So, I played Dragon Age II for about 12 hours Tuesday (barely scratched the surface, mind you) and I can’t wait to get back into it. “But why? How can you want to play that dumbed-down piece of crap, didn’t you see the demo?” Yes, angry Dragon Age: Origins fan, of course I did, yet I didn’t put much stock into it because of what I suspected all along: the playable demo is a hastily-cobbled-together port of the console versions’. Let me just take this opportunity to hand BioWare a big SHAME ON YOU for that blunder… Not only did it succeed in turning many PC gamers off of Dragon Age II (like an anti-promotion), it may also have done some serious damage to the credibility of game demos in general! When your free preview of a game is so unrepresentative of the final product, why even release it at all? Let’s go through some of the points of contention that myself and others may have had with the Dragon Age II demo.
The graphics suck.
This is probably the biggest gripe people had with the demo -- the PC version looked the same as the console versions. That’s really bad when said consoles are now more than 5 years old… However, that is because the graphical options were limited in the PC demo, with no high-resolution textures and no DirectX 11 features available. Again, why they decided to use this as a promotional tool for the game is beyond me, but what’s done is done. You all will be happy to hear that both of those things are remedied in the full version (see screenshots), though you have to download a hi-res texture pack separately and DX11 performance can be a bit sketchy. Some say that using the recently-released beta drivers from both NVIDIA and AMD help with the latter somewhat, but hopefully BioWare will have a proper fix for it soon.
Combat has been dumbed down.
Everybody saw the fast-paced action in the previews of the game and feared that the tactical combat of the first game had been streamlined or removed completely. Well, that is simply not the case. While it’s true that you cannot zoom out to an overhead, almost RTS-like camera angle in Dragon Age II, the same depth of tactical options and control remains. The only difference is that they’ve improved party AI behavior to the point that you do not have to rely on micro-management as much if you prefer to focus on your own character. This is achieved in part by the tactics menu (not limited to 7 slots as it was in the demo) automatically updating itself with abilities you unlock. But for those exceptionally difficult battles, you can still assume control of each party member, pause the action to assign orders to everybody, and coordinate what are called “cross-class combos.”
The interface is too consoley.
We get somewhat of a mixed bag in this department. As seen in the demo, the PC version’s HUD is a pretty good size, with the entire bottom of the screen acting as a quickbar for shortcuts to abilities or items. Thankfully, the radial pause menu from the demo is gone in the full version and has been replaced with a list. However, the inventory, character sheet, and quest journal are all much too small, even in the full version of the game. Literally, they barely cover 1/3 of the screen at 1920x1200, plus they still use a larger, console-friendly font. Hopefully we will see some kind of UI mod in the near future because that’s just ridiculous.
As for the rest of the game, yeah, it’s pretty awesome. Being a fan of the silent protagonist, I was wary of the switch to a fully-voiced Hawke with a [mostly] pre-determined personality, but I actually like it. It’s so much more fun to deliver the sarcastic dialogue when you can hear it out loud. And despite the lack of an Origins backstory, the character progression (in terms of story, not leveling up) is palpable and gratifying: you start out as a penniless refugee working for smugglers or mercenaries, trying to earn enough coin just to buy your way into the city because your degenerate uncle gambled away your inheritance. Before you know it, you’ve built a reputation for getting things done and you eventually amass fortune enough to restore your family to its former glory. In many ways, I think that’s better than simply choosing to start out with inherent renown (or insignificance) and being identified that way for the rest of the game.
So far, I’ve spent all my time questing in and around Kirkwall, which is a massive city-state in the Free Marches. Instead of a regional map, you have a map of the city with different districts and points of interest to go to (somewhat like that of Denerim in Origins), including the option to visit them at night. Frankly, I’m getting kind of tired of bouncing around the same handful of locations for the few dozen quests I’ve done so far, so I hope there are other places to see. There should be plenty of time for that, as I’m expecting a similar length of playthrough as the last Dragon Age, around 50-60 hours. It’s pretty crazy to think about the fact that, in the time I’ve spent playing already, I could have beaten the campaigns for Bulletstorm AND Call of Duty: Black Ops…. It’s so nice to get your money’s worth from a game. As such, you can expect the full review of Dragon Age II to land sometime next week, after I finish this beast. See you then!
Elemental: Fallen Enchantress Preview Elemental: Fallen Enchantress is a standalone expansion pack and follow-up to developer Stardock's previous game in the series, subtitled War of Magic. That 4X strategy game was highly-anticipated and slated to compete with games such as Sid Meier's Civilization V for your turn-based strategy play-time, but was released in an incredibly broken and unfinished state that it never fully recovered from. Lead designer Brad Wardell apologized profusely to fans and set out with his team to go back to the drawing board and try again.
Almost two years later, the result of that proverbial mulligan is currently undergoing closed beta testing. In today's article, Will reports his thoughts on how Fallen Enchantress is shaping up, and will tell you whether or not you should be keeping an eye on it as it nears release later this year.
The Elder Scrolls Online Details Leak - Should Fans Be Excited? The Elder Scrolls Online, long rumored to be in development, was officially announced yesterday. Still in development at Zenimax Online Studios, this MMO aims to combine traditional genre mechanics with the spirit and sensibilities, not to mention setting and lore, of the immensely popular series of single-player RPGs. Though the game is set for a full unveiling in the next issue of Game Informer magazine, what appears to be the entire cover story article has been leaked to the interwebs already. In today's article, you'll find summary and analysis of all the alleged details, as well as feast your eyes on the very first screenshots and concept art from the game. Of course, the burning question now is, should you be excited?
ANNO 2070 Review
The year is 2070. The majority of life on Earth was devastated when global sea levels surged after the melting of the polar ice caps. Swaths of previously habitable land are now deep underwater, and sovereign nations are a relic of the past. But there is still hope...
This city-building RTS/simulation game from Ubisoft tasks you with re-colonizing what little land areas are left on the planet following a global warming apocalypse. Does it have what it takes to be worthy of your time and money, or should it be cast out to sea with the rest of civilization? Find out in today's review!
Mass Effect 3 PC Review
This latest release from EA/BioWare is the final entry in their trilogy of sci-fi action RPGs, putting you in a dire situation: rally the troops to save Earth at all costs. There was a lot of hype surrounding the final act of what has been a vast and highly-customizable story-telling experience, and the reception among many hardcore fans has been less than stellar. Even people that haven't played the game have probably heard about all the nerd rage going on over Mass Effect 3's ending...
If you want to cut through all the crap and find out whether or not the rest of ME3 is worth playing, come check out Will's spoiler-free take on the first blockbuster game release of 2012.
Batman: Arkham City PC Review Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to 2009’s smash-hit action game Batman: Arkham Asylum. As the name suggests, you will be reprising your role as the Caped Crusader and going against an even larger 'prison' filled with Gotham's criminals and villains. A textbook example on how to do a proper sequel, Arkham City takes what worked in the original, excised or improved upon what didn’t, and elevated everything to an even greater scope. The PC version suffered from a few months of delay, but in that time, Rocksteady worked closely to NVIDIA to implement some familiar technologies from the last game, such as PhysX and 3D Vision, along with new DirectX 11 optimizations. But how well was the whole package executed? Read on to find out!
Saints Row: The Third PC Review Saints Row is one of most unique series of games to build upon the open-world action template forged by Grand Theft Auto, and has met with plenty of critical and commercial success since it began on consoles back in 2006. This latest iteration, titled Saints Row: The Third promises the most outlandish fun and freedom of customization of them all, and in a much more PC-friendly package than its predecessor. Does it live up to those expectations and, more importantly, is it worth the price of admission? Find out in Will's latest review!
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim PC Review The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is Bethesda Softworks’ latest offering in their series of epic fantasy RPGs, as well as one of the most highly-anticipated PC titles of 2011. As the Dovahkiin, or Dragonborn, prepare to take the fight to the mythical beasts that have returned to the realm after centuries of slumber, all the while exploring a huge and highly-detailed open world.
The PC version of the game promises enhanced graphical fidelity, standard RPG trimmings such as hotkeys and quick-save, as well as unbridled mod support, something we’ll all be thankful for once they release that SDK. Skyrim has already sold millions of copies and set records for play-time on Steam... Find out why in today's review, which happens to be one of the biggest and most in-depth articles on the subject out there!
L.A. Noire Complete Edition PC Review L.A. Noire, as the name clearly states, is a video game built on the tropes of one of the greatest periods of American cinema: film noir. Developed by the now defunct Australian developer Team Bondi and published by Rockstar Games, this title has been out on consoles for a full six months before finally making its way to the PC. This “Complete Edition” of the game features improved graphics, keyboard/mouse controls, and every bit of previously-released DLC for free. But was it truly worth the wait? Read on and find out!
Mass Effect 3 PC Demo Impressions Mass Effect 3, EA/BioWare's third iteration in their series of sci-fi action RPGs and one of the most anticipated titles of the year, is fast approaching its March 6th release. This week, though, they released a playable demo on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 that offers a glimpse into both the single-player and multi-player portions of the full game.
Whether you're waiting impatiently for your download to finish or don't have the time to check it out yourself, go ahead and read some impressions of the demo from resident FSers Synch and Vandy in today's article!
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Xbox 360 Review
The self-appointed "most anticipated game in history" launched worldwide this past Tuesday. Why, it's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, of course (of course), what else? Unsurprisingly, the military FPS debate between this and Battlefield 3 rages on, but now that both have been released, surely we can take a look and objectively evaluate them both? Luke's taken the Xbox version of MW3 for a spin this week, so to find out what he thinks of it in today's review!