Thursday, April 28, 2011

I Really Am A Girly Girl

So, as you know, I have been playing Dragon Age: Origins through again. (I have finally gotten to new ground and am no longer repeating my first disastrous attempt at a replay, huzzah!) Now, I am playing the "ultimate" edition, which includes (theoretically) all of the DLC and the expansion pack, yada, yada. So when I fire up the game, it has a new start screen to differentiate it from the original version of the game (then, when you click "play" it takes you into the same screens as before).

This screen is really starting to irk me.

Why? Because the art for this screen is freaking awesome. Okay, I see you are still confused. Do you read comic books? If you do, or heck, even if you don't, you probably know that it is common practice for the art of the comic and the cover art to be drawn by two completely different artists, in two completely different styles. Very rarely is the cover of the book indicative of the art that is contained therein. With me so far?

This is pretty similar to the way the box art for video games is designed. I do not know if it is necessarily a different artist (though I would hazard a guess this is the case), but the art on the box is very rarely similar to the actual art of the game. Characters from the game itself are usually recognizable, but they don't actually look like they appear in the game. Like I said, this is standard practice. It is not an unexpected phenomenon.

Now I am not by any means trying to say that the art in the Dragon Age: Origins game itself is in any way bad. It is actually spectacularly gorgeous for the most part. But. The personal details for the characters are a bit lacking. Specifically in wardrobe choices and in hairstyles.

I know, I know, but as the title of this post says, girly girl.

Take, for example, this episode from season three of The Guild.

In the very opening sequence, the character of Codex is talking about the expansion pack for the game played on the show. What is she most excited about? New hairstyles! I had not even heard of Dragon Age when I first saw this episode, but I knew exactly why the prospect of new hairstyles was so enticing! I did have previous experience with crappy selection in video game hairstyles (and wardrobe). From another Bioware game, no less.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic came out in 2003. I first played it through (completely) in 2009. Now, Dragon Age: Origins came out in 2009 (though I didn't play it until 2010). You would think that in the six years between the two games Bioware would have managed to get a little more creative as to the customization of character appearance. But no, not really. Hell, even the hairstyles and outfits in Dragon Age II didn't improve much. Why do you think I was so excited about the Mirror of Transformation DLC? At least I didn't have to be stuck with one terrible hairstyle for the entire game! You know, it's not even that they are that terrible (though some of them really are), it is that they aren't that interesting. I don't even know what makes an "interesting" hairstyle, but Bioware has yet to come up with anything that really appeals to me in that department.

I get that most gamers aren't playing the game so they can mess with hairstyles and clothes. I really do. But. (There's that word again.) I am spending at least 30 hours, usually way more than that, staring at this character. I would like to enjoy how my character looks. Is that too much to ask?

As far as the clothes go, there are lots of different choices, technically, sure. But many of them all look the same along the class of the outfit (i.e. armor, mage robes, etc.), and they are more distinguished by their abilities (adding to your defense, dexterity, resistance, and so on) than by how they look. But...I can't see the badass effects of a new set of armor. I can only see how stupid it looks. I'll be frank. Quite often I have totally eschewed a really cool outfit/armor set because I just couldn't stand how it looked and didn't want to have to watch my character run around in it. I know I can't be the only one who feels this way.

I also refuse to believe that Bioware is unaware of this issue. Mass Effect 2 saw Sheppard issued a standard set of armor and you could go to your quarters and customize its appearance to some extent. When you wanted to upgrade it, the physical appearance of your armor didn't change, you just equipped the new stats for it and that was it. That was, quite frankly, awesome. Then, when you were running around the ship, you had your choice of three or four uniforms you could wear. It wasn't much of a selection, but with the customization of the armor (and I'll admit, I really liked the uniform I chose to wear on the ship), it was more than satisfying enough for me. I had rather hoped Dragon Age II would use the same system. You did get a separate outfit to wear in your house, but you didn't a choice in what it looked like, and the armor system for Hawke was the same as in the first game.

Ostensibly, I am given to understand that there are games out there that let you do a great deal of customization to your character's appearance without sacrificing armor stats. But these are, from what I understand, MMORPGs, and I am saving myself for Star Wars: The Old Republic. I can only hope that Bioware is getting their act together to allow for a little more customization for that, or at least some new/different hairstyles. Geez.

But back to that starting screen art. Here is what it looks like:

This!!! I want this.

You've got a mage with a freaking gorgeous outfit, a decent hairstyle, and a phenomenally cool looking staff (don't even get me started on the lack of options for mage staffs). None of these things are available in the game. Nothing like. So every time I start up the game, I get a glimpse of this super awesome gear that I can't have.

Now compare to the mage outfits you actually do get:

My mage Caitlyn and Wynne--it comes in different colors at least.

Tell me, honestly. Wouldn't you be annoyed?


  1. Most. Definitely. Hell, I've been thinking for years that it's very sad that WoW won't let you dye your armor. I mean, how hard would that be? You can even change hair colors now, but you're just stuck with ugly, mutt non-matchy armor? C'mon!

  2. Ergh, non-matching armor drives me nuts! Sigh. If I had any idea where to start, I would be tempted to try to get into the game designing industry just to rectify this issue! Clearly there are not enough girls involved in that part of the process!