Would have been finished a week ago, except that I’m a giant wimp when it comes to NPCs, and kept re-loading until I could keep the darkspawn from killing any of my volunteer army guys–which is kind of a task, since said army guys are bent on running directly into the Vortex O’ Fiery Death that I just put up–and then re-loading again to keep the Archdemon from munching on the named NPC. Then one of my friends pointed out that said NPC just gets knocked unconscious if he falls, since he’s in the final cutscene, and I blithely let him get eaten while I fired ballista bolts all over the place. Good times.
Good game, generally speaking. The AI on my side was supremely dumb, but I’ve never played a game where it *wasn’t*: over the years, I’ve got used to either “oh my GOD do not charge the–great, now you’re dead, are you happy?” or “would you for the love of God come over here and KILL THIS THING BEFORE IT EATS MY FAAAAAAACE–great, now I’m dead, are you happy?” so there we are. Besides, plenty of people have already discussed the gameplay and general plot, so I’ll move on to the two ostensible blog subjects.
Occult Stuff: Handled well, I think. It’s always tough to do this in RPGs–adventure games have a pretty decent chance of keeping magic or spirituality as a mysterious and otherworldly force, but in CRPGs it often ends up being just a form of artillery with a longer loading sequence. A lot of the combat magic still is, don’t get me wrong–although they did tweak the secondary effects nicely so that, for example, fire and ice spells had some differences even when you were just facing regular guys–but there’s a pretty coherent worldview around both mages and magic, and parts of the game you get to access only if you’re a mage. The “Fade”, a sort-of-dreamscape otherworld inhabited by both benign and malevolent spirits, is well done; so are the spirits themselves, when they show up. Not a lot of concrete connection to RL occult practices–it is, after all, a fantasy world–although the Fade and its spirits seem vaguely shamanistic.
The Grey Warden magic stuff is actually more intriguing: the use of blood as a sympathetic-magic connection that gives you powers to fight a specific sort of enemy (or kills you, but hey) and the drawbacks that come with it all make sense and are also narratively compelling. (I feel like Loghain could have done more with that, actually, in his smear campaign: these guys have the Darkspawn in their heads, all the time, so can we really trust them? Really?) Likewise, the soul-hopping Archdemon thing and the HOLY SHIT EW Broodmother worked for me.
As I write this, I realize that there’s actually an interesting transformation theme running through the game–the Wardens, the Darkspawn, the golems, Morrigan/Flemeth/bleh, the werewolves–which I might English major all over at some point soon.
No, seriously. I liked the variety of options available, I liked that heroic bisexuals–heroic *male* bisexuals, holy crap!–exist in this game, I liked the dialogue options I ran into and, as I mentioned elsewhere, the fact that I can get away from the thing where a woman can’t be in charge of her love interest.
Also, nobody in this game falls into the tropes I hate. No Love Makes You Stupid/Evil/Crazy among either the PC base or the sympathetic NPCs. None! It’s so awesome. (Excessive Patriotism Makes You Evil and Crazy, on the other hand…yes, apparently. Or Excessive Hatred of the Not!French, at least.) Furthermore, as far as I can tell, people deal with jealousy by…talking about it. And being reasonable if you break up with them. Hurt, but reasonable. It’s like a breath of fresh air in the Jennifer-Aniston-character-perfumed room that is the current media landscape, and it makes me a happy, happy Izzy.
Not that I’d mind a Tenchi Muyo-style harem option, BioWare. Juuuust saying. On the subject, though, I do like that I can settle down happily into being Alistair’s mistress, and also send him off to sleep with Morrigan and sire the Hopefully Not Antichrist without flipping out about it myself. He comes back, we both live, we’re all good–though, since I also made him king, I do seem to have a habit of sending the boy off to strange women’s beds in order to produce one sort of child or another, and the pattern is creeping me out a little now.
Oh well. Life in Ye Olde Mutant-Haunted Kingdom, I guess.
I’ll play through it again soon, in order to check out the Zevran arc and how things work when I’m a warrior. For the moment, though, I’m for Shadow Hearts and the PS2 room. (Also, Mike from Slacktivist recommended Gog.com, where I was able to buy Baldur’s Gate honestly and download it, because I’m willing to pay for things, but it’s the twenty-first century and I want my instant gratification.)