Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Decisions, Decisions -- Dragon Age: Origins

First off, I want to say that Dragon Age is a very different game from other contemporary RPGs, even western RPGs. RPGs seem to be leading the charge of the melding of genres- either RPGs taking on action/adventure or shooter aspects, like the Bethesda open-world RPGs or Bioshock, or them taking on RPG aspects, as in Modern Warfare 2. Dragon Age is NOT this way. It is pure, unadulterated, RPG. It may not follow the Dungeons and Dragons rule set, or a variation thereof, but it definitely has the feel of it. This game is based on character constuction, skillsets, and tactics, which requires MUCH different skills than something like, say, Mass Effect. Such a difference, apparently, that I kind of sort of suck at it. Normal is, I am afraid to say, too hard for me. I switched to the easy difficulty, simply because I was running into parts I couldn't pass and it took forever to do the parts I could, and it was just taking entirely too long. Of course, now it's too easy, but that's preferable to not being able to progress-- mostly.

Anyways, on to the topic of the day: the decisions you make in Dragon Age, and how this could affect the industry. There are decisions galore in DA:O, from which characters you bring in your party, to whether to kill that traitor, to things a little deeper and wide-reaching. It is one of these last that I'm going to be using as an example, hopefully as free of spoilers as possible.

Gamers are used to simple decisions, black and white, good or evil. Even Mass Effect, famous for its far reaching consequences and their impact on the later games (will talk about that later), has relatively simple decisions-- so simple, in fact, that the wheel used for conversation has areas that are for the good decisions and the bad decisions, and the interrupt feature tells you whether the action is Renegade or Paragon.

But, in some games at least, the decisions are getting more complicated. What do you do when there's more than two decisions- and none of them are clearly good or evil?

Take, for example, one decision you have to make in Dragon Age. There's a boy, a mage, who has been possessed by a demon. You have three options: kill the boy for the greater good, use blood magic, with someone willing to serve as the required sacrifice, and essentially exorcise the demon, or travel to the Circle of Mages and acquire their aid to banish the demon, taking the risk that the demon will wreak untold havoc in your absence. (Ok, I told you the options, but I doubt you'll figure out when this is going to happen much ahead of time, and I don't tell you the result.)

Gray. All I see is gray. (Good thing I'm a Grey Warden then! Sorry...) In my opinion, this is a good thing, at least for RPGs. Life is complicated, and never (ok, rarely. Never say never!) black and white. RPGs especially should reflect this.

It also allows for a deeper character development, story, and much more character variation. Despite all the different choices in Mass Effect, I bet they are mostly polarized into Renegade and Paragon camps. Dragon Age is not like this. Your character can be closer to truly unique than in any other game I have seen. And that is a truly wonderful thing. (Yeah, I like that line.) I hope that, in the future, game developers continue to develop this idea, and provide us with the tools to make our own stories.

And now, I end with a question for my readers: What do YOU think? Is there something to be said for simple good and evil? Or is realism and complexity better? Tell me why!
If I see a really good comment, I'll give it a shout out on my next post and respond, so do your best!

P.S. Sorry it's been so long, I didn't have access to computer for several days and then it took me a while to tear myself away from Dragon Age. Will attempt to repeat the supernatural feat Friday, or maybe this weekend for Monday's post.


  1. I agree with a lot of this. Of the few reasons I enjoyed Dragon Age, one was that character development so rarely showed options as good or bad. They were often left up to interpretation. For example, I killed the little boy. I thought that it was better to be SURE that the demon could do nothing that would jeopardize my mission, than chance it and save him. I wasn't trying to be evil, I was just trying to be certain.

    I could've only enjoyed it more had they NOT put in those FUCKING BARS that SHOW you how someone feels about you.

  2. That decision makes me think Renegade, lol.

    And I'm sure I'll talk about the bars in some future post, as I'm far from done. I agree that you shouldn't be able to see them, but I think something should exist in the background.

  3. I'm so glad to see you inherited my reluctance to use absolute terms. :D

    You make good points here. I don't think I'd have enjoyed the game NEARLY as much if everything was black and white. I'm on my third character and they've all been very different. And I'm still enjoying the game a great deal.

    (Yes, I'm finally getting around to catching up on your blog. I fail.)