blood mage hideout which required several trips to restock on healing stuff - and have now turned my attention to the regular order of content, starting with the mage tower. Where last left off I was part way through the Fade section, again (which i feel rather over-levelled for now, after the Denerim stuff )

I've been through Denerim and found the interactions in the Pearl part of the city rather interesting. Didn't expect the location to have the types of choices it does. I have woo'd the elves, redcliff, and mages areas, so up next is a visit to the short bearded fellows.

pyxistyx wrote:

So, just to be certain, I cleared out as much of Denerim as I could first - including that blood mage hideout which required several trips to restock on healing stuff - and have now turned my attention to the regular order of content, starting with the mage tower. Where last left off I was part way through the Fade section, again (which i feel rather over-levelled for now, after the Denerim stuff )

My Morrigan has

Spoiler:

Mana Purge

as one of her main spells. It's instant death to pretty much any mage or demon she comes across.

One thing I do dislike about Origins is the lack of stamina potions for warriors. I understand why there isn't one, but boy it's still frustrating.

Sorbicol wrote:

My Morrigan has

Spoiler:

Mana Purge

as one of her main spells. It's instant death to pretty much any mage or demon she comes across.

One thing I do dislike about Origins is the lack of stamina potions for warriors. I understand why there isn't one, but boy it's still frustrating.

It’s too bad the Awakening expansion didn’t retroactively add stamina potions to the main game. It helped a lot, and they were there from the start in DA2.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

I just don't think I'm going to be able to hang with this one. I was pretty enthusiastic to start it up, but I lost momentum.

I wasn't quite as enthusiastic, but I became intrigued due to the surge of popularity. It has not been as much fun in practice as it were positive potential in contemplation. I anticipated grand and spectacular good times. Turns out it is simply okay, and at other times mediocre.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

I really enjoyed the Harrowing in the Mage origin.

Me too. It was a real strong point.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

I could forgive all if the combat were tolerable, but it isn't. I know this'll likely be dismissed as my playing on the wrong platform or not playing at the right difficulty, but I'm just not having any fun with it. The model of MMO-like combat in a single-player game is one that I quite enjoy, but it's been done significantly better in other releases, including games that were predecessors or contemporaries to this one. It strikes a poor balance between micromanagement and mindlessness where I think it could have benefitted from leaning more one direction or the other.

That's an astute summary. I've similarly been struggling to stay interested with the combat. I've been toggling difficulty, hopping platform, mixing up classes, and trying different algorithms for tactics, as well as micromanaging each character. I cannot find a balance that suits for challenge and engagement level. I continue to try.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

Sorry to bow out, but I hope the rest of you enjoy it! It's got a lot going for it; it's just not my kind of thing.

Your input shall be missed. But if it's next to no fun then canning it is the correct choice. I may be close behind.

I will stick with it a while longer. I have my concerns with hopping platform, and restarting with retooled characters, which are the telltale signs of attempting to cobble together a bypass for an otherwise inadequate experience.

P.S. - The writing within the lore is quite good, I find. The dialogue less so. Paper thin reasoning, or bravado circling, that doesn't hold up to 10 years of experience and wisdom as it once appeased my naive self. Still, there's a lot I may yet rediscover and uncover if I can find a groove.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

I just don't think I'm going to be able to hang with this one. I was pretty enthusiastic to start it up, but I lost momentum in Lothering and haven't felt any desire to go back.

I really enjoyed the Harrowing in the Mage origin. I keep returning to the sloth demon who asks you riddles to teach your companion how to turn into a bear. There was a wonderful, fairytale-like feeling to that exchange, where cleverness could win out over brute strength, should you want it to. It reminded me a bit of Daedalic's adventure games. At the same time, the look of the Fade and the design of the sloth demon were bizarre and grotesque; it made for an intriguing contrast of different styles of fantasy fiction.

However, after that sequence, through the rest of the Mage origin and into Ostagar and thereafter, the world settled into a different, less interesting groove. I wouldn't call the world or characters or plotlines that I encountered "bad", but none of them really captured my imagination. Part of that might just be an artifact of playing the game so many years after its original release: that dark fantasy path is fairly well-trod at this point, but it might have felt more novel in gaming a decade ago. Mostly, I just don't find that kind of cynical world to be very captivating, and I'm not a fan of BioWare's Whedon-esque dialogue.

I could forgive all of that if the combat were tolerable, but it isn't. I know this'll likely be dismissed as my playing on the wrong platform or not playing at the right difficulty, but I'm just not having any fun with it. The model of MMO-like combat in a single-player game is one that I quite enjoy, but it's been done significantly better in other releases, including games that were predecessors or contemporaries to this one. It strikes a poor balance between micromanagement and mindlessness where I think it could have benefitted from leaning more one direction or the other.

Sorry to bow out, but I hope the rest of you enjoy it! It's got a lot going for it; it's just not my kind of thing.

I hear you on both the dialogue and the combat. I'm still going to stick with it for now, but I definitely find both wanting, compared with what I had hoped for.

The dialogue system in this game seems like it's a bit of a bridge from games like Baldur's Gate and KotOR to games like Mass Effect. The game wants to give you choices that are not just good and evil, and I think it succeeds some of the time, but some of the dialogue choices seem to mirror the Stupid Evil path you could see running through the other games. Like, certain trees will give me the option to be relatively diplomatic or chivalrous (for lack of a better term) vs. some really @$$hole comment. There's no reason for my character to be an @$$hole there. I'd love a stoic or curt response option, instead.

And combat - it feels like a bit of a grind. I have a hard time describing what I don't like about it, but you said it well with the "poor balance between micromanagement and mindlessness."

I remember liking a lot of things about DA2 more than DA:O, combat among them (also inventory management and dialogue). DA2 seemed to get a lot of hate from certain parts of the fan community when it came out, so I'm not sure if I was in the minority, but I'd be interested to revisit that after I'm done with DA:O.

I remember liking a lot of things about DA2 more than DA:O, combat among them (also inventory management and dialogue). DA2 seemed to get a lot of hate from certain parts of the fan community when it came out, so I'm not sure if I was in the minority, but I'd be interested to revisit that after I'm done with DA:O.

That is my plan. Installed DA2 already and got it modded up, played the intro. But distracted for now.
It got quite different combat, more action-oriented, but I really liked it too.
DAO has good rtwp combat, but it hasn’t aged that well imo.

Is the Sloth Demon played by the same voice actor who played Seigmeyer of Catarina?
Edit: IMDB says nope.
They certainly share some characteristics, though.

PS I got through the Harrowing.

I believe I completed the game last time with an elf rogue, but it was ages ago. I do recall liking the rogue's big damage skills and traps, though stealth was kind of a mess because you'd anchor to your (non-stealthed) party at all times, which meant scouting and ambush range was rather limited.

Mage so far feels a little disconnected as there is little flourish to the early spells, though I know that magic is where the big booms are in the future.

Is there any benefit to investing in 'off-class' attributes (eg strength for a mage?) Cunning and Willpower (or Con for a tank) seem largely useful for anyone, but it's one (and only one) of Strength, Dexterity or Magic based on class.

LastSurprise wrote:

I remember liking a lot of things about DA2 more than DA:O, combat among them (also inventory management and dialogue). DA2 seemed to get a lot of hate from certain parts of the fan community when it came out, so I'm not sure if I was in the minority, but I'd be interested to revisit that after I'm done with DA:O.

I think at the end of DA2 I was of the opinion that it was a better game than DA:O, mostly because it streamlined so much of the game, had much better characters and some really good side quest moments - giving Avaline a break so she could seduce her underling was a particular highlight, as was the quest to find Hawke's Mother when she disappears.

However it was let down by probably the worst ending of any triple A title game I've ever played. It was such a slap in the face to player after all the choices you make, and which side you choose to support for none of it to matter at all - especailly if you side with the Mages. It should be held up as an example to 5 years olds on how to not end a story. It was dreadful - really, honestly dreadful, and it destroyed pretty much everything that preceded it.

I know they made the animations punchier in DA2, and added stamina potions, but was there any fundamental difference in the way combat worked overall in DA2 compared to Origins? I've played 2 twice and recall playing it the same way I did Origins.

Sorbicol - totally agreed about the ending to DA2. It was a huge letdown for me.

beanman101283 - not that I remember, either, though I remember enjoying the combat more in DA2. My original DA:O character was a rogue (as is the one I'm playing now), and my Hawke was a warrior, so maybe the lack of positioning made a difference. Or, maybe I found the punchier animations more satisfying. Also, I think some of the ways that DA2 highlighted skill synergies made it a little easier to understand how your party should function together. I don't remember if the party AI was better than in DA:O.

From what I replayed of DA2 just now it was much more direct action. The rogue jumps around on the battlefield, more skills target current enemy or in a cone/circle instead of manually selecting where to hit.
One thing I certainly liked more is the Diablo 2/mmo like skill trees, instead of the very simple skill trees of DAO, even if it comes at the cost of fewer abilities. It is still simple, but there are at least upgrades and such. Many abilities in DAO were very niche anyway.

Ending is bad, on the other hand I liked that for once a CRPG wasn’t about saving the world.

Urgh

Well got past the blood mages after basically walking away and coming back again, then did a little tiding up in Denerim before heading back to camp and getting Liliana to swoon at my feet. There was kissing.

Then I went to

Spoiler:

go and have a chat with Flemeth about her Grimoire and Morrigan. I accidentally pressed the wrong button and then she was a giant fire breathing dragon and then I was dead.

My save was right back at the door of the blood mages.

*sigh*

Well, life got kind of busy for a bit there, but I was able to finish reading The Stolen Throne. Kind of spoilerish if you're going to read it, soo...

Spoiler:

The story had great momentum and pace until the end, where I think the author must have hit a page limit or something, because the last ten pages are mainly a summary of what probably should have been another 100 pages of story.

I did enjoy it, although it wasn't particularly laden with creativity. Still, fun to see the game world be the setting for a fantasy novel, and it was easy reading. I'm glad I read it. I'm not sure I'll continue with more of the series, but maybe after I finish the game.

Speaking of which, time to start getting back at this for me!

The next book is better read between Origins and its Awakening expansion, anyway.

The biggest strength of the book is giving more insight into Loghain’s character. You can kind of see how he went from the person in the book to the villain in the game. The game would have benefitted from giving that context.

beanman101283 wrote:

The next book is better read between Origins and its Awakening expansion, anyway.

The biggest strength of the book is giving more insight into Loghain’s character. You can kind of see how he went from the person in the book to the villain in the game. The game would have benefitted from giving that context.

Oh, not having gotten far at all into the game I had no idea he shifted to a villain in the game, or is even in the game. I actually got somewhat skeptical of the character arcs for Loghain, Rowan, and Maric in the back third of the book. It seemed like they shifted on cue from being "good" to being significantly heartless, calculating, and driven. Maybe the author was trying to portray them as molded by the times and duty, but I felt like the book lost something as they shifted, that the shift wasn't entirely believable, and that they lost much of their appeal as main characters.

You must not have spent much of any time in Ostagar, then. It’s the first area after the origin story.

1/4 main areas done. Cleared the Mage Tower of demons and navigated the Fade yesterday, I think I'll head to the forest next (after a brief detour back at Ostagar) just to change up the pace a bit.