Did I Do That? Part 5

Did I Do That? Part 5

I have to say, I am kind of glad to start writing more often for the next month. This game is so expansive, I have trouble getting all of my thoughts into one post. Half of this one is going to cover what I got sidetracked from and didn’t write about on Monday.

Lothering—you know that town I mentioned before I went on a post-long tangent about the romance system? The one that feels like a tutorial but I never mentioned why?

If you talk to the different villagers, you will get a lot of sidequests that feel like they are there solely to teach you. I had different people asking me from traps, poisons, and potions—all things certain party members can make. As a rogue, I luckily already had the poison-making skill, and Morrigan had herbalism to make the health poultices. You then have to look around the outskirts of town for the items you need or—if you are a hoarder like me—you will already have the herbs and containers you need. If you really don’t want to go searching, you can even buy some parts from the same guy who wants you to make him poisons (which I really do hope he plans to use for self-defense like he says). What I loved was having a woman named Allison asking me to make her traps and having to tell her I didn’t know how. Then I immediately walked away and leveled up to learn how, and went back and told her I knew now! How convenient!

Ever read Go Dog Go?

“Can you make me traps?”

“No, I cannot make you traps.”

“Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.”

Repeat for emphasis

“Can you make me traps?”

“Why yes, I can make you traps.”

“Thank you. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.”

Nothing changed on the outside except my opinion. I was glad to be able to go back after learning, but for how realistic this game tries to be, it felt extremely…game-y.

Even with how odd acquiring the quest lines here were, I love the crafting element of the game. Despite being simplistic, I get a great satisfaction from putting the things I find to great use. Like I have mentioned many a-time before, I am a RPG hoarder, but it feels so good to be able to empty my inventory in a useful way. Instead of having the destroy all of the random bits of food and herbs I pick up–or sell it for next to nothing–I can turn what takes up multiple item slots into a consumable I desperately need. It gives me that same relief I get when crossing off a to-do list or finishing all of my leftovers before they get moldy.

And I do enjoy how this game approaches sidequests. The game doesn’t go overboard, keeping me from ever following the main questline. Way back when Skyrim was my main time sinkhole, I would spend hours wandering the mountains, going through caves and dungeons for the smallest quests, not even bothering with the main sidequest stories. Then I would come across ten more things to do before I ever finished what I was working on. I loved how expansive the game was, but it was hard to feel like I was making a dent in the world—not to mention nobody thinks differently of you no matter how many dragons you kill and people you save. But that’s a whole other complaint.

Here there are just enough to make the village feel alive. In Lothering, there is a board outside of the Chantry with requests much like a bulletin board at the local coffee shop. Here was a request from the officials to clear out the lurking bandits looking to profit on Ferelden’s increasing misfortune. I went out and found them and killed them and got my reward. What made it fun was the difficulty. The bands of robbers swarm you and have a large variety of fighters. They have must as many archers and ranged fighters as they do melee, making you have pick a strategy to survive. I died countless times from pure impatience, wanting to take these ten or so criminals head-on. Amateur tip: fight with the ranged tactic every single time. Slow and steady says the tortoise and the frustrated Dragon Age player.

There is one thing I wish I had realized a little bit sooner. When I bought this game, I got the Ultimate Edition with all of the DLC since it was deeply discounted. Too bad I didn’t notice until well into the game that all of these extras installed with the base game. For example, as I kept exploring the romance system, I found a bunch of incredibly specific, free gifts at the merchant’s shop. Without thinking any harder than, “FREE FREE FREE,” I brought them all over to my inventory and started doling them out. Abruptly Morrigan was so upset with me she wanted out of the party and Alistair, one of the members who is supposed to be the hardest to romance, wanted to go straight to the tent. Apparently these ultra-powered gifts were free in the game because I bought them with real money. They are part of a DLC bundle that give sthe player free gifts geared towards quickly speeding up and slowing down relationships. I have never been more grateful that I save about every other minute.

I also set out on my first real story mission after getting to my party’s camp before realizing it was another piece of DLC. It was a fun quest, giving me loads of backstory on the downfall of the Grey Wardens in the public’s eye, but it was not how I wanted to be spending my time. Instead of following up on those treaties that sound like manuals on how to prevent the apocalypse, I followed a white bunny named lore into a four-hour long rabbit hole.

At least now I’m off the Redcliffe to give Alistair a happy reunion. Can you hear my hopeless optimism coming through? Yeah, this game is teaching even me to give that up as soon as humanly possible. Stay tuned.

Did I Do That? Part 4

Did I Do That? Part 4

So it might have taken roughly fifteen hours, but I have finally reached the real start to the game and the story.

After Morrigan the mage–a witch from the wilds, an apostate–joins your party, you set off to try to get help to defeat the archdemon and the darkspawn. Alistair has the treaties stating loyalties to the Grey Wardens from different parts of Ferelden. Finally the game opens up, the near-apocalyptic world is your oyster but first–go through a town.

Your first real stop after your main heroes’ call to action is a small village called Lothering. Plenty of refugees have found their way here with little more safety than a bridge and some cobbled-together walls. Even the bandits have leaked through to the outskirts of town not to mention giant spiders. Weirdly this town feels like a self-contained tutorial. The significance of the Origins subtitle is pretty clear from the start. When I play RPGs, I tend to go for in medias res–no prologues, all confusion. Throw me in the deep end and let me spend fifteen hours working out what happened instead of spending just as much time playing out some of the more mundane parts of my character’s life. I can definitely appreciate the depth it gives and making the choices that land me where I am, but now that I am onto the main quest, it feels a little cheap in retrospect. No matter what move I made, Duncan would have still recruited me to the Grey Wardens, and Alistair and I would still be the only surviving members. Here I am still mourning the death of my cousin back in my alienage and no one alive knows the hand I played in his execution. Hell, it doesn’t even come up in personal party conversations. Whenever I’m asked about home, I only am ever prompted to mention my parents and whether or not I’m an orphan–nothing more.

And since this first choice, I have yet to feel like anything is life or death–merely a popularity contest. My plot decisions affect my present members’ opinions of me and the likelihood of me getting into bed with them. But then, since this game with an incredibly shallow romance mechanic forces me to value love and be faithful, I guess I only ever need to be concerned about one person’s opinion. I do like that there are other benefits to positive relationships because after spending a couple of hours at camp experimenting with this system, it isn’t too enthralling. If you do get a high enough relationship with a character, they receive passive stat bonuses. I love this because so far when it comes to the character I control, I only ever use myself or Morrigan (I can’t resist the spells, damn it). So since I typically let the rest of my party members roam free, giving them the ranged tactic to try to keep them safe–hey, they can’t say I don’t care.

Also, do you want to know the only other main way to increase someone’s love, friendship, or approval–whichever you prefer? Gifts. Not special, thoughtful gifts. Just random shit you find on the ground and or steal from locked chests. Each character does have their preferences, meaning there is a whole strategy on who to give what, but honestly, I overload one character with riches until they love me enough to become stronger and move on.

None of these things bother me though bccause I have a dog in the game who loves me no matter what and all is right with the world. I can pet him, love him, and even be him if I need to explore my animal instincts. If you brought a wildflower back from the wilds for the kennel master before you took part in the Joining, this nameless Mabari war hound comes and finds you. You can choose to keep him and name him and walk him and feed him and change his newspaper and…let him die in battle?

Eh, no perma-death, no problem.

I named him after my dog, Cooper, and spent a good hour frolicking him while the real Cooper poked his nose and my elbows and toes, wishing I was playing a point-and-click so I had a free hand. You can even make him wear a cone of shame.

So here I am playing a game where you can spam pretty girls and handsome men with trinkets and statues until they will shed their armor with you in your tent, and I can’t stop dressing up my dog. Priorities, my friends, priorities.

Now I have a question for you readers out there. Last year I finally won my first year of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, if you didn’t know) after trying for over five years. I was considering going for a second win but had a thought. What if instead of writing a novel that I will print out and immediately hide from the world I make content for my blog? Instead of only doing these weird written let’s play/first impressions/critiques, I would do small op-ed pieces and even research posts. For example, I would look into gaming terms that I have always made assumptions about before realizing that I never knew what they meant, e.g. horde mode.

Are you interested in this kind of content? They would be daily updates of varying length. I probably won’t aim for a word count as much creating variety.

Let me know in the comments! If there is something you would love to see me write about, go ahead and suggest it. You do not want to leave me with all of the power, or I might spend a month posting photos of Cooper the war hound. Choose wisely and stay tuned.

Did I Do That? Part 3

Did I Do That? Part 3

Better known as the blog where we rename bosses to better make jokes, i.e. orc=ogre.

Yesterday I took my first sick day from work and my first sick day from my blogs. Apparently days-old restaurant leftovers are only a good idea for your wallet, not your digestive system. But after spending eighteen hours in bed on Wednesday, I’m back!

Luckily I did manage to beat our friend the ogre with an identity crisis–granted it is one I imposed on him for comedic purposes. And you know what? Trial and error doesn’t even begin to cover it.

First I tried to do exactly what the Internet told me to do–give everyone a bow and force them to attack from far away. Here I made a miracle happen and got the ogre down to so little HP I couldn’t even make it out on the health bar. I decided that it was so little I could go into hack-and-slash mode and hit him head-on until he died. Ha. Ha. Hahaha. Too bad he interrupted my first attempt to heal. And then this was the closest I got to winning for an hour. Hahaha. Ha.

I did discover that using my character as bait was one of the best strategies. If I could get the ogre to follow me around, I could stay far enough ahead of him that I wouldn’t get badly wounded while my party members attacked him from across the room. I put on the heaviest armor I could–one of the best ways to attract enemies–and ran around like a blind goat in a thunderstorm. Unfortunately he wouldn’t consistently follow me. This strategy would work from the start half of the time, and, most of the time, I would accidentally run too close to my party, causing him to focus on them instead. No matter how much I danced around and threw acid at him, he still wanted to hurl rocks and smash everyone else. Then all I could do was try to switch to these characters and prolong their deaths as long as possible. If I switched to a party member the ogre was already focused on and tried the distraction strategy, he would forget who I was. And after all the time we spent together…

But really, I don’t know which it is–a prejudice against victims who can think for themselves or a fetish for AI.

I really hate admitting this, really I do, but the only way I won was atrocious–switching to easy mode. In my defense, my goal is to finish the games and be able to write about my progress. Keyword: progress. I even considered a post where I described my attempts in detail, but my turns stopped varying much after the first few. I either used archers, tried to distract him, or died too quickly to use any strategy whatsoever. Of course I turned the difficulty back to normal–oh, what a challenge!

But of course, sadly I was right. After winning the fight, everyone I had ever met died except for the people who saved me. Hopefully this means I am at the part where I get know people besides my silent character and Alistair, your typical faithful knight as far as I can tell.

Stay tuned.

Did I Do That? Part 2

Did I Do That? Part 2

Or better known as the prequel to Orcs Must DieOrcs Can’t Die.

So far I’m convinced that everyone I come into contact with is going to die. Anytime one of my party members hasn’t been able to gain experience, they end up dying in the plot. On my way to the Tower of Ishal, a mage and a tower guard joined me without even bothering to tell me their names (stranger danger) and help me fight to the top of the tower. But no matter what they do, they gain zero experience for what they do so their tragic deaths must be coming immediately after hearing their backstory–seriously, they’re complete strangers.

Also this is the confession of a RPG hoarder. Back in my Skyrim days, I bought a house entirely for my dragon bones and took every flower and animal skin that was within five hundred yards of me. Here I can’t seem to manage my inventory. My journey to the top of the Tower of Ishal is what I consider the first real story mission, not one made up of exposition, character motivation, and tutorials. This means there are loads more items to loot from chests and dead guards. Sadly I can’t use them as quickly as I can steal them. You wouldn’t think you would be full this soon but surprise!

Typically when I know it is a weapon I won’t use–which in many other games is clear right away–I sell it or break it down for its parts. Here though I keep holding onto everything because I don’t know what strategies I will really want to use. For example, right now I am really glad I didn’t sell off my extra short bows because after failing against the orc at the top of the tower multiple times, I looked up a strategy that suggested all ranged weapons. It’s instances like this where I feel as if selling something lowers my chances of winning the game.

Well, that really is the mentality of a hoarder, now isn’t it?

Here I also want to make sure I have something that fits the strengths of all of my party members. It doesn’t even do me any good to look up the party lists online because I still don’t know whose missions I will complete and who I will enjoy playing with the most. And with my luck, each mission is going to be best played with certain people, meaning I can never stop carrying around this pack full of longswords and roots.

The system is odd though. Here you are allowed seventy kinds of items. This means having twenty health poultices is the same as having only one. This took me a while to figure out, opting out of picking up small crafting items I already had when, really, I could have picked all of them up and then some. I also destroyed a dagger when trying to make room, figuring I had two and didn’t need them both. Hopefully some guards at least stepped on the shattered pieces of metal. Wait, you mean matter can actually turn into thin air in this world? Wish I could use that for more than not littering when emptying my backpack.

This also means that while I was fighting the mission’s end boss–which I still haven’t managed to do–I was trying to make room in my inventory. Whenever I used up one kind of health poultice, instead of freaking out, I was happy that when the battle ended, I would have that inventory slot back. And I wonder why I keep losing.

Now by Wednesday, I should have at least beaten this stupid beast if not finally reached a second real party member. Keep your fingers crossed and stay tuned.

Did I Do That? Part 1

Did I Do That? Part 1

Note: This is obviously going to be spoiler-filled for the path I took for the game. I’d still say read it and don’t make the same mistakes as me, but read at your own risk.

Or better called–an ode to why I can’t ever play games with effective choices correctly.

I’ve played through my origin story and have officially joined the Grey Wardens and already feel like I single-handedly ruined the lives of everyone I’ve encountered. Whether my outcomes were unavoidable, I still feel guilty because of the choice mechanics.

I grew up in the land of linearity. I read everything in sight, overly-invested myself in TV shows, and watched the same movies over and over again. Even when I ventured out and read choose-your-own-adventure-style books, I would try to read every possible path and outcome, never committing to a choice. So here I want to save before every conversation and area transition in case I make the wrong dialogue choice.

Speaking of which, so many times I say something, and it comes out all wrong. I am a naturally sarcastic person. I say mean things, but it is always a joke in tonality. Every now and then I would pick a mean comment that was funny. I told one of the other Grey Warden recruits that it stunk to be stuck with them, and he took major offense and wouldn’t stop referencing it anytime I tried to say something nice. I hate there aren’t any choices that sound like me; all are two extremes–brown noser and sociopath. I feel embarrassed when sucking up and guilty when being rude.

I replayed an entire section because I did not choose the right answer to keep a girl from having to go to a labor camp with sexually-frustrated soldiers. But in that process I went from easily acquiring money as a gift for my upcoming arranged marriage in one conversation to horribly offending the same guests and getting nothing. Then I realized something cool might have happened if I had this money because I could give a coin to a homeless man and then who knows what would have happened!

These are the things that keep me awake at night.

And how I caused my cousin’s execution by accidental choice. That one stings a little too.

I’m playing as a female city elf who was placed into an arranged marriage on the same day as Soltris, my cousin. The arl’s son Vaughan crashes the wedding and kidnaps all the lady folk. Luckily my cousin finds us and together we fight our way through the castle. After finding Vaughan and refusing to take his bribe and leave, we are forced to kill him.

Once escaping, the guards come down and ask who is responsible for the massacre in the castle. I keep silent, hoping they would go away and then the village girl who was jealous of my marriage match rats us out. I get conscripted to the Grey Wardens, and my cousin gets taken for execution. If only I’d known not taking credit for my crimes would have consequences…

I’m also playing as a rogue because I wanted a challenge. Too often in RPGs, I play as a mage so that I can spam spells and set everyone on fire. Easy peasy. Rogues are typically thieves, archers, and assassins. I wanted to try playing more strategically, but I didn’t realize strategy was already forced down my throat. I knew the game had party members, but I didn’t realize I had control over them all. Of course I haven’t gotten to experiment too much because fighting with me is a kiss of death.

Now to keep going on with my most ambitious series yet. Let’s hope I don’t pull all of my hair out by the end.