When is the correct time, and what is the correct pace in which to modernise a franchise. Should it even occur if a winning formula is not broken? NOPE!
Funnily enough this line of questioning wasn’t prompted by Final Fantasy XIII (the worst game ever created). Complete morons will try to tell you that the design of XIII attempted to modernise the series (that dubious honour belongs to FFXII), when in actual fact the changes present were made out of sheer laziness and fail.
No, the game that prompted this musing was Dragon Age Origins, a game made ostensibly to cater towards the exacting tastes of old-school PC WRPG fans, a franchise which looks to be raped by modernity for its impending sequel.
In recent years Bioware have moved away from their old formula. Jade Empire heralded their implementation of an action based battle system, prioritising button mashing reflexes over strategy, while Mass Effect saw the implementation of the conversation wheel, which prioritised cinematic presentation over the player’s ability to accurately choose what they wished to say. Thus, players are to choose the happy, mad, calm or sad response and just hope that that was what they were going for (a personal bane, and catalyst for many reloads).
With the release of Mass Effect I was initially disgusted with the conversation system, yet this was something that I was able to move quickly beyond, I had to. Such changes are the way of the world, and it is obvious from playing Mass Effect that it was built from the ground up to be a thoroughly modern RPG, appealing to as many shooter fans as it did to RPG fans. I do not now begrudge Bioware this change, it is the modernisation which needed to occur in order for their flagship series to keep pace with the proportional profitability of their output from previous generations. Such are the times.
Dragon Age Origins is a whole other kettle of fish however, this was a title touted repeatedly as being made for the traditional PC RPG gamers who found themselves alienated by the rapid shift toward action gimmickry in modern RPGs. Unfortunately however, Dragon Age Origins was a commercial success, which of course means that it is to be bent over to receive a forcible modernisation.
Thus, not only are old-school gamers to be alienated from Bioware’s current mainline series, but they are also to be alienated from the series which was ostensibly, specifically and vocally aimed towards them in order to redress Bioware’s shift away from old-school sensibilities. This is what sticks in my craw. The slavering crowd already had their Mass Effect, but now Dragon Age is to be turned into their second Mass Effect, and old-school gamers are left with naught but their dicks in their hand, once again.
Frankly, this sucks.
Those cretins are of course as happy as shit, naturally they will not be content until all the world’s games are filled to brimming with the latest in gimmickry. The shooter crowd who piled on with Mass Effect are similarly unconcerned, after all ‘only fags worry about that gay shit’. But fans of traditional RPGs are left out in the cold once more with Dragon Age 2, the one property still left to them has been wrenched cruelly from their grasp, and harangued with a shiny new coat of paint.
Gone is the ability to choose exactly what one says, instead we are to look forward to choosing from the conversation wheel lucky dip. The battle system too is to be modernised, this is news to be welcomed on the consoles of course, as the controller interface all but requires it, yet news that the PC version does away with the isometric view is all the confirmation needed to know that it is to be lumped with the same action battle system as the console versions.
The question which remains is thus; was this change really necessary? Bioware made a game aimed specifically toward old-school RPG fans and it sold very well, is there a need to turn this formula on its head?! Was it the shooter fans who made Dragon Age Origins a success? Was it the gimmick-enthusiasts of this world who made Dragon Age Origins such a success? This whole decision smacks of the thinking: “We’ve already got the RPG fans, now let’s have a crack at every other demographic“. Bioware are trying to eat their cake, and take a shit on it too. At any rate, old-school gamers have been deemed insufficient by Bioware and their EA overlords, mass appeal HO!!