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Note: no significant spoilers for DAI

Butch:

I want to talk about how they so deftly handled the inevitable “we’re taking away your powers” bit that games have (Think marooned in Assassin’s Creed 4, getting your stuff taken in Tomb Raider, being Ellie in The Last of Us).

Also, let’s dish on how this ball scene is, in any number of ways, more tense than scenes in which you are killing or trying to avoid being killed. Seriously. “Do I say the wrong thing?” “Wait, what I’m LOSING influence?” Perhaps we have become dull to the whole kill/get killed bit and we need something else.

I tell you this as I will forget it all by Monday as screaming kids and a wife who is not here will erase my brain.

As for last night, finally, FINALLY met Morrigan (liked the old outfit better), talked to dudes, got into a fight in the apartments (who needs warriors!), danced (NICE bit), and am now waiting outside the royal wing to go in when I play again.

Feminina:

I know! I found myself very worried about losing favor at the party. “Oops, better go put in an appearance, people are speaking disapprovingly of how I’m not around!” Apparently. Good thing I have such finely honed social senses. It was a fun change of pace from the usual round of fighting and looting. Not that I don’t enjoy the fighting and looting, because I definitely do, but this mixed it up a bit in a way that still felt more like “action” as opposed to the kind of no pressure, time-out feeling of roaming around Skyhold.

The dancing was a nice bit.

Butch:

So games like to do the “You’re weak!” bit about halfway through or so. We’ve talked on this. So here we are in this game. But instead of making you feel weak by taking away combat powers (such as AC4, TR, or TLOU) and surrounding you with baddies, they’re making you feel off/disoriented/weak by throwing your character into a situation for which she is underprepared. Nice touch for any number of reasons, but I think character depth is the big one. Those other games, the “mix it up” bit is part of a either/or set of character traits: You are a superstrong heavily armed death merchant, or not. That’s pretty much the whole of the character. To change Edward, or Lara, or even Joel, you have to change the one thing that defines them. With DAI, there’s more to Inky. She can STAY a superstrong heavily armed death merchant, and STILL be in a place where she (and you) aren’t as comfortable.

And even here, it’s more than weak/strong. We see many sides of her at the ball. She gets to fight, she gets to dance, she gets to talk, confusedly, to the advisers who don’t agree, she gets to have quiet conversations with Sera about how they both want to be elsewhere.

And, as for tension, I really was at a place where tension wasn’t happening much in the game. Combat was getting easy. Now I’m tense.

Maybe….listen up Buttons….that isn’t so much a “flaw in the GAMEPLAY” but an indication that GAMEPLAY (God I hate that word) isn’t the best place to generate tension all the time……

Feminina:

I agree, I liked this aspect. It’s not that I’m less than I was, it’s just that I’m in an unfamiliar situation where I don’t quite know the rules. (And I don’t have my armor on…that could make a difference.)

But the small talk, dancing, trying to figure out what to say to make the best impression, that was all cool and fun.

Although as we’ve discussed before, this game is more interesting than just the standard “top dialogue option is the ‘good’ one”, so throughout the game we’ve been trying to balance “what I would actually say” with “what this person wants to hear/what will make this person like me,” so we’re kind of used to that. It feels more open here, though, because we’re in a situation where the one of the most important things is to earn court approval, so saying the ‘right’ thing (not necessarily the thing your character actually feels) is critical.

When you’re flirting with someone, sure, it’s important to say something that won’t turn someone off, but it’s not vital to the mission the way it is at the party, where (presumably) if you mess up enough you’ll actually fail. I wonder what happens if you lose so much approval that you get kicked out of the ball?

Butch:

Yup. Not a cop out, like, “You’re marooned without guns.”

Very cool. And well done. And, for me, not over. So no spoilers.

The importance of saying the right things is also bioware coming of age. Let’s face it: in the past, there was a pretty simple formula in bioware games. If you wanted X to happen, you had to get Y to like you, so you picked the first option every time you talked to Y, and boom, X happened. They’ve gotten rid of that, and it’s a much better game for it.

I wondered about getting kicked out of the ball, too. Especially as it took pains to warn you that that was a real possibility. I mean, I know you can end up with only one friend (wonder who?), and I know Shep could die at the end of ME2, but you’d have to play the game so egregiously, intentionally badly to get that to happen. It’s a side note, something where you read on kotaku “Dude with too much free times plays ME2 badly to see what happens and GUESS WHAT?” This, the game flagged it. Needed to, as that made those influence points mean something and feel tense.

But yeah, there’s some STORY here, and it’s not the end, like “ok, shep dies.” Ah well. Go look it up, you’re done.

Feminina:

Good point, I am done. The internet says if you get kicked out it’s “game over.” So presumably you would then reload at your last save or at the beginning of the ball, and try to impress people more. This party is IMPORTANT, people! Try not to be rude to the empress!

They are good at taking pains to warn you of stuff in this game. “NOTE: This is an irreversible choice” or “BE AWARE: If you pick this, you can’t pick that.” Before the final story mission, it warned me: “JUST SO YOU KNOW: This will trigger the end of the main game, so don’t come whining to us if you haven’t finished all the stuff you wanted to finish before that.” (I’m paraphrasing, of course.) One could say that this is a bit hand-holdy, but I appreciate the warnings. Hold my hand, BioWare.

Butch:

Hmm. I wonder if there’s some themey metaphor there. “Nobles will care so much about politics that they’ll kick you out, thus DAMNING THE WORLD if you’re rude enough.”

It is rather meta that here is a video game (wait for it) that keeps reminding us that this bit, you know, without the combat, or sneaking, or puzzles, or GAMEPLAY is “The Game.”

Of course, I’m so snow blind, cooped up, and tired of saying “Leave your mother alone” that pretty much everything feels meta at this point.

That is nice. The point of no return bit. They’ve been doing that for some time, and I do appreciate it. I mean, I like to plan. You know me and the plans.

Feminina:

Well, it could be part of the teamwork/work with others thing. You CANNOT get this done all by yourself, and so you HAVE TO work with other people, which may mean approaching them in the way that works best for them rather than the way that works best for you.

I mean, you could theoretically just have charged in there and killed everyone at the ball, you’re good at that kind of thing, but that wouldn’t help the larger cause. You need other people, and so you need to be able to communicate with them and win them over, whatever that takes. You have to be flexible, take different approaches depending on the situation, and consider the needs and desires of others.

Butch:

There is that. This game does keep coming back to “This is bigger than just you.” Which, you know, is also not very typical for a big AAA game (even a bioware one). “You need help” is not something you often see in these power fantasies.

See, I also think we’re going to see AAA games (plural) in the (near) future that rely far more on these mechanics (story savvy, call it) more than on combat. I hope so, anyway. It’ll open up so much.

Also, I point out, this ball thing has made you actually PLAY A ROLE in a role playing game. I mean, purists will say that role playing games are really just about maxing out stats, but I say that playing a role is important. Actual role playing! In an RPG!

Feminina:

Yes, it’s very much about “this isn’t just about you.” Which they work hard to integrate with a counterpoint message that “you are still very important!”

Look, you’re special and cool and amazing and the fate of the world is in the mark on your hand, but you still can’t do this all by yourself. No matter how critical a piece you are (no one could do it without you), you’re still not the only piece that needs to be there (without your companions, you couldn’t do it either).

All the work they do on giving you a history, too–it contributes to this sense that you’re part of something bigger than yourself. You need these people, and they need you, and everybody needs the Inquisition. (Although nobody expects it!)

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