Drinking the Dragon Age Kool-Aid

I was very hesitant when I held the collector's edition of Dragon Age in my hands. I have Balder's Gate 1 & 2 plus the addon, Neverwinter Nights 1 & 2 plus all the addons, installed and played every one. Looking down at the screens on the back of that package, coupled with the in-game video's I've seen, I felt this was going to be Neverwinter Nights 3. Taking my Bioware purchases into account I should be ecstatic but I'm not, I have a confession to make: I've only beaten Hordes of the UnderDark.

That's a second life of playtime wasting away on my shelf that I will likely never get around to. Why can't I finish these games, I wonder. High scores abound, they drip with praise by virtually everyone but I just never get to that endgame. I try to think back to the gameplay and it occurs to me; I can't remember a single significant encounter. Fetch quests, assassinate quests, reams of dialog to be squinting at in a twitter sized window - I remember having to do such things, but not a compelling reason why. In fact the only thing I remember is the fantastic banter between characters in the first Balder's Gate coupled with the rich personalities. It could have carried the game through for me if not for all that dull wandering and meaningless questing nonsense.

So I purchase Dragon Age and bring it home. I leave it unopened for days, spending that time watching every trailer, reading and listening to every review, waiting to hear those words "It's Neverwinter Nights 3" so I can return it and buy Borderlands instead.

It doesn't happen.

Exhausting all the media I could find, I read the back of the box for the gazillionth time and realize the bonus DVD is all that remains. I give in, crack the game open and watch the entire DVD. Within the second chapter of the bonus media I'm hooked; Yes it's Neverwinter Nights 3 but with a change that is significant to my plight - I give a damn about what is happening. The characters and quests seem meaningful, the dialog is not cut and dry good or evil, but most importantly; the game doesn't look anywhere near as bad as the videos make it appear. The Neverwinter engine is painful to look at in this day and age, The Witcher not withstanding, and the small blocks of traversable areas that you clicked your way through was abysmal. None of this is found in DA, you can actually WASD and mouse look your way through larger and prettier levels in decent 3rd person style.

Coupled with this is the Bioware Social Network that DA will communicate with and update your character progress for anyone to look at. This is a gimmick that I would normally shun and avoid being the antisocial reprobate that I am, but like Arcade Games of old and those blasted 360 achievements, you really want that high score for other players to see. Screenshots of your progress are automatically uploaded and you can snap your own screens for uploading later to a maximum of 20MB.

Best of all, that banter that I remember so fondly has returned. I've yet to meet any larger than life personalities such as Minsc and his hamster Boo, but then I haven't reached Shale yet. I'm in 4 hours deep, past my origins story, and I'm torn between continuing my quest and starting 5 more characters to see the other origin stories. Dragon Age has grabbed me in a way that I've long forgotten, I spend my day at work wanting to go home get back to the quest.

I just might finish a second Bioware Gothic adventure yet.
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