Between the Mass Effect and Dragon Age games, Bioware has established itself as a premier developer for role-playing games in this console generation as well as past. With Mass Effect 2 being released on the PS3, Dragon Age II coming closer every day, and the epic conclusion to the Mass Effect trilogy looming on the Holiday Horizon, I wanted to take a look at what each game does well and what the other game could borrow. Join me as I investigate what Bioware could learn from itself.
1. You’ve got to get blood on your spacesuit.
Dragon Age plays up the dark in Dark Fantasy, and one of the most signature ways they do that is by showing the actual costs of getting into combat. I remember being shocked at the end of my first battle in that game. My elf was spattered with the blood of her oppressors, engaging in a dialogue scene with gore from head to toe. How often do we see a character in a RPG leave a fight squeaky clean? Well, every fight in the Mass Effect series, frankly. Commander Shepherd leaves every fight looking like her armor is fresh out of the polishing machine. Sure, most of the fights in the series are ranged affairs, but let’s see some consequences of those biotic fields failing to stop armor-piercing rounds. Let’s see a Krogan warrior bathed in the blue blood of his Asari enemies.
2. Gray Wardens: Paragons of the realm.
While neither game has quite as much of a morality scale as the Old Republic series, Mass Effect does a lot more with the Paragon/Renegade scale than Dragon Age. There really isn’t anything to be gained in Dragon Age with your choices aside from some team loyalty buffs and story resolution at the end. In Mass Effect 2, Shepherd can change from an idealized human to a scarred reject from a Terminator film. Let’s see some more changes in the character in Dragon Age based on how much you’re either a Warden of the people, or a dragon-slaying bastard.
3. Decapitation is fun and easy!
Combat in Mass Effect got a lot better with the sequel, but it still remains a generic shooter that only really has any interesting events when you’re fighting the bosses. Dragon Age has a series of finishing animations that show up at random in combat. Maybe your dual-wielding warrior stabs an opponent in the heart and takes their head off with a backswing. Maybe you see a few brutal sweeps from a two-handed weapon, or a shield bash. Mass Effect could really borrow this to up the cinematic oomph of some of the firefights. Vanguard Shepherd has a charge ability, perhaps we could finish a fight with a camera over her shoulder or a final charge into an enemy mercenary. Or a biotic could pick up an enemy and crush them as the last action during a skirmish. Instead of having Grunt just shoot someone up close, you could see a short animation of him leaning over and biting through his opponent. Heck, even just showing an occasional enemy flipped over or riddled with bullets until they fall would be a nice touch.
4. Pardon my interruption.
One of the most fun things in Mass Effect 2 was the inclusion of Paragon and Renegade interrupts, where Shepherd can stop a dialogue with a dramatic event. Whether it’s tossing someone out a window or offering medicine to a dying alien, it really helped the immersion and connection with the character, and made paying attention to the dialogue much more rewarding. Dragon Age could greatly benefit by importing this system. Dragon Age already is a bit behind the eight-ball because it lacks the conversation system of Mass Effect. Recording dialogue for a male and female of three different races and classes would overwhelm the disc storage in a hurry. So instead, let’s see some options to interrupt the conversation with a swift stab or a quick spell. No one wants to listen to a full speech when we know there’s going to be a dagger in a vital organ soon anyway.
5. Nice Hat.
Helmets are important when you’re going into battle. If nothing else, it keeps your buddies from getting covered in your brains when that headshot puts you down. Both games feature a wide array of helmets, but Dragon Age does a better job of letting you breathe during conversations. In Mass Effect, if you put a helmet on, you’re wearing it no matter what. You might love the look of the Blood Dragon armor, but if you want to see Shepherd’s face during a speaking session, you’re out of luck. Dragon Age automatically pops off the helmet for you, allowing you to see your character’s face.
That’s what we’re hoping to see anyway. Knowing Bioware, both games will be great, and possibly game of the year contenders in more than one category. Who knows what surprises they have in store for us when the games come out?