If you’ve been around the site recently, you may have seen my posts about fandom bandwagons I’ve jumped on way after everyone else (and if you’ve read any of my other stuff, you’ve almost certainly seen me allude to my tendency to do this). For […]
Month: August 2017
So here’s the second part of Picking Out the Perfect Game — the first part was a whole lot more about finding places to try games, and finding ways to learn games. This installment is about the introspective side of picking out a board game.
What Do/Don’t You Like About a Game
This is going to be a huge part of determining what your perfect game would be. If you played Blood Rage and you liked it, but you didn’t like everything about it, what did or didn’t you like? Did you really like the card drafting but not so much the combat? Maybe you really liked the area control but didn’t like the action point system. Knowing this is going to be really useful in helping you narrow down what you want to play. If you liked card drafting but didn’t like anything else about Blood Rage, maybe a simpler game like Sushi Go! Party would be good for you. Using this strategy even for games you didn’t really like that well can help you pick the next game to try off of the shelf. That’s one of things that I try to do in my TableTopTakes posts.
How Long Do You Want to Play?
Another way you can help narrow down the list when looking for your perfect game is to think about how long you want to play a game. Don’t use this as a hard-and-fast rule; play games that are shorter/simpler than you think you might like, or try a game or two that’s longer than you think you want to play. You might know that you really won’t ever want to play a game like Arkham Horror because you don’t want a game to go more than an hour or so, but if a game says it might take an hour and a half, still consider giving it a try to see if you like it. Or maybe you find games that take five or ten minutes to be too simple generally, look at some of the more abstract short games out there; there are some short games that can still be challenging and very puzzling. Also, be aware that though a game says it plays in 30-45 minutes, that is just an estimate; games are naturally going to take longer the first time you play them, and the number on the box is really just the game creator’s best guess, as compared to actual playing times. For example, a chatty group will always take longer to play through a game than a more focused group.
Who Do I Play With?
When you think about the group of people you’d play board games with, what is the makeup of that group? For more on this idea, you can check out one of my previous posts, about knowing your gamer group (http://nerdologists.com/2016/04/gamer-group/). Now, what you have available to play with your gaming group might not be your perfect game, or at least may not be what you play often. I tend to like pretty heavy and heady games. I’m not always the best at them, but I like them. However, I play more middle-weight and light games. Why? Because a lot of the times when I can play games is at our board game nights, or with my wife. She’s a much more casual gamer than I am, so while I might like to pull out Arkham Horror, I normally don’t have the right group or enough time to play it. So consider aspects like this, and consider how important a game is to get to the table before you buy it. You might really love the game, but maybe it’s one that you just play at the board game shop from time to time instead of one that you have sitting on your shelf eating up room.
What else do you do to pick out a board game? There are more things that I could write about, but thinking about these three aspects and the ones I talked about in the previous post should help give some direction. Finding the perfect game is also a bad way for me to put it; there is no such thing as the perfect game for everyone or possibly even for anyone. Games always have some sort of flaw to them, but it’s about finding games that you really enjoy.
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We’ve all played board games growing up — most of us are familiar with the classics, like Monopoly, Clue, and Life. And for a lot of people, playing them just leads to frustration. However, we are in a new generation of board games. Games now […]
As you all likely know by now, I am the master of checking out nerdy things only after they’ve already been out in the world for a few years. And my latest nerdy exploits are no different–I recently started playing Dragon Age: Origins. And boy, do I love it. Spoiler alert: lots of belated squeeing below!
DA:O was released by BioWare all the way back in 2009, but that was midway through college for me, and I had neither the time nor the means to give it anything other than a passing thought. But at long last, I’ve found myself in simultaneous possession of an Xbox 360 and enough random blocks of free time to actually play some video games for once. And since Peder recently played through the game again, further inspiring me to start it once he was done, conditions were perfect to finally find out what the fuss was about. So far, DA:O has not disappointed–in fact, it’s often exceeded my hyped-up expectations.
For those who aren’t familiar with the game, DA:O is set in a high-concept fantasy land called Ferelden (one of countless examples of really great names within the game). You play as a hero who must leave their home (the reason varies depending on the type of character you choose) and join the Grey Wardens. The Grey Wardens are special forces whose job it is to protect the world from Darkspawn, demonic beings who threaten to overrun Ferelden. Early on, you find that you will one day be tasked with facing and defeating the Archdemon, leader of the oncoming Darkspawn horde causing an event known as the Blight. But first, you’ll have to travel Ferelden with a motley band of fellow heroes, rallying support for your cause and slaying monsters of all kinds along the way (in between seemingly hundreds of side quests, of course).
You have the option to play as a male or female character who is either a mage or rogue. You can play as a human, a dwarf, or as one of two sorts of elves–a city-dweller or a nomadic Dalish. The character I created is a female Dalish elf rogue, and as the story begins, she is tainted by Darkspawn sickness and must become a Grey Warden both to save herself and to protect her people and her realm from the Blight.
So far, I’m absolutely loving both the story and the general feel of the gameplay. In essence, it has all the stuff I loved from my brief foray into the world of Skyrim, and none of the stuff I didn’t. A highlight for me is the character interactions–in particular, I find the “approval” mechanic to be a lot of fun. DA:O allows you the option to get to know your fellow characters both through idle conversations between quests and during discussions that happen at key moments in the plot. In general it’s a good idea to chat with your fellow party members whenever there’s a lull–if you don’t, you might miss out on some really interesting dialogue.
Through these conversations, your party members’ “approval” meter in relation to your character will go up or down depending on the dialogue options you choose. You can even romance a fellow character–to do so, each time you interact with the party member you wish to form such a relationship with, you’ll need to choose the dialogue options that you think they will respond best to. After their approval of you reaches a certain point, you then have the option to initiate a romance with them. I highly recommend it, as it adds another layer of depth to the story that you wouldn’t get otherwise.
Another main component of the game is your ability as a player to influence the direction of the story based on the choices you make, from creating your character to speaking with your party members to the way you interact with key characters who are introduced along the way. Much like similar choice-based games, like the Mass Effect series, you can play your character in such a way that they are more virtuous and heroic or more villainous and chaotic, depending on your preference. I’m one of those people who feels terrible whenever I make my character do something mean, so I go pretty aggressively toward the virtuous side of things (why yes, I do know I’m a goody-two-shoes, thank you very much), but no matter what, the way you play your character has a big impact on the story at large. In my opinion, this makes the game highly replayable. Being both indecisive and a completionist, I have to admit that I find the choice-making element to be stressful at times, and I’ve already made a number of choices that I immediately regretted. Overall, though, I really like the choice aspect of the game, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, neuroses notwithstanding.
Like other fantasy RPGs, DA:O is rife with side quest opportunities. Here’s where my completionist side gets the better of me again…I find myself helping townspeople and hunting for rare items until I’ve all but forgotten what I was supposed to be doing in the first place. This is one of the reasons I quit playing Skyrim; however, unlike Skyrim, finishing all (or most) of the side quests in DA:O and still playing through the game in a reasonable amount of time is actually an attainable goal, so while this side of it trips me up a little from time to time, it’s not really a problem. In general, it makes the story feel richer rather than making the gameplay feel burdensome.
Another of my favorite aspects of this game is how rich the world of the game is. The visual aspect is stunning, and the graphics hold up surprisingly well for a game that’s nearly 10 years old. The characters feel as well-rounded as any fictional characters I could hope to meet, and they’re voiced by a host of talented voice actors. Throughout the game, there is a TON of dialogue, as well as a wealth of cut scenes both short and long. Some players may find this annoying if they’re ready to get into the action, but for my part, I really enjoy it.
Beyond that, I love how well-developed the history and the political climate of DA:O are. And though you can really dive into those elements if they interest you, it’s not forced upon you, so it doesn’t feel overwhelming or overwrought the way it so easily could. From the stories the characters tell you to the contextual codices you pick up throughout your adventures, it’s easy to see that the game creators put a lot of thought into developing a rich, realistic world.
As far as the combat aspect of the game is concerned, I can’t speak to it with much authority–I set the game on super-duper easy mode, since I care a lot more about the story of the game than I do about defeating monsters (not that that isn’t fun too). If combat’s your thing, just raising the difficulty level will give you the chance to focus on it more and work on honing your skills and strategically leveling up your characters. Thus far, the combat mechanic feels a little muddy to me, though I’m not sure whether this is due more to the way it’s set up or because I’m fervently button-mashing my way through each and every battle. Regardless of the reason, I’d say that the story side of the game is stronger than the combat side overall, but I think there’s plenty of room to lean in to either (or both), depending on your gaming style.
In short, this game is everything I’ve been looking for but not finding in other RPG-style video games I’ve played up until now, and it makes for an immensely satisfying gaming experience. I can’t wait to keep playing through this game and eventually move on to the next installments in the series, Dragon Age II and Dragon Age: Inquisition!
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