Friday, November 20, 2009

Things change, opinions change

It looks like I'm out of "tutorial mode" now. Once I left Lothering, I accidentally found the Dalish elves I was looking for (for the main plot) in the first place I happened to wander into on the map. I'm thinking maybe I wasn't supposed to go to that place first, since even with my rogue at level 3 (of 4) for lockpicking, she still couldn't open 2 or 3 of the locked chests in that area, and a lot of the loot is armour or weapons that none of my characters' stats are high enough to use yet. It also had quite a few tough boss fights, including a couple that I chose to leave alone for now, after wiping on one of them once.

Speaking of Lothering, here's a tip. Don't move on until you've wrapped things up in Lothering. And maybe you won't have to go back to a several hours old saved game like I did.

Sacred Ashes trailer vs. the actual game

Some of my preconceptions of certain characters in the game were strongly influenced by the Sacred Ashes trailer. As I discovered, there were some minor differences. First of all, none of the characters look the same between Sacred Ashes and the actual game. The video shows Morrigan, Leliana, Sten, and a generic man representing the player character. The most notable difference is Sten, who looks like a normal man in the video, with a very expressive face, while in the game he's a hulking giant with a permanent scowl on his face. (He makes a good tank, BTW.)

What the trailer does show accurately is the abilities and tactics of the game. The player character calls out orders and tactics to the other party members, calling Sten to push his way through a line of enemies with brute force, calling Leilana to shoot a hurlock "emissary" (mages who will seriously damage your party unless you take them out early) before engaging other forces, etc. I have seen many of the spells used in the trailer in-game as well. And I notice at least one line spoken by Morrigan ("Let's end this,") is something she says occasionally during fights.


And that brings me to Leliana. I've completely changed my opinion of this companion. I initially disliked her because of the way she was portrayed in Sacred Ashes, and because I knew she was a sister in the Chantry (you know how mages feel about the Chantry's templars). Also wasn't looking forward to having a nun in the party. Morrigan, I thought, was more my style. When Leliana showed up in Chantry robes and started blathering about "The Maker", she looked like a priestess. I took her on anyway, just in case I needed her for something, with a vague intention of leaving her in the camp most of the time so she wouldn't irritate Morrigan.

So once I had her in my party, I saw what skills she had available. She wasn't a priest, she was a rogue! A rogue with the Bard specialisation, and most of her combat points in archery. So I got her out of those ridiculous Chantry robes and gave her some leather armour and a good bow, and she became a permanent part of my party. Especially nice are her pickpocketing, chest-unlocking, and trap-detecting/disarming talents. Turns out her religiosity isn't even the same kind as the Chantry. She's more of a "the beauty of the world is what I call 'god'" type of person. I told her I liked her version better than the Chantry version, in one of the dialogue scenes.

After I picked up Sten, I ended up with a more or less permanent party of Sten, myself, Morrigan, and Leliana. The more I learned about her personality and her past, the more I liked her, and her French accent is endearing. (Leliana is pictured here with Eshaye's alternate face for her, which I mentioned in a previous post.)

My only complaint is that she doesn't sing enough. She should have a lute or some other instrument as part of her default gear, in my opinion, or maybe there should be some equippable lutes or guitars in the game that increase the effectiveness of the bard songs (the ones that buff party members or disorient enemies).

Personality-wise, she's a perfect match for my play style. While Morrigan basically disapproves of everything I do, Leliana always approves. She's kind and feminine. I will not be hardening her personality.

Party dynamics

One thing that makes this game so interesting is how much things are different depending on how you begin the game, certain choices you make, and even your party member selection. While just running around the world, the party members just start talking to each other, and depending on who you have in the group, the conversations are different. Morrigan and Sten have a very amusing rapport going on, not to mention Morrigan and Leliana. Before I picked up Leliana, Morrigan and the dog had a few funny chats as well. They also occasionally speak up if you're entering an area they know, or they'll give their opinions of the area.

And then there are the player's conversations with NPCs. Occasionally, and again depending on who you've picked for your group, your party members may speak up and add to the conversation, even opening up different paths of dialogue if they happen to be previously acquainted with the NPC.

Things like that really add to the atmosphere and a good playing experience, and makes you wonder what would be different if you played differently. Since I prefer to play as a mage, I had been thinking I would never get to see the unique content for the other classes and races, but since you can control any character in your party just as you control yourself, and can level them up and choose their spells and talents, it wouldn't be much different if I created a warrior or rogue character. I could experience the unique content, and still play as a mage once I pick one up for my party.

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