To this day, Carl will occasionally drop the words "Dragon Age II" into conversation just to send me off on a ten-minute rampage about how bitterly disappointing and shoddily constructed that game was.
It's all relative, of course. Dragon Age II is not a dreadful game. One would actually struggle to describe it as bad. But in comparison to the past glories of a company I grew up adoring for their mature, choice-stuffed RPGs, BioWare screwed the pooch with Dragon Age II. They abandoned the expansive approach that made Origins a modern classic, threw away the narratives we'd all spent hours constructing in that first game, and gave us a boring city surrounded by cookie-cutter dungeons and endlessly repetitive quests for a story that offered little bite.
I'm still annoyed by Mass Effect 3's ending (that's a whole other can of worms), but Dragon Age II exhibited warning signs long before the Reaper starchild showed up to retcon everyone's favourite interactive space opera. The lazy design is undeniable and was never fully addressed in the post-mortems after the game released. Accusations of rushing the game to completion, which would've explained an awful lot, were laughed off, as were suggestions that EA's high pressure corporate culture had negatively influenced the game.
We never got answers, but the results spoke for themselves. Something had gone wrong: BioWare were making games that looked better than ever, but had lost something underneath the surface.Click here to read more...
Following Jon's epic brainfart regarding his ideal vision for Army of Two, we decided to have a podcast week where we simply chat about a few outlandish gaming ideas that we'd like to see, and directions we'd have some existing franchises take if anything was possible and we had the power to sculpt the future.
With that in mind, Carl delivers a concept for a really dark Mario reboot; Jon puts Metroid in a pot together with Platinum Games and Prey 2 to pitch the best bounty hunting game ever; we discuss the advantages for realising wishlists and dreams that Kickstarter is affording; we lament that the there are still so many awesome Japanese games that will never make it West (though Ni No Kuni will); Matt pleads that Dragon Age II be struck from history and instead replaced with Dragon Age: Origins II, a true sequel that directly follows on from the fantastic first game; and we look forward to a generation that sees everybody, most of all the consumer, winning.
Parental Advisory: We've tried to keep it as conversational and informal as possible, and you should be warned that there may be quite a few instances of strong language.
Picture Credit: Jose Emroca Flores
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Bioware is facing its toughest challenge yet; convincing fans that Dragon Age 2 was just a bump in the road towards further RPG glory. Long considered one of the finest proponents of the Western role-playing model, their acquisition by EA prompted many fears the quality of their output would decline, and Dragon Age 2's mixed reception did nothing to quell such concerns. In a chat with OXM today, Bioware explained their vision for Dragon Age 3, and how they'd like to strike a "nice balance" between Origins and its much-maligned sequel.Click here for more
Steam are currently running a deal on Dragon Age: Origins as well as some other EA titles... but Gamestation have soundly kicked their ass. £5.99 will net you the original adventure with hundreds of hours of adventuring, choosing your origins from scratch and a much stronger storyline than its sequel. If you're thinking about getting into the Dragon Age saga, I'd definitely recommend starting at the beginning - and doing so on the PC in order to take advantage of its superior isometric tactical view.
I wasn't exactly blown away by Dragon Age: Origins when it first came out, mainly due to BioWare sticking to the same Tolkien-esque tropes that we're all sick and tired of. However, it's still a hefty, engaging and truly dynamic game that changes depending on your character's backgrounds and decisions. The sequence based in a prison is one of my favourite open-ended RPG segments of all time. Whilst the Ultimate Edition contains all the DLC for around £18 (a massive saving), many gamers would be much happier shelling out just under a tenner to get the core game by itself. Note that Sendit's competing price doesn't include the £2 postage charge.
Thanks to missgem at Hot UK Deals!
Over on LIVE, EA has discounted a selection of games and add ons to just 50% of their original price. We're talking Dragon Age: Origins and its numerous DLC packs, like Awakening and The Darkspawn Chronicles, indie cult classic Deathspank, the family friendly Hasbro roster and more. It's a smashing offer, and I myself intending on finally picking up a few Dragon Age add ons. It's January, so don't expect these type of offers to last forever or appear again any time soon.
Monty Python’s ‘Ministry of Silly Games’ Coming To Facebook
A few weeks ago we reported that casual games outfit Zattikka had acquired the license to make games based on the British comedic troupe. Well it appears more details have emerged online with the project being titled Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Games and will consist of varying mini-games in an RPG-style environment. You’ll be able to relive some of the iconic moments in the Python back catalogue and it will even feature Terry Gilliam’s artistic styling for added authenticity.
While the return of Ron Gilbert’s gaming-making ways with DeathSpank was an enjoyable enough affair, Mr Gilbert recently told Wired that he wishes that the combat had been more of a puzzle-solving experience than the hack & slash that it was, citing Dragon Age: Origins as an example of what he wished it could have been like.
It shouldn’t be about beating your head against it. It should be about assessing the situation — asking, ‘what tools do I have?’ You might say, ‘Hey, I can crowd-control people or maybe for this particular thing I need to get some ice-resistant armor.’
I really like the intellectual component to the combat in Dragon Age… The RPG stuff fits a little more with the adventure game, puzzle-solving pieces of the game. Not in its turn-based nature. More of the intellectual element.
You see a little bit of that intellectual component come out in the game, but not a lot. I would probably have spent a lot more time making that stuff come out a little better.
While Matt’s review did suggest the combat was repetitive after a while, whether it would have been a more enjoyable experience mixing up the combat is up for debate. Do you agree with Ron’s assessment of his own work and feel it could have done with a bit more thought in the combat system? Perhaps you think it was just fine and dandy as it was hacking away at your foes? Share your thoughts in the comments below! [VG247]
Hot on the heels of the success of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood it appears Ubisoft are already cooking up ideas for the next instalment. Users over at NeoGAF have discovered an online survey asking participants what features they would like in the next entry in the series. The suggestions range from an enhanced Eagle Vision, the ability to craft items, the option of keeping the story with Ezio or moving it along to a new timeframe, and upgraded multiplayer features including a deeper online experience.
Of course, there’s a chance none of these will end up in the next game, and it’s not even stated if it will be Assassin’s Creed 3 or another ‘spin-off’, but it’s an interesting look at what we might be getting the next time we’re leaping across rooftops. [1UP]
For those of you RPG fans who have managed to hold off this long without trying out Bioware’s latest franchise then this deal is going to be mighty, mighty sweet for you. The Ultimate Edition contains the award-winning main game, in which you play a character that becomes a Grey Warden that defends the races of Ferelden from the might of the Darkspawn, as well as the Awakening expansion and all the DLC in one tidy bundle (and with the PC version you even have access to plenty of community made mods.) For less than £20 it’s not only a bargain but it’s more than enough action to keep you busy until the sequel’s release next year.
DLC is something of a grey area still. It can lengthen the lifespan of a game, but can also seem like a sneaky moneymaking ploy, particularly when there's evidence to suggest that the content was already on the disc to begin with, but got locked down until you paid more money. The idea that you're paying the same money for a game with chunks missing, or deliberately snipped out, is an unattractive and depressing idea and ruins the fragile trust between industry and consumer. BioWare and EA, for the most part, have managed to at east seem as though they're both singing from the songsheet of the former category, and my enjoyment of both Dragon Age and Mass Effect has been lengthened significantly - and the stifling wait between full games made all the less excruciating - thanks to downloadable content.
I was incredibly excited for this one: finally some answers, finally a reconciliation with Morrigan, finally an ending that would mean I'd be able to sit back content and wait patiently, satisfied and sated, until Dragon Age 2 comes trotting around early next year. The marketing tagline seemed to promise so many things: '[Morrigan's] plans and her whereabouts have remained a mystery... until now...But whether you seek answers, revenge, or reconciliation with your lost love, you may find more than you bargained for.'
Sounds vague and unassuming doesn't it? Well, you'd be right. Cue disappointment...but then quite what I thought I'd be getting for less than a fiver I'm not not too sure.
You'll bust through this mini chapter in two hours, a new quest that begins with you rummaging around in Flemeth's old hut a year after the Archdemon kicked the bucket, hunting for clues as to Morrigan's whereabouts. It's there that you meet Dalish elf Ariane, hunting Morrigan too, but mainly because she nicked an ancient tome of Dalish lore. Morrigan, you see, is searching for an ancient elven artefact and so you team up with Ariane and quick-witted mage Finn to track down the same item in the hopes of bumping into her at some stage.
The Awakening deal's worth a look. While it's still slightly cheaper to get a good deal on a physical copy, many gamers will appreciate the increased convenience of the downloadable version. Awakening adds a substantial new campaign, new characters and some seriously tough decisions that'll test your moral fibre to the limit.
Return to Ostagar allows your team to revisit the abandoned battlefield in order to bury the late king and get up to some serious looting. It's a short, sweet and arguably unnecessary little jaunt... but it offers a few gamerscore and a nifty set of armour for your trouble.
Warden's Keep is another brief sideline that promised to open up the titular stronghold as a base of operations. It lied. Whilst the new party chest finally allows you to store items for later, the Keep plays no further significant role in the campaign. 400 points still isn't great value for this swift little diversion.
In other Dragon Age DLC news, yet another content pack has arrived today. Golems of Amgarrak delivers a hardcore (read: very difficult) delve into the dwarven mines on the trail of a lost expedition. Is the difficulty spike making up for a lack of content? Go figure.
Stuart Black, the developer behind Black and the foulmouthed spokesman for upcoming beautifully-vulgar FPS Bodycount will be leaving the Codemasters team.
“Having created a great vision and direction for Bodycount, Stuart has decided to move on after three years with us.”
“He will see out his design role until October and, through the transition period, will continue to work with the talented development team that will take the game through to completion.”- Codemasters studio manager Adrian Bolton
No specific reason has been given for Black's decision to quit- but we're genuinely surprised to see it confirmed. Stuart has been a mainstay of the FPS headlines in recent months; issuing a constant stream of expletives, hyperbole and updates about Bodycount's development cycle. Considering his undeniable passion and position as as official Bodycount mascot, we can only assume that the dev team shouted down one of his ridiculous (or brilliant, or both) design decisions. Maybe a Lady Gaga-themed level? [via VG247]
Bioware has dropped the bomb on a massive patch for Dragon Age Origins that fixes a huge number of glitches, bugs and flagrant little coding issues across the board. Rogues will have special reason to rejoice, since daggers will now actually grant them the dexterity damage modifier they deserve. Oh, and memory leaks and corrupted save games should hopefully be a thing of the past.
Check out the full (and significantly long) list of tweaks and updates here. The patch will hit for the PC later today, though the console versions are currently awaiting testing and accreditation. [Bioware Forums]
Uh-oh. Bobby Kotick's been breathlessly fantasizing about instigating a membership subscription system for playing Call of Duty online for some time... and if a recent gameplay video is to be believed, the software and platform to do so may have already sneaked into Modern Warfare 2. For your delectation:
Hmm. Even if this video isn't doctored (considering it would be fairly easy to overlay a grey screen onto MW2 gameplay footage), there are any number of things that this video could be. Note, however, the Modern Warfare 2 Membersh... title hanging ominously over the menu like the sword of Damocles.
Personally I'd be very surprised if Activision is trying to sneak subscriptions into Modern Warfare 2 (considering that Black Ops is just around the corner)- but I'd be interested to see what you all make of it. I'd personally file this one under "Unlikely but plausible." [via TheSixthAxis]
Popcap fans and gardening aficionados will be delighted to hear that Plants vs Zombies will be dropping onto XBLA in September. According to leaked achievements discovered over the weekend, it will also contain a couple of new modes including multiplayer bowling.
According to the press release, this new version of Plants vs Zombies will boast "seven game modes, including two all-new multiplayer modes, 12 unique achievements and 21 mini-games," enhanced resolution and a quirky leaderboard system that involves creating a virtual clubhouse for your friends to visit! It will retail for 1200 Microsoft Points.