Daily Archives: December 3, 2009

Fifteen men on the dead man’s armoire

I need to get something off my chest. It’s a mace. And a shortbow. And a pair of chainmail gauntlets.

Yes, time for another Dragon Age post as everyone enjoys them so much. Just to be abundantly clear: it’s a really good game and it’s precisely because it does so many things so very well that certain little things stick out all the more. Things like having a camp full of incredibly dangerous people, and offering no explanation of why you only ever bother taking three of them out and about with you; of course there are myriad excellent reasons, technical limitations, replayability, yada yada, but I’d just like some nod towards it in-game. Maybe in a dream at the start:

Archdemon: “LOL u r such a nub u have to zerg me”
You: “NO WAI i r totally leet i cud pwn u solo”
Archdemon: “OK lets both fix party size at 4 thats fair”
You: “yeah OK”
*first fight is your party vs 23 Darkspawn*
You: “WTF HAX!”

All right, so that serves as an illustration of how attempting to explain meta-mechanics within the plot often ends up being far worse than just saying “it’s a bloody game, get over it you nitpicking git”. Still, today’s quibble is chests, and not Morrigan’s unnaturally sticky-back-plastic-dependant top (if alchemists can come up with a flaming weapon coating or health restoring poultice, I’m sure a suitable adhesive is easy enough).

Treasure chests, loot-containing barrels, crates, weapon racks, suitcases, vases, piles of stones, wardrobes, armoires and cupboards are staples of CRPGs in much the same way that staples are staples of stapling. That’s fine, there’s nothing I like more than a good rummage in a chest (and I don’t mean… oh, just take all the hilarious chest innuendo as read from here). If a dungeon doesn’t come with the requisite stock of loot-stuffed containers I’m highly miffed. Dragon Age, though, like Baldur’s Gate and many other games before it, sprinkles loot-containing objects all over the place. Wandering around a town, there’s a sparkly barrel, stroll up to it and… hey, here’s a longsword! And a bow in a crate over there. Slightly incongruous, but not utterly ludicrous. But then you go into a house or an inn, open a door, see a couple of people in the room, barge in, open the wardrobe in the corner, rifle through it, take the dagger that was sitting at the bottom, click to talk with one of the occupants and they say… “Good morrow, Grey Warden”. Not “Guards! Guards!” or “Who the hell are you?” or “Get out of my wardrobe!” or “Please don’t hurt me, you terrifying blood-spattered armed maniac who’s just broken in to my room and stolen my dagger”. There are a couple of instances where attempting to interact with an object actually provokes a response, but they’re the exception rather than the rule. Yes, it’s a very small thing, but picking at that thread of the Pullover of RPG leads on to wondering why you’re in the house in the first place, and indeed why the instinctive reaction upon arriving in any town is to thoroughly explore every single location, talking to everybody (unless they have a generic title like “Peasant” or “Noble”) asking if they have any menial tasks they’d like done while you happen to be in the area like it’s bob-a-job week, stuff you were taking entirely for granted, and before you know it the pullover’s unravelled you’ve ended up with the Crop-top of Absurdism, and then… Oh, wait, we’re back to Morrigan’s top again.