Dragon Age: Origins isNot the spiritual successor I expected.
[This discusses my initial reaction to the Xbox 360 version of the game]
Dragon Age: Origins was billed by the Bioware elite as "the spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate". As a medieval, fantasy-role-playing game – their first since that fabledgame, and Neverwinter Nights—it seemed a reasonable statement. However, the very fact that it's a fantasy-role-playing game is about the only thing similar between the two titles. For better or worse.
As a massive fan of Baldur's Gate growing up, I expect hardcore D&D from Bioware. This time, they've chosen to flesh out their own world, known as Ferelden, whose chief enemies are not truly kobolds, Orcs and mind flayers, but Dark spawn. This is commendable. There is, in point-of-fact, no reason for Bioware to limit themselves to the pre-generated world of the sword-coast, Balduran, and the Forgotten Realms… regardless of how awesome that might have been.
What is bizarre, however, is the new character creation and development systems, which are far more of a spiritual homage to Mass Effect than anything related to Baldur's Gate. Indeed, in Dragon Age, expect to apply new skill points every level—your 10 constitution won't be limited to that number throughout your quest, and as such, your bound-in-stone character sheet from the Baldur's and Neverwinter series has no place here.
Secondly, when a party member is downed, they do not die and require resurrection as in Baldur's gate, but simply rise and begin automatically healing when the enemies are dispatched like in Mass Effect and the KOTOR series. Once again, to me, this harms a lot of the difficulty of the game, and even takes some of the intensity of battle that was always so prevalent to Baldur's straight out of the game.
What is more, if you're a mage, forget about (1) having a grand spell book to memorize spells in, (2) a limit of casts per day, or (3) even a long casting period in battle.
(1) Instead, you have you have a bunch of different 'talent tree' sections to select spells from at levelling up, which are divided into categories, and which appear much more limited than the spells offered in Baldur's Gate 2, or the Neverwinter series, especially when one allows the fact that in both games there are also spell-scrolls to pickup and learn from to increase an ever-brimming spell book.
(2) Related to (1) this also means that you can cast any given spell as many times a day as you like… In fact, you can cast it several times in each combat, and are, in fact, expected to. Allow me to liken this system to both Mass Effect's ability and biotic-power experience, as well as that of world of Warcraft…which is to say: Your spells in Dragon Age are limited not by uses per day, but simply by a cool down (60 seconds, 30 seconds, what have you). Now, for me, this is a huge issue, because Baldur's gate promoted a much more intellectual approach to battles because spells had to be selected and used judiciously per day, instead of over-and-over again to dispatch of foe.
(3) The issue of a long casting time is a minor one, but call me a sucker for hearing my mage spout some kind of Latin while he charges up a massive and all-powerful lightning bolt to devastate my enemies. I do miss the waving of the hands, the spouting of "Sanctoo, Alleeyaa, Faaaairoh! *unleashed*, quite a bit. Instead now, with Dragon Age, I pump out single-target lightning bolts every 30 seconds, and to me, the epic nature of unleashing one is entirely lost. –as is it's in game power.
All of this promoted a mage experience that was more like being a Consular, Sith force-user, or Biotic than an actual mage that would come from the 'spiritual successor' to Baldur's Gate. Granted, this is more accessible and fast-paced, but it comes at the cost of an moreinvolvedand more strategic feel. In fact, all of this caused me to start a Rogue before I got too far with my mage (I'm going to try him again soon, don't worry).
That leads me to my final point: Close combat is where it's at in Dragon Age: this game seems mostly designed with that in mind, and the spraying of blood best exemplifies where the developers intended the battle to most often be won.
In the end, for me, Dragon Age is nothing like Baldur's Gate. So far, it has been a fascinating game with a fantastic story, and an interesting approach, but it is in no way like those venerable expiriences of my fondly remembered past…
…and it makes me worry that we've lost that demanding, hardcore, and more strategic, true-to-D&D experience for good…
After all, If Bioware is moving away from it, then who in the world should be expected to stay?
Give me your thoughts on Dragon Age, and especially, how the PC version plays. Let me hear what you think about all this. Am I just stuck in the past, or have others felt this too?
Let me know.