I think this means my honeymoon with Dragon Age: Origins is over. This post is subtitled: Murder Your Darlings, from the writing principle that if you ever write (or design) something you think is way great!!11oneone then you should probably delete it, stat. Or at least make it much, much shorter.
* * * WARNING: Contains some spoilers * * *
Over the weekend I finally started the plot section that involves freeing the Circle of Magi from whatever it is some silly mage has unleashed upon it. You know what mages’ greatest weakness is? Their geek-like inability to ever believe anything can go wrong. “What, one tiny slip and the whole world will go up like a Roman candle and everyone will die horribly? 99% chance that this will happen? Noooo worries, we’ll just trust in the 1% — the odds are in our favour!” Actually, as a species they tend to remind me of Sir Didymus in Labyrinth, only less fuzzy and forgivably cute.
Because of them, my character has spent 4+ game hours trekking through depressingly identical corridors in a variety of shapes. Sure, the Fade is impressive when you first get there, and it’s creepy and you never quite know what’s going to be around the next corner. 200+ corners later, you really don’t give much of a shit anymore and just wish stuff would rush you in one big lump so you could slice & dice them and get it over with.
Sometimes it’s a burning corner and I have to change to the right shape. Sometimes it’s a teeny tiny hole, and I have to change to the right shape. Sometimes it’s a big heavy door and… you get the idea.
Again, being able to shapechange was way cool when it first happened. 200+ corners and changes later… not so much. Actually, it just becomes a pain in the ass because the game seems to have been designed to ensure that you have to change shape as often as possible, not for any major plot reason but just to ram you with the fact that, hey, you have to change shape. Isn’t it way cool?!?!
I get it already. Way clever design. Now let me the hell out of here, I’m bored titless. Oh, and you can keep Wynne too, that self-righteous droning wannabe D&D cleric. I’ll be getting Morrigan back into my party as soon as I get out of this place. She may be pissy and pricklier than a hedgehog, but at least she doesn’t sound like I should be getting a pen out and taking notes because what she says is so damned marvellous and important.
(Don’t ask me what poor Wynne did. Nothing, really, except that she was the first I found in the Fade and she faffed about being … well, faffy, all this after half a dozen stern lectures on “I really don’t think this is the time” and “Don’t you suppose we should be moving on?” and “Is this really relevant to our predicament?” My dwarf doesn’t have a huge reservoir of patience to begin with, and being patronised is something I — err, I mean she — doesn’t deal with very well. If you’re going to blab on about how people have to be strong and upright and yadda yadda, then at least make sure you don’t fall prey to the first nightmare that conks you over the head. Really.)
My main bone of contention with this section, in case it wasn’t abundantly clear already, is that it’s just too long. The creepy temple in the mountains was long, and the creepy temple in the forest was long, but they were at least marginally varied in terms of terrain and, more to the point, I wasn’t stuck in them alone with no way to go anywhere else till the damn section is done.
Oh, I get that I can’t leave before the plot bit is done — it would be stupid to do so. This is a plot segment that must be done in one sitting, and wouldn’t make any sense any other way. My point, though, is that it goes on MUCH too long. The fact that there are eleventy-billion stat increase thingies scattered all over the place just makes it obvious that this is a very long maze and that I am a very bored rat. Or mouse, in this case.
And you know, I don’t actually bore easily. As I mentioned before I didn’t get bored in the other long exploration thingies; it’s not the exploration in itself, and it’s not being stuck in one plot loop. But, relative to the other parts of the game that I’ve experienced, this one has gone on too long because I’ve stopped being enchanted and have instead started getting both bored and irritated.
Fade section — great idea. Hugely long fade section where you have to backtrack a thousand times, cover the same ground in different forms, and generally go down the same corridor à la Dr Who a thousand times? REALLY BAD IDEA.
Shapechanging — great idea! Having to spend 3 seconds as a mouse to get through a hole then 3 seconds as a burny skelly thing to get through a fire and then 3 seconds as a golem to get through a door, 10 seconds down a hallway and then rinse repeat — REALLY BAD IDEA.
Apparently gamers shouldn’t presume to give opinions or advice to developers, but here’s one from me anyway. (I’ve always been real bad at doing what I’m told.)
If you have a fantastic, great, really way cool!!! idea — kill it. Now. Or at least severely maim it before you allow it to become a bloated festering nastiness in your game. Players will put up with almost anything for almost any length of time, but boredom will send them fleeing.