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3:59pm on Wednesday, 28th April, 2010:

Dragged on Ages


Well, I finished Dragon Age: Origins last night. According to the save file, I spent 82h 12m 55s playing it.

I suspect that this time includes pauses, because on several occasions I left it paused for half an hour or so while I went to pick up my wife from the train station (she commutes to London). If it doesn't include pauses, well given that I spend most combat in a paused state issuing instructions to my characters, the true figure would be bigger.

I doubt that the figure includes two of the greatest time sinks, though: time to reload, and time to replay. Example: I spent nearly 2 hours on one fight, which I kept losing. It took a minute to reload it, then within 30 seconds one of my party or another would be dead and I'd have to reload. Assuming that when you reload a save file it doesn't add on the time you just spent being slaughtered, this means that my two hours was probably accounted for in about 45 seconds.

Not all missed playing time was accounted for by loading and getting killed quickly. No, some of it was caused by having to replay fights already won because a cut scene or a pile of dialogue immediately came up and then straight after it launched into another fight with no save. Lose the second fight, or take a wrong turn in the dialogue, and it's reload time. On some occasions it does throw an automatic save your way before the second fight, but it didn't happen often enough for my liking. It's not fun replaying 20 minutes of the game straight after you just finished it...

Although for a long while I was angered by the fact that I seemed to have little choice in how things were going, it did open up a bit as the game progressed and I got more of a chance to shape what was happening. Only towards the end it it revert to its narrative arm-twisting, and although there were some big decisions to make, they were only big in terms of the narrative, not in terms of the gameplay.

Because I was looking to enjoy myself playing this game, I avoided looking up any spoilers on the web, even though at times I knew I must have missed something (such as potential party members I met but couldn't sign up). I also played on normal difficulty, which was actually quite hard but at about the level of Baldur's Gate so I was fine with it. The graphics and voice acting were superb, and the gameplay was pretty damned good too when I wasn't watching cut scene movies. I'm glad I didn't give up on it after my initial frustrations.

I only had one area in which I failed abjectly: romance. As with the Baldur's Gate games, party members can fall in love with you if you treat them right.

Oh, spoiler alert here, if you're planning on playing this yourself.

So I basically had a choice of three women, all mages. One was treated by the other party members as "evil", although she was really just overly-pragmatic with a different idea of what was moral than everyone else. One was an old woman with wrinkles and stuff. One was a lithping lass with a slight French accent. I figured the first one would be high maintenance, the second one would creep me out unless she was really young like in fairy stories, and the third one was was actually quite winsome. I therefore put my effort into winning her over. I did get her to like me an awful lot, but there no romance came of it. Instead, the chaotic neutral first mage turned out to have the hots for me and asked me to lie with her to produce some kind of demon baby she would raise on her own, which I declined to do (imagine the child support fees).

Having finished, I looked up the lithping bard mage to find out where I went wrong. Hmm. Turns out I didn't trigger the quest where she has a showdown with her ex-girlfriend. Oh well, you can't win them all.

So, what am I going to spend my evenings playing next? I have Medieval II: Total War, Warcraft III and East India Company sitting in my pile, waiting patiently. I think I'll go with...

...Dragon Age: Origins again. With only four people in a party instead of six, and a little too much linearity, it's not quite as special as Baldur's Gate II; however, anything that I can play for 80 hours without getting bored of is worth playing again!

Referenced by Dragon Age in Drag.

Referenced by Dragon Age Reprise.

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Copyright © 2010 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).