As our first update for 2015, Paul continues where he left off in his analysis of Dragon Age: Inquisition.
Paul Murray, is our Systems Designer, focused on the algorithms to make the world balanced and tactical combat challenging. He was the first engineer at SSI in the early 80s and stayed with that company well into the 90s finishing up with the extremely successful Panzer General series. We asked Paul to comment on some recent games, to help give our fans some insight in what he seeks out in play and, by extension, what items he will emphasize in Seven Dragon Saga. Seven Dragon Saga is a single player game, so we’ve focused on those aspects in this commentary.
His first review is a two-parter on Dragon Age: Inquisition. Paul has already spent numerous hours on the first two games of the series. In Part 1, he shared what he liked and felt was most effective in DA:I.
This is the second part of Paul Murray’s discussion of Dragon Age: Inquisition, and where he sees opportunities for Seven Dragon Saga to match or excel. Today, Paul shares his thoughts on where DA:I might improve, and how and why he’d do it a bit differently.
Things I don’t like
The following comments may come across as a bit harsh, as I do really enjoy this game overall. Still, the best way to improve is to study the blemishes and learn from them.
Which brings me to things I don’t like. Really, really limited healing. At lower difficulty it is not too bad. But it means there are times you have to stop adventuring to go back, rest and resupply. This is something of a pain, and definitely takes you out of immersion.
With Seven Dragon Saga, Hit Points restore after each battle, but characters accumulate Trauma and Fatigue until they choose to camp. There are techniques to mitigate the weaknesses from these long term resources, but, in the end, the player must rest. We are currently working on the paradigm for camping, but it will be more common than I see in DAI, but somewhat more restrictive than the Gold Box games.
DAI follows the usual RPG build a character, grind the character. Okay you are now at the point where you should have started… let’s play. It also requires the traditional roles for a party… tank, aoe character, support, and striker. You can mix the roles a little but not much. In fact, they put in places that need a particular character type to advance the game. If there is no warrior in your party, sorry go back to base and get one.
Since Seven Dragon Saga, at its heart, is a points based system, players will be able to create a wider variety of characters, and different mixes will prove viable with the appropriate tactics.
The biggest challenge for me is DAI’s PC interface.
First: It is obvious they designed the interface for consoles, and then semi-ported it to the PC. You have two camera modes: action (over the shoulder and 3 feet back) and tactical (overhead view). In either case, if you are in the forest, you cannot see your own character through the branches, let alone the enemy!
This is one of the reasons we chose to put SDS out on PC first. For any other potential platform, we want to revisit and optimize the UI for it. Added work, but each platform has its own strengths. Players will have camera control: rotation and zoom.
Second: In action mode, any orders you give are supplanted by what the AI wants to do.
You can give each character an action order and a movement order… it will always do the action order first (so you can’t tell a character go over there and shoot). As always cross class combos are the way to do big damage, and that requires proper timing. Which means you must be in tactical mode, controlling each character and advancing the game a few tics at at time. Such pausable real-time gives an excellent feel to the hustle and bustle of combat, and gives more dextrous players a lot of good opportunities, but I admit to favoring the absolute control granted by turn-based games.
Third: They improved the AI for your companions, enough so they removed the ability to set conditional uses of companion abilities. AI did improve, but not enough. The AI will use abilities at the right time… if it hasn’t already put the ability in cool down by using it at the wrong time. The AI will still have your ranged companions charge the enemy (even melee mobs) to get LOS instead of moving 5 steps to the side.
In the end, DAI’s solid quality outweighs its challenges, and I freely admit to my biases in combat, control and character creation. I always love deep, challenging battles, and they are here, but diminished by the issues I noted above. And, you will note, I can find nothing to complain about when it comes to the role-playing; excellent character development. engaging world and story.
The game has good story, great characters, and decent combat. I will get my money’s worth of enjoyment out of it, and more.
The goal for these type of updates is to provide some insight into our thinking and share some of our influences. There are pros and cons to any approach, but we hope to take the lessons we have learned and craft the best game we can.
On behalf of the entire team at TSI, we’re very happy to share a bit of our thinking and looking forward to revealing more in 2015!