Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Too Much of a Good Thing

Over the long weekend, I took CRPG-playing way too far by spending at least 30 hours on four separate CRPGs--and I have almost nothing (blog-wise) to show for it.

The first game was, of course, Skyrim. I've taken a hit on some discussion boards for praising this game, but honestly, the only reason I can think not to like it is that you deliberately want to be contrary. Sure, there are things not to like about it, but to not like it as a whole? Do you like games at all?

Running into dragons keeps cramping my style, though. I get stocked up on potions to make a run at some dungeon, and on the way there I have to drink them all fighting a dragon.
The second was Dragon Age: Origins, and playing it has entirely been against my will. My wife, Irene, went and picked up Dragon Age II a few weeks ago, but she insisted on replaying Origins, and all its expansions, this time as a female PC, so she could marry Alistair. Much of my weekend was a fight with Irene about playing Skyrim longer versus stopping it for Dragon Age. First-world problems, I know.

I've had a curious reaction to Dragon Age. On the surface, it seems to have all the things I like about CRPGs--an original game world with lots of lore, memorable NPCs, copious dialogue options, loads of side quests--and yet I find it curiously soulless. Few CRPGs are brilliantly original in their game worlds--most are derivative of Dungeons & Dragons in some way--but Dragon Age more than most feels somehow...assembled. It has that characterless feeling of "master-planned communities" in the mid-west and west, where the streets are all arranged in a grid and there's a strip mall at every major intersection.

It's interesting to compare the two modern games in respect to their approaches to role-playing. In Dragon Age (like most Interplay and Bioware titles), role-playing is almost entirely through dialogue. You decide who you are and you speak accordingly. Someone says something and you get maybe five choices:

  1. The "good" option
  2. A slightly lamer good option
  3. The selfishly-evil option
  4. The psychotically-evil option
  5. Something to kill the dialogue in case you hate dialogue
Sometimes there are fewer, but they basically boil down to good, selfish, bad.

A young girl approaches, crying. "I've lost Mr. Snuffles!" she wails. "If you can find him, I'll give you these five shiny pieces I found in my da's desk!"

  • "I'll do it! And don't worry about the gold. Use that to buy more bread for your family." [Morrigan disapproves]
  • "I'll see if I can get to it."
  • "Sure, I'll find Mr. Snuffles. But why don't you go home and see if you can find some more shiny pieces first?"
  • "I'll take those 'shiny pieces' off your corpse!"
  • "Go away, kid."

Again, this is normal in a lot of games from these developers and publishers, but it just feels so much more formulaic in Dragon Age. While I generally like dialogue, I agree that basing role-playing and quests around it forces you along a limited selection of paths. Dragon Age way overdoes it both the dialogue and romances for my tastes, anyway. The fact that I like both doesn't mean I want to spend 20 minutes reassuring Leliana that she's good in the sack.

In Skyrim, on the other hand, role-playing is based on how you interact with the game world--on what you do rather than what you say. The dialogue options, though better than in Oblivion, can't hold a candle to Dragon Age. More than once, indeed, I've found myself forced into accepting quests because I had no dialogue option to tell the quest-giver to sod off. In one city, a knight asked me to accompany him into a haunted house and started me on a path where the only option to get the quest off my quest board was to beat a helpless priest to death with a rusty mace.

I care more about clearing my "to do" list than I do about role-playing!
But what happens in between the dialogue in Skyrim is priceless. In Dragon Age, no matter how you role-play, combat and exploration go the same ways. You fight the same enemies in the same places for the same results, and all that matters is your overall motivation. Skyrim offers essentially limitless possibilities in combat and exploration. I'm just outside a bandit chief's room and I need to get a key off him. I could:

  • Snipe him with a poisoned-soaked arrow
  • Sneak up behind him and try to slit his throat
  • Sneak up behind him and pickpocket the key
  • Use an invisibility potion to walk up next to him and then let him have it with lightning blasts from both hands
  • Summon a wave of skeletons
  • Send a follower to take care of him
  • Lead him outside and use a "shout" to send him spinning off a nearby cliff, then take the key from his corpse
  • Lead him to the nearest guard outpost and let them deal with him
  • Get him to chase me into a room full of his bandit friends, then use my "rage" scroll in the room, causing everyone to attack each other

The only way they could make it better is if I could talk to the bandit chief before attacking him, then try to persuade or bribe him for the key. Unfortunately, the game features two types of NPCs: those that you can talk to, and those that come charging at you, swords drawn, the moment they see you. Dragon Age usually has dialogues even when combat is inevitable.

Aside from combat, role-playing in Skyrim manifests itself in doing things like running from animals rather than killing them, ambushing every wandering Thalmor patrol you find, happily stealing from jarls' palaces but not the homes of townsfolk, and of course choosing to specialize in certain skills. The game doesn't generally acknowledge any of this, so you're essentially role-playing for yourself, which I guess some people find lame.

If you're curious about the third and fourth games I was spending time on, well, they're the ones this blog is supposed to be about. If you haven't been following, last Wednesday, I decided I couldn't get any further in Wizard Wars because of copy protection issues, only to have Skirie immediately find the information I needed. I had done a GIMLET and everything. So I spent some more time trying to win that game, and I determined that knowing the ingredients that go into certain spells means nothing if you can't find these ingredients. I visited every territory several times, ending up no further than I was on Wednesday. I'll keep trying.

I need five items to progress, but a golden potion isn't one of them.
The last game was Wizardry V, and I confess I devoted the least time to it. I got hung up a bit on the character creation process, which I will detail in the next posting, and I barely got out of the gate.
Hint: bonus points of 28 are only possible in 1 out of every 3,426 rolls.
Travel has again made both Skyrim and Dragon Age impossible this week, so I should have some more stuff on Wizardry V and maybe Wizard Wars for the next few days.


  1. I can't speak for everyone on the forums, obviously, but I think the hit that you took on the RPG Codex (because let's be honest, that's who you're talking about, more or less) wasn't so much for praising it as calling it "the best RPG you've ever played".*

    Okay, admittedly you'd probably get hatred for liking it anyway, but since it's a forum you're going to probably find people who are going to disagree with your opinions, and be vocal about it.

    It also strikes me as, to be kind of blunt, rather foolish of you to first claim "the only reason I can think not to like it is that you deliberately want to be contrary" when your wife could turn around and make the same kind of claim about you from the point of view of Dragon Age. Different people get enjoyment from different things, and put different priorities on what to ignore. Even on the Codex, as there's at least one poster there who's giving it a good rating in one thread.

    Also, you have to remember that the Codex is primarily a PC gamer site, and the PC controls for the game have received some serious complaints (and not just on the Codex, but on Gamasutra - though that was a Codexer - and on Rock, Paper, Shotgun). I can't say whether they're correct or not, since I don't own the game, but if you had to deal with the constant difficulties or even just annoyances while simply trying to interact with the game you're not going to really be into the game's world as much to ignore it.

    Anyway, good luck with the games. Especially Dragon Age. I think even I'd prefer to play Skyrim than that one.

    * Also some may just be sick of hearing about Skyrim, even on the Codex where it's been talked about ad nauseum, since most game sites have been gushing hyperbolic about it; so there might be some "Et tu, Brute?" stuff happening with it as well.

  2. I've probably said this before, but I loved the dialog and story of Dragon Age, and was really into it for a while, but then the whole tank/drawing fire mechanic became more and more important, and I stopped enjoying combat. It just felt hollow to me; I want combat to be about where I put people and what they do, not some mystical 'look at me, come kill me' ability.

  3. Yeah, no complaints from me about how you've spent your time... I really am enjoying Skyrim (although it's annoying the way the dragons pretty much force your character to find some sort of missile weapon or spell, just to be able to hit them).
    Once, on my way to the eastern city of Riftin, I killed a few people near a mine for no reason besides the fact that some were Stormcloaks (I've been playing Imperial). I reach a village near Riftin, and some courier shows up - gives me a note from some dude I never heard of (who lives there), who is happy about one of the people I killed. I get some extra gold from it. Very unexpected result from me just trying to role-play a 'cloak hater.
    Not to mention that the randomizing of quest destinations is going to play havoc with people trying to fill in the UESPwiki information.

  4. Wow, way to be show massive bias. I played Oblivion, another game which you revere so much, with all the DLC to see why many people like it and found it be a soulless, lifeless, bug-infested CRPG-lightweight without a story (the little there is does not justify to be called story) and a sterile atmosphere comparable to a well-run laboratory. I wouldn't touch Skyrim with a ten-foot-pole because I am still not over mourning the loss of my precious life due to Oblivion. And from all I heard and read, Skyrim and Oblivion are way too similar in everything to be not comparable.

    The difference is, I wouldn't ever hold it against you that you like this kind of games, other than you. Still, I have to say there is at least a little admiration left for playing games about which even the most avid fans say (and this includes Skyrim as well) that they are nigh unplayable without mods on console. Other than that, I dunno whether to continue reading a blog where some anonymous author looks down upon gamers who do not like what he likes "as a whole".

  5. While I haven't played Skyrim yet, I'm sure I'll love it given my adoration for The Elder Scrolls in general. I also thoroughly enjoyed Dragon Age, but for totally different reasons. Limiting player options allows the creators to focus more on story and relationships, which have always been fairly minimal in the likes of Morrowind and Oblivion. In the end, there's no reason why you can't enjoy both, as long as you go in with different expectations.

  6. People love to hate Bethesda and their games... but who cares... the fact is Skyrim is a blast to play. I'm an old time gamer (45+ years old and literally played almost every CRPG ever made, and been buying, collecting and playing them since about 1980... same for tabletop RPGs... been playing and game mastering since the mid 1970's), but I'm not so stuck-up that I can't enjoy a new game that's really fun. Every single CRPG ever made has bugs, problems and flaws... so what. If you have fun with it that's all that matters. Some people are just so full of how cool they are and how "hardcore" they are that they can't even see a good game when it hits them in the face. Their loss...

    Your posts are great... and you should always speak your mind about your opinions on games... it's your blog after all.

  7. You're being coerced to eventually play Dragon Age II? I'd consider that grounds for divorce. Oh well, at least they eventually patched in auto-attack on the consoles or so I hear. You had to keep pushing a button to even do regular attacks in the original release. I got to the end once and then figured that Bioware was no longer interested in keeping me as a customer.

    I love the blog, though - even when you're discussing your opinions on modern games.

  8. Interesting comparison between Skyrim and Dragon Age. I agree with all said about it. Skyrim is far better. Dragon Age is just a good game but since Morrowind, Bioware has lost ground to Bethesda as the premier RPG producer. Bioware excells in dialogue and advanced AD&D rules but its games - although good - are too combat oriented and linear.
    /Richard - http://crpgrevisited.blogspot.com/

  9. I think the Trickster sums it up pretty nicely:

    1. Elder Scrolls are more about huge worlds with many dynamics.

    2. Other games (Dragon Age for instance) focus more on telling a story.

    I think there is no "right" or "wrong". It just boils down to personal taste.
    What may be bitched about is the technical stability or bug occurence.

  10. I like Dragon Age Origins, it's a good game, but I do agree completely with you. It feels too lifeless, too sterile, too stereotypical as a whole. And a bit boring. But I absolutely love it's character creator and origin stories.

    On the other hand, I find Dragon Age II far more interesting, despite all it's technical issues and some arguable game design decisions. Characters are better written, dialogues are more "lively", game is more local (one big city and it's outskirts), plot is more personal and is far from typical epic fantasy "You good! Dragon bad! Go kill! Or else world die!". Unlike DAO, which has main goal from the start, DAII does not have one main quest through the game. It uses The Witcher formula, when smaller objectives, seemingly independent from each other, have consequences, which interwine and push story forward. I truly enjoyed this game.

    Of course, it's only my personal opinion.

  11. @Anon#1: In the end you can feel how you like about Skyrim, but please don't judge it based off of Oblivion. I and at least five other people I know personally all hate Oblivion for all the reasons you listed. And yet we all love Skyrim because it fixes all those problems (except maybe the bug-infested part, but Skyrim at least has more amusing bugs).

  12. Eldiran:
    This is the first time I have read from somebody who can't stand Oblivion to say he finds a liking to Skyrim. What really annoys me, however, is that the the author of this blog basically says you can't dislike Skyrim, only flawed parts of it. And if you do, he questions if you like games at all? It's just the same as all those Call of Duty, GTA, [insert name of random super-hyped franchise] fans tell you: You hate it - you're no gamer, go play Farmville. He should really get off his high horse.

  13. Amazing how offended people get at the opinions of others.

  14. nym, I think your reading more into what he said than he intends on that comment. I am sure he will come on and clear things up and I will leave him to that. The reason I bring this up is to say it is too easy to be quick to offend or judge based on a misunderstanding of the intent of someones words.

  15. Dear CRPG addict. I think you are doing fine and its okay to mix and match the games a bit. This is your blog and you should manage it the way you want.

    I will probably never play "Dragon Age" or "Skyrim" but it is nice to hear about them and compare them to the classics of yesterday.

  16. Opinions vary on everything. Why are people surprised by this? Why are people crucifying people who express them?

    I mean, in some circles, some people think that the only good games are JRPGs. And, while I have enjoyed a few Final Fantasy games in my time(6, 7 and 8), I find them to be mostly silly compared to gritty western CRPGs. But, I don't belittle people who love them.

    If the addict loves Skyrim, let him (I love it myself). If he finds Dragon Age to be soulless (something I don't agree with) then that's fine. If I wanted to read my own opinions, I'd write my own blog.

    Those who disagree should start their own blogs so they can see how hard it is to please everyone.

  17. @enraged yes what I clumsily was trying to say is I don't think addict was denigrating anyone's opinion. Others took issue with him saying "Do you like games at all?" if they don't like skyrim. The feeling being that he was dismissing others opinions outright. From what we know of addict in the past I do not think this is the case, more likely he is just using hyperbole to defend himself from people dismissing his opinion about skyrim. Sarcasm and hyperbole are so often causes of misunderstanding online.

  18. I didn't like Oblivion at all and I still sank 35 hours into Skyrim. So it's a better game, for sure. But, for me it's akin to a sugar binge. Can't stop for a long duration, but it only leads to headaches and a disrupted schedule. So after doing 35 hours of semi-interesting things in a semi-interesting rulespace, I felt 'I've had enough, but good job for holding me this long, Bethesda'.

    I finished Dark Souls/Demon's Souls with a collected time of 150 hours or so, though, so there are other RPG games to which I'll put in the time that people put into Bethesda products.

    So where's the problem? I look for two things in a crpg more than anything. One is a satisfaction of my sense of wanderlust. I want to explore an open environment which isn't vanilla fantasy. On that front, Morrowind delivered to a degree. Oblivion did not. Skyrim does not either. I don't find the graphics so striking (nor do I care about graphics so much, one of my favourite exploration-related RPGS is Alien Logic, for example, which the CRPG Addict will get to in 3 years or so, heh) and the wintry nordish setting doesn't do much for me. Skyrim doesn't surprise me, in terms of exploration. But it was pleasant enough for 35 hours.

    Dark Souls does surprise me because its setting is, though there are vestigial remains of D&Desque pulp fantasy in it, truly weird. It has alien rules to which adjusting really makes me feel as if I'm part of a different world. And not adjusting to them means swift, severe death. In Skyrim you can just be a tourist. You don't have to eat, sleep or maintain equipment and none of it is explained in versimilitude terms. That's the difference, in a nutsheel. I'm not interested in tourism, I want to *live* there, for a while. Feel indigenous. Skyrim fails on this regard.

    The other aspect I tend to enjoy is robust gameplay systems in RPGs. This is very rare. Wizardry is rock solid. The Ultima games are not. Dark Souls is as tight as they come. Skyrim is a muddy mess. Its combat, though occassionaly flashy, never felt 'together' in my 35 hours. The thievery either. It depends too much on 'if you get enough levels in this skill and enough perks, it eventually becomes rewarding', whereas Dark Souls, backstabbing with a level 1 character is as doable and satisfying as with a level 80 character. It's just more difficult. In Dark Souls, aside from the levelling up that your character does (which mean more hitpoints, more damage, more resistances etc, just numbers) the game levels up the *player*. I can start a new game of Dark Souls with a lvl1 character and do so much better than I would have at first. The game initially seemed impossible, truly. In Skyrim if you get into a swordfight, you swing, you do damage, you get some damage, if you do poorly then you probably need more health and attacking perks! Nothing for the player to learn.

    Sure, there are some logistical tactics "do I burn my potions here or later?" but that's really bare minimum for a game to be considered alright, mechanically.

    So it's a game whose problems do contribute to a short-term relationship with the game, and it's not because I don't like games nor because I want to be contrarian. I spent 35 hours with it, it's an alright game, but it's no Dark Souls :P

    1. "The game levels up the *player*. I can start a new game of Dark Souls with a lvl1 character and do so much better than I would have at first."

      This is something I don't see a lot, but which can be oddly satisfying. One example is some of the Dynasty Warriors games, where some of the rewards you collect are used by any other character. Much of the advancement is specific to that one character, but some of it is communal, and both can advance at once. I didn't think about this much until they removed this benefit in DW6. Suddenly I realized that each character was completely isolated from the other, and you were starting over from scratch every time. While that's not uncommon in most CRPGs, it's still nice to be able to think one game might improve the next a little. Games where you can do one play-through to set up advantages or changes in the world on the next play-through can be very interesting.

  19. I agree that Dragon Age: Origins was boring. It felt like they decided "Let's do another Baldur's Gate but without the D&D license and instead just ripoff LOTR." One of the downsides of having RPGs made with multimillion dollar budgets and huge development teams is that you lose a lot of the small personal touches in the older games like the creators inevitably making references to themselves in game (Lord British, Trebor/Werdna, etc).

  20. Personally, I was always annoyed by the insertion of the developers own personae into the game, because it reminded me that it was, in fact, a game.

    I enjoyed Dragon Age very much- the return to a traditional flavor of plot and setting but without using the D&D license was part of what attracted me. Perhaps I'm just not burnt out on that plot yet, but it was very much what I wanted at the time.

    I love CRPGs, but I have not played many of the older ones. Not from lack of desire, but from the harsh mathematics of adulthood- once work is over and the kids are in bed, you've only got a sliver of the day left. That's part of why I enjoy this blog- I'm vicariously experiencing what I wish I had the time to do myself.

    I love hearing what they liked, and what they disliked, and why. Not so interested in hearing people argue about why I should hate the games they hate, which is not at all the same thing.

  21. I'm still working on DAO and enjoying it for the story and characters. I love the exploration aspect of Bethesda's RPGs as well, although that often prevents me from completing the main plot because I can't help turning over every rock (I've beaten Fallout 3 but not a single TES game, despite having played the first 4 plus Battlespire).

    I'm currently waiting for Skyrim to have a GOTY version with all DLC for no more than half the release price (so probably another year or so), although I put it on my xmas wishlist too (just in case)...

  22. I didn't mean only having the developer's alter ego's in the game, but all the little stuff that was in the older games that reflected the fact that the games were done by a few personal individuals rather than large teams of corporate funded developers.

    Would a company like Bioware ever come up with something like the virtue system? Would Squaresoft ever come up with a bizarre plot like the Corak/Sheltem saga from the M&M games?

    In comparison, Dragon Age and many other modern RPGs feel like an amalgam of a bunch of bland focus-group tested ideas that were sure to sell X copies in order to make back the game's budget plus some profit.

    I played a bit of Dragon Ages before losing interest and it felt like someone in a board room said "Let's make Baldur's Gate 3 but without the costly D&D license and instead we'll come up with a LOTR rip off plot where you have to gather all the nations and races of the world together to fight off a generic Sauron-esque threat"

  23. Skyrim is apparently a very polarizing game. I could respond to some of the comments, but I think I'll just let it go rather than turn my blog--which is primarily about older games--into an ongoing debate. Duskfire, thanks for your comment. I had no idea that some of the quest locations were randomized. That enhances its replayability a bit.

    UbAh is right. I meant the statement about "do you even like games at all" to be more of a tongue-in-cheek expression of personal incredulity, not an accusation or lecture to anyone else.

    I didn't mean to suggest that I find nothing redeemable about Dragon Age. I'll probably end up ranking it fairly high, too. I just thought it was interesting that my subjective experience of the game isn't what I would expect based on the criteria I normally apply. My current experience is probably affected by the fact that I can't play it the way I would normally choose to play it. I like what Steve says about the influence of multiple developers and focus groups, though--I think he's got something there.

  24. Dragon Age felt to me like an RPG assembled using off-the-shelf parts, with a few minor tweaks added to give a thin veneer of originality ("See, in our game, the elves are second-class citizens. Is your mind blown or what?!").

    The gameplay also drove me crazy, taking too much influence from MMOs for the combat for my tastes and then asking me to be the team psychotherapist whenever we camped (Mass Effect does the same thing). I do like the Baldur's Gate games and retain some fondness for KOTOR, but Bioware has lost me as far as anything new is concerned.

  25. I wish I had more time to play Skyrim (PC version.) The complaints about its interface are valid IMO. Its virtually like the developers mapped keys to controller buttons/axis controls without taking advantage of what the PC does have to offer. That fault in some ways offsets many of the good points Skyrim otherwise has.

    Dragon Age: Origins to me scratched an itch to play a AAA traditional party-based western CRPG. It was an experience I haven't had since KOTOR (which was a better game.) The only innovation though it had was its "Camp" for the NPC interaction.

  26. I suspect all the Skyrim playing is because it's an easier game to figure out than the older games are. The blog might soon be called the Skyrim Addict since it's focusing on a new game that should be VERY briefly discussed. Get back to the oldschool focus or continue to decline the blog content.

  27. Helm: Can't say I share the opinion about wanting to *live* (I realize this is probably hyperbole) in a virtual world. Just give me pulse-pounding hero story and/or something that doesn't focus too much on the 'mature' demographic (watched X-Play's first look at War in the North on Hulu and some of the comments from their spokes-people scared me a bit).

    Steve: GO RIGHT NOW! GET ZSNES emulator and Square Soft's Live-A-Live with the excellent translation patch. It features simple but nuanced tactical combat, several great references to stuff in the real world (heck, most of the game focuses mainly on these references), and a (while not "bizarre") awesome plot twist that makes it hard for me to resist playing the game again with all these DnD CRPGs at my disposal (I started a new job that gives me much less free-time).

    CRPG Addict: Glad you are having so much fun. This year especially I myself have had a falling out with all video games. I can talk and read about 'em endlessly it seems, but not much luck with holding my interest to play them. How do you keep "the flame alive?"

  28. CRPG Addict, please do ignore all the hate. How are all you guys getting so angry on this? It's a blog, it's all just games, it's supposed to be fun, you know... some of you sound like you're discussing religion or politics.

    "Get back to the old-school focus or continue to decline the blog content." Sorry, but this frankly shocks me in its disrespect for the work Chet is doing for us - he's not your slave, he doesn't owe you anything, he has the right to his opinions, the right to play the games he wants and mostly the right to receive constructive criticism in a polite way.

    Ah, sorry for the rant.

    On topic : I'm enjoying Skyrim a lot for all reasons cited above. I agree about the "refusing quests" issue, and some interface or balancing (economy, again...) issues. But it's beautiful, epic, evocative and allows self-roleplay the way you want. Isn't that what our imagination is for, why we read books or play these games in the first place? The game offers you a canvas to fill. I never fast travel, sleep at inns and buy myself a roasted leg with some potatoes and mead before going to bed. I love just riding in the night for 15-20 minutes real time to get to another location, it gives me such a sense of space and tranquility out from the real always so busy world. I love to walk in towns and not sprint, slowly sneak in a cave not knowing what awaits me instead of charging blindly. I like how the game lets you set your own pace. Sure, combat gets a bit dull sometimes, quests or dialogue might be more original... but whatever. The game fulfills what I, personally, ask it to.

    As for DAO, I agree to the soulless locations bit, but for me this was more than made up for by the awesome dialogue, story and especially companions interactions. The companion's own independant attitudes, reactions or quests is what gave so much soul to BG 1 & 2 and for me it was like going home. I grew to know the characters and really was moved by what happened to some of them in the end (not giving spoilers here). Also, the pleasure of micromanaging a whole party, so rare these days!! - Addict, you're right in that you might not be enjoying it that much if you cannot spend hours examining the relative value and stats of two pieces of armor and judge which should go to which character based on each one's abilities and such, and make sure you did all the quests in each location, and that your "quest journal" is clear...

  29. The blog certainly isn't in decline, but I do prefer the focus on older games. There plenty of places on the internet to read about Skyrim, but only one place to read about Wizard Wars.

  30. To me it pretty much seems some think it's "cool" to hate Elder scrolls games. I was reading some guy on another site raving about how Daggerfall was the best in the series (ya right) and all the ones after were garbage. He knew Skyrim would be bad before it even came out. These games are the best in fantasy games today so enjoy em and quit trying to say Wizardry V is better..oh sorry.

  31. What a treat this comment section has been.

    I find Skyrim to be a bit like Westworld where it's fun to mess around and everything looks correct and authentic, but I still feel empty like I know they're all robots or something. I'm enjoying it for what it is.

    This backlash against a blogger is pretty funny, though. If you don't like it, don't read it. But just remember: You stopped reading a blog because the guy likes Skyrim.

  32. Just a quick note, as it seems no one has mentioned it: You don't have to accept quests in Skyrim when there's no dialogue option to say no. You can always just press the "back" key (on PCs it should be tab) to get out of a conversation. So you can basically walk away from a conversation at any time you want.

    Anyways, I love your blog, looking forward to anything new, be it about older or new games.

  33. Georges, thanks for your long comment.

    I wonder if my experience of Dragon Age isn't influenced by the fact that I'm playing it with another person, and I have to role-play it the way she wants. I don't know. I'll see what I think when I play it on the PC in 18 years.

    I did mean to mention the party "attitude" system. It's a great idea, completely undermined by the "gift" system. You can act in a manner completely contrary to a character's world view but still win their affections with jewelry. Morrigan doesn't seem that shallow in her dialogues.

    'Nym, I did figure out the "walking away" option, but the quest usually gets assigned before you realize that you can't talk your way to a preferred path. An example occurs in Solitude. There's a thief who wants you to put out the light in a lighthouse so you'll cause a shipwreck. The moment he suggests it, the game goes BA-DA-DUM and the quest appears in your list. While there's a subsequent option to say "I should turn you into the guards!," he just ignores you and you still have the quest. I suppose I could just kill him.

    For those of you looking for any update yesterday: sorry. #$*!#* Wizard Wars. I played it for about three hours and made only incremental progress. It'll get a proper lambasting soon.

  34. The whole point of the blog was to discuss older games. While I don't mind LIMITED discussion of Skyrim, I can read discussions about Skyrim on a lot of different forums. As a previous poster noted, no message board is discussing Wizard Wars or Wizardry. That is my concern over the decline of focus for this blog.

  35. Skyrim needs a way to:
    1. remove quests from your quest log.
    2. point out traps so your followers can avoid them.

  36. We must be careful, some of us are sounding real elitist.

    I enjoy the addicts perspective on all RPGs old or new. That's what I like about this blog, His perspective, I enjoy reading and seeing the history of RPGs through HIS eyes.

    I commend him for trying to spend sometime with his wife, role playing her character, I identify with his need to fuel his own admitted RPGs addiction playing a game, that he enjoys, and playing older RPGs which most of us would never play. And yet we feel slighted when he doesn't play them or post about them for us to read. Let's keep thing in a proper perspective. He could have posted nothing at all.

    I appreciate good discussion about games, and there has been some good here. We all like different types or RPGs, old and new. To each there own, but let's remember what brought most of us here a love of the RPGs genre and seeing the history, and progression of the genre from its earliest roots, is a win for all of us.

    Keep on posting addict!

  37. How dare you sir? How dare you discuss things of personal relevance on your own blog? You said something once a long time ago about playing every role-playing RPG game ever, and therefore your every waking moment should be dedicated to that thing you said on a whim. Just as everyone who doesn't keep a New Year's resolution deserves to be imprisoned, dire consequences are appropriate. OLD GAMEZ ONLY IN ORDER FOREVER. Also, ever since your HATCHET JOB on my personal favorite, Might and Magic II, all I have left to look forward to in the world is a review of Space Rogue, a game I remember loving and almost nothing else about. Thank you, and good day.

  38. Personally I quite enjoyed Dragon Age: Origins (much less so, Dragon Age II, though it still had its moments). Honestly, I think it's the best thing Bioware's done since Baldur's Gate II, even if it's not up to those lofty standards itself. And part of that, to my mind, is that the dialogue steps away from the cozy, partitioned and labelled framework of all of Bioware's other games since KOTOR. I agree that those other games can safely be filed into "good", "mercenary" and "psychotic", or some variation thereof, often helpfully coded and positioned in reliable points on the interface so you need not spend a single moment thinking about things. This was not at all my experience of Dragon Age. Indeed, I found very few of the decisions and dialogue options to fall easily into any of those categories, and most of them forced me to think about the potential ramifications of my actions. It's not quite The Witcher, but it's about as grey and thoughtful as Bioware's ever gotten. It's also the only Bioware RPG in a long time, maybe ever, without any trace of a point-based morality system. (I guess technically DA2 doesn't have a "morality" system, but the system that tracks the "mood" of your responses seems pretty close to me.)

  39. 1st: I thought people on this blog would like to know that Ultima 7 is now on GoG: http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/ultima_7_complete

    2nd: This is the first time I've not read posts on this blog. You guys are filling my inbox and seriously. He likes new games and old games. He wants to write about new ones once a year or so. GET OVER IT. Just chill out. You don't like new games? Go read Chrontendo or something till he moves on to an old one.

  40. I agree with Automata: sounds like you ran afoul of the Codex. I do admit to having a presence there, but I don't do much. I haven't yet played any of the DA games, nor Skyrim--my laptop sucks--so I can't add my own comments. I do know that once I have a better machine, I'll be getting them.

  41. An idea for the CRPG Addict:

    Why not create a secondary blog that you can use for the modern games? I enjoy your writing style and insights and would love to read blog posts about the modern RPGs as well. It doesn't need to be as detailed or include as many pictures or even be updated as frequently as this one.

    Another alternative is that you could play a modern game at the same time you are playing a classic game and alternate between the two (so you have variety when you get bored) on two separate blogs. One devoted to older games and one devoted to games developed in the 21st century and in no particular order.

    Just a thought...since it's going to take forever to get to those games.

  42. Personally, I don't mind if you want to talk occasionally about a newer game on this blog, but I have to admit to being more curious about what you're going to make of Wizardry 5 than anything else right now. Maybe it's because I have yet to even play Oblivion but I just can't seem to get on board the Skyrim bandwagon one way or the other.

  43. Oblivion wasn't quite as good as Skyrim, but I'm currently replaying Morrowind, so take that as you will.

    I'm also more interested in Wizardry V than Skyrim though. I have a lot of sources for information regarding Skyrim, but not so many for playthroughs of Wizardry.

  44. Post what you want. It's your blog, nobody's paying any money, and it's not as though you're going to abandon old games for 24/7 Skyrimchat, so ignore all the people who can't take an occasional semi-off-topic update.

    As for Skyrim itself, I like it. Oblivion was complete garbage and Skyrim fixed a lot of what I took issue with there. It's still no Daggerfall or Morrowind (it plays better but has less personality), and in some ways I'd still rather play World of Xeen or something, but it does what it does very well and it's hard to not admire the level of craftsmanship in a lot of what's there.

  45. Wow, people are totally asshats. I particularly enjoyed this immature little note: "I suspect all the Skyrim playing is because it's an easier game to figure out than the older games are."

    Wow, way to ignore the fact that CRPG Addict has basically beaten any RPG worth beating from the 80's (with the possible exceptions of the Wizardry sequels, if you really, really, really care about those - but I understand and agree with CA's reasoning on those). Go make a blog where you beat Rogue, Wizardry 1, Bard's Tale, etc. without a walkthrough, without FAQs, with only limited hints, and then you can complain all you want. Until then, STFU and let the man say what he wants on his own blog. He's certainly more than earned the respect of even the most hardcore RPG fanatics, and you're completely out of line.

  46. Dammit, I hate when I post as postcardsofplaces rather than killias2...

  47. Here's what I'm wondering... what are these mostly anonymous pantywaists going to do when the Addict finally does clear his log of what they deem 'old' games? Do they just bugger off and stop looking at this blog once he clears 1989, or do they continue to troll the comments section, begging for the Addict to do a 2nd playthrough of Quest For Glory or Might and Magic II?

    Discourse is great. Agree or disagree to your heart's content. But telling the author what he must write for your own jollies, or worse, outright insulting the man, is total BS. Grow up.

  48. I don't see the 'anonymous' users as sticking around long enough to see the "old" games played through. Personally, I consider the time before Windows 95 as one era, and the time after Windows 95 as another.

    It will be quite some time before the Addict hits 1994. The RPGs only get larger and more complex as time goes on. And when he hits games like Avernum, he'll really start to get bogged down.

    Honestly, I'd love it if the Addict beat Skyrim and threw up a review, just to make a few heads explode.

  49. I don't particularly enjoy TES games but I don't hold it against anyone who does. The RPG mechanics are just severely limited. But at least they attempt to make RPGs unlike Bioware these days.

    I think you should just play and finish Skyrim first. Your post quality could suffer if you are playing something else and you would rather be playing Skyrim.

    For myself I was playing through NWN2 SOZ and liked it okay. But I got kind of tired of the game after playing the OC and MOTB and wasn't enjoying it as much as I should have been. So I took a break and now that Ive picked it up again I'm enjoying it like I was before.

  50. I was wondering when the dude was finally going to lose all focus. Now we get the 157th web review of Skyrim. Yawn. I must admit he made it a lot longer than I would have.

    Maybe he might hand over the reigns to another fresher glutton for punishment for a while?

    Any takers?

  51. Hybris here.
    Directed at the "Any Takers?"-Guy. You are either a troll or have no social cultivation and skill whatsoever.

    Directed at CRPGAddict: As long as you keep posting your opinions and you stay ~mostly true to your declaration of your blog's intent as of the specific moment of writing, I will come back. I like reading what you have to say, and I like CRPGs. I wish you a relaxing holiday season and hope that the more rude comments don't get to you ;-)

  52. I strongly suspect that most those anon are the same person, trolling it up around here. It is best if the addict and us ignore the bore!

  53. I agree with UbAh. Don't feed the trolls.

    As to the Addict, I'll be happy when he posts again, no matter what it is. As I said earlier, I find this blog to be insightful and a great read, and while I do love classic CRPGs, I would read any blog he wrote.

  54. Take your time and ignore certain "anon" posts. As a blog gets more lurker traffic, you're bound to get more trolling. Just keep on posting reviews when you have time!

  55. I posted the above anon post and just the one. Relax, it is not a troll post and barely soft criticism at worst. I am a fan of the site. I made several valid points, one of which is playing these old technology limited bleep and bloop rpgs in order may sound like fun but in fact has got to be ponderous at best after awhile for a modern gamer and the man may just be getting fatigued with it. Most people could not have managed in such a manner for so long. Also, people may come here looking for a haven from all the Skyrim chatter everywhere else only to find more of the same. Valid remarks.

  56. He's made "off-topic" posts occasionally for the entire run of this blog. He just finished Wasteland and is in the process of moving on to Wizardry V. Acting like all hope is lost for a classic CRPG blog because the guy made a couple non-consecutive Skyrim posts is asinine. Just wait a day or two and you'll get another update that interests you.

  57. I like the off topic posts. I think they show the personality of our dear addict and that helps keep things interesting.

    If all the posts were about the same thing I think things would bog down and get a bit monotonous. Imagine when he gets to the era of diablo clones, and he is writing the about essentially the same game (pretty roguelike on easy mode) over and over again. Things could get boring really quick even if he is having fun, because there is nothing interesting to write about. Now if you throw in a few off topic posts to break things up things don't get as stale as they could.

    Really its a blog, so he writes about what he is currently involved in and that is to be expected. If he doesn't have enough material for a full post on one of the games in his list, I prefer him to talk about something off topic rather than wait for a long time for a post about how the current game is progressing.

    Finally to our addict I say this. All this criticism is entirely your fault! You have spoiled us with good posts about older games and now there is a feeling of entitlement to hear more from you.

    You are a slave to the faceless beast that consumes. You have let down your obligation to feed the gaping maw of our endless appetites and you shall be punished.

  58. um... wow.
    I almost hesitate to post, because what's the point? alllllll the way down here.

    I actually just want to respond to a comment that you, CRPGaddict, made at the top of the post, before the comments began.

    You were talking about Dragons, and how they cramp your style? I just wanted to point out that you don't have to kill every dragon that you come across. You gotta service those beasts on your own terms.

    I actually find a lot of the game is like that. They keep dropping stuff in my quest objectives, even if it was stuff I REALLY didn't want to do. Then I had a revelation. It was a kind of BioShock moment. "A man chooses. A slave obeys."
    That is kind of a running theme in this game for me now. I don't have to choose Stormcloak or Imperial, I have decided that I have more loyalty to Jarl Braggof than to either General Tullius or Jarl Ulfric, I don't have to do everything the Blades tell me... etc.

    I would keep going, but I am pretty deep in the game, deep enough that I have to be careful or let some major spoilers show...

  59. I wouldn't worry about posting all the way down here, there seems to be a pause in progress anyway.

    I've started playing Morrowind actually and using only the information and items available to me without cheating, managed to rob the Redoran Treasury in Vivec. Thanks Ahnassi!

    I haven't played Skyrim much, preferring to do a Morrowind->Oblivion->Skyrim marathon, pretending to be the same character in all three games.

    Wouldn't be the worst idea for a blog, really.

  60. My main interest in RPGs are pretty much those that were made from the 1970s to 1988 or so. I admit that as the relatively newer games get discussed, I'm not as interested. I think that gaming with big pixels and wireframe graphics is pure bliss.

    But I admire the Addict for his tenacity by daring to play and attempting to complete every single CRPG made for the PC. And I appreciate his opinions and anecdotes about the process. He plays the games, so I don't have to.

    Does veering off into a modern game go against the premise of this blog? Hardly. In fact, I'm quite surprised that the Addict hasn't started to hate CRPG games yet and just give up on the whole project.

  61. @Raifield: Ha ha! That is awesome!

    (3E 427) Beginning of Morrowind, and the PC is a prisoner of the empire and is being paroled.

    (3E 433) Six years have passed and the PC is in jail again... Oblivion starts.

    (4e 201) 200+ years later, The PC is finally free and decides to take a vacation in Skyrim. Just as he crosses the border he is swept up in an imperial ambush, and is arrested AGAIN.

  62. That can actually work if you're playing the right race. Don't elves live a long time?

  63. [Morrowind Spoiler Alert]

    Actually, in Morrowind if you follow the main quest you become immune to aging, and could theoretically live thousands or tens of thousands of years. And you get to meet someone who already did. So using Morrowind as a starting point could work for any race.

  64. Hybris here.
    Sorry if I came off as too overreacting myself ;-)
    Sometimes the internet still gets to me.

    And Raifield: I would read that! Awesome idea.

  65. Why only start Morrowind with the same character? Why not use the same person for Arena and Daggerfall as well?

  66. Mostly due to the difficulty and buginess of the first two games. If I managed to make it through Arena, I likely wouldn't when I started Daggerfall and I know I would simply get too discouraged.

    My current blog is a relic from an aborted attempt to learn Assembly programming. Maybe I'll repurpose it for an Elder Scrolls playthrough. If I can write one eighth as good as Arvil Bren's Morrowind journal, I'll be happy.

    (3E 427) Six years in prison for thieving or a new life in Morrowind...easy choice! What could possibly go wrong?

    (3E 433) Damn! Save Morrowind, become immortal and this is what I get. I swear, as soon as I get out of here, I'm running away to Skyrim

    (4e 201) At last! I'm free to live my own li-oh son of a...!

  67. Raifield, you are too funny. Write on your blog like that and between CA and you I will never get anything done ever again. Honestly, I've never been able to get into any of The Elder Scrolls, but your comment right their ranks up with CA's,

    "And here's the other thing: I'm not entirely sure that Tera isn't really stupid. I mean, like Ultima II stupid."
    - From

  68. Doh! the address didn't print between the insertion marks.
    - From: http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2010/10/tera-lost-in-translation.html

  69. The only thing about starting with the games before Morrowind is that the multiple-choice ending of Daggerfall makes continuity a bit confusing.

    The Lore sort of hand-waves it away by saying: "something really magical happened and all 7 endings happened at the same time" but I would think that would make taking a character through it a bit confusing.

    Plus you got Battlespire and Redguard... who has that kind of time?

    I say start an Orc. They weren't a playable race until Morrowind anyway...

  70. I have now read the entire blog!

    Now I get to see why others grumble about long absences, whereas from my perspective it has almost seemed as though Addict has been making multiple postings every day and solving a dozen CRPGs every week. ;)

  71. Welcome to the "forum," Doomy.

  72. Thank you, Giauz. I've enjoyed my time here so far.

  73. Man, it's been eleven days now with nary a peep. Maybe it really was too much of a good thing.

    I have been giving more thought to a triple Elder Scrolls playthrough and I think I know how I'd want to play it. I'm going to update my blog and do a test run to see how things work out.

    It seems a bit tacky to advertise my effort on the Addict's blog though. Are there RPG-centric websites where such a thing would not be frowned upon?

  74. I don't see the problem in posting links to other blogs as long as they are about CRPGs.

  75. I agree. I would like to see the link, and I belive the addict himself has expressed interest in reading others retrogaming and crpgaddict blogs in the past.

  76. I'll post the link in a few days. I've renamed my blog to Traversing Tamriel and am working on the basic layout.

    I've also resurrected my Morrowind installation from 2008. Last time I beat the game, I 7Zip-ed the entire 7GB directory and stored in on a NAS. Unzipped it and it's working fine, which is a surprise.

    I tried a fresh install of Morrowind with the Morrowind 2011 project, but I couldn't get it to work.

    I was thinking of trying a Khajiit Healer through all three games, but I'm open to suggestions. Right now I'm playing Morrowind to make sure it is stable and I'll probably start the blog next weekend.

  77. Wonderful news Raifield. I second thelamebrain that you should be an orc. In fact keep the healer class. Now I want you to go through the entire 8-Bit Theater series (http://www.nuklearpower.com/2001/03/02/episode-001-were-going-where/) and channel your inner White Mage. Start out the joyful optimist benevolently helping the forces of "good" and "justice" along their way, but you can't help but get the feeling you're really dealing with a bunch of jerkasses as the beginnings of each of your three storied quests will reveal. Thus optimism falls to cynicism in a completely hilarious way (though more like cynicism down to unspeakable levels of douchebaggery for the other 8-Bit characters).

    Anyway you do it you have some idea of my pinnacle of fantasy video game humor. Good luck, Raifield.

  78. Raifield, I'll read your blog too once it gets going. And I am also in the middle of both Morrowind and Skyrim (Oblivion has been as low as $5 and I still haven't bothered buying it). As far as advertising, one place I started with myself was Reddit. There are subreddits for all games, and for elderscrolls as a whole...as well as for gaming in general and western RPGs in paricular.
    I'm also starting to play Bard's Tale and Pools of Radiance, too. Not enough time in the day to play all the games I really want to play.

  79. I fear the Addict went to the Dark Side after playing Skyrim, a modern so-called RPG.

    I need a post, need it bad. Something pre-1997.

  80. Or maybe he figured it wasn't worth all work in exchange the hate for mentioning Skyrim a few times.

  81. There are so many little-known games and so many excellent games standing between Wizardry V and Skyrim that to say I would hate for that to be the case would be a massive understatement.

  82. The wife and family are probably making him do some non-crpg related holiday activities. I myself had to stop playing the binding of Isaac just so I could sign a few hundred cards. Women just don't have the right priorities this time of year...

  83. Well, not to get anyone too excited, but I have taken the small step of starting my blog with an introductory post. I'm not likely to advertise my blog any further on this thread, to avoid spamming up the Comments.

    I obviously encourage anyone with any ideas regarding my triple-playthrough to post it on my blog while we wait for the Addict's holiday hiatus to end.

  84. I think this thread has reached maximum cruft levels, so feel free to post. Better then the Skyrim is great/sucks debate. (Of which I firmly think it is a solid RPG, neither the Jesus-rpg or a steaming turd. There, my $0.02CDN)

  85. I guess I enjoy my simple pleasures in computer games, I spent a lot of the little Skyrim time I had walking around catching butterflies and mixing potions in a run-down shack by a river. Very peaceful and organic feeling.

    I noticed on the blog Settings page that you can assign other users permission to post. If CA is taking an extended leave of absence, I wonder if he'd be willing to let one or two people each play the next game or two.

    I dunno. I enjoy his writing and reviewing style, it wouldn't be the same. Guess I'm hurting for a Wizardry V update more than I thought.

  86. Clearly, two weeks has become the Internet equivalent of eternal silence. The guy has a job and a wife, which is probably not the case for the majority of the commenters. His timeframe for completing his epic quest is the rest of his life. If you want to see that happen, I suggest compliments rather than criticism.

  87. I would hope he's playing the games because he enjoys doing so, regardless of our compliments or criticism.

    Google the "Arvil Bren" Morrowind journal. The first and second parts of the journal on the blog is only a fourth of each, the blog is broken. I have a full copy of the first part and it is 382 pages at Times New Roman, 12pt. The second part, when it was fully accessible, was longer. Then he disappeared one day, leaving over 1000 pages of an unfinished Morrowind playthrough unresolved. It happens.

    My idea to let other people play a game or two was merely a suggestion if CA ever feels like a break is needed. Otherwise this really will start to feel like a second job and who really wants one of those?

  88. Regarding Skyrim: Playing on Expert difficulty makes combat much better. Skills other than those which maximize damage actually become relevant then. The player will need to be good at SOMETHING that reduces damage input. Drinking potions remains overpowered since you can still heal any amount instantly, but at least it forces you to use some of the mountains of stuff you find.

  89. Addict, I'm sorry to hear the news you just posted at the top. Bad things can happen to anyone, life's just that way.
    I'm sure I wasn't the only fan who was just patiently waiting to find out whether you'd be back. I really hope that things are returning to normal with you.
    Take whatever time you need, whenever you need to. Heck, if you take another 2 months off, most of us will just wait and check every so often.
    Looking forward to your next postings, as always.

  90. Damn, I was hoping it was something good delaying your return. Like duskfire said, take whatever time you need. Don't feel obligated to return early on our account.

  91. Thursday or Friday? You know, if you need extra time, like say, until ohhhh Thursday when my last work this term is do, we will not blame you. Or even Tuesday, when my last exam is. You know, if you need the extra time. >.>

  92. I hope it is not to bad, but you know all of us addict addicts are in your corner.

  93. Hope all is well, or will soon become so. As much as we're eager for the next posting, we're also eager that you take whatever time you need to take care of yourself.

  94. Best wishes, Addict. Hope all is well with you.

  95. You know, you have a small army of followers. Perhaps you can get them to help you. I'm sure we can form up into an adventuring party and retrieve the McGuffin that will help your problem.

  96. According to his notification, his situation probably has a lot in common with Wizardry II and sadly, we are all level 1 characters.

  97. Take care, Chet. I'll pray for you.

    Your avid reader,


  98. I hope it's nothing too serious mate. Come back whenever you're ready!

  99. I'd just like to echo these last posts and say that I hope it's nothing too serious. I hope everything works out for you.

  100. To echo what others have said, I may not have been with you from the start, but I'll be here til the end.

    Unless this is the end, in which case, the title of this post seems oddly appropriate.

    Either way, I wish you well.

  101. Wow, you guys have a darker view of the world.

    Notes from the net:
    Ultima™ 4: Quest of the Avatar is free on Great Old Games (GoG.com), not that I think anyone who reads this blog would be interested in it.
    There are also 4 or so free adventure games.

    Also on GoG there is a massive, 50% off holiday sale, including a number of new & classic CRPGs; Baulder's Gate, Might & Magic series, Fallout 1,2 & tactics, that kinda stuff. Normal price is $6-10 USD, pretty much everything now half that. Thought you all might be interested.
    Also DRM free, modified to play on modern OSes, that kinda jazz. Enjoy.

  102. Damn, and here I thought I'd have a positive balance at the end of the month. Now I'm off to GoG. Thanks jerk :(

  103. Have we broken a record for the most number of comments on one subject? This is important. It's for history.

  104. Lets see:

    PoR first post: 50 comments
    This post: 103 comments
    Most hated enemies: 54.

    Oh um, I didn't have to use grep, it says right at the top. Um. Right. Yeah. Those are, I think, the most commented posts. Did I miss any?

  105. I just wanted to make sure we were all using our efforts to post on something really important.

  106. I do tend to get a lot of comments on the last posting before a long break, which makes sense.

    I can't begin to respond to all of the comments since my last response, but let me say I appreciate everyone's well-wishes. What happened to me was unfortunate but not in a deathbed sort of way, and everything will be okay.

    I guess I'm going to be on a Skyrim break for a while. I haven't played it in three weeks, which seems to long to get going again with the same character, but not long enough to justify starting over completely. I've experienced this with other games before. There ought to be a term for it.

  107. Speaking as someone who is going through stuff with a family member, that while not deathbed, could become so suddenly enough that I get terrified any time I think of it....I am very glad to hear that. I wouldn't wish this crap on anyone.


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