Dalisclock plays through the Dragon Age Trilogy and makes a lot of running commentary along the way. Spoilers abound.

Gordon_4

The Big Engine
Legacy
Apr 3, 2020
4,341
3,527
118
Australia
The thing that amazes me about Mass Effect and Dragon Age, is that both games are developed by BioWare, and both games are developed in sequence (Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Mass Effect... etc), but Mass Effect gets its morality system so wrong, whereas Dragon Age gets it so right.

In Mass Effect, each choice, each conversation option, carries with it a Paragon or Renegade score ("Good" or "Bad"). The Paragon-leaning choice is at the top of the dialogue wheel, and the Renegade-leaning choice is at the bottom. The problem with this black and white system, is that morally grey choices, will still have to be applied with a Paragon or Renegade score, which feels arbitrary. And, If you are Paragon or Renegade often enough, you will unlock Paragon or Renegade Special Answers, which are always, objectively, the best answer in any scenario. Choosing a different answer will put you at a disadvantage, when a Special Answer is available. It is just very gamey.

Another weird quirk of Mass Effect's morality system, is that (In Mass Effect 1, at least), your companions do not have set opinions on any particular choice that you have to make. You can bring with you any two companions, and when they offer their opinions, one will always give the Paragon perspective, and the other will give the Renegade perspective. This is decided based on your squad-mate's hidden morality score, with Wrex being the most Renegade, and Liara being the most Paragon. So if you were to bring Wrex and Garrus on a mission, Wrex would argue to be Renegade, and Garrus would argue to be Paragon. But if you made the same choice, but instead brought with you Garrus and Liara, Garrus would now argue to be Renegade, and Liara would argue to be Paragon. Again, it is very gamey, as your companion's opinions just shift around each other, instead of having set opinions on different matters.

Dragon Age's approval system is much better. Having a per-companion approval rating is just much more organic, and much more consistent. "Good" characters like Alistair and Wynne will approve of you going out of your way to help people, whereas less "Good" characters like Sten and Morrigan will generally see it as a waste of time, and disapprove. As you play the game, you will just organically gain or lose approval points with your companions, and so you will begin to develop friendships or rivaleries with them.

And to top it off, some characters have specific opinions (and consequences) to certain actions that you may take. If you were to defile the Urn of Sacred Ashes, Leliana will absolutley have something to say about it. She won't suddenly try to advocate for it, just because the game considered another party member to be more "Good" than her. The characters in Dragon Age just feel much more like actual people, than they do in Mass Effect.

Of course you can just cheat the whole system with that gifts DLC, but lets not talk about that.

Im really happy that Mass Effect Andromeda chose to abandon the Paragon and Renegade system - it is just a shame that Mass Effect Andromeda, is, well, Mass Effect Andromeda.
The Warden is the leader of a small, rather on the outs group of which they themselves are a recent recruit. Shepard by contrast is already a very experienced and respected leader of special forces soldiers. So Ashley and Kaidan won't say much about it to Shepard in the moment because unless Shepard is dropping an asteroid on a city, it would be inappropriate for them to contradict or challenge their superior officer openly. Wrex doesn't give a shit as long as he's allowed to wreak his particular brand of mayhem, and Garrus can be wishy washy but he's pretty consistently wanting justice, although what that is seems to vary by the crime. Liara and Tali are generally in favour of not being murderous assholes (with the exception of the Geth for Tali). Its not a perfect explanation for what is in Mass Effect 1 a fairly obvious in retrospect writing deficiency but yeah, given the greater stakes involved, Shepard wouldn't accept the level of lip Morrigan gives the Warden from any of their crew.
 

meiam

Elite Member
Dec 9, 2010
2,408
876
118
They don’t actually, if you don’t do the ritual then Morrigan shows up in Inquisition on her own.
Remain to be seen if that hold going forward, especially if the next game deal with old god and such.
 

Dalisclock

Making lemons combustible again
Legacy
Escapist +
Feb 9, 2008
9,994
5,371
118
A Barrel In the Marketplace
Country
Eagleland
Gender
Male
The thing that amazes me about Mass Effect and Dragon Age, is that both games are developed by BioWare, and both games are developed in sequence (Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Mass Effect... etc), but Mass Effect gets its morality system so wrong, whereas Dragon Age gets it so right.

In Mass Effect, each choice, each conversation option, carries with it a Paragon or Renegade score ("Good" or "Bad"). The Paragon-leaning choice is at the top of the dialogue wheel, and the Renegade-leaning choice is at the bottom. The problem with this black and white system, is that morally grey choices, will still have to be applied with a Paragon or Renegade score, which feels arbitrary. And, If you are Paragon or Renegade often enough, you will unlock Paragon or Renegade Special Answers, which are always, objectively, the best answer in any scenario. Choosing a different answer will put you at a disadvantage, when a Special Answer is available. It is just very gamey.

Another weird quirk of Mass Effect's morality system, is that (In Mass Effect 1, at least), your companions do not have set opinions on any particular choice that you have to make. You can bring with you any two companions, and when they offer their opinions, one will always give the Paragon perspective, and the other will give the Renegade perspective. This is decided based on your squad-mate's hidden morality score, with Wrex being the most Renegade, and Liara being the most Paragon. So if you were to bring Wrex and Garrus on a mission, Wrex would argue to be Renegade, and Garrus would argue to be Paragon. But if you made the same choice, but instead brought with you Garrus and Liara, Garrus would now argue to be Renegade, and Liara would argue to be Paragon. Again, it is very gamey, as your companion's opinions just shift around each other, instead of having set opinions on different matters.

Dragon Age's approval system is much better. Having a per-companion approval rating is just much more organic, and much more consistent. "Good" characters like Alistair and Wynne will approve of you going out of your way to help people, whereas less "Good" characters like Sten and Morrigan will generally see it as a waste of time, and disapprove. As you play the game, you will just organically gain or lose approval points with your companions, and so you will begin to develop friendships or rivaleries with them.

And to top it off, some characters have specific opinions (and consequences) to certain actions that you may take. If you were to defile the Urn of Sacred Ashes, Leliana will absolutley have something to say about it. She won't suddenly try to advocate for it, just because the game considered another party member to be more "Good" than her. The characters in Dragon Age just feel much more like actual people, than they do in Mass Effect.

Of course you can just cheat the whole system with that gifts DLC, but lets not talk about that.

Im really happy that Mass Effect Andromeda chose to abandon the Paragon and Renegade system - it is just a shame that Mass Effect Andromeda, is, well, Mass Effect Andromeda.
Yeah, as much as it can be annoying to deal with the approve/disapprove system at times(well, if you really want to keep morrigan happy and not be a bastard all the time without just shoving gifts at her), it's still a bit better then the "Saint" vs. "Asshole" spectrum in ME. In general, I dislike how it discourages roleplaying in ME(and KOTOR before it) because bonuses are dependent off how far up the Paragon/Renegade spectrum, especially as far as dialogue options are concerned and trying to be anything other then a full paragon/renegade has no benefits at all. I found this out when I did a playthrough of ME trying to roleplay and then ran smach into the wall on VIrmire of WREX getting upset about the labs there. SInce I hadn't been playing to max the bars but rather do what I thought was appropriate(and having missed the armor quest somehow), I didn't have the options to talk down WREX(and theres no way to go back and fix it once at that point), so he died right then and there. I never finished that playthrough because I couldn't see myself continuing without Wrex in the group.

As others have said, Light/Dark side has the same flaws and Jade Empire as well, despite "Closed fist" apparently supposed to be "Tough but fair" pragmatism but it really isn't. Really, Bioware does have good writing chops except when it comes to a "Bad guy" path where the decisions just feel like a variation of "Kill dude", 'Exhort Dude" and "Do something needlessly cruel for no particular reason"(such as having the wookie in KOTOR kill Mission Vao because you just want to be a fucking dick). Dragon Age does feel like the pinnacle of writing Pragmatic instead of Evil because a lot of the jerkass decisions can be framed as still being helpful to you in the long run. Using the Anvil of the Void can be justified as making super soldiers no matter what the cost because we need them NOW. Getting the werewolves on yourside can be justified as them getting justice for what was done to them and of course, getting some powerful troops. Morrigans God baby thing can be justified as not having to sacrifice someone. Hell, even letting Redcliffe get massacred by darkspawn can be seen as "This isn't worth my time and what's one more village in the grand scheme of things when so many others have been burnt down offscreen".

I have a lot of love and respect for ME even when it's being dumb(Parts of 3 in particular) which is one of the reasons I played through the ME games mutiple times because they drew me in from the word go and kept me interested. They're also more fun to actually play. Dragon Age, as some of you have picked up on, was hard for me to really get into which is one of the reasons I bounced off three times before this. However, I've garnered a lot of respect for Dragon Age over the past month or so and while it's not as much fun to actually play(I'd love to use MEs Squad gameplay in Dragon Age), it's a lot more fun to Roleplay then ME has ever been and it feels like it's less morally constricted to boot. Especially the decisions about Alistair becoming king or not and what to do with Loghain at the end. The fact I can really appreciate Loghain's POV despite him doing (very) shitty things in service of it speaks to Bioware's writing chops here, whereas I could never see Saren or the Illusive Man in the same light because their arguments were collaborate with the genocidal monsters or become the genocidal monsters ourselves to save ourselves from the genocidal monsters. Of course, with Cerberus it was human supremacist fascism with some utter incompetence to boot(Almost every cerberus operation seems to royally fuck up and get slaughtered by reapers somehow) which didn't do much to endear me to them. So a lot like regular fascism, really.
 
Last edited:

Gordon_4

The Big Engine
Legacy
Apr 3, 2020
4,341
3,527
118
Australia
Yeah, as much as it can be annoying to deal with the approve/disapprove system at times(well, if you really want to keep morrigan happy and not be a bastard all the time without just shoving gifts at her), it's still a bit better then the "Saint" vs. "Asshole" spectrum in ME. In general, I dislike how it discourages roleplaying in ME(and KOTOR before it) because bonuses are dependent off how far up the Paragon/Renegade spectrum, especially as far as dialogue options are concerned and trying to be anything other then a full paragon/renegade has no benefits at all. I found this out when I did a playthrough of ME trying to roleplay and then ran smach into the wall on VIrmire of WREX getting upset about the labs there. SInce I hadn't been playing to max the bars but rather do what I thought was appropriate(and having missed the armor quest somehow), I didn't have the options to talk down WREX(and theres no way to go back and fix it once at that point), so he died right then and there. I never finished that playthrough because I couldn't see myself continuing without Wrex in the group.

As others have said, Light/Dark side has the same flaws and Jade Empire as well, despite "Closed fist" apparently supposed to be "Tough but fair" pragmatism but it really isn't. Really, Bioware does have good writing chops except when it comes to a "Bad guy" path where the decisions just feel like a variation of "Kill dude", 'Exhort Dude" and "Do something needlessly cruel for no particular reason"(such as having the wookie in KOTOR kill Mission Vao because you just want to be a fucking dick). Dragon Age does feel like the pinnacle of writing Pragmatic instead of Evil because a lot of the jerkass decisions can be framed as still being helpful to you in the long run. Using the Anvil of the Void can be justified as making super soldiers no matter what the cost because we need them NOW. Getting the werewolves on yourside can be justified as them getting justice for what was done to them and of course, getting some powerful troops. Morrigans God baby thing can be justified as not having to sacrifice someone. Hell, even letting Redcliffe get massacred by darkspawn can be seen as "This isn't worth my time and what's one more village in the grand scheme of things when so many others have been burnt down offscreen".

I have a lot of love and respect for ME even when it's being dumb(Parts of 3 in particular) which is one of the reasons I played through the ME games mutiple times because they drew me in from the word go and kept me interested. They're also more fun to actually play. Dragon Age, as some of you have picked up on, was hard for me to really get into which is one of the reasons I bounced off three times before this. However, I've garnered a lot of respect for Dragon Age over the past month or so and while it's not as much fun to actually play(I'd love to use MEs Squad gameplay in Dragon Age), it's a lot more fun to Roleplay then ME has ever been and it feels like it's less morally constricted to boot. Especially the decisions about Alistair becoming king or not and what to do with Loghain at the end. The fact I can really appreciate Loghain's POV despite him doing (very) shitty things in service of it speaks to Bioware's writing chops here, whereas I could never see Saren or the Illusive Man in the same light because their arguments were collaborate with the genocidal monsters or become the genocidal monsters ourselves to save ourselves from the genocidal monsters. Of course, with Cerberus it was human supremacist fascism with some utter incompetence to boot(Almost every cerberus operation seems to royally fuck up and get slaughtered by reapers somehow) which didn't do much to endear me to them. So a lot like regular fascism, really.
And yet despite Cerberus being pants on head stupid at almost every step of the way, there were countless people who wanted to stay with them or complained that they were railroaded into surrendering the Normandy to the Alliance and weren’t given the option to stay with the super obvious bunch of evil shitheads who can’t seem to run a bath without both drowning dozens of innocent infants AND burning themselves.

Takes all sorts I guess.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Dalisclock

Asita

Answer Hazy, Ask Again Later
Legacy
Jun 15, 2011
3,012
776
118
Country
USA
Gender
Male
Of course, with Cerberus it was human supremacist fascism with some utter incompetence to boot(Almost every cerberus operation seems to royally fuck up and get slaughtered by reapers somehow) which didn't do much to endear me to them. So a lot like regular fascism, really.
Cerberus had the problem of initially being written as a standard one note, obviously-wrong, 'stupid evil' background antagonist in ME1, not terribly different than - for instance - all the 'token evil groups' for each of the races in Guild Wars 2 (Sons of Svanir, Inquest, White Mantle, Flame Legion, Nightmare Court), then trying to make them seem more reasonable and competent (if still abusive) in ME2...before going back to them being a standard one-note, obviously-wrong, 'stupid evil' face of the opposition in ME3. And that progression just doesn't work.

It would have been much more effective to have Shep start with them before having to cut ties...at which point Shep would start seeing what their actual impact was rather than just the success stories internally circulated. And seeing the organization spiral to its destruction after you leave hits so much harder than "Oh, maybe this bunch of crazies isn't all bad...no, wait, they really were..."
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Dalisclock

Gordon_4

The Big Engine
Legacy
Apr 3, 2020
4,341
3,527
118
Australia
Cerberus had the problem of initially being written as a standard one note, obviously-wrong, 'stupid evil' background antagonist in ME1, not terribly different than - for instance - all the 'token evil groups' for each of the races in Guild Wars 2 (Sons of Svanir, Inquest, White Mantle, Flame Legion, Nightmare Court), then trying to make them seem more reasonable and competent (if still abusive) in ME2...before going back to them being a standard one-note, obviously-wrong, 'stupid evil' face of the opposition in ME3. And that progression just doesn't work. It would have been much more effective to have Shep start with them before having to cut ties...at which point Shep would start seeing what their actual impact was rather than just the success stories internally circulated. And seeing the organization spiral to its destruction after you leave hits so much harder than "Oh, maybe this bunch of crazies isn't all bad...no, wait, they really were..."
They were still one note stupid evil in Mass Effect 2, they just put what amounted to their best foot forward with Shepard and even that facade is paper thin; most of the crew very specifically signed on because it was Shepard they were interested in helping and they take every opportunity to say so. The only one who believes it is Miranda and she’s one of their top agents and was deliberately shielded from their worst atrocities by the Illusive Man.

I mean shit, Joker outlines in Citadel that basically every project Cerberus has been involved with that wasn’t the resurrection of Shepard and it’s adjacent works (EDI, the Normandy SR2, Firewalker to a degree) we’re not only dismal failures but unethical to a man.
 

Dalisclock

Making lemons combustible again
Legacy
Escapist +
Feb 9, 2008
9,994
5,371
118
A Barrel In the Marketplace
Country
Eagleland
Gender
Male
They were still one note stupid evil in Mass Effect 2, they just put what amounted to their best foot forward with Shepard and even that facade is paper thin; most of the crew very specifically signed on because it was Shepard they were interested in helping and they take every opportunity to say so. The only one who believes it is Miranda and she’s one of their top agents and was deliberately shielded from their worst atrocities by the Illusive Man.

I mean shit, Joker outlines in Citadel that basically every project Cerberus has been involved with that wasn’t the resurrection of Shepard and it’s adjacent works (EDI, the Normandy SR2, Firewalker to a degree) we’re not only dismal failures but unethical to a man.
 

Asita

Answer Hazy, Ask Again Later
Legacy
Jun 15, 2011
3,012
776
118
Country
USA
Gender
Male
They were still one note stupid evil in Mass Effect 2, they just put what amounted to their best foot forward with Shepard and even that facade is paper thin; most of the crew very specifically signed on because it was Shepard they were interested in helping and they take every opportunity to say so. The only one who believes it is Miranda and she’s one of their top agents and was deliberately shielded from their worst atrocities by the Illusive Man.

I mean shit, Joker outlines in Citadel that basically every project Cerberus has been involved with that wasn’t the resurrection of Shepard and it’s adjacent works (EDI, the Normandy SR2, Firewalker to a degree) we’re not only dismal failures but unethical to a man.
Point stands. Imagine if the way you learned about Cerberus was the same way Miranda did, that Cerberus was your origin and point of contact with humanity, and that in ME1 you primarily knew the rough moral equivalent of the Lazarus cell (let's say a special task force that gave the human hero Shepard about as much personal discretion as a Council Spectre, basically grooming him for the position)... But after getting Spectre status and getting info from other sources, you kept stumbling across the black sites, which you convince yourself are rouge cells poisoning Cerberus from within. Then in ME2, that keeps happening, with things like Jack's loyalty mission showing that this has been the case for decades, and the Overlord DLC showing the Illusive Man not only wasn't ignorant of it, but was pretty directly involved.

That's a much more compelling arc than the half-hearted "well they aren't always wrong" of ME2, and the personal connection to (and increasingly stark contrast with) Shepard would have better justified their increased time in the limelight for ME3, requiring that Shepard make a final decision on whether or not Cerberus was salvageable, or even if it had ever been. It's just a much tighter narrative.
 
  • Like
Reactions: thestor

thestor

Senior Member
Dec 19, 2007
71
65
23
Did you gift Morrigan the mirror you can buy in Ozammar?

If you have a save file just before a prison break, pick Oghren and Sten. Don't have to play through, ust look at what they come up with.

If you have a save file just before the battle of/about the Anvil of the Void, pick Sten and hear what he has to say about siding with Branka.

As you said, playing a woman, you would have had to tell Loghain to "plow a swamp witch". Guess what would have happened if you had him executed at the Landsmeet instead.

Regarding ME, what do you mea with "squad play", from what I saw, it looked like a cover-based shooter.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Dalisclock

Gordon_4

The Big Engine
Legacy
Apr 3, 2020
4,341
3,527
118
Australia
Point stands. Imagine if the way you learned about Cerberus was the same way Miranda did, that Cerberus was your origin and point of contact with humanity, and that in ME1 you primarily knew the rough moral equivalent of the Lazarus cell (let's say a special task force that gave the human hero Shepard about as much personal discretion as a Council Spectre, basically grooming him for the position)... But after getting Spectre status and getting info from other sources, you kept stumbling across the black sites, which you convince yourself are rouge cells poisoning Cerberus from within. Then in ME2, that keeps happening, with things like Jack's loyalty mission showing that this has been the case for decades, and the Overlord DLC showing the Illusive Man not only wasn't ignorant of it, but was pretty directly involved.

That's a much more compelling arc than the half-hearted "well they aren't always wrong" of ME2, and the personal connection to (and increasingly stark contrast with) Shepard would have better justified their increased time in the limelight for ME3, requiring that Shepard make a final decision on whether or not Cerberus was salvageable, or even if it had ever been. It's just a much tighter narrative.
At that point the game is rewritten to be about Cerberus and not Shepard and the Reapers.
 

Dalisclock

Making lemons combustible again
Legacy
Escapist +
Feb 9, 2008
9,994
5,371
118
A Barrel In the Marketplace
Country
Eagleland
Gender
Male
Did you gift Morrigan the mirror you can buy in Ozammar?

Regarding ME, what do you mea with "squad play", from what I saw, it looked like a cover-based shooter.
I did give her the mirror. Apparently it was similar to the one Flemeth Smashed in front of her.

Basically, by Squad play I mean how comand your squad by giving them orders while still commanding shepherd as opposed to having to having to try to manage your four dudes, which can be tricky to keep track of what all of them are doing, whereas ME it generally felt like your squaddies did a pretty good job of keeping themselves in the fight and alive without you needing to babysit them. ME feels like the combat is generally smoother then in Dragon age, where sometimes it felt like i was managing abilities and cooldowns for four people while still trying to manage their positioning(rouges work best when behind people, mages need to be out of of the firing line as much as possible but with friendly fire some of the ability can hurt you as well). Which I feel like trying to manage 4 people and their abilites works better with turn based if you aren't gonna for something simplified like ME where you control one person and direct the squad to do stuff. In particular, the fact I have to set up my dudes to use healing, especially when I'm using a new character I've never used before like Loghain and realized "Oh shit, he doesn't have any instructions to heal himself"

Arguably ME1's was a bit rough around the edges and the inventory management was fairly irritating just like Dragon Age Origin's was, whereas ME2 smoothed out the combat considerably and just ditched most of the inventory issues outright.

I've heard DA2 had smoother combat but I don't know firsthand.
 
Last edited:

Gordon_4

The Big Engine
Legacy
Apr 3, 2020
4,341
3,527
118
Australia
Did you gift Morrigan the mirror you can buy in Ozammar?

If you have a save file just before a prison break, pick Oghren and Sten. Don't have to play through, ust look at what they come up with.

If you have a save file just before the battle of/about the Anvil of the Void, pick Sten and hear what he has to say about siding with Branka.

As you said, playing a woman, you would have had to tell Loghain to "plow a swamp witch". Guess what would have happened if you had him executed at the Landsmeet instead.

Regarding ME, what do you mea with "squad play", from what I saw, it looked like a cover-based shooter.
Mass Effect is indeed a third person shooter, though the first one just barely, but you always run around in a three person squad and can control your squad mates use of weapons and abilities to compliment your own.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Dalisclock

Asita

Answer Hazy, Ask Again Later
Legacy
Jun 15, 2011
3,012
776
118
Country
USA
Gender
Male
At that point the game is rewritten to be about Cerberus and not Shepard and the Reapers.
I'd argue that it could be written as a major subplot, but I take your meaning.
 

thestor

Senior Member
Dec 19, 2007
71
65
23
Which I feel like trying to manage 4 people and their abilites works better with turn based
I guess you are right and I guess I essentially played it turn-based, hitting the pause button a lot, mostly whenever I cooldown was through and I could use another ability/spell (occasionally, waiting instead for enemies to bunch up for an AoE spell).
 
  • Like
Reactions: Dalisclock

RhombusHatesYou

Surreal Estate Agent
Mar 21, 2010
6,603
853
118
Country
Australia
However, I've garnered a lot of respect for Dragon Age over the past month or so and while it's not as much fun to actually play(I'd love to use MEs Squad gameplay in Dragon Age), it's a lot more fun to Roleplay then ME has ever been and it feels like it's less morally constricted to boot.
A lot of that, I think, is that DAO was Bioware's love letter to Baldur's Gate (and similar era PC RPG titles but mostly Baldur's Gate).
 

laggyteabag

Scrolling through forums, instead of playing games
Legacy
Oct 25, 2009
3,155
756
118
UK
Gender
He/Him
Yeah, about the only thing in DA2s favour is the combat being better than DAO... and Varrick's chest hair.
I really liked the idea of Dragon Age 2 mostly being set in/around a single city. As the game takes place over many years, I feel like there was a great opportunity to see the city grow and evolve as the game progresses, tying in player choice as to how the city turns out - like Old Bowerstone in Fable 2.

It is just a shame that the city is almost entirely static (and lets be honest, not all that exciting to look at) throughout the game's runtime.

I feel like Dragon Age 2 is a victim of its own name. The " 2 " implies that it is a sequel, that it is trying to be an improvement over the original - but in reality, it feels more like a spin-off, with a very different scope, and it should have been marketed as such. Alas, rumour has it that it was EA that pushed for the name, so they only have themselves to blame - for that, and the criminally short <16 month development cycle.
 
Last edited: