Dragon Age: Fade to Tedious

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 * * *


They're like sheep. Sheep with magical powers!

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.

Stupid mages.

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.

18 thoughts on “Dragon Age: Fade to Tedious

  1. A contrary opinion. I LOVED that whole quest series. I do agree, though. It’s been a hell of a run of “epic” stuff to do to snap someone out of the Fade.

    1. Heh, I figured a lot of people probably loved that bit, since it seems a lot of people hated the bits I enjoy.

      I don’t actually *hate* that bit at all, but I do think it goes on too long and I do think it suffers from way cool!!! syndrome. I just allowed myself to rant a little because sometimes it’s fun. (Though I suspect I’m missing the vitriol and hate-for-everything that’s required to be a real ranter. 😉 )

      1. You just might be 😉 But I’m totally lacking any of it because I’m enjoying everything about the game. Sure, there are things that annoy me. One such thing are the weak endings to major plot lines. Like the fight to restore the circle being much more challenging than dealing with the demon in the boy. You get all worked up and then it falls flat.

        Another thing for me is item usage and creation. Just seems like there is too much stuff to use with no relevance. Other than wound, health and mana restoration, a lot of stuff is just vendor fodder. Does that really belong in a solo RPG? But, of course, there are people out there using everything to its full potential. So there will be a counterpoint, I’m sure. But that’s just another thing I love about the game.

  2. I like it too and it didn’t take all that long.

    My first try though, I fought and killed Wynn as she didn’t want me going on a rampage. As I needed a healer, I went to a save game and did it her way.

  3. I don’t disagree but I think I spent more time in the Golem form than just to open doors. I could do without the other forms. 🙂

    It wasn’t like it was particularly difficult but I’ll take that sort of gameplay (remember, it was released with the console as a platform as well – I blame that :)) over some of the console game play I was subjected to this weekend.

    Why do console game developers thinking jumping games/levels are fun? They’re fun for all of two minutes then they just get stupid.

    1. Yeah…that golem form was pretty sweet. The group knockback with decent damage and the single knockback with decent damage made things easy.

      1. I’m breaking the mould again – I didn’t much like the golem form. Found it slow and clunky, and stomping around didn’t really do it for me. Then again, my main char is a rogue with some very decent 2-weapon skills, and she can slice and dice stuff a lot faster than the golem could, so I just didn’t bother much with it.

        Oh yeah, and the 75% fire resistance I picked up (from some dragonskin armor, no other spoilers) probably helps quite a bit too, especially against those pesky mages and fire-flinging demons. 😉

      2. I think this view partly depends on when in your story you decided to do the mage tower. I did it quite near the start and thought it was awesome and epic …. but I noticed when I got to the fourth of the recruiting storylines (I left elves till last) that I was feeling as though that story also dragged and was slow.

        I don’t know if it did, or if it was the combined weight of all the stuff I’d done earlier and me wanting to get to the endgame that made it seem that way.

        I enjoyed the Fade and it’s shapeshifting but I was still fairly fresh to the game and liked the epic feeling of the large tower and lots of fights. I think the game does start to drag towards the end. It picks up again after you get back to Denerim with your armies though.

  4. I agree, Ysh. I was tooling along all happy, slaughtering demons with my party and BAM, Sloth demon/fade side adventure.
    This was also the first place I decided to visit after Lothering so I was just getting comfortable having a full party before they took them away.
    As for Wynn, psh, a fight started before I realized it, we killed her and I left her dead. Way to whiney for my tastes.

    1. No, I’m intentionally leaving that for last (or almost last) because the character is a dwarven noble. In-character, she’s building up a head of steam and ire that I expect will make her extremely cranky and prone to break heads when she gets there. No more Ms Nice Guy! 😀

      1. Oddly my Dwarf noble is also a cranky bint – I took great delight in picking all the worst options in the dialogue choices. Especially the “Minion! Why is this pleb talking to me?” ones 🙂

  5. Fair point. I don’t think a designer should kill good ideas… but rather always remember the maxim “less is more”. If you have a good idea, great! Put it in the game. Just don’t run it to death.

    It’s a lot like most sketch comedy – e.g. the average Saturday Night Live bit from any era (though to be fair I haven’t watched it in a decade or so, I have no reason to believe it changed from the first 20 years I watched it). The writers come up with a great idea for a 2-minute sketch, then draw it out for 6-8 minutes. Ergh.

    I’ve not yet completed this area, and gather there are 3 forms in all (mouse, skelly, golem). In this case, I’d say, “Shapechanging to solve problems is cool! Doing it only once wouldn’t be enough. Doing it more than 3 times per form, or 10 times in all, is too much. Twice per form and a max of 5 times in all is much better.” Moderation is key. It’d be preferable if the forms were used to solve more than one kind of puzzle, as well – e.g. the mouse is not only small but can chew through things, the skelly is not only fire-resistant but immune to mind effects, etc. In that case the shapechanging can be used to solve multiple types of puzzles, which goes a long way towards reducing tedium.

    1. Each form excels in certain areas and does have alternate uses for their abilities. Those alternate uses aren’t blazingly obvious at first. But they are there.

  6. Funny, I think the mage tower was my second favorite area just behind the Deep Roads. I did the whole thing in one sitting though, so I think that really helped. I also think depending on how you do it, it can take a lot longer for some.

  7. the WHOLE game becomes very tedious VERY quickly! Run around, open chest, fight baddies, run around, open chest, fight baddies etc, etc,
    Oh and has anyone else noticed that the graphics are appaling and nothing like the trailer!

    A very boring and tedious game that belongs in the past..

    VERY over-rated!!!

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