Monday, October 26, 2009

When Marketing Ploys Go Bad

by Daniel Bullard-Bates

As a role-playing game fanatic, it is safe to say that Dragon Age is one of my most anticipated games releasing this fall. I've enjoyed every BioWare game that I've played thus far, and been very impressed with their other original properties, Jade Empire and Mass Effect. So naturally, when I saw that they have a free flash-based game, presumably to whet the public's appetite with a taste of the setting and story, I decided I would give it a spin.

The game, Dragon Age: Journeys, is a fairly basic point-and-click affair with a simple turn-based combat system. It's nothing fancy, but one doesn't expect much from a free flash-based game on the internet. But having played the game to its completion, I find myself much more nervous for Dragon Age: Origins than I was before. Previously, I was going to pre-order the game. Now I think I'll wait to read a few reviews.

Why such a sudden change of heart, based solely on flash game? Simply put, the writing and plot are terrible. I understand low production values on a flash game. Things like a simple interface, basic combat, and uninspired gameplay are pretty much par for the course in the realm of free games you can play in your browser, especially games that are meant as promotional tools. But what I really expect from a BioWare game is good writing and an interesting plot, and there's no reason that the flash game could not fulfill the basic function of making the world of Dragon Age seem interesting. Let me give you an example of the dialogue in this game:

Dwarf: "We found only you at the gates of Orzammar, wounded, dazed, and rambling."

PC: "We ran into an emissary. He seemed different. He was... glowing?"

Dwarf: "Glowing you say? I've never heard of such a darkspawn."
GLOWING. That's actual dialogue! This isn't just one tiny example out of the whole game, either. You spend the majority of this game talking to people about how you saw a guy who glowed blue. They don't even try to make it sound more interesting than that. You'll walk up to characters and say things like, "We have to see the king! He needs to hear about this glowing blue darkspawn!"

I'm sure this game wasn't written by the lead writing team of Dragon Age: Origins. In fact, the game may not have even been touched by BioWare, but rather handled entirely by some other branch of Electronic Arts. But what's the point of a flash-based Dragon Age if not to show how interesting the setting and plot will be? We certainly don't come to browser games like these for the incredible 3D graphics and console-like gameplay.

At the end of the game, there was a questionnaire which asked how much I would be willing to pay for the continuation of the game, either online or on the DS or iPhone. I'm not sure I'd play it even if it were as free as the current game. I honestly don't want to know what happens with the sinister blue glowing guy. It's discoloring all my thoughts about a game I'm very excited about.


  1. A crappy flash game isn't all that's hurt Dragon Age's image.

    Remember The New Shit?

  2. Yeah, no kidding. The last thing I want to hear when watching a trailer for a cool role-playing game is raspy, blaring awful Manson tunes. I still hold out hope for this game, but my optimism grows more and more cautious.

    Also, it definitely looks like a PC-centric game, and mine is not up to snuff. I wonder if the XBox/PS3 versions will be dramatically different, apart from marginally poorer graphics.

  3. The console versions are confirmed to play more like Action RPGs, since you can longer zoom the camera out for a tactical overview of battles. Baldur's Gate it aint.


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