Recently, a Twitter follower of mine reached out to chat about the ongoing controversy over the ending of Mass Effect 3. He also asked me about my opinion on a new Smithsonian exhibit, The Art of Video Games.
This is a modified transcript of that discussion. I thought it was a very interesting talk on a couple of different levels. One, it shows that meaningful discussion can be done online in an age when trollz and haters would rather run rough-shod over a topic. And two, from a philosophical point, it shows that there can be multiple views on a subject – and none of them have to be wrong or right.
Since this was done all on Twitter, I combined the more lengthy conversation that was originally broken up into 140 character or less tweets.
Follower: Have you been following the fallout from @MassEffect 3? There is a pretty big protest movement right now to change the ending.
Me: I have. an interesting debate at The Art of Video Games exhibit in DC about it. who has ownership of content? dev? player?
Follower: Does it address the implied contract of trust on content between player and developer? If one side breaks a promise, what happens?
Me: depends on who controls the art? the artist or the end user? what about books & movies? and what promise was made?
Follower: For Mass Effect, developers promised a dynamic ending which took decisions into account. Based on the endings, they sorta lied.
Me: true enough. I agree the ending was .. weak. but demands that the ending be changed are weird to me.
Follower: The idea of controlling art seems weird. Art tends to be a way of communicating an idea or emotion through a medium. Where is the art located? Is it in the physical piece or in the interaction with the piece? The artist has a responsibility to construct the communication in a way where it is understood to a great range of people. To me, the communication is the art, and cannot be owned.
Me: ha! funny that we both used the same word almost simultaneously. and the question of “what is art?” is tough. does the artist decide if it is art? or the end user/viewer? I guess my problem lies with the apparent attitude of fans. if I go to a restaurant for the promise of good food and don’t get it, I don’t demand the cook make it better. I just take my business elsewhere. eventually, the cook learns or goes out of business. but I will defend to the end the fans right to speak out about a game. it is the demanding of a better ending that is weird.
Follower: I do see where you are coming from. I just didn’t like purchasing a product based on promises, then finding out they didn’t keep them. For art, I feel everyone can make the decision for themselves what art is. All it requires is for them to understand what art is to them. If art really is a form of communication, like I assert, then the quality of the art, and success, is judged by the audience. Though for the idea of a company not telling the truth, I think there is a difference between qualifiable traits (good, bad) and traits that can be directly measured. In video games, when there are traits that can be measured, and promised to be there, but are absent, then I really believe the fan base has just cause to ask for what was promised. Just my opinion, of course.
Me: I agree the fans can ask. it is up to BioWare whether they want to listen or not. did you see someone filed a complaint with the FTC? that’s taking it too far, IMO. btw: thank you for keeping this civil and intelligent. very refreshing.
Followers: Thanks for the intelligent responses as well! I’m not too familiar with FTC regulations or the laws, but I think there are lines of communication that can first be explored. Getting the FTC should be down the line, not first resort. Lawsuits…also last resort.
Me: on that, we can definitely agree.
Follower: Something I have to ask you, in the interest of art! What do you think art is, and how it is possible for video games to be art? I love finding points of agreement with everyone!
Me: that’s a tough question for 140 characters. there are some things in museums that I don’t think is art. there are other forms of express that will never be in museum. video games belong because they are this generation’s form of expression. It probably doesn’t make sense to most people, but games like Journey are artistic expressions in game form. they tell a story through action, music and visuals much like theater. does making them interactive somehow lessen the artistic expression? I don’t believe it does.
Follower: Your response is thoughtful, but does circle around the idea of art. It sounds like art, for you, is an expression. But of what?
Me: that is different for the creator and the end user. I may create something that tells one feeling for me, but someone may get an entirely different feeling from it. neither is wrong. art is subjective and up to the individual it touches.
Follower: I agree that art is subjective. But what is it being subjective about? I know when I go to an art museum, I get lost in the styles and sometimes the beauty. It always brings me back to what art is, and probably what art means. If video games are art, this allows for art to be interactive in a very meaningful way. The creation of the art would come from the interaction, making the art something owned by both developer and player. The game itself, to me, would be like calling paint and canvas art. Something about it would be incomplete. I hope that makes sense.
Me: it does and I agree. if I look at a painting by Picasso that I don’t like, does that mean it isn’t art? or that it just doesn’t speak to me. the art should be owned by the devs and the player, but each may have their own way of interpreting the “art.” There are games out there that the devs likely thought were artistic, but were really bad. to me I’ve seen artistic elements in games, but never considered a game as art. performance art is a whole different animal.
Follower: I agree. The game I played which was supposed to be artistic was El Shaddhai. Heard good things about it. But it is just style w/o a coherent story structure or fun! Well I need to get going. Gotta go play with my daughter. Take care man!
Me: enjoy daughter time! and thanks for the thoughts! very well done.
The third and final installment in the franchise finds Shepard once again facing off against the Reapers, a race of sentient machines bent on eliminating all intelligent life in the universe. This time, the Reapers have come to Earth and Shepard must rally alien races around the Milky Way to destroy this mechanical menace once and for all.
As in other “Mass Effect” games, players take on the role of Shepard and have many options to make him (or her) any way they want. Six different classes, from soldier to sentinel, emphasize different strengths and biotic (telekinetic power) abilities for each character.
More inclined for combat? Choose soldier or infiltrator. Would rather use biotics? Go for an adept or engineer. If you are looking for a good blend, choose vanguard or sentinel.
Each class offers combat bonuses, like cryo-ammunition, or physical attacks from your mind, i.e., shockwave that knocks over rows of enemies. The options allow players to find a character that best suits their style of play.
How you play also affects character development. The paragon/renegade bonuses are back from previous titles that rate how Shepard talks to and treats others. Being helpful or friendly raises your paragon rating while being abrasive or uncaring raises your renegade rating. Both affect how you are treated in the future and alters choices that can be made later in the game.
All these player options serve as the backdrop to an epic story that has been eight years in the making. Players who have previously played “Mass Effect 2” can import characters that allow storylines to continue and choices made in that game to be reflected in the new one. New players will get into the major plotlines quickly and easily, and won’t feel like they are missing anything.
The game will have players hopping around the galaxy as Shepard gains allies and supplies from the multitude of races in the Milky Way. Of course, Reapers and Cerberus, a terrorist organization bent on human supremacy at any cost, cause problems for Shepard and his crew along the way.
Old friends return, new alliances are made and players will make choices that determine their ultimate success or failure in defeating the Reapers. Despite all the side missions and interactions, the main point remains taking back Earth.
Planet scanning for “treasure” returns, but is vastly improved over what it was in “Mass Effect 2.” Rather than having to survey and mine each planet for resources that may or may not be there, players can scan the system and find loot much faster than before. The treasure can be war assets (which are important in the final scenario), artifacts that can be sold or traded, intelligence about different factions or fuel for your spacecraft – a welcome change from an experienced player’s perspective.
Invariably, there will be combat. Whether you choose to concentrate on biotic powers or weaponry, you are going to have to pick up a gun and shoot. Weapons have a good selection of types of pistols, shotguns, rifles and sniper rifles, and are fully customizable with add-ons that grant better accuracy, more ammo carrying capabilities or extra damage to certain types of enemies. Add in biotic abilities that grant advantages or increased damage by your bullets and you are ready to take on the galaxy – literally.
The ammo is parsed out with thermal clips and is interchangeable between weapons, which is really helpful when you run out of one type of ammo. A single ammo pickup fills up all your weapons capabilities and ammo can easily be found on dead enemies or sitting on shelves.
Shepard isn’t alone either. Along the way, friends and comrades will join his quest and two are selected for each mission. They also have special powers that can be used in concert with Shepard’s own abilities for devastating effects.
Each potential squadmate corresponds to a particular class, so players can select those that either compliment or contrast with their own depending on the mission parameters. Plus, they are often good for funny banter.
The environments are rich and varied. Each scenario looks unique to the planet it is located. The artwork is detailed down to variances with each alien race. The universe feels alive and the other races don’t look like human rip-offs. It makes for a game that looks absolutely gorgeous.
However, all isn’t perfect in the universe. There were some unusual visual glitches throughout the game with camera angles. Characters were looking in the wrong direction, people would disappear during dialog, and one instance where a character turned their head nearly 180 degrees. While not vital to the overall gameplay, those visual tics took me out of my immersion in the game and made for an unwelcome distraction.
In addition, if you are playing with the Xbox 360 version, the game allows you to use the Kinect device to issue commands to Shepard and squad members. You can voice direct weapon switches, abilities and actions.
Protip: if you don’t want to use the Kinect, unplug it from your console. More than once, conversation in the room where I was playing had my characters doing things I wasn’t expecting them to do.
There are plenty of surprises throughout the game. Major characters will die, entire species will be eliminated and every plotline that you can think of will get resolved.
The romance options are back and causing a bit of controversy. Early critics of the game are lamenting the same sex romance possibilities, but with a universe as big as the Milky Way, anything can happen.
And without giving any spoilers, the ending was a bit of a letdown compared to all the excitement that goes on before. It left an unsatisfying aftertaste but is only a minor detraction from the entire adventure.
“Mass Effect 3” does a great job of answering all the lingering questions in the ME universe and gives players the best chance to determine their own fate as well as the fate of the galaxy. It is a fitting end to a wonderful trilogy that put the player’s in the driver’s seat from the very beginning.
Mass Effect 3” will be available March 6 in North America, March 8 in Australia, March 9 in Europe and March 15 in Japan. It is playable on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 360 and Windows PC. It is rated M for Mature (17+) due to blood, partial nudity, sexual content, strong language, and violence. This review was done playing as a paragon infiltrator and as a renegade adept on a review copy for the Xbox 360.
“Mass Effect 3” will be the culmination of a galaxy-wide story spanning eight years of development and millions of fans around the world.
With the third and final installment, Commander Shepard is in a battle to retake Earth from an advanced race of synthetics, known as Reapers, which want to cleanse the Milky Way of all intelligent organic life. Developers from BioWare planned the series to be a trilogy so everything from the first two “Mass Effect” games has led up to this climax.
Casey Hudson, executive producer of the “Mass Effect” series, said having an idea about how the story was going to develop gave his team “the best of both worlds.”
“On one hand, we knew where things were going so we could build these huge story arcs in the first one, and even in the second one, that would get resolved in the third game,” Hudson said. “At the same time, we were able to be pretty flexible in developing it mechanically so that as we started to really like certain story arcs and characters, we could build those in more and let players get more enjoyment out of playing.”
With more than 40,000 lines of dialog in “Mass Effect 3” alone, developers were presented with an unusual challenge. How to turn this massive game with all of its player involvement and lore into something that would satisfy their burgeoning fan base, yet remain accessible to players who were just discovering Shepard and the “Mass Effect” universe.
Fans of the science fiction/fantasy genre are very familiar with how trilogies end. Whether it is Darth Vader tossing the Emperor off a balcony or Gollum falling into the lava and destroying the One Ring, you can be sure of two things: there will be a dramatic twist at the end and really big things are going to happen.
Hudson said the way the “Mass Effect” series is built allows experienced players to continue with the stories they’ve already worked on, but also provide entry points for new players to get quickly acclimated to the tale and begin their own adventure. As with “Mass Effect 2,” players who have saved characters will be able to import those into “Mass Effect 3,” changing some dialog and missions to reflect actions taken in previous games.
New players are quickly brought up to speed through some introductory missions and different dialog from experienced players. But Hudson said new players shouldn’t feel like they are missing out on anything.
“The fact that it is a third story means that’s where you get to decide the fate of entire civilizations because we know this is the third of three,” he said. “If you are coming in as a new player, those plotlines are established but you also get to make the biggest decisions in them. For existing players, it’s mind blowing that they’ve gotten to know people and characters from a given species that they can choose to wipe out in Mass Effect 3.”
“That was the real fun of developing Mass Effect 3. This is the beginning of all the biggest things you get to do in the Mass Effect series and then everything comes to an end that you define as a player.”
Defining the parameters of the story and all the dialog choices that are identified with the “Mass Effect” series ended up pushing the limits for Hudson’s team. Since this is the final episode, everything needs to get resolved and all the questions need to get answered.
Hudson said despite allowing players to be in the driver’s seat on how those big story arcs get decided is what the fans of the series really enjoy. Which species live and which species die? What major character doesn’t make it to the end and who is there for the final battle? Players, new and veteran, will both have those choices to make and the emotional baggage that goes along with it.
“The team was really pushing to put little bits of fun even in the final days. [The game] ended up being bigger than what we thought it would be,” Hudson explained. “Whether you are a really passionate fan about the fiction or you’re fairly casual about it or you’re new to it, it should be a great story for everybody. We tried to build it as a story regardless of how familiar you are with the ‘Mass Effect’ universe.”
“This is really the biggest parts of this series. That’s what the whole story’s about.”
“Mass Effect 3” will be available March 6 in North America, March 8 in Australia, March 9 in Europe and March 15 in Japan. It is playable on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC. It currently does not have a rating from the ESRB.
“Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” is an open world role-playing game from 38 Studios and features the talents of best-selling author R. A. Salvatore, artist and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane, and Ken Rolston, lead designer of “Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind” and “Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.”
A demo for “Reckoning” will be available on January 17 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. Not only will players get a first look at the design, they will also be able to unlock special items for the final game and also in “Mass Effect 3.”
By playing the “Reckoning” demo, gamers will receive two unlocks for “Mass Effect 3” when the releases on March 6 – Reckoner Knight Armor and the Chakram Launcher.
Players who play the “Reckoning” demo will also unlock these items for the full game – a Twist of Fate Card, Twinned Souls Chakram and the Infernal Helm, which increases players’ fire damage throughout Amalur.
If players also play the upcoming “Mass Effect 3” demo, they will receive these items to use in “Reckoning” – N7 Armor and Onmiblade Daggers.
“Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” is expected to be released February 7 in North America and February 10 in Europe.
“Star Wars: The Old Republic” wants to put geeks and nerds in the “Star Wars” universe with their new massively multiplayer online (MMO) game.
The development team at BioWare is very anxious for fans of the classic franchise to jump in and experience what it is like to live with (and perhaps battle against) Jedi and Sith. The writing team for the game spent 60 man years (that’s 525,600 hours) in crafting a world that they know is going to be closely analyzed by “Star Wars” enthusiasts.
Daniel Erickson, the lead writer on “SWTOR,” and his writing team poured over every bit of information they could get – from movies to books to comics to encyclopedias of data. He said they have to be on their game because there are three different types of fans out there and they will all be looking for details specific to their memories of “Star Wars.”
“There’s folks like you and me who are 1st generation. Our thoughts when we think ‘Star Wars’ is immediately ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and the big scenes from that,” Erickson said. “Then we have a whole generation after that who the prequels are really what ‘Star Wars’ is for them. Then we have the third generation coming after that who show up at the conventions to play the game in their Commander Cody outfit from the ‘Clone Wars’ cartoon.”
Erickson said they tried to represent the world as a normal, functioning world and not go into the minutia or crazy trivia. They wanted to provide enough information and detail that was relevant to the character class being played. But, at the same time, they respected the franchise and recognized that good story telling is very important to the “Star Wars” legacy.
“If you are just going to nerd out on ‘Star Wars,’ the only people who are going to enjoy it are other people who are going to hard-core nerd out on ‘Star Wars,’” he said. “The thing that makes ‘Star Wars’ so brilliant, and why we all loved it in the first place, is because ‘Star Wars’ is extremely acceptable and is very universal. It’s sort of the great Western fairy tale. So, ‘Star Wars’ done well should be totally accessible for anybody who jumps in.”
There are eight classes featured in “SWTOR” and each class has its own unique story line. Erickson said the team expects a majority of people to gravitate to being a Sith or Jedi, each of which has two individual classes to choose from. But there are four other classes that are not Force based and gives players options to experience parts of the “Star Wars” universe that they never have before.
“I know when I was a kid, I always wanted Luke’s powers, but I didn’t want to be Luke. I wanted to be Han. Han was awesome. Han got the girl. He had an ultra-cool life.”
The audience for the game is expected to fall into three categories: the “Star Wars” fan, the MMO fan and the BioWare fan who is used to playing the company’s role playing games. Erickson said there is plenty for everyone.
The “Star Wars” fan will get to live their own “Star Wars” trilogy. Each story has three giant pieces to it that are larger than the normal role-playing game. Erickson describes is as “finally getting to live and star in your own ‘Star Wars’ trilogy of movies”
The MMO fan is likely to enjoy the context and high production values surrounding the activities they will do in the game. Sure, you’ll get to kill lots of people and creatures, but those kills will have meaning and understanding rather than just killing as “grinding.”
“Getting a consistent world and galaxy that holds together, that actually puts way more meaning on all of the great activities that you always enjoyed doing,” Erickson said. “You’re not just feeling powerful and just feeling like you’re accomplished in this world because you’ve got really cool outfits on. The whole world is reinforcing your fantasy.”
While there is guild building to allow for groups of players to take on large missions, the solo player can also have great success, but at a cost. Erickson said lone wolf players will miss out on some of the best content involving multiplayer missions, however they will have an amazing RPG experience.
Erickson said their ultimate goal is to make all the fans feel comfortable and immersed in the game environment and experience. “Star Wars” has its own life with big, overarching themes, good versus evil, and the space opera/1950s serial action film feel, he said. And despite changing the characters and the time period and the main plots, he thinks people will “nerd out.”
“There’s a quintessentially Star Wars feel that when you turn it on, you go, ‘Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it. This feels like Star Wars.’ You can still settle in to your nerd phase and say this is the Star Wars I know and love.”
Electronic Arts and BioWare, a division of EA, are making their popular fantasy role-playing game “Dragon Age” available on Google+ as “Dragon Age Legends.” This title got its start on Facebook about nine months ago, but the Google+ version will utilize features only available on the new social network.
The announcement follows a blog post from Google revealing a wider gaming effort across Google+. A Games page is slowly being rolled out and isn’t available for everyone right now, but they hope to garner feedback from users to create games that are “there when you want them and gone when you don’t.”
“We’re very excited to be among the first games launching on Google’s new social project,” said Dr. Ray Muzyka, Co-founder of BioWare, and General Manager of the BioWare Label at EA. “By bringing the franchise to Google+, we’re able to connect and entertain millions of existing and new fans within the rich, immersive Dragon Age universe.”
“Dragon Age Legends” will put players back into the Free Marches, the primary setting of Dragon Age II. Alongside their Google+ friends, players will take on challenging quests, earning loot, sharing rewards and growing their kingdom.
Angry Birds, Bejeweled Blitz, Sudoku, and many other games are among the initial offerings of games for Google+.
The Games button, when available, will be situated at the top of a user’s stream. Not only will it show your own progress, but it will reveal game updates from people in your Circles, provide invitations to other games and share high scores among your friends.
The blog also points out that it doesn’t want to take over your Stream with game updates (a veiled shot at Facebook?).
“If you’re not interested in games, it’s easy to ignore them. Your stream will remain focused on conversations with the people you care about.”
Google is also looking for developers to build more games for Google+ and expand their offerings. They don’t indicate how long it will take for the Games page to rollout to everyone.
“Mass Effect 3” (Electronic Arts, BioWare) is being touted as the final chapter in the battle for the galaxy between the Reapers and Commander Shepard.
Gameplay from the previous two games in the series will be drawn into the storyline as Shepard attempts to prevent Earth from becoming a wasteland. Decisions made during those two games will also impact what could or could not happen in the continuity.
Many previous characters will return, but some will not be available if they were killed during “Mass Effect” or “Mass Effect 2.” Combat has reportedly been tweaked to provide more options for players.
A recently released trailer showed off some new abilities for Shepard as well as some really big enemies. As our hero himself said, “We fight or we die.”
“Mass Effect 3” is now expected to be released March 6, 2010.
“Dragon Age II” isn’t exactly a sequel, but it does continue to thrill with new distinctive artwork, a more descriptive speech mechanic, and a combat system that feels intuitive and destructive at the same time.
Where “Dragon Age: Origins” told the tale of a Grey Warden’s trek to gather allies, stem the tide of the malevolent Blight and do battle against an Archdemon, “Dragon Age II” (BioWare, Electronic Arts) begins with a family fleeing from the Blight (a wave of evil creatures bent on taking over) to showcase another angle of the overall story. Think of it as a branch off the “Origins” story tree to expand the “Dragon Age” universe.
You play as Hawke, a warrior or mage or rogue, who is escaping with his mother, sister and brother away from the horrors of the Blight. The prologue does a great job of teaching combat and movement mechanics, but you also suffer your first tragedy as your sister is killed by a rampaging ogre.
This pushes the story away from your homeland of Ferelden to the City of Slaves, Kirkwall. It is there that the adventure begins in earnest and serves as your home base for most of the game.
Having played “Origins” on the PC, I was immediately struck by the new artwork design of some familiar characters. The Darkspawn, which are the grunt element of the Blight, used to look similar to orcs or goblins from “The Lord of the Rings” movies. Now, they appear to be more skeletal with an almost undead look to them.
Mike Laidlaw, creative director for the “Dragon Age” series, said the game is a character-driven game and the team wanted the races to look unique.
“We didn’t want to fall in the trap of all of the races to be humans with funny ears,” he said. “Ultimately, ’Dragon Age’ needs its own distinct look. One of the dangers of fantasy is there is so much out there that it is easy to lump it all together into an elf/orc mishmash and we wanted to stand apart.”
Laidlaw credits Matthew Goldman, the art director for “Dragon Age 2,” with bringing a fresh, new look to the races and his desire to make the characters really unique.
“I think there were elements of ‘Origins,’ especially in the appearances, that were technical masterpieces,” Laidlaw explained. “But Matt felt that they weren’t standing out enough. They weren’t creating their own space and colonizing their visual identity in the way that he wanted.
The Quanri, a war-like race that originally appeared as large humans, also got a makeover. They retained their size and aggressive appearance, but they also sprouted horns similar to a gazelle or, as Laidlaw points out, an ogre.
One of the drivers in the game is the interaction between the player character and his allies and other non-player characters. Talking between characters is done through a series of choices which allows the player to take different postures in their discussions.
The speech choices are now shown with an icon that indicates the tone in which the character will speak. Laidlaw said in “Origins,” a player couldn’t tell if he was going to be sarcastic or aggressive and may have chosen a response that they ended up not wanting.
“We wanted a mix of the paraphrase, so you could see what you were going to say, and the statement of intent (the icon). While some of them are just tone, knowing when you are going to be funny is really key especially when that is one of the principle tones of the game.”
There are icons for peaceful/helpful, funny, aggressive, hard, romance, and others. I found that my character used the helpful and funny answers more than others and Laidlaw said the game recognizes the tendencies and adjusts character reactions as the game goes on.
“For example, if you find yourself constantly being a smart-alec or making jokes, you’ll find in combat that your battle cries will change. It does create a consistency of character along those core choices.”
Laidlaw explained that it gives the gamer a greater sense of control over their character to shape them the way they want and a deeper sense of immersion in the game itself. He also said using an interrogation as the narration to the story adds perspective and depth to character development and movement of the story.
Varric, a dwarven crossbow expert and ally of Hawke, is being questioned by Cassandra, a Templar seeking answers to some unnamed, yet often foreshadowed, great tragedy surrounding Hawke. Chapters (if they can be called chapters) start and finish in the interrogation room with Varric leading into or wrapping up the action and Cassandra reacting to what she’s hearing.
It is an interesting technique and almost gives the game a television series feel with recaps and previews. I almost felt like it was time for a commercial break to raid the fridge.
The development team felt like there were many stories to be told in the “Dragon Age” universe and this was a way to tell another that diverged from “Origins” and still retained the history of what happened in that game with the fall of the Archdemon and the rise of the new king.
“The events of the first game and the impact it had on the world is so important that we wanted to make sure that anyone brand new to the game is able to feel like they are brought up to speed,” Laidlaw said. “Conversely, bringing in a saved game from ‘Origins’ will cause certain things to be different – who is on the throne, what happened with the Dwarven Kingdoms, and so on.”
The game play on the Xbox 360 console feels cleaner and smoother with very few hiccups or lag. The outdoor environments are colorful and detailed, but the underground caves and caverns start to feel similar with identical layouts changed by shutting off doorways.
Combat on the consoles utilizes two levels of mapable buttons for skills and spells while a shortcut bar offers more choices on the PC version. Controlling the party’s actions seems easier on the PC than the console, but it can be done with some practice.
Battles are as visceral and graphic as ever and the persistent gore setting returns, which creates for some awkward conversations. Trying to pay attention to an important bit of information is made more difficult when you are thinking, “You’ve got a bit of ogre on your chin.”
The tactics system remains, which allows you to set up character actions to occur at pre-determined thresholds or events. Characters can be set up to drink a healing potion when their health gets low without any break in the battle or gamer involvement.
“The combat is still tactical, still requires you to think as a team and not just as one character,” Laidlaw said.
Laidlaw said after “Origins,” the dev team received a lot of praise and love from the fans and they wanted to develop “Dragon Age II” with that thought in mind.
There is no “there is the big bad guy, go get it” mentality to how the game unfurls. It is a story interaction process that allows players to grow their character organically, both from a combat standpoint and a personal growth aspect.
And it isn’t a game if you are looking for a quick turn on the console or PC. The action occurs over numerous quests, side quests and personal missions that can easily chew up 30 plus hours on a weekend with “just one more quest.”
“I never want to give players all the answers,” Laidlaw said. “I think the mystery, the sense that this world is richer and deeper than just one game helps keep it more vital, more vibrant in terms of player experience.”
Whether you play as the dashing hero romancing every woman you meet or the hard, rough and tumble hero who smashes first and forgets to ask questions later, “Dragon Age II” has more than enough action, drama and suspense to keep fans of the fantasy gaming genre pleased.
“Dragon Age II” comes out on March 8 in North America and March 11 in Europe on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and Mac. It is rated M – Mature (17+) for blood and gore, language, sexual content, and violence. This review was done playing the demo on the PC and the retail game on the Xbox 360.