greenexecutive (greenexecutive) wrote,

Postcards from Fereldan

Dragon Age II is conducting a very expensive experiment. They're trying to figure out if RPG players notice or care if you reuse the same locations.

In all of Kirkwall, there appears to be one kind warehouse, one cave, one house, etc., no matter where you go. Sometimes you enter through one door and the bad guys are in the north end; sometimes they're in the south end. In one really wacky case, you enter in the middle and there are bad guys in both the north and the south! Woo.

The answer for me is YES, I NOTICE. It's tremendously disappointing.

RPGs are fundamentally about exploration to me. This is why I loved New Vegas so much; even though the world was made out of largely the same textures and models everywhere, there was nonetheless a sense of space and distance, and of change. Even now, in my mind, I have a model of the geology in New Vegas---the dry lake bottoms, the high snowy mountains, the lusher lake front and the dam.

Even in DA:O, which featured a form of fast-travel instead of an overworld map, I still had a sense of going somewhere and doing something. Sometimes you were in the mage's tower, sometimes you were in a ruined cathedral, sometimes you were in the forest (and not a very convincing forest, I might add, but I didn't care). You *were* somewhere.

I've now fought so many battles in the same six rooms that I have my strategies all set up, and I'm familiar with most of the event trigger locations. It's super-samey.

In Nethack, the dungeons are all random, and a little drab (you blow hundreds of rooms without looking back), but that would be better than what we have here. I guess Bioware was trying to save money by only lighting, texturing, testing, and marking up a few areas, but it really ends up writing checks against the heart of the genre.

In their defense, the combat is a hell of a lot better. Faster, crisper, and I'm playing a mage now, so I'm like Calvin---this is my autobiography where my hands shoot lightning. Story is bland, and my hero is honestly kind of a tool, but knocking off quests is more fun than washing dishes, so I'm still playing. (And the dishes aren't washed.)

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