Dragon Age: Observations - Downloadable Content

Written by Stuart Thomas on Mon, Dec 21, 2009 3:47 PM
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Dragon Age: Origins was just too much game for me to review in one sitting. Here's the third part of my series of observations on the newest fantasy RPG from Bioware.

Try to imagine, for a moment, if you will, that I am a complete idiot. A hopeless, drooling punk who inexplicably loves RPGs on the PC. I’ve picked up Dragon Age: Origins, and somehow managed to survive the DRM and the installation process. And I’ve decided to buy some of the DLC additions to make my Dragon Age experience even more… draconic.

So far, not all that stupid, I’m sure you’re thinking. But nevertheless, I am a complete idiot (in our example). But I am more than just a slack-brained smacktard – I am a human being, and I’ve as much right to play a computerised wizard as anyone else. So the question would have to be:- can an idiot get the DLC to work?

Computers are funny, you know. Most things in life – even console videogames – are designed to be as straightforward as possible, so that the target audience can get at the functionality with a minimum of fuss, and consequently get their money into the pockets of the makers of whatever the thing happens to be. Not so with the PC. We’re expected to be pretty techie, particularly when we’re the type of PC owners who choose to spend our free time pretending to be sorcerers.

So when I came to try out the DLC, it wasn’t the in-game salesmen that concerned me, it was the threat of more serial codes, more DRM and more time talking to EA’s customer service team. And I have to say that I was mostly pleased.

Pleased in the sense that actually paying for what I wanted, installing it and then running it was not too challenging, even for the hypothetical moron that I am. Sure, Dragon Age insisted that I was not logged in with pop-up messages, behind which could be seen my status as ‘logged in’, and sometimes if I tried to resume a game from the menu it’d think I didn’t have access to the DLC, but after giving it a moment it was fine. Certainly not perfect, but it’s comparatively early days for this kind of thing.

I really was expecting there to be problems with the installation and the payment process. So rather than expecting plain sailing once it was installed, I was waiting to see what they HAD got wrong. Because I may be stupid, but I’m not THAT stupid.

There are a couple of things that they’ve got wrong, and there are a couple they’ve got right. All of the actual new maps and plots are piddlingly small. Beautifully drawn and evocative, but small. I know you’re paying under a fiver for each download, but it’s still not much in terms of how long it’ll keep you occupied. The biggest problem I had with it, though, was the items that are just dropped into your inventory.

See, there are two ways to look at it. One is that you’re buying an incomplete game, and Bioware are then squeezing you ‘between the legs’ until you haemorrhage more money into their waiting mouths, and that they are pure evil mercenaries with their in-game shills bulldozing your fourth wall with their demands for real money (disguised as ‘Bioware Points’). And that, dear friends, is a valid opinion. “But they’re not shills!”, I’m sure Mr. Ware would reply. “They’re purposely created to PRESERVE your suspension of disbelief as best as possible. They’re offering premium game content at an affordable price. The game won’t suffer in any way if you DON’T buy it. It’s all optional.” That too is a valid point of view. However, if you’re still on the fence, there’s a suit of fancy plate mail armour which will simply appear in your inventory once you’ve paid for the DLC.

Just like that! No quest, no argumentative shopkeepers, not even any in-game money changing hands! It’s a bribe, plain and simple. And it’s the biggest problem with this new method of gaming. Buy a bunch of new stuff for your game! No effort involved so long as you have a valid Paypal account! Frankly, I wonder if I couldn’t just pay them another twenty quid and get them to play the whole game through for me.

Oh, and Shale – the new NPC – has poorly-coded abilities that cleared themselves on my copy of the game leaving him incapable of anything beyond regular melee attacks in combat. And while he is one of the better-written characters in terms of his dialogue, he’s pretty useless if he’s no use in a fight.

This is the time, my friends. If we want games developers to know our opinions on this new and insidious billing method, we have to tell them now or forever hold our peace.

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Can They Run... |

| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 7 5800H 8-Core 3.2GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Mobile 16GB
| 30FPS, Medium, 1080p
Xeon E3-1230 GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Gigabyte G1 Gaming 4GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 30FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i5-3470 3.2GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Gigabyte G1 Gaming 4GB 12GB