Please don't make me hate you, Dragon Age.

Posted by eccelex (33 posts) -

I was super excited for this game when it was released November last year, but decided to be sensible and hold off from getting it until my postgrad studies were over and I'd actually have time to play it properly. It took all my willpower but now, nearly a year later, I'm done with uni and have picked up my copy of Dragon Age: Origins. 
I should mention that I got the 360 version. The PC version seemed the way to go but my 2nd gen MacBook can barely run Civ 4.
 
After sailing through the origins story (elf warrior) and fumbling my way through Redcliffe getting Allistair all pissy with me in the process, i was loving Dragon Age and figured I had a reasonable handle on the difficulty. Now 20 hours in, I'm almost ready to take it back. It has to be one of the most frustrating experiences I've had with any game I've played. I remember Diablo and Baldur's Gate being difficult but this is just maddening. Each new encounter is becoming a tedious trial of draw weapons - clusterfuck - die - repeat until I find an exploit or win out of sheer luck. Right up to the wall I've hit now (first fight in Werewolf Lair). I try in vain to work with the AI strategies to have my team remember to heal themselves before dieing but they will invariably snuff it if left to their own computer assisted devices. 
 
I can hear the shouts of "You're playing it wrong!" as i type this but, seriously, fuck that. I'm willing to admit that I suck at it, but sucking at a game has never made me want to stop playing. Super Street Fighter 4 is a perfect example - I'll regularly have my ass handed to me but the times that I do win are that much sweeter for it. In Dragon Age, when I eventually pull a victory out of thin air I just feel drained and angry. I don't feel like I won; I feel like I got away with it.
 
There's obviously an excellent game here that I'm missing and there is something about it that keeps me coming back. Everything was shaping up to be a fantastic and lengthy experience right up to this point. The story is engaging enough to overlook the at times woeful voice work, and the combat (when it works) is genuinely satisfying. What's infuriating me the most is I can't see a way past it to more of the game.
 
Has anyone else had a similar experience at the start of their game? I've decided to start again with a new character build now that I have a better feel for the skill trees. Any tips or suggestions on race/class? It's been a year waiting to play this game, and I'm not ready to give up on it just yet.

#1 Posted by eccelex (33 posts) -

I was super excited for this game when it was released November last year, but decided to be sensible and hold off from getting it until my postgrad studies were over and I'd actually have time to play it properly. It took all my willpower but now, nearly a year later, I'm done with uni and have picked up my copy of Dragon Age: Origins. 
I should mention that I got the 360 version. The PC version seemed the way to go but my 2nd gen MacBook can barely run Civ 4.
 
After sailing through the origins story (elf warrior) and fumbling my way through Redcliffe getting Allistair all pissy with me in the process, i was loving Dragon Age and figured I had a reasonable handle on the difficulty. Now 20 hours in, I'm almost ready to take it back. It has to be one of the most frustrating experiences I've had with any game I've played. I remember Diablo and Baldur's Gate being difficult but this is just maddening. Each new encounter is becoming a tedious trial of draw weapons - clusterfuck - die - repeat until I find an exploit or win out of sheer luck. Right up to the wall I've hit now (first fight in Werewolf Lair). I try in vain to work with the AI strategies to have my team remember to heal themselves before dieing but they will invariably snuff it if left to their own computer assisted devices. 
 
I can hear the shouts of "You're playing it wrong!" as i type this but, seriously, fuck that. I'm willing to admit that I suck at it, but sucking at a game has never made me want to stop playing. Super Street Fighter 4 is a perfect example - I'll regularly have my ass handed to me but the times that I do win are that much sweeter for it. In Dragon Age, when I eventually pull a victory out of thin air I just feel drained and angry. I don't feel like I won; I feel like I got away with it.
 
There's obviously an excellent game here that I'm missing and there is something about it that keeps me coming back. Everything was shaping up to be a fantastic and lengthy experience right up to this point. The story is engaging enough to overlook the at times woeful voice work, and the combat (when it works) is genuinely satisfying. What's infuriating me the most is I can't see a way past it to more of the game.
 
Has anyone else had a similar experience at the start of their game? I've decided to start again with a new character build now that I have a better feel for the skill trees. Any tips or suggestions on race/class? It's been a year waiting to play this game, and I'm not ready to give up on it just yet.

#2 Posted by Willin (1280 posts) -

Turn the difficulty down?

#3 Posted by dvaeg (189 posts) -

I might be wrong, but there's a Megaman-like method to which order you can tackle the story missions that make it easier.   Redcliffe is first, but I think the werewolves are supposed to be last.  

#4 Posted by PerryVandell (2103 posts) -

You have a at least 1 healer in your party right? I know you most likely do, but I just want to be sure. The best way to survive, at least in my experience is having a healer and lots of mana/health potions. If you don't have those, then you are going to hit many walls.

#5 Posted by AhmadMetallic (18955 posts) -

too late, already hated

#6 Posted by Gamer_152 (14077 posts) -

If I ever go back to playing Dragon Age: Origins I know I'm going to have to start over on easy and I never play games on easy.

Moderator
#7 Edited by Tearhead (2168 posts) -

I've never played Baldur's Gate or any D&D style game before, and I had relatively no problems playing on the normal difficulty. What class are you playing? Cause if you're a mage, you shouldn't let him/her charge into the battle, a warrior should do that. Also, one rule that has always served me well is to ALWAYS attack magic foes first. Basically, my strategy for the whole game was have two warriors rush and have all the enemies attack them while my rogue and mage dealt massive damage from safety. Also, my mage was a healer so I could deal with the enemies tearing up my warriors. Whenever I entered a battle I switched to controlling my mage because they require the most managing of their skills. Oh, and don't forget to set your party's tactics for when you are not controlling them.

#8 Posted by Burns098356GX (1366 posts) -

DA definatly has a ragged-ness to it that can be a turn-off when you first start to play. Its hard to sometimes get past the things they don't spell out for you, ie which locations to tackle first. I always did the DLC missions first just to get some easy levels. Then the Mage tower, Redcliffe, Werewolves then Orizimarr. 
 
DragonAge-wikia is always a good option.

#9 Posted by Symphony (1912 posts) -

I command thee, Dragon Age -- make this user hate you! No. Wait. Make them despise you! No no no... make them ABHOR you! There's not enough abhorring going on in the world these days.  
 
(In all seriousness, maybe just try it on an easier setting. I couldn't stand the combat on normal; it was frustrating as hell, but putting it on easy made it bearable... even if I still quit and never returned once I hooked up with Alistair)

#10 Posted by TaliciaDragonsong (8698 posts) -

Use a dedicated healer, turn the difficulty down (no shame in that, I hurried back to normal after seeing how brutal the combat could be on the higher settings) and give it time.
Dragon Age is one of the best journey's you can make in a game world, don't let the combat ruin it =)

#11 Posted by Jasta (2217 posts) -

The first wall I hit was the Arch Demon at the very end, everything else I've managed on normal as a Rogue Elf so I'm not sure I can comment on strategies to help you along, one thing I will say is Dedicated Healer, I never used Wynne until the brood mother boss fight and it would have made the rest of the game so much easier if I had put her to use earlier.

#12 Edited by Tennmuerti (8097 posts) -

Roll a mage and hang out with Morrigan, get Cone of Cold on both, proceed to win.
Throw in a Crushing Prison for good measure.
Or go with the Storm of the Century for the lulz.
Or roll a DW rogue/warrior and put as many +dmg enchants on them as possible, watch shit die.
Or use an archer and get arrow of slaying and scatter shot, slaying kills single targets in 1 hit usually and scatter shot can crowd control AoE.
Or pimp out Alistair in best tank gear and have Wynne as dedicated healer, then just make sure to create some good tactics for them and you can sit back and let the party take everything apart on autopilot.
 
The amount of strategies you can employ in DA:O is huge, it would too long to list them all in detail.

#13 Posted by eccelex (33 posts) -

Thanks for the tips peeps. A new game looks like the best way to go since my teams' skill trees can be best described as 'fudged'.
 
@Jasta: @Fullmetal216:
Yeah I have Morrigan who has only just got the Heal spell after I decided not to just auto level her. The trouble is she doesn't seem to be able to refresh quick enough to counter a werewolf mauling the crap out of someone.
 
@TaliciaDragonsong:
Changing difficulty is the next step. I haven't played a game below normal in... I don't think I've ever played a game below normal  O_o

#14 Posted by Brodehouse (9949 posts) -

It seems like they spent so long trying to make Dragon Age work that they didn't necessarily do much to program difficulty slices.  Awakening (the expansion) has all the hallmarks of a game made with knowledge of the system's ins and outs, and the difficulty is much more reasonable.  Of course, some people here will probably say it's too easy.

#15 Edited by Tennmuerti (8097 posts) -
@Brodehouse said:

" It seems like they spent so long trying to make Dragon Age work that they didn't necessarily do much to program difficulty slices.  Awakening (the expansion) has all the hallmarks of a game made with knowledge of the system's ins and outs, and the difficulty is much more reasonable.  Of course, some people here will probably say it's too easy. "

It's too easy. :)
#16 Edited by Unchained (1080 posts) -

What system are you playing on?  
  
If you are playing on PC, you can download some mods that will help you.  The respec mod will allow you to use Morrigan as a Spirit Healer if you don't want to be stuck with Wynne. 
 
Use the tactics as well.  

  • Make a condition where everyone  will take the least powerful heal potion at 50% health and your off-tank and healer will take the most powerful healing potion at 25% health.   
  • Make a condition where the healer takes the most powerful mana potion available at 25% mana. 
  • Have a Spirit Healer as your healer.  Have her cast Group Heal when any party member is at 25% health. Have her cast Heal when someone is at 50% health. 
 
The first time I played was challenging. After getting the hang of the Tactics, the subsequent playthroughs have been a breeze.  
 
All that said man, even after all the tips here....if you are not finding the game to be fun or for you, take it back and get your money back. Playing an exercise in frustration is not a way to spend your time. 
#17 Posted by eccelex (33 posts) -
@Unchained said:

" All that said man, even after all the tips here....if you are not finding the game to be fun or for you, take it back and get your money back. Playing an exercise in frustration is not a way to spend your time.  "

Totally agreed -  games are expensive enough to waste money on one that I don't enjoy. I'm just giving Dragon Age another shot since I waited so damn long to play it.
 
I'm playing on 360. My experience with tactics so far is that they're just not working the way I intend them to - allies are taking damage so fast that once I've run out of poultices the healer can't keep up and then she's the only one left alive. But that's probably more a case of having poorly developed characters than their tactics.
I think it's more a case of just getting used to a style of game that I haven't played for like ten years or so. And not being lazy with the characters' skill trees... that could help. I've definitely got as far as I'll get with the way I've been managing them so far.
#18 Posted by valrog (3671 posts) -

I only get frustrated when I forget to tell them to Hold Position and they get killed because they followed me.

#19 Edited by ShiftyMagician (2129 posts) -

Oddly enough I could never truly like Dragon Age myself.  I played through the whole game and done as many side-missions as possible to get as much of an experience as I can, and I could still not take seriously the actors and the setting.  I didn't like the spontaneous plot point about Morrigan in the end, and the feel of continuous grind where most enemies just did the same things and hardly showed variety except with some of the demons.  Also, the blood on people looked ridiculous and I can't stand looking at a main character that almost holds one face for the entire duration of the game and never speaks my choices.
 
At least I will give props for that game feeling like an age-old classic, but I guess it wasn't for me.  I still say that game looked pretty good and played solid, minus the multitude of bugs in that game.  I'm more of a Mass Effect guy myself.  At least there was some excellent voice acting there in my opinion.
 
Oh yea a little trick to get past most of the game without a huge hassle - make use of the Ice cone spell, and instantly go for critical hits on any frozen enemy.  Petrifying them with a certain stone spell does the trick too.  A well placed Ice cone will literally take out up to 4 dudes in a matter of seconds, and allow you to just attack freely on other frozen enemies if you are lucky.  Lastly, always rush those darkspawn mages, or any mage if you see a clear path to run to him/her.  Getting rid of them just makes it easier to handle the rest via Ice spells and other abilities that can stun or knock down.

#20 Posted by Iceland (163 posts) -

I had the same problems until I turned down the difficulty.  
I get no enjoyment out of the fights anyway, they are just to pad out the story. I finished it and really liked it  

#21 Posted by eccelex (33 posts) -

UPDATE
So I'm now 20 hours into playthrough number 2 and it's working out much, much better - this is the game I was waiting for. Things are much more manageable now that I've specialised my talents and skills a little more. Turns out spreading yourself too thin is a real dick move. As is visiting the Dalish Elves too early.
 
My plan is to start West of the Map after Redcliffe and the Mage's Tower and work Eastward. The Mage's Tower, incidentally, is awesome.
 
Thanks for the tips and support all! Much obliged! 
And yes, @ShiftyMagician, ice cone rules all.

#22 Posted by bearshamanbro (284 posts) -

Sorry to bump an old thread, but I had similar problems at first too. Being thrown into a this game is very confusing if you're not familiar with this style of game, like Baldur's Gate. If anyone is having problems, I reccomend watching some youtube videos of people who know what they're doing as it'll be very difficult to figure everything out yourself. I think the game did a poor job of explaining how the game works in the beginning. After one playthrough I realized that I really made a lot of mistakes in my builds, kinda stumbled my way through with my tactics, and didn't really take advantage or skills (herbalism, traps, lock-picking). I find that the more you put into trying all of the different available skills/tactical options the more rewarding the game is. I may now do another play-through in the future but on PC this time with a different build. 
 
TIP: for anyone on console, you may want to go into Advanced Tactics on the radial and experiment with using the "Hold Position" setting during battle or as you come up on enemies. I hardly used that for most of my playthrough, but it will keep your characters from just rushing in at the first sign of an enemy and you can some long range damage or spell damage in. Espescially once you get some more powerful spells. By the end, I was able to hold my position and cast Inferno and half clear out alot of rooms before engaging with my warriors. Also, I'm sure this is perfect for setting traps and waiting for the enemy to run into them.

#23 Posted by JJWeatherman (14558 posts) -
@bearshamanbro said:
" Sorry to bump an old thread, but I had similar problems at first too. Being thrown into a this game is very confusing if you're not familiar with this style of game, like Baldur's Gate. If anyone is having problems, I reccomend watching some youtube videos of people who know what they're doing as it'll be very difficult to figure everything out yourself. I think the game did a poor job of explaining how the game works in the beginning. After one playthrough I realized that I really made a lot of mistakes in my builds, kinda stumbled my way through with my tactics, and didn't really take advantage or skills (herbalism, traps, lock-picking). I find that the more you put into trying all of the different available skills/tactical options the more rewarding the game is. I may now do another play-through in the future but on PC this time with a different build.   TIP: for anyone on console, you may want to go into Advanced Tactics on the radial and experiment with using the "Hold Position" setting during battle or as you come up on enemies. I hardly used that for most of my playthrough, but it will keep your characters from just rushing in at the first sign of an enemy and you can some long range damage or spell damage in. Espescially once you get some more powerful spells. By the end, I was able to hold my position and cast Inferno and half clear out alot of rooms before engaging with my warriors. Also, I'm sure this is perfect for setting traps and waiting for the enemy to run into them. "
Good tips. I just started the game not too long ago, but I've been having a blast with it. I've been playing on normal with a Warrior. Haven't had any problems with combat or anything else so far. It's crazy how time flies while playing this. I've only finished the 3 small DLC missions and part of Redcliff, yet I've somehow spent nearly 30 hours playing already. Crazy.
#24 Posted by Teran (877 posts) -
@eccelex said:
Each new encounter is becoming a tedious trial of draw weapons - clusterfuck - die - repeat until I find an exploit or win out of sheer luck. Right up to the wall I've hit now (first fight in Werewolf Lair). I try in vain to work with the AI strategies to have my team remember to heal themselves before dieing but they will invariably snuff it if left to their own computer assisted devices.    
What you are experiencing is a flaw in the game.  I think  Bioware is aware of the flaw (read: flaw, not bug) and will probably change it in the next one.  If you give your party members a long string of commands their response time for any given command is going to be slower.  This is because with each new set of parameters you are increasing the likeliness that your npc ally will be in the middle of doing something else when a set of parameters is met. 
 
For example, lets say you tell your mage to nuke any enemies who slip under 25% health, use a snare if an enemy gets within 2 yards, cast a heal on any allies that drop below 50% health, and use a health potion if the mage him/herself  drops below 15% life.  With a set like this the mage is likely to be constantly doing something which sounds good on paper but in game it's not quite as good.  If your mage starts casting a damaging spell a split second before one of your party members drops below 50% health your mage will complete the cast and then look at its priority list (top to bottom) and do whatever the highest priority tactic says to do. 
 
Healing should always be at the top but doing that doesn't solve the problem because seconds count and losing a party member generally is not worth added damage on a target.  I would recommend arranging your tactics with healing at the top and using any remaining slots for maintaining those passive buffs that are so annoying to manually cast every time you die or switch zones.  To summarize, don't give your allies  options, program them to do exactly what you want them to do most.  Your healer should not have to choose between healing or casting fireball.  If you want your healer to cast fireball pause the game and over ride the tactic manually.
    I can hear the shouts of "You're playing it wrong!"    
You might be, but like any other game there is a learning curve.  If you are not learning from your mistakes then you are doing it wrong but you have at least shown interest in learning by posting here.
In Dragon Age, when I eventually pull a victory out of thin air I just feel drained and angry. I don't feel like I won; I feel like I got away with it.    
You shouldn't be pulling victories out of thin air.  In a given fight you should see what needs to be done.  Look at your enemies, which needs to die first?  Is it better to go to them, for force them to come to you?  Who do you need to cc with spells like crushing prison?  If you plan victory should come much more easily.
The story is engaging enough to overlook the at times woeful voice work
Uh... what?  Dragon Age was pretty much universally complimented on its characters, writing, and voice acting.  I have nooooo idea where you are coming from with this comment as I can only think of one place in the entire game with voice acting that was noticeably bad and it was two spoken lines by no-name character in the Human Noble origin.
Has anyone else had a similar experience at the start of their game? I've decided to start again with a new character build now that I have a better feel for the skill trees. Any tips or suggestions on race/class? It's been a year waiting to play this game, and I'm not ready to give up on it just yet. "
The game can be rough to start, but if you look at the various classes and the way they interact with each other you can create a group that trivializes the game's fighting on any difficulty level.  Here is some of what I learned... 
 
Warriors:   You can go three ways with the warrior... tank (keep enemies on you and soak damage), 2h dps, dual wield dps. 
Tank:  I went tank my first time through the game and by the end deeply regretted my decision.  A warrior tank is viable but sadly Shale with earth heart is far more effective in this role as he has natural immunity to the ogre grab and dragon bite attacks, additionally he can keep a large number of enemies on him more easily than a warrior. 
 
2h dps:  This option was completely worthless in my experience with it.  It comes with some abilities that look nice like knock down immunity but if you aren't getting attacked you generally don't need to worry about being knocked down.  The damage from this spec is pathetic because of the way certain things in the game are balanced. 
 
Dual wield:  This option is king for both rogues and warriors doing damage.  Dual wielding gives you fast attacks that do massive damage over time.  When you couple this with the fact that the game throws all kinds of flat damage increases at you that don't scale well with slower weapons you can basically create a meat grinder that will run over every fight in the game with minimal need for planning. 
 
In order to maximize damage you'll want to get enough agility for the "momentum" skill which is a buff you activate that increases your attack speed by ~40%.  You want fast weapons to use with this buff which make daggers ideal (though not required), daggers are incredible especially once weapons start coming with rune sockets you can put +5 damage runes in.  You are pretty much free to use whatever subclasses you want here but Berserker should be one of the two choices as the berserker buff adds a large amount of damage to each attack.  My second choice is Champion because he has a nice buff to your chance to hit.  Let me try to lay out the reason dual wield is superior. 
 
Lets say hypothetically the swing time for a 2h sword is 2 seconds and each swing does 40 damage.  With the berserker subclass buff of +10 damage and three rune slots with +5 damage runes you have a weapon that does 65 damage every 2 seconds. 
 
Now lets say hypothetically the swing time for a dagger is .5 seconds after momentum has been activated and each attack does a base 5 damage.  In two seconds each dagger has attacked four times for a total of 40 damage.  With the berserker subclass buff of +10 damage and three rune slots with +5 damage runes in them each dagger is receiving 25 bonus damage per hit...  In two seconds you have made 8 dagger attacks for a total of 200 damage.  
 
One last note, this applies to rogues as well... for stats get just enough agility (or is it called dexterity?) for momentum and the first three passive dual wield abilities.  Every single other stat point should be put into strength.  Strength directly increases your damage with melee weapons as well as increases your chance to hit with them.
 
Rogue:  With the rogue you've got two basic choices for spec.  Archery or dual wield.  Archery is junk if you're wanting to do damage, it has some uses but damage dealing is not one of them. 
 
Rogues like warriors get so much more from dual wielding than the alternative for basically all the same reasons but have a lot more potential.  First if the rogue is flanking or behind the enemy they automatically crit which is a blanket percentage increase of damage.  Secondly the rogue class has the bard subclass which has a song that increases damage by a flat number similar to the berserker skill warriors have, but this song buffs the entire group.  As far as subclasses go for dual wielding rogue, bard is a must have.  The other options are about the same but I personally prefer assassin because it gives a small passive damage increase. 
 
Like warriors, you only want enough agility to get momentum and the first three passive abilities in the top column of dual wielding skills, everything else should go into strength.  I know this sounds odd given that daggers can get damage bonuses from other stats more in line with the rogue abilities however in order to do this you are basically trading chance to hit for chance to crit which isn't worth the trade because a rogue's chance to crit is automatically 100% if they are to the side or rear of the enemy.  Strength has the added bonus of letting rogues wear the heaviest armor in the game which massively increases their survivability. 
 
Mage:  Mage is the most versatile class in the game.  You can choose to go for damage, healing, utility, a mix of all three, or tanking.  Yes that's right, the best tank in the game is actually the mage due in large part to the way attack stats interact with defense stats when determining chance to hit. 
 
Building a mage for damage or healing is easy, pick the spells you want and get them.  Pick the subclasses you want to pick (except shape shifter, under no circumstances should anyone ever willfully pick this...). 
 
Building a mage to tank on the other hand is complicated.  Unlike my previous examples in order for this to work your mage needs some careful planning.  I personally use Wynne to build a mage tank because Spirit Healer (her default subclass) works really well with Arcane Warrior.  Your goal is to buy up as many of the activated passive buffs as you can from the various mage trees.  You want as many shields and magic increasing buffs as possible along with all four arcane warrior skills.  Next you need enough willpower to activate all these buffs at the same time while having enough mana to cast group heal at least once while wearing heavy plate armor. 
 
What you end up with is a mage with higher defensive stats than any warrior or rogue can even approach and as a result incoming physical attacks miss so often it feels like Wynne might be impossible to hit which more or less makes her low hp pool a non issue.  Now an unhittable mage is nice, but she's not a tank unless she has a way of getting enemies to attack her.  For this you need the mage spell "miasma" which is an aura that focuses on the mage that decreases your enemies chance to hit you while increasing their chance to be hit by you.  For whatever reason this aura is usually enough to keep enemies focused on your mage tank most of the time. 
 
For stats, once you have the mana to keep all your buffs up, every other point goes into magic because thanks to the arcane warrior class, magic becomes the stat that determines what armor you can wear and how much damage melee weapons do.  Like all your other party members, your mage should be dual wielding daggers.  Her damage will be more erratic than your other characters because she'll be missing more, but she'll have so many points in magic that she'll still put out good numbers. 
 
Using pretty much the exact party build I've mentioned above I cleared the game on the hardest difficulty twice.  I killed both dragons and nearly every boss without issue as the damage this group could output was surprising... it's fun watching four buffed up characters sprinting into a crowd of enemies and watching the blood splatter. 
 
The only weakness this build has is magic.  In order to counter this you'll want your mage to get crushing prison, cone of cold, and mass paralysis and always eliminate enemy mages first... either by killing or locking them out of the fight with cc. 
 
Some food for thought.

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.